"What on earth is a Raw food diet anyway?"
A raw food diet is simply eating food in its natural unprocessed state. You probably (hopefully) already are on part of a raw food diet. If you snack on fruits and vegetables without cooking them, then you’ve eaten raw food.
Raw food, or unprocessed food is much better for you because the act of processing the food strips it of a lot of its vital nutrients. You’ve probably heard that cooking vegetables can leach out a lot of the vitamins. Cooking food also destroys the enzymes as well. Packaged foods that you find in the grocery store, like potato flakes to make mashed potatoes, and other foods that have been processed in some way to make an easy packaged meal have little nutritional value. Your body simply isn’t made to process these unnatural 'foods'.
I tend to not even think of 'packaged foods' as foods at all. I tend to simply think of them as poisons, because more often than not, that's pretty much what they are. Look at the ingredients; try reading them aloud. The chances are that you can't pronounce half of the ingredients, and that you have not even heard of most of the things on the list. Does that sound like something your great grandmother would have put on the dinner table? Does that list sound like food, or does it sound like some bizarre chemical experiment?
If you think about raw foods as being the natural foods the way that they come from the earth, then it makes sense that these are easier for our bodies to process. These are the foods that out great ancestors ate. There have not been that many generations that have had access to grocery stores. Since the advent of grocery stores, chronic illnesses have sky rocketed. Maybe there is a connection there.
Raw foods are packed full of vitamins, minerals and food enzymes. The fresher it is (the less time between picking the food and eating it), the more the food has to offer. The food enzymes are important, although you don’t hear a lot about them. One of the things they do is help you digest your food. Getting enough enzymes helps your body with the digestion process which takes a lot of energy, and if your body is spending less energy on digestion it will have more energy for you to do the things you like.
Did you ever wonder why you feel so tired after you eat a big meal of cooked foods? One of the reasons is because food enzymes are destroyed by cooking, so there are no enzymes to help your body digests that big meal you just ate.
If you often get stomach aches (like I used to), then you may be experiencing an enzyme deficiency. Try having a green smoothie or a large salad before having a cooked meal, and notice if you don't get a stomach ache from a meal that normally would give you one. It's the enzymes!
Most people who consider themselves Raw Foodists or people who say they are on a 'Raw Food Diet' eat about 75% or more of their diet raw. This includes fruits, vegetables, sprouts, raw nuts, seaweed and other foods in their natural form. Many people go so far as 100%, but not everyone has to go that far to see extreme and desirable results. Others eat pretty much just like 'everyone else' and then will go on a 100% raw food diet for a short period of time (a week to a month) in order to fend off an illness when it occurs.
My personal suggestion is to determine where you are now, and then try to increase the amount of raw food you eat in increments. Aim for having at least part of every meal raw. If that means adding a green smoothie; that's fine. If it means having a side salad, that's fine too. If it means putting fresh raw basil on your shrimp, that's also fine. Whatever works for you. When you start noticing that your aches and pains are going away, you may decide you want to shoot for 100% just to see what a change it will make in your life.
Raw foods can be prepared in a couple of ways. One of the most popular is juicing (which can be done with a blender or a juicer - I recommend using a blender mostly so that you still get the fiber). Many people go on a juice fast (or a juice feast!) where all they do is drink the juice of raw fruits and vegetables. (Preferably home grown or organic.) Even just drinking fresh juice in the morning can give your health a significant boost.
Another way that people eat raw foods is to use a food dehydrator. This takes all the moisture out of the fruits and vegetables so they can be easily stored for long periods of time without going bad. A food dehydrator uses hot air to dehydrate the food but it keeps the temperature under 116°F so that the vital food enzymes are not destroyed. One should still remember that enzymes die off over time, so that dehydrated foods will still not be as fresh as just-picked foods.
Nature, as shown by every animal but humans, intended us to eat leaves, fruits and vegetables directly off bushes and trees, but that unfortunately isn't easy or practical for everyone in today's society. One way to help make the change is to use nuts and dried fruits as snacks throughout the day to curb cravings for cooked and processed foods.
Raw Fruit Ball Treats
Make sure to find dried fruits with no added sugar. And look for nuts that have not been cooked. Raw nuts can be found at most Trader Joe's and at some health food stores. You can also look online.
Nobody can change everything they eat overnight. Just try to notice how you feel after each meal, and consider how much of it was raw plants, and how much of it was cooked and processed.
What role do calories play in our diet? Click here to find out.