Raw food is not just about salads and fruits, it includes any form of uncooked food that has not been refined, pasteurised, canned or chemically processed. Additionally, any food that has never been heated over 104–118°F (40–48°C) and treated with pesticides falls into the category of raw foods.
Instead of cooking, this diet gives several alternative preparation options like juicing, blending, dehydrating, soaking and sprouting. Mostly a plant-based and fruit diet, you can also consume raw eggs, dairy products and raw meat, if desired. The basic rule is that at least 75% of the food you eat, should be raw.
Some of the other foods that are included in this diet are raw nuts, seeds, dried fruits and cold-pressed coconut and olive oils. You could have grains and legumes after they’ve been soaked or have sprouted.
Raw food v/s cooked food
According to this diet, cooking destroys various necessary nutrients and natural enzymes, which are present in food and are vital for digestion. For example, water-soluble vitamins B and C get destroyed because of the high heat used during cooking. Uncooked food is also easier to digest, and results in clearer skin, aids in weight loss and lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
On the other hand, some foods when cooked provide more nutrients. For instance, vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, carrots and cabbage, when boiled or steamed offer more antioxidants. While broccoli, kale and Brussel sprouts contain goitrogens that are known to block thyroid hormones and can lead to hypothyroidism. Cooking these vegetables can destroy the goitrogens present.
Cooking also kills certain bacteria and toxins you find in grains and legumes. Raw eggs can contain salmonella, which can result in serious illness. Also, especially in a country like India where foods are not preserved or grown in the most sanitary conditions, the presence of germs and bacteria is higher. And can be combated by cooking foods at high heat. Tapeworms are also known to exist in salad greens and leafy vegetables, and cannot be killed unless the vegetables are cooked on high heat.
So while a raw food diet sounds extremely healthy and will leave the chemicals out of your system, it’s good to remember ground realities and proceed with caution. The best way to live a healthy life might well be to include both cooked and raw foods in your everyday diet.