Do raw foods make you healthier? While there has yet to be research demonstrating the long term health benefits of adhering to a strict raw food diet, this growing enthusiasm for fresh fruits and vegetables is well-founded.
More Raw Foods Is Good For Your Health, Research Shows
As raw foods expert, Steve Factor, explains, by increasing the amount of raw fruits and vegetables in your diet, you can bring in energizing phytonutrients sequestered in plants through photosynthesis. At the same time, you’ll be replacing overly processed foods in your diet with healthier alternatives. And consequently reducing the amount of toxins you take into your body with every meal.
A meta-analysis of several studies published in the medical journal, BMJ, in 2014 showed that with each additional serving of fruits and vegetables, your risk for all disease goes down by 5%. So if you add 4 more servings of fruits and vegetables to your day, your risk can go down by as much as 20%!
And according to a groundbreaking study published in 2011 that involved 27,000 people, boosting your intake of fruits and veggies can change your risk for heart disease at the genetic level! Many of us harbor a variant of the gene 9p21 in our bodies. This gene variant is considered one of the strongest indicators for heart disease risk. If you carry this specific variant, you could be more at risk for having heart problems.
However, researchers found that by following what they called a “prudent diet”, one composed mostly of raw fruits, berries and vegetables, you could beat this genetic death sentence. Even if you have the 9p21 variant, by adhering to this diet you could bring your risk factor down genetically to match the heart disease risk of the rest of the population.
The researchers are currently working on unraveling the exact mechanics of how increasing your raw produce intake can decrease this gene’s power.
But while we’re waiting for more research on its overall health effects, there’s plenty of evidence demonstrating that eating more raw foods can give you some stellar nutrition. Many phytonutrients (unique nutrients found in plants) are heat sensitive and are lost by cooking.
- Uncooked produce gives your body more of the fiber it needs to slow absorption of cholesterol, improve digestion and feed probiotic bacteria. Overcooking food can break down fiber.
- Raw fruits and vegetables contain higher amounts of vitamin C, a vitamin that has been associated with stronger immunity and a healthier heart. Vitamin C is highly vulnerable to oxygenation and heat. Cooking tomatoes, for example, for just 2 minutes reduces their vitamin C content by 10%.
- Raw cruciferous vegetables – like broccoli and kale – have higher amounts of the enzyme myrosinase that helps your body break down compounds in broccoli to produce sulforophane. This special sulfur compound has been linked to boosting your body’s detox system and fighting cancer.
- One study showed the luteolin in sweet peppers decreased by almost half when grilled. Luteolin has been linked to helping with health challenges ranging from multiple sclerosis to memory loss.
- Many phytonutrients like the deep red betaine in beets or the anthocyanins in blackberries and blueberries leach out when cooked.
- The polyphenols in carrots, linked to fighting heart disease, cancer and diabetes, are lost with cooking.
Eating more raw foods helps us get some of these nutrients that would otherwise be lost in the cooking process.
|Healthy food, Doc. Andreacallahan|
A Raw Food Diet Has Challenges
However, while most of us can benefit from eating more raw fruits and vegetables, an exclusively raw food diet has some limitations and drawbacks. The researchers in the 2014 BMJ study noted that the benefits from increasing consumption of raw fruits and vegetables stopped being significant after 5 servings a day.
Also, some important phytonutrients increase in availability when cooked. While carrots keep their polyphenols when raw, we get more beta-carotene from them cooked. Indole, a cancer-fighting compound in broccoli and its cousins, is only available through cooking. And the availability of the red antioxidant in tomatoes, lycopene, increases exponentially when tomatoes are cooked.
And while getting more fruits and vegetables in your diet can help your heart, depending on them alone can put you at a greater risk for cognitive problems and cardiovascular disease. A study in the American Journal of Nutritional Sciences showed that a strict vegan raw food diet yielded lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels overall. But the vegan participants were also low on high-density cholesterol (the healthy one), vitamin B12 and had high levels of the heart-disease risk factor, homocysteine.
- The low levels of B12, found primarily in animal products, are likely the reason for this health risk increase. B12 plays a critical role in heart health, impacting how your blood clots and how flexible your arteries are.
- This potential B12 deficiency has also been linked to brain health problems. One study tracking elderly participants over a 5-year period found that the participants who ate no animal products were 6 times more likely to experience brain shrinkage and had the most dramatic brain shrinkage within the group. Researchers attributed this problem to B12 deficiency.
However, with strategic eating, you don’t have to run this risk. While most bioavailable B12 is only found in animal products, Mother Nature has provided a few alternatives. Chlorella is one of them. Two recent studies have confirmed that chlorella provides the right form of B12 for our bodies. And high levels of chlorella consumption can keep B12 blood levels within the normal range even if you maintain a vegan diet.
Get Inspired To Add More Raw Foods To Your Diet With Chef, Steve Factor
Eating more raw fruits and vegetables and enjoying their benefits doesn’t have to be a boring chore. Making this change can open a whole new world of culinary treats to you.
And no one knows this better than raw vegan chef extraordinaire, Steve Factor. Steve has inspired people around the country with his creative way of transforming fruits and vegetables into delectable, nourishing dishes – without any cooking.
If you’re eager to increase your raw foods intake and want some inspiration for doing so, Steve is hosting a special raw food preparation session at the Los Angeles Whole Foods Market located at 3rd and Fairfax, from 5-6 PM on January 29th. Come join us as we watch him work his magic. He’ll show you how to convert the energy of raw foods in powerful energy for your body.