Raw Vegan Food Diet
Raw food is defined as food with temperatures not above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Someone practicing a raw food diet would generally eat above 75% by weight of their food intake raw.
Last night I went to a lecture by renowned author, registered dietician and nutritionist Vesanto Melina at the University of Toronto on “Raw Food Diets: What’s True? What’s Not?” Being vegan for this month has been fascinating, but I’m not sure I’m ready for a complete raw diet. It would be hard in the cold winter months to give up hot comfort foods. And how healthy is it, really? Are there higher chances of food poisoning? Can you get enough nutrients? And what about taste? Do I have to sacrifice taste for a healthy diet? I sat down at the beginning of the lecture wary, but open to learning and hearing what this co-author of what the gentleman from the Toronto Vegetarian Society who introduced her called the “bible” for vegetarians (Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, and now Becoming Raw) has to say.
I am so glad I went. There were some really interesting things I learned about raw and cooked foods and what choices to make to keep food as healthy as possible (with as many vitamins, nutrients, minerals and enzymes intact). Vesanto Melina is a very knowledgeable woman, who wasn’t there to preach or convince anyone that one way is right. She was rather explaining different choices you can make, telling you the facts, helping you in whatever stage of nutrition you are at, and then leaving it up to you to come to your own conclusions.
There was tons of information, but here are a few things all of us should know, meat-eaters or not (all from scientific studies and research – see her website for more details, nutrispeak.com):
- Cooking food destroys enzymes that help in the digestion process, reduces nutrients and phytochemicals, and reduces some of the protective effects of food.
- Steaming vegetables briefly (and keep the leftover water for stock because it is full of the nutrients lost in the steaming) results in a loss of under 30% of enzymes, so still helps in your digestion.
- Boiling (in soups, stews) also keeps a lot of the nutrients in the broth and is healthier for you than bbq, baking, grilling or frying.
- Cooking muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish or poultry, at high temperatures (such as frying or grilling on an open flame/bbq) causes heterocyclic amines (HCAs) to form. Exposure to high levels of HCAs could cause cancer. (more at cancer.gov)
- Browning of food (when an amino acid reacts with a reducing sugar, usually requiring heat) such as roast beef or seared steak causes advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which have been linked to diabetes (one of many studies here).
- Good news, though – cooked tomatoes, for example ketchup, has been proven to help prevent prostate cancer.
- Not all raw food is good for you, though. Raw button mushrooms contain agaritine which is toxic to your liver and raw shitake mushrooms contain formaldehyde. Cook six minutes and it reduces these harmful toxins greatly, or marinate and dehydrate. Buckwheat greens contain fagopyrin which is toxic to humans and can cause hypersensitivity to sunlight, skin irritation, swelling, and dizziness.
- Many sea vegetables, like kelp and hijiki have been found to have high heavy metal content, as a result of the pollution found in our oceans. Arsenic and mercury have been found in high quantities in hijiki and should be avoided.
- If you decide to become a raw foodist (or even a vegan) you need to take supplements of B12 and Vitamin D (if no exposure to the sun – for example in winter) and make sure to eat Omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, flax seed oil).
- Raw foods have been found to benefit arthritis, fibromyalgia, obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Raw foods have anti-inflammatory properties that will help with anyone who has problems in their joints. The high amount of fiber binds and carries out carcinogens from your body.