When things are new or unfamiliar to people, questions naturally arise, especially when it comes to a topic as essential as eating habits. Though it is not a new way of eating, the raw food diet is somewhat unfamiliar to most people, and thus it is normal for people to have questions about the risks and dangers of a raw food diet.
The challenge lies in how to separate the truth and the fiction among the myriad of murmurings, rumours, and warnings out there. If you are new to following a raw food diet or just have have questions or concerns about possible risks of a raw food diet, read on to find out everything you need to know as I take a closer look at the possible dangers of a raw food diet and separate the truth from the hype.
Raw Food Diet Background
Before you can adequately gauge the risks of a raw food diet, it is essential to first understand the fundamentals of what a raw food diet is, and what it is not.
What a Raw Food Diet Is
In the simplest terms, following a raw food diet means that you do not eat foods that are prepared using temperatures above 104 to 118 degrees F or 40 degrees C (experts vary somewhat on what the upper temperature limit is). The diet is built around fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Additionally, someone following a raw foods diet may choose to include raw, unpasteurized dairy and eggs and raw seafood and meat. Common preparation methods include chopping, blending, juicing and dehydrating.
What a Raw Food Diet Is Not
A raw food diet does not always necessitate that someone eat every bite of food he or she consumes in its raw state. Though some raw food enthusiasts do exclusively eat their foods raw, most guidelines state that if someone eats a minimum of 70 percent of his or her food in its raw state it can be considered a proper raw foods diet.
Additionally, it is a myth that a raw food diet can involve no heat prep whatsoever. Some methods of low heat preparation, such as dehydration, can be used to add variety to food prep and still fall within the guidelines of a raw food diet.
Finally, a raw food diet is not synonymous with a vegan diet. Though there is often overlap between someone on a vegan diet choosing to eat raw foods or someone on a raw foods diet choosing to abstain from animal products, animal products are permitted on a raw foods diet as long as they are in their raw state.
Possible Dangers of a Raw Food Diet
Now that you have a greater understanding of what a raw food diet entails, I can take a look at some of the risks associated with a raw food diet, evaluate that risk and address possible solutions.
Risk: A Raw Food Diet Makes You Miss Out on Key Nutrients
Evaluation: One danger of a raw food diet that is often cited as a concern is that followers are setting themselves up to miss out on crucial nutrients. This danger is largely due to the somewhat limiting nature of the diet. There is validity to this argument in that anytime you place restrictions on your diet you can be at risk for missing certain nutrients.
In terms of a raw food diet, two possibilities can lead to someone being low on nutrients. The first lies in the fact that the raw food diet is generally a very filling diet. The high water and fiber content tends to fill people up quickly, which can in turn make it challenging to get in enough calories and nutrients each day.
Secondly, for raw food diet followers who avoid animal products, it is easy to run low on the vitamins and minerals that are solely or primarily obtained from animals sources. For example, vitamin B12 is only found from animal sources.
Answer: Several strategies can help people make sure they are not missing out on any critical nutrients. First, doctors can perform simple blood tests to monitor nutrient levels. If a deficiency is detected, you can adjust your diet accordingly or take a supplement to address the concern.
If getting in enough calories and nutrients is a problem, you can also incorporate cold pressed juicing into your dietary regime. Cold pressed juicing allows you to get the nutrition of pounds of produce into a single glass.
Arming yourself with nutritional knowledge is another key way to prevent this danger of a raw food diet. For instance, if you find your iron levels are low, knowing that spinach, raisins, and seeds are a simple and raw food compliant option can help you quickly address this concern.
Finally, you can proactively include a dietary supplement as part of your daily routine to give yourself added insurance that you are not missing any key nutrients.
Risk: A Raw Food Diet Puts You at Risk for Food Borne Illness
Evaluation: Watching the news on any given night will remind us that food borne illnesses are a risk to people on any type of diet. The nightly news broadcast will show you news stories about outbreaks of things like salmonella and e. coli occurring in both raw and cooked foods.
With this universal risk in mind it is still worth noting that someone on a raw food diet does face the additional challenge of not having use of heat to kill the bacteria responsible for some food borne illnesses.
Answer: Anyone following a raw food diet should take extra care and precaution to thoroughly wash produce before consuming it. In addition to soap and water, it can be helpful to include additional means of disinfecting food such as vinegar, salt, and/ or baking soda.
If raw meat, dairy, and seafood are part of your raw food diet, be sure to select it from a reputable source, select high quality options, and carefully follow refrigeration guidelines to address this risk of a raw food diet.
Risk: A Raw Food Diet is Hard to Follow
Evaluation: One commonly heard question from people considering a raw food diet is, “Won’t it be hard to follow a raw food diet?” While a raw food diet is not a mainstream option, this does not mean that it is hard to follow.
Unlike some diets with long lists of banned and permissible foods or those with strict calorie or carbohydrate counts, the raw food diet really only has one large guiding principle: eat foods without using high temperatures to prepare them. Though it can be argued that it may sometimes be inconvenient to follow a raw food diet (especially when you are away from home), the simple guidelines mean that being hard to follow is not a true risk of a raw food diet.
Answer: You can combat the possible inconveniences you may experience on a raw food diet with a small bit of time spent doing some advanced planning. For instance, if you know you will be out for several hours, toss an apple with some raw nut butter into your bag.
Additionally, do a little research about your local restaurants to find ones that will most easily be able to accommodate your raw food lifestyle. Most any restaurant will have salad options, but by doing a little research you may find restaurants that offer even more options!
Risk: A Raw Food Diet is Too Expensive
Evaluation: The final risk of a raw food diet is not a risk to your health, but instead a possible risk to your wallet! More people than you might expect worry that while a raw food diet would be a healthy choice for them, they simply can’t afford it.
Unfortunately, highly processed, unhealthy foods are often among the cheapest choices to be found at the grocery store, but that does not mean that a raw food diet cannot be made affordable. Additionally, because a raw food diet does not require any sort of memberships or expensive branded foods, it can save people money compared to many commercial diets.
Answer: You can address the cost related risk of a raw food diet with smart shopping strategies. Shop weekly store circulars to see what raw food friendly foods are being put on sale. Go to nearby farmers markets or join a food co-op.
You can often realise substantial discounts on high quality foods by getting the foods directly from the farmer. Warehouse stores, bulk bins, and web based stores can also all be some terrific options to get savings on items like raw nuts and seeds. Do some comparison shopping among and you may be surprised to see how much you can save while following a raw food diet.
The Take Away: Risks do exist when people choose to follow a raw food diet, but by being well informed and smart about the way you address these risks, you can safely follow a raw food diet.