100% Raw isn’t always best

October 25th, 2007

Since starting down the raw food path, I’ve met a lot people struggling with answers to health and diet questions. Some people transition to a raw food diet quite easily, while others have to invent clever strategies for staying on raw food. Food cravings can be intense as our bodies struggle to kill off unhealthy intestinal bacteria and build up healthy internal flora. If you’re constantly struggling with binge eating, feelings of deprivation, or lack of health and vitality, staying 100% raw may not be your best path to good health.

A common strategy for transitioning to raw is to eat a certain percentage of raw food. This can be a great strategy, provided that when you are eating cooked food, you choose healthy cooked food. If you are eating 75% raw and 25% Twinkies and fried tofu, you’re missing out on the beneficial effects. Those processed foods are making your body more acidic and feeding the anaerobic bacteria in your gut, worsening your cravings.

Another popular strategy is to eat a lot of gourmet raw foods that mimic cooked favorites. There are dozens and dozens of gourmet raw food recipe books and a wide array of pre-packaged raw food snacks and desserts. Restaurants and grocery delis are adding raw selections to their menus. These are great for a fun delicious treat, but they are not part of a healthy, long-term diet plan. They tend to be high in sugar and fat, low in natural water, and lacking in substantial nutrients as compared with a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet. Eating raw junk food makes us feel sluggish and bloated, much like with any other junk food. The idea of staying raw at all cost is not necessarily the best strategy. Maintaining a raw food diet is supposed to be the means to being healthy. It is not the end in itself. If we are raw but unhealthy, then we have completely missed the point.

There is another alternative, and I’d like to suggest that it is superior to an all-raw diet that relies on fancy gourmet dishes and desserts: eating a mixture of raw foods and healthy cooked foods. The bulk aisle of natural food stores offer a variety of high protein, high fiber, mineral-rich, gluten-free grains such as quinoa, amaranth, and wild rice. These are all easy to prepare and can be mixed with raw fruits and vegetables for a very satisfying and tasty meal. Squashes, which are difficult to prepare raw, can be cooked and eaten plain to add healthy variety. Lightly steamed vegetables, while losing their enzymes, do retain most of their nutrition and cancer-fighting qualities.

Raw food is supposed to be about energy, vitality, and good mental and physical health, and for a lot of people, it is. If you aren’t one of those people, don’t beat yourself up over falling off the raw food wagon. Concentrate on good health first. Once you clean out the toxins and unhealthy bacteria and build up a healthy internal ecology, your body will demand nutritious, natural foods. Junk food won’t even look like food anymore. You’ll know raw food is the best diet for you because your body won’t want anything else.

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2 Responses to “100% Raw isn’t always best”

  1. valerie Says:

    thank you, thank you, thank you for this article. i’ve read a ton of books and websites on raw food, i talked to raw foodist-and no one ever actually answered that question: can i eat raw AND (organic/healthy) cooked foods and still get the benefits? & tonight in frustration i googled something and this came up. and now after months, i finally know where to start and i’m not overwhelmed….because, honestly, i know i could never give up cooked food that easily and 100%-and it helps to know that i can go to a health food store and pick up wild rice and squash.
    thank you very much

  2. vegangirl Says:

    Valerie, I’m so glad this post was helpful to you! Since I made the mental switch to focusing on health, rather than on eating rules, I feel much healthier and satisfied and much less overwhelmed.

    I just started reading Douglas Graham’s 80/10/10 diet book, which is a raw food diet book, and find it to be full of great insights. But even so, right now, I am not ready to get wrapped up in more restrictive rules again. If and when I feel ready to change my eating habits in that direction, I will do it gradually, in a way that feels natural for me.

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