Monday, January 21, 2013

The Real Deal on Raw

If you follow my blog, you probably already know that I’m a huge fan of raw foods.  I’ve found that incorporating a high percentage of raw food into my diet makes me feel my best.  I have more energy, mental clarity and I just feel better.  I don’t eat totally raw and I enjoy plenty of cooked foods too, but I know where my happy place is!

Today, I'd like to share my love of raw food with you.  No matter what your eating philosophy is, you can benefit from increasing your intake of raw foods.  The truth is, most of us don't eat enough fresh foods (especially veggies), and eating raw is a great way to increase your intake.  There are many ways to benefit from raw foods: doing a raw cleanse, juicing or simply including more raw foods will all have beneficial effects.

What's This "Raw" You Speak Of?

A raw diet is made up of raw fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains and legumes.  There are variations- some raw foodies exclude grains and legumes since they can trigger inflammation in some people and some include raw dairy and meats.  No matter what you include, nothing should be heated over 115-118 degrees to preserve the vitamins and enzymes.

One important aspect of eating raw is choosing fresh organic produce, or produce that hasn’t been sprayed.  Since one major reason for eating raw is to reduce the toxins in your body, it is counter productive to introduce food covered in more toxins.

The Benefits of Raw Goodness 

There are plenty of reasons to include raw foods in your diet.  Below, I highlight a couple of ways raw foods can help you!

Alkalizing: To maintain a healthy body, we want out system to be alkaline rather than acidic.  Most of the SAD (standard american diet) staples today fall into the acidic category: grains, sugar, processed oils, commercial meats and dairy.  In contrast, almost all fruits and veggies are alkalizing.

Nutritionally dense: By eating raw foods, we are avoiding cooking out valuable vitamins from our food.   The components of raw diets are naturally nutrient dense so you'll be filling your body with a huge amount of nourishment.

Reduce inflammation and oxidative stress: fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are all high in various antioxidants, phytonutrients and healthy fats.  These allow our body to heal itself and fight off illness and disease.

Fiber: Unless you are eating plenty of fresh whole foods, you probably aren’t getting enough fiber in your diet.  If you’re eating the SAD, you definitely aren’t!  I’m a huge fan of fiber and its role in our bodies.  It’s true that too much is unhealthy and can interfere with nutrient absorption, but the fact is, most people are on the other end of the spectrum.

Enzymes: Raw foods are full of enzymes that aid in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients.  Including plenty of them in your diet can even help you digest foods that normally cause problems.  When I don't eat enough raw foods, I actually take enzyme supplements that make a huge difference in digestion.

So, raw is great right? I think so, but lately it seems like raw foods are getting bashed quite a bit.  My poor little friends, kale and broccoli are feeling put down.  So I'd like to share some things you should know about eating raw and hopefully clear up some misconceptions.

What You Can't Get From Raw Foods

Eating a wide variety of raw foods can provide you with plenty of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.  The one vitamin that is hard to get is B12.  It’s widely found in its easily absorbable form through animal products but not in plants.  The only raw source you can find of absorbable B12 is in chlorella, an algae.  You can easily add this to smoothies or water.

I like to take Nutri-Calm from Nature’s Sunshine to make sure I’m getting enough B vitamins.  If you are going to eat a totally raw diet for a long period or find yourself especially grumpy (like during a cleanse), consider adding a supplement to your diet.

Cruciferous Vegetables

I’ve seen some people putting down the raw cruciferous veggies saying they contain goitrogens.  Goitrogens are not  specific compound, but actually refer to anything that interferes with thyroid function.  In the case of crucifers the combinations of nutrients can have a goitrogenic effect on people with thyroid problems.   Not so much for healthy individuals.

In fact, eating raw crucifers can benefit your digestive track.  Their nutrients are naturally more likely to be absorbed by your upper digestive track and used in the liver.  For more information on crucifers and goitrogens, you can read this article.


Oxalates are another point people bring up with raw foods.  Oxalates can cause problems for some people who are sensitive to them.  These individuals should stay away for oxilates whether they are raw or cooked since cooking does not measurably effect the oxalate content.

If you aren’t sensitive to them, eat away!  Spinach, beet greens and parsley have some of the highest levels of oxalates.  These foods are nourishing and delicious so we enjoy them on a regular basis (especially spinach).

Phytic acid

Don’t be fooled by anyone claiming that raw foods are higher in phytic acid.  Properly soaking your raw seeds, nuts and grains is far more important to dissipating phytic acid than cooking.  Since grains and beans are used much less than in a normal diet, the raw portion of your diet is likely to have much less phytic acid than your cooked foods.
Always soak or sprout your nuts and seeds for the recommended time to ensure you are activating the enzyme to break the acid down.  You can bookmark this chart for the recommended soaking times.  For more information about phytic acid, you can check out my post here

See, raw foods aren't scary or dangerous- they're nourishing and delicious!  If you don't currently eat them every day, trying including more raw items and see how you feel.  Later this week I'll be sharing more info on ways to include more raw foods in your diet.  If you've got specific questions, let me know!

This post is shared at the Homestead Barn HopNatural Living Monday, Allergy Free WednesdayGluten Free Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday and Fresh Foods Link Up.


  1. Some of the dishes were mouthwatering and I’ll make all of them for sure.

  2. I love your photos--a nice accompaniment to a great article.


  3. raw foods are intriguing. i try to include some raw foods in my diet but i'll be honest - as a big fat (and fat is slowly turning into a literal term) fan of pasta, i don't think i'll ever entirely migrate over to the raw team. that being said, i think there are absolutely benefits to eating on the raw. loved this post.

    thank you for sharing with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up. I hope to see you again this week with more seasonal and real/whole food posts! xo, kristy

    1. lol, I like pasta too but I've learned it's just as satisfying if I mix in some zucchini noodles with the pasta (you can't even tell! Baby steps right?

  4. Loved the article and the points you made. I too do the raw food thing with some cooked foods here and there. I never thought I would like zucchini noodles instead of pasta(I'm Italian) but I find it's the sauces more than the pasta that most people like. My husband is case in point he hates zucchini but when I peel it and spirooli it into noodles he never knows. I finally told him one night when he was raving about the dish and he said keep em coming.

    1. Yes! I totally agree, the sauce is where are the goodness is and the pasta is just a carrier!