Raw Food is a great idea. It makes sense that the best food will be at its best when raw.
And this applies well to Fruit, Many Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds. (I refer here to a Raw Plant Based diet, or a Raw vegan diet)
And it automatically excludes the foods that are shown to drive up unhealthy cholesterol, and to damage health, and to increase risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes…. Namely, Animal Products.
However, by eating only Raw Food, we are excluding one class of foods that is extremely healthy, and in so doing making it very likely that an all Raw diet could be dangerously nutritionally unbalanced…
To Put things in perspective, Many well researched works, like the China Study, have concluded that the optimum diet for human health is a Very Low Fat, Wholefood, Plant Based diet. Breaking it down: a balance of 80% Carbohydrates, 10% Fat, and 10% protein is often suggested. As you can see that is very different from the common average of 40% Carbohydrates (usually from refined sources), 40% Fat (mostly from animal products), and 20% Protein.
Now, a Raw Food diet could potentially fit the bill, but for most people it does not, and here is why…
A Raw Food diet by definition excludes a huge class of food called starches, or complex carbohydrates. The reason they are excluded is that starchy foods need to be cooked to be digested. This includes Potatoes, other root vegetables, Grains of all kinds, and Legumes.
This means, of the Low Fat food available, a Raw Food diet excludes the most common and easily available source. This leaves the Raw Foodist dependent on Fruit for most of their sustenance. Greens are fantastic and important for micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, but they don’t affect the Macronutrient balance greatly because they are low in all calories.
While it is possible to have a Very Low Fat intake on raw food, this rarely happens, and in fact the opposite usually happens. For whatever reasons, most people just don’t sustain a diet predominated by fresh fruit. They consult Raw Food recipes, and find a world of gourmet Raw Food, which is dominated by Nuts, Seeds, and Oils. The result is Raw Food recipes containing up to 60% of calories from fat, comparable to a cheeseburger.
Now, you might have heard that “Its good Fat”, but too much is still too much. Our body needs high quality Fatty Acids for healthy cells of all kinds, including everything from skin to brain function. But the need is small, and anything beyond the 10-15% recommended is taxing. And 60% is insane, no matter how good the Fat. It would be equivalent to filling your fuel tank with the best petrol, and then spraying petrol into the luggage area and back seats for good measure.
So, a typical Raw Food diet becomes a High Fat Raw Food diet, and the adherent fails to thrive on such a regime.
However, all is not lost. A Mostly Raw Food diet, that includes moderately cooked starches can be the best of both worlds.
This means including boiled or steamed Potatoes, Root Vegetables, Wholegrains, and Legumes. This introduces a great source of High Carbohydrate, and Low Fat food into the picture. The result is satisfying and simple but very healthy meals.
Here is a recipe we prepared for a recent company demo. Served with a big Salad of course! It went down very well. Notice there is no added oil of any kind, unlike most similar recipes…
This recipe is enough for 6 people if served with wholegrain rice and a salad.
500g Red lentils
500g Butternut Squash, peeled and cubes
500g/ml Passata tomato sauce. (You could also use blended fresh tomatoes for an even healthier dish. These could be added at the end for a raw aspect to the recipe..)
1 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon each cayenne, and salt
1.2 litres water, with a veg stock cube if you like
1 red onon, 1 clove garlic. chopped
method: Boil the onion and garlic in a little water for 5 mins. Add remaining water and Butternut. Cover and Boil for 10 mins. Add Lentils, spices and Passata. Simmer gently for another 20 mins, stirring regularly to prevent sticking. Add more water if necessary to avoid over drying.