Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Raw Food Diet Pros and Cons - Part 2

What are the benefits of a raw food diet?

Proponents of a raw food diet offer many benefits, some revolve around better digestion resulting in better health of the body, while others are more philosophical and delve into personal ethics and the health of the planet.  

For the sake of time and space on this blog, I'm going to stick mainly to it's impact on the health of the body.

Today my friend Christina and I had lunch at a local raw food restaurant, Peace Pies . . . I did feel responsible to do a little market research after all!  ;)

PJ, the owner, explained that he started his restaurant because he feels that unhealthy foods create unhealthy thoughts that clean, healthy foods can foster peaceful and healthy thoughts. 

I have to admit his line of thinking wasn't so different than my experience with my raw food breakfast in Sedona at Chocola Tree - remember I said it was something of an existential experience!

Looking over his rather extensive menu made it hard to choose, so we decided to each order something different and share . . .

We decided on a Mock Tuna Sandwich, a "Burger" and, of course we couldn't leave without trying a Peace of the Pie!

So we asked PJ which was the BEST pie he had on the menu and this is what we tried . . . a creamy Peach Pie.

It was so good I had to give you both views!

My lunch experience here at Peace Pies was very similar in it's results to my breakfast in Sedona . . . although the setting wasn't quite as uplifting.  Eating this light food that's been so thoughtfully prepared left me feeling happier than when I walked in to the restaurant.

However, I do have another thing to add to this discussion, for me eating a raw food meal has a similar result as the old adage about Chinese food . . . you are hungry an hour later!

Now I'm not one to eat a lot or too often, I'm not really hungry by nature, I even forget to eat.  But after a meal of raw food, I'm STARVING just an hour or 2 later!

There are actually some good reasons for this . . .
  • Many of the foods are soaked, sprouted, pureed and ground . . . in other words they are much easier for your digestive tract to deal with.  So the entire digestive process happens much more quickly. 
  • Raw foods enthusiasts claim that there are more active enzymes retained in raw foods than if they are heated above 110 degrees.  These active enzymes are believed to assist in proper digestion.  Of course the faster your food digests, the faster it moves through your system, and that means you may feel empty and potentially hungry sooner.
  • Some raw foods are lighter and depend on more fresh vegetables than traditionally cooked foods.  Grains and animal proteins generally are more calorie dense, so fewer calories and less fat may result in the need for more frequent meals. 
Like all food plans, diets or healthy lifestyles, there are always proponents who have been helped, often dramatically, by simply making a switch to a vegetarian, vegan, paleo or macrobiotic diet.  The Raw Food Diet is no exception . . .

In fact there are several healthy retreat centers that center around raw foods - I actually used to own one!  Many people go to detoxify, rejuvenate or in some way restore their health.  Optimum Health Institute in San Diego, CA and Austin, TX; Hippocrates Health Institute in W Palm Beach, FL; Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, AZ to name a few of the more famous or infamous locations.  

In fact, from acne to cancer, many participants have fantastic testimonials regarding a reversal in disease or a general overall well being after 2 weeks or more of clean, raw food meals, mild exercise, massage and other therapies.

While modern science can demonstrate no evidence that raw foods have more nutrition, more live enzymes or more minerals than their heated counterparts, there are other benefits that cannot be denied.
  • A diet based on a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds will provide more fiber, a wider array of vitamins and minerals and essential fatty acids to your diet. 
  • A diet based on raw foods requires a great deal more time chewing . . . that means more digestive stimulation, and that leads to a healthier transit time through your digestive system and a more thorough break down of the food resulting in better assimilation.
  • A diet based on more fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds generally contains far more antioxidants - broccoli and alfalfa sprouts are great examples.  Each of these little sprouts have been linked to significant cancer reduction due to one of their components that helps your body to produce more glutathione - THE most important antioxidant that your cells produce on their own when given enough of the raw ingredients to do so.
  • Each sprout on your salad or sandwich is a tiny plant with a very concentrated vitamin and mineral content.  While traditional lab studies indicate that they do not have any extra nutrients than their fully grown counterparts, the fact is that you eat dozens or even hundreds of these plants in every fork full of sprouts!  Logically speaking, that does increase the nutrition you are ingesting.
  • Raw diets generally contain no additives, colorants, or preservatives or refined anything . . . that's one of it's big hallmarks.
  • And these days, most are vegan, plus dairy, soy and grain free - a huge plus for anyone wanting to get a big jump start on eliminating the top 8 allergens!

Why are raw food diets so popular?

It seems that the more we know about the state of our food these days, from chemical additives and even genetic modification, the more health conscience many of us become.  Then of course, there is the element of celebrity endorsement which always creates a bit of a "band wagon" trend.

The Raw Food Movement now is even considered a counter culture . . . 

Maybe they are on to something . . . 

One of the more eco-friendly things about raw foods is that you can grow thousands of sprouts in a jar without adding any burden to our fragile ecosystem.  Sprouting does not depend on tractors to till, plant or harvest the end product, so that does reduce the amount of fossil fuels consumed.  Also raw food is not cooked so again less natural gas or electricity is consumed in the preparation of the meal.  Of course it's also worth mentioning that most raw foodies are big supporters of organic food production . . . and once again that is a great eco-friendly aspect of this movement.

Just to be completely informed on Thursday we will be looking at the other side of this trend.

But on Wednesday don't forget to tune in to my radio show - Simple Solutions for Everyday Health at Noon Pacific/3 Eastern - when I'll be taking your questions and comments about this subject of a Raw Food Diet!

Until then . . .

Dr. P

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