In pursuit of healthy living: is raw food the way to go?
While people react differently to raw food diet, no one can disagree with the benefits of more vegetables and exercise
The raw-food lifestyle has become the newest nutrition trend, with followers claiming health benefits.
Chris Wark became famous after posting a video online recounting how he rejected chemotherapy, opting to beat cancer with a raw-food diet.
“Well over HALF of the 585,720 cancer deaths expected to occur in the U.S. this year are related to PREVENTABLE behaviors! Your diet and lifestyle choices matter!” Wark wrote on his “Chris Beat Cancer” Facebook page.
He advocates nutrition and natural therapies in fighting cancer.
Natasha, who has a “Raw Radiant Health” channel on YouTube, offers raw-food recipes and ways to make healthy juices.
She says she cured her Poly Cystic Ovaran Syndrome, an endocrine disorder that affects at least 10% of women, after turning raw.
Pros and cons
However, some women have reported a stoppage of their menstruation cycle due to an all-raw diet.
“Biochemical individuality is very important to acknowledge,” Stephanie Karl, a nutritionist at the Dubai-based JTS Medical Center, told Al Arabiya News.
“For people with digestive disorders, or those who don’t have strong teeth, such a diet won’t be very suitable for them.”
Those with thyroid problems are advised to have their cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, steamed to deactivate goitrogens, natural compounds that may block thyroid function.
Racha Adib, a Beirut-based dietician, told Al Arabiya News: “The truth is, when comparing raw foods and cooked foods, there are pros and cons for each.”
She added: “Some nutrients are more available in their raw states, while others such as beta carotene are more available in cooked food. Same goes for toxins in food.”
Adib, who offers nutrition and wellness counseling to individuals and corporations, said: “The key is balance and moderation, and following a diet that combines both raw food and cooked food will ensure you get the benefits of both.”
Karl also says people need to know which foods to cook and which should be kept raw.
“Cooking can enrich food and make it easier to break down and digest, but there are particular nutrients, especially water-soluble vitamins, that are destroyed when exposed to oxidation and cooking. It works both ways,” she said.
The two agree that a strict raw-food lifestyle could deprive followers of essential nutrients, particularly those who are vegetarian or vegan.
“We need zinc and iron, and we need to get that from animal protein. Eggs are terribly nutritious,” Karl said.
“Zinc, which is part of including meat into the diet, is one mineral poorly lacking, particularly in PCOS, autism and mental disorders.”
Adib, who described the lifestyle as “difficult to follow,” said the “food options are more limited than other diets, so it’ll take more effort to plan.”
She added: “It’s also difficult to meet your nutritional requirements without consulting a dietician, especially when it comes to protein, iron and vitamin B12.”
While raw-food eaters reap the benefits of weight control and reduced levels of bad cholesterol, they can still achieve this through a balanced diet.
This “can be easily achieved when following a high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and one that is low in saturated fat, found in butter, fatty meat and full-fat dairy,” Adib said.
However, there are also long-term effects, said Karl.
“In my experience, people who have done raw food for a number of years... have finally realized they’re becoming more chronically fatigued, suffer very low energy and are a bit depressed because they aren’t getting some key nutrients,” she said.
In any case, no one can disagree with the benefits of more vegetables and exercise.
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