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The Raw Food Diet
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The raw food diet has been touted for a variety of health benefits including weight loss, increased energy and better digestion. The eating plan consists largely of uncooked and unprocessed plant foods including fruits and vegetables, beans, sprouts, grains, nuts, seeds and seaweed.
The biggest benefit of a raw food diet may also be its biggest drawback -- the impact of cooking on the nutrient value of food. Cooking these foods is thought to kill the enzymes in the food that help digest the foods. Cooking can also result in vitamin loss.
Vitamin loss in food is affected by:
• Exposure to air
• Exposure to light
• Exposure to heat
• Whether a vitamin is fat- or water-soluble, vitamin loss from cooking is more significant with water-soluble vitamins such as B and C, because prolonged heating breaks them down. By contrast, fat-soluble vitamins (D, E, A and K) as well as fat-soluble plant chemicals (e.g. lycopene) become more concentrated with cooking; the vegetable loses water content, thereby decreasing dilution of the nutrients.
To optimize vitamin levels in your vegetables:
• Use foods when optimally fresh.
• If cooking, use steaming rather than boiling, and avoid long cooking times.
• Remember that the significance of losing some of a vegetable's vitamins/nutrients depends on the food's context in your overall diet. If you're eating plenty of fresh produce, the benefits lost by cooking a single dish are unlikely to make a dent in your health.
• A balanced diet should include all nutrients, both fat and water-soluble.
• A raw food diet may not be practical if you have digestive issues. As we get older, some of us have digestive problems with raw onions, cucumbers, bell peppers etc. At this point it becomes subjective. How much benefit are we deriving from eating all raw foods if we don't enjoy how it makes us feel? The nutrients gained may be outweighed by the discomfort.
At the end of the day, I think it's best to eat a combination of fresh cooked and raw foods to achieve the optimal amount of nutrients and vitamins they contain.
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