by Ruth Ann Clayton, RD

So what’s all the fuss about Raw Food Diets?  Why should you eat foods raw?  It may be the difference between being full of energy, just getting by, or being exhausted and in a disease state.  Many would attribute these differences to a lack of enzymes and nutrition.  The raw foods lifestyle may be the answer to such issues.

And it is a lifestyle, not simply a fad diet craze.  Raw simply means foods that are in their whole natural state and have not been cooked.  Specifically, it means foods that have not been heated to a temperature higher than 116 degrees Fahrenheit (116 °F).  Good examples are fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, berries, herbs, and grains, all in their fresh uncooked form.

Highly processed, overcooked foods or foods heated to over 120° degrees Fahrenheit (120° F) contain few enzymes.  This deficiency of enzymes in your body can create a disturbance of digestion and absorption resulting in a lack of nutrition.  Enzymes are necessary for the digestion of food, the building of bones and skin, and the detoxifying our bodies. In a nutshell your body cannot exist without digestive and metabolic enzymes.

The term “living foods” is sometimes confused with raw foods.  However a distinction can be made.  The term “living foods” refers to raw foods such as seeds, grains and nuts, which have been soaked and or sprouted.  Many raw recipes utilize these “living foods”.  Also considered “living” are foods cultured or fermented–such as sauerkraut–to increase their nutrient content.

Raw foods provide the necessary nutrients our bodies need to function at top level.  Nutrient content is higher in raw foods, especially water-soluble vitamins usually lost in processing.  The phytonutrients (plant nutrients) and antioxidant content are higher in uncooked foods.  Other raw foods such as avocadoes, flax, hemp seeds, olives, almonds and walnuts supply essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.

Raw foods also provide greater hydration, due to the higher water content.  The increased fiber of raw foods can provide a feeling of fullness, leading to less eating and aiding in weight loss. Digestion can be improved and cholesterol can be lowered with more fiber.

It is recommend you eat five to nine fruits and vegetables daily to prevent illness.  Science has shown a relationship between low fruit and vegetable intake and diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Eating raw may help you diminish your exposure to these diseases.

What you eat determines the energy your body will possess and how well all your body systems perform.  If you consume only nutrient poor overcooked and over-processed foods, the subsequent deficit of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber and enzymes will indeed reflect in how you feel and perform.  On the other hand, consuming a good percentage of nutrient dense raw foods will supply your body with all the ammunition it needs to perform at optimal health.  Simply put, if you eat poor quality food you can expect poor quality performance from your body. However, eat high quality raw foods and your body will reward you.

So how raw do you go?  Adding any amount of raw foods can benefit.  For some, 50% could bring more benefits but many believe the 80% level is the most beneficial.  Start slowly.  Try adding more raw fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, avocados and unheated oil to your diet.  You could feel better just by doing that.   Continue your raw foods conversion by eliminating fast food, processed and overcooked foods.  Pick up a raw foods cookbook and experiment with new recipes.  A well-planned raw food diet provides everything you need to maximize your health.  So why go raw? You will feel better.

 Ruth Ann Clayton is the Registered Dietitian at Nature’s Way.  Reach her  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

Ruth Ann Clayton, Registered Dietitian, is active in both the American Dietetics Association and Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietetic Practice Group. Her nationally accredited Dietetic Internship and her years of experience in public health and hospital settings reflect her commitment to your health and well being.

As the co-owner of Nature’s Way, she uses her comprehensive background to research products, read labels, investigate manufacturers and provide information for her customers.