the basics

How (And Why) It Works: The Raw Food Diet, Explained

In short: A raw diet fuels and heals your body by letting simple, natural foods guide your meal choices.

No matter what insanity is going on in the world (and, right now, it’s a lot, guys), we can (and should) look to nature to steer us in the right direction in terms of how best to treat our bodies. Think of how a deep breath of fresh air can clear the mind, or a handful of nuts can rejuvenate the body. This was the thinking behind the official creation of the raw food diet (and we say “official” because, of course, humans have been eating raw food since day one)—or at least by one of the diet’s first pioneers, a Swiss gentleman by the name of Maximilian Bircher-Benner. As the story goes, circa 1900, Bircher-Benner believed that civilization had become corrupt, and wanted to embrace a holistic approach to life by going back to nature. Building on Charles Darwin’s perspective of humans as just another animal form, Bircher-Benner reasoned that no other animal cooked their food, and therefore humans were meant to eat their food raw and unprocessed, too.

Today, the raw food diet speaks to the practice of eating only uncooked, unprocessed foods, and primarily consists of whole, plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, whole-sprouted grains, seeds, nuts, beans and legumes) that ensure that the body reaps maximum nutritional value with low caloric intake in a way that is generally easy on the digestive system.

That ease of digestion is one major reason to go raw: Raw foods like fruit and vegetables are naturally abundant in the active enzymes essential for effective digestion, and, when food is cooked, some of these enzymes are killed by the heating process. The subsequent lack of enzymes contribute to that sleepy feeling often experienced after a big cooked meal, whereas, by comparison, those energy levels and general metabolism actually increase when we consume raw food.

Eating raw food also helps to strengthen the immune system by releasing toxins from the body. A healthy body is slightly more alkaline, which is beneficial given that an acidic environment can become a breeding ground for disease due to our immunity being significantly lowered. It is also a great way of controlling weight as craving for sweet, processed foods usually disappear. Some of the health benefits associated with this way of eating include:

  • The aforementioned improved digestion
  • Reduction in high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Lowering inflammation within the body
  • Improving heart and liver health
  • Helping to prevent cancer
  • Clearing up skin disorders
  • Helping with weight control
  • Improving (or in some cases reversing!) autoimmune disorders

Making the transition from a processed diet to one of raw food can take some time, and may come with uncomfortable side effects as you detox from the “junk”.  It’s always therefore advisable to make the changes slowly: Gradually increase your intake of fruit and vegetables as you lower your consumption of meat (especially red), and look to eliminate all white rice, white pasta, white sugar and white salt. Replace sugary snacks, fizzy drinks and canned foods with the healthier, raw options. Seek out fermented foods that will naturally develop probiotics (A.K.A. the good bacteria living in our gut).

All of this said, there are exceptions. Some people, for instance, may not be able to tolerate a totally raw diet, particularly those with a sensitive digestive system. Additionally, there are some foods that we should never consume raw, including some meat and seafood, so make sure you do your homework before diving into the raw diet full on.

Start here
Raw Food Diet by David Wilson
All the raw recipes you could ever want.

Interested in learning more about other diets?

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