Around this time last year I was having a conversation with a very talented friend that lives in Canada about gardening and one of the subjects that was discussed was why we were into gardening.  I stated my reasons which all sounded like the tried and true textbook reasons of a health-conscious man but my friend said that she was motivated because she wanted to focus on embracing a raw food diet/lifestyle.  She went on to recite a particular passage from the bible that Genesis 1:29 “And God said, Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.  You shall have them for food.”  The implication is that we are to eat these things raw, without cooking or processing. Cooking is unnecessary!  Well for me, I thought that what I was doing with a lot of the food from my garden, some of which I ate raw, had me positioned to reap a lot of the benefits of a raw food diet intentionally or coincidentally!

But a television talk show showed me that I could do even better with greater benefits.

The Raw Food Diet vs. Diabetes

On a recent weekday afternoon I stumbled upon a segment on the Dr. Oz talk show where he and his guest had an animated conversation about the benefits of a raw food diet (more will be said about the benefits later).  The guest referenced/used a video that is called Raw for 30 DaysRaw for 30 Days is an independent documentary film that “chronicles six Americans with diabetes who switch to a diet consisting entirely of vegan, organic, live, raw foods to reverse diabetes naturally.”  More can be found, along with a trailer for the video, at: http://www.diet-blog.com/07/raw_for_30_days_can_diabetes_be_cured.php.

On this site you will learn that there are three variants of raw food diets: vegan, vegetarian and raw animal food diets.

  • Vegan raw food diets focus solely on fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.  No animal products are consumed.
  • Vegetarian raw food diets consist of primarily of plant foods, but also include foods like dairy, honey, and eggs.
  • Raw meat diets focus on consuming animal products that can safely be eaten raw, such as organ and muscle meat, raw dairy, and sashimi (raw fish), but also includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but not grains. 

The Benefits of A Raw Food Diet

According to the site Death to Diabetes the health benefits of a raw food diet are:

  • Increased energy
  • Stabilized blood glucose levels
  • Improved skin appearance
  • Better digestion
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk of cancer

The raw food diet contains fewer trans fats and saturated fat than the typical Western diet.  It is also low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber, and health-promoting chemicals called phytochemicals.  At least 75% of food consumed should not be heated over 116 degrees F. 

These properties are associated with a reduced risk of the abovementioned diseases.  A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of a raw food diet lowered plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations

There are specific cooking techniques that will make your food/meals more digestible and add variety to your diet.  Techniques, such as…

  • Sprouting seeds, grains and beans
  • Juicing fruit and vegetables
  • Soaking nuts and dried fruit
  • Blending
  • Dehydrating food

Here’s a short list of some of the equipment you will need to effectively execute a raw food diet.

  • A dehydrator, a piece of equipment that blows air through food at a temperature less than 116 degrees F.
  • A good-quality juice extractor for juicing fruit and vegetables.
  • Large glass containers to soak and sprout seeds, grains, and beans
  • Mason Jars for storing sprouts and other food

There are a few precautions for those interested in undergoing a raw food diet regimen.  The diet may not be appropriate for:

  • Children
  • Pregnant or nursing women
  • People with anemia
  • People at risk for osteoporosis

People also need to be aware that certain nutritional deficiencies can occur on the raw food diet, including:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • B-12 (The Journal of Nutrition study found that a raw food diet increased levels of homocysteine due to vitamin B-12 deficiency)
  • Protein
  • Calories

Critics of the raw food diet say while its true that some enzymes are inactivated when food is heated; it doesn’t matter because the body uses its own enzymes for digestion.  In addition, cooking makes certain phytochemicals easier to absorb, such as beta-carotene in carrots.

Obviously, this is one diet that is probably easier to do living on the west coast where access to a multitude of fresh vegetables is easy.  But it does make sense, even if I don’t go all the way with it.  One of the best reasons for having an “organic garden,” is that I can go out anytime and pluck something off of a bush or vine and pop that sucker right in my mouth where the flavor explodes on my tongue and makes my nostrils swell and my eyes bulge…not really, but it is pretty close to that.  You really can’t go wrong, since a diet that follows the recommended nutritional guidelines includes a lot of the strategies used as the basis of a raw food diet, any diet filled with high levels of fruit and vegetables along with properly prepared and portioned meat servings will position you to have a long and healthy life.

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