Alternative Diet

Is raw food healthy? Questions & answers on raw nutrition

What exactly is raw food? Is raw food nutrition healthy or not? What can you eat raw? There are many questions about the raw food trend. Utopia gives answers and examines advantages and disadvantages.

Raw food sounds like a restrictive diet – but in reality it has long since become part of many healthy meals that we eat every day: the smoothie for breakfast, the side salad with the main course, the fruit salad with dessert, sorbets, juices, nuts, dried fruit.

A little raw food nutrition often accompanies us through the day. But eating only raw is a form of nutrition that has little in common with the small side salad. What is important with this diet? Is it only healthy or can raw foods also sometimes be unhealthy? We examine the advantages – and also consider the disadvantages.

What is all raw food?

At the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, a large raw food study was carried out in which, from 1996 to 1998, more than 700 participants who had been eating raw food for at least 14 months before the start of the study were accompanied and examined. The complete data of about 200 participants could be evaluated at the end of the study. For the study a definition had to be created, which serves up to today as scientific basis. This is the definition:

“Raw food nutrition is a food form, which contains to a large extent or excluding unheated vegetable (partly also animal) food. It also includes foods that are exposed to elevated temperatures due to the process (e.g. cold-spun honey and cold-pressed oils), as well as foods that require a certain amount of heat during their production (e.g. dried fruit, dried meat, dried fish and certain types of nuts).
Cold smoked products (e.g. meat and fish) as well as acetic and lactic acid vegetables can also be part of the raw food. Fat, from fresh food. Foods with additives are avoided.”

However, this definition only refers to the variant of raw food nutrition that has been studied by scientists.

In addition, there are further interpretations of what is meant by “raw food“; accordingly, there are deviating recommendations for consumption.

However, foods that have exceeded a temperature of 42 degrees are generally regarded as “heated” – even if it was only for a short time. The thought behind it: Some proteins, such as those from our blood, begin to denature from 42 degrees. For this reason, heated foods should also be denatured and no longer be full-fledged.

Is raw food vegetarian and vegan?

Raw food is often equated or confused with a vegan or vegetarian diet. It is possible to eat vegan or vegetarian raw food, but not necessary. Animal ingredients such as raw milk products (including cheese!), raw eggs, raw fish and raw meat are generally permitted.

These include dried fish and meat, cold smoked meat and fish products and cold “cooked” products such as matjeshering or ceviche and cold delicacies such as sushi or carpaccio. Raw food nutrition can therefore contain many animal ingredients.

Does raw food have more vitamins?

A core idea of nutrition with raw food is that vitamins decompose when food is heated and the food would therefore be “nutrient-poor”. In fact, this is the case with many vitamins – a classic example is vitamin C, which not only disappears when heated, but also when stored improperly from fruit and vegetables.

In the raw food study from Giessen, it was found that people who eat at least 70 percent of raw food are even better supplied with some vitamins than recommended. But: There are also a whole lot of vitamins and minerals, which are only optimally bioavailable by heating, i.e. made receptive for our body. These include vitamin A and vitamin E.

Some foods even cause the body to lose vitamins when consumed raw. This is the case, for example, with egg white. This contains a substance called avidin, which binds vitamin H / B7 / biotin in the human body, resulting in a lack of biotin when eating raw eggs.

Another example is the vitamin B1 / thiamine deficiency caused by the raw consumption of shellfish (e.g. mussels) and freshwater fish, which contains an enzyme that breaks down vitamin B1.

The Gie├čender long-term study showed that raw foods have deficiencies in the following vitamins and minerals: Iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iodine, vitamin D, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12.

A diet with raw vegetables thus leads on the one hand to an increased and on the other hand to a significantly lowered vitamin supply. Those who only eat raw food should have their blood checked regularly and take vitamin preparations if necessary.

Can I eat everything raw?

Like any nutritional philosophy, raw food is not easy to implement without prior knowledge. One reason for this: Not all foods may be eaten raw. Simple examples are pulses and potatoes, which make up a large part of our food.

Legumes such as peas, beans and lentils protect themselves from predators (from the point of view of the plants we are) by producing poisons. Some lectins contained in beans are a particularly effective food poison, causing red blood cells to clump together.

However, if legumes are allowed to germinate, some of these toxins are degraded during the germination process. It depends on the germination period and the legume itself how much of it is still contained in the bean sprout.

Only by heating the feeding poisons are completely decomposed, so that with the nutrition no poisoning risk arises.

Raw potatoes contain solanine, a neurotoxin that is also found in many other nightshade plants. It is also toxic to humans in large quantities. The solanine content varies considerably from potato to potato. However, modern varieties contain very little of it.

Anyone who eats raw food should therefore always inform themselves well in advance whether this may have health disadvantages, i.e. whether it is unhealthy to poisonous.

Does raw food nutrition lead to flatulence?

A well-known prejudice is that raw food nutrition inevitably leads to flatulence. If one does not suffer accidentally from a still undiscovered fructose intolerance, flatulence is frequent only at the beginning of a raw food diet.

This is related to the intestinal flora: Not everyone has the same intestinal flora, everyone has their own individual “belly whisper”, or their own “intestinal flora – fingerprint”, which is based on approximately 800 to 1000 different bacteria.

Each genus of intestinal bacteria is specialized in a certain type of food: Some only “taste” fats, others only proteins or sugar, for example. Until the intestinal flora has adapted to the new food supply and “raw food specialists” take over the digestion, flatulence can always occur.

However, this also happens with every other change in diet and is not only the case with raw foods.

Is raw food bacterially contaminated?

“Cook it, peal it, wash it or forget it” is the motto of many travellers to protect themselves against gastrointestinal diseases. But what if raw food lovers do not heat their food – is it contaminated with germs and dangerous to their health? Not necessarily!

Raw fruit and vegetables should of course be thoroughly washed before consumption. And if raw milk products, raw meat, raw shellfish and fish are hygienically prepared and kept well chilled, people who eat raw food have no greater risk of infection.

The fear of germs in our refrigerators stuffed with industrial food with a best-before date is unfoundedly high. Those who prefer cooked food can also spoil their stomach with spoiled smoked fish or germinated raw egg dishes.

Is it possible to lose weight with raw food?

A result of the Giessen raw food study was that 57% of the study participants had underweight and all participants in the course of the years due to their nutrition continuously lost weight. On average, the participating men had lost 10 kg and women 12 kg over a period of four years.

Statistically speaking, a raw food diet leads to weight loss. However, those who want to lose weight in a healthy and long-term way should rather consider a general change in diet instead of a purely temporary raw food diet.

Is the diet balanced with raw food?

If one considers only the three macro nutrients carbohydrates, proteins and fats, then it is quite possible to cover the body-own need only with raw food. A balanced diet, however, consists of the interaction of these macro-nutrients with many micro-nutrients which, although they do not contain calories, are indispensable for the metabolism and health of our body.

These are primarily vitamins, minerals and trace elements, but also other secondary plant substances such as antioxidants and fibre. An all-round balanced diet provides the body with everything it needs. And exactly that is not possible with pure raw food. In addition, who cooks its meal, should make sure to arrange the meals balanced.