Raw food diets are increasing in popularity, as witnessed by the emergence of raw food cook books and restaurants. As expected, many celebrities have jumped on board. Brian Adams, Sting, Prince, and others are said to have expressed an interest in the phenomenon. Word also has it that David Bowie and supermodel wife Iman have hired a raw foods chef. In general, this can be considered a healthful trend. But as with many diets, people sometimes carry it to extremes.
A raw food diet basically consists of salads, fresh juices, and sprouted nuts, seeds, and grains, but might also include raw eggs, unpasteurized dairy products, fish (sushi, for example) and rare steaks. On the plus side, uncooked foods contain enzymes, the life force in growing plants, which pre-digest the food when thoroughly chewed. They also provide nutrients that may otherwise be lost in cooking water or destroyed by heat. Many health food pioneers have recommended a diet as much as 70-percent raw, while today some enthusiasts advocate raw foods exclusively.
To my knowledge, no studies have been done on raw food diets, but I’ll offer some yin and yang common sense with consideration to personal health status. A diet that is mostly raw is ideal for summer. It’s cooling and good for inflammations and overweight bodies. On the other hand, raw foods may not be helpful for cold/damp conditions like fungal infections (Candida, for example). Also, too much raw food can actually weaken digestion and may harbor parasites.
You might be surprised to learn that cooking food can make some nutrients, like beta carotene and lycopene, more available to the body by breaking down fibrous plant cell walls. One study found that men who consumed more lycopene from cooked tomato products like spaghetti sauce experienced a reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to those who seldom ate the foods. The effect, however, was not observed in those consuming raw tomatoes. For best health, we need to strike the right balance by eating a diet that contains both raw and cooked food.