7 Reasons To Choose Fully Raw
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So I’ve talked a lot about raw foods and their infinite amazingness on my blog. But, let’s face it, it’s one thing to eat more raw foods, but it’s another to go fully raw. Temptation from cooked foods, whether it’s junk or seemingly ‘healthy’ is everywhere. You can’t go 2 minutes without walking past a counter full of toxic sweet treats, or catching an advert for a multi-national junk food chain – even the White House isn’t safe!
Or maybe you’re used to eating mainly raw vegan, but still eat soups, chilis or cooked veggies, thinking they’re doing your body good. But do you really know what’s happening inside our food when we boil, steam, fry or roast it? The truth isn’t pretty, and will have you reaching for your juicer sooner than you can say Fully Raw Kristina. Who, incidentally, is a great person to follow for raw vegan inspiration! Don’t think I’ve mentioned that before…
Here’s 7 very important reasons to give fully raw a go and cut the cooked. Juicers at the ready, everyone!
1. Heating food destroys its nutritional value
So let’s get to the crux of it: nutrition loss during cooking is a very real thing. Essentially, when you cook food, regardless of the method, the molecular structure degrades and new chemical configurations are formed, along with carcinogenic by-products. And then it’s going straight into your body. Suffice to say, it’s not sounding great so far…
And you probably already know that heat destroys essential vitamins, especially B vitamins and vitamin C, as they’re water soluble. US dietary surveys worryingly show that less than 12% of children and adults in America are getting enough vitamin C, which could be a significant factor in the development of lung diseases and asthma. This affects our intake of vitamins, as well as our digestion.
As a nation, we’re failing to eat the recommended amount of cooked fruits and veggies as is ‘recommended’, never mind raw, so it’s not that surprising that we’re not getting enough of this vital nutrient.
Luckily, there’s no way you could go a day eating fully raw vegan without getting well over and above the vitamin C you need. Just one half cup of blackcurrants, just over a cup of papaya or just over a cup of strawberries is enough to give us enough vitamin C daily. It’s also interesting to note that one cup of raw kale gives us 89% of our daily recommended intake, whereas a cup of cooked kale provides just 59%. If that’s not a case for cheesy kale chips (raw vegan is just so restrictive!), I don’t know what is. Actually, given that they’re raw, you don’t need an excuse. Munch away!
2. Cooked food is making us sick
So cooking food is already looking pretty terrible. But it’s about to get much worse. Heating food doesn’t only affect the vitamins and enzymes present, but also causes the oxygen and water content to decrease and proteins become virtually unusable by our bodies. Plus, toxic byproducts are created during the heating process, the list of which I’d need a few blog posts for. But these include acrylamides, the cancer-causing by-products of cooking starches, ammonia, found in cooked cheeses and nitrosamines, a toxin created when the gas flame on barbecues reacts with fats. Who needs a toxic, sickness causing barbecue when there’s a world of satiating, juicy, vibrant raw recipes to devour, especially in summer! Okay, so if you haven’t got to trying raw just yet, you’re gonna have to trust me on this one…
Victoria Butenko, author of 12 Steps to Raw Foods, explains that the heating of fats causes a significant change in their chemical and physical characteristics. She describes scientific studies that have shown how the ‘administration of concentrates from thermally oxidized fats produced cellular damage in hearts, livers and kidneys of lab animals. It’s easy to see that not much good is coming out of cooked food so far…
If you’re not convinced just yet, she explains how cooking meats on a high heat and for a long time produces various mutagens, which are thought to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Reports of the dangers of meat are rife, in fact. The World Health Organisation warns of its ability to increase the likelihood of cancer, with dairy being another of the main culprits.
Another pretty horrifying thing about cooking food is its ability to produce toxic substances in the food we’re consuming at every meal. Scientists have discovered that heating food produces a large group of super harmful substances called advanced glycoxidation end products, or AGEs (because I cannot type that out and expect to spell it right more than once). So it’s a bit on the sciencey side, but, essentially, AGEs involve amino acids and sugars combining to create potential toxic effects. We absorb about 10% of the AGEs we consume and, given that these harmful substances damage tissue elasticity I in the blood vessels, the lens of the eye and the heart muscle, that’s about 10% too much. Period.
The formation of these substances is completely irreversible, which can therefore lead to irreversible diseases in our vital organs, as well as kidney failure and cardiovascular disease. So not something we’d choose on a menu, to say the least. Can you imagine if restaurants put these warnings on display? Waiter, I’ll have the heart attack with a side of sight loss, please. Sounds delicious.
AGEs, just like their name suggests, also speed up the ageing process. Need proof? Take a look at raw vegan Mimi Kirk. How old does she look? Yeah. Add 20 years to that. Who needs botox or fancy ‘anti-ageing’ creams when the solution lies in the fruits and veggies aisle of the supermarket?
The worrying thing is that this isn’t just a well-I-don’t-eat-junk-food-so-I’ll-be-alright kind of deal. Unsurprisingly, levels of AGEs in animal products are absolutely sky high. In fact, per 90g serving of chicken breast, fried for 8 minutes, we’re looking at 6,651 AGEs per serving and a beef frankfurter broiled for just minutes contains a whopping 10,243 per serving. Think cooked fruits and veggies are safe? Butenko hits us with some facts about cooked veggie that’ll make even the ‘healthiest’ non-raw vegan consider going raw. A 100g serving of baked apple contains 45 per serving, whilst raw apple contains just 13 per serving, clearly demonstrating the immense and worrying effects of these toxins. Stick with raw.
3. Cooked food is harder to digest
As Ruthan Russo, PhD, explains, given that cooking food destroys the enzymes present in food, our bodies must work much harder to digest it. There’s no wonder many Americans feel fatigued and sluggish for most of the day, when the body’s working so hard to do something that should be so natural! And would be with a raw vegan diet, abundant in enzyme-rich fruits and veggies, for obvious reasons. I won’t go into detail…
4. Cooked food is addictive
So when there are this many disadvantages of cooking food, and disadvantages of cooking vegetables, why are we eating it? Put simply, we like the taste; it’s difficult to deny it. But have you ever stopped to think that it might be more than a simple case of liking it?
After all, food companies spend billions on making foods hyperpalatable, keeping us addicted, and keeping us sick. In fact, studies have shown that hyperpalatable foods may be capable of triggering addiction. As a society, we associate cooked foods, junk and processed foods in particular, with reward and gratification to the point where we do no longer treat food as a necessity. It’s something we use to reward ourselves and comfort ourselves. So it tastes good. But what comes after? Sugar crashes, cravings and sickness. Not so good.
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5. Raw food has unique nutrients which heal our bodies
Now that I’ve probably ruined your day with some horrendous health facts about the food we’re consuming on a daily basis, allow me to provide a solution. Introducing the heavyweight champion of the world, raw food! It’s probably not in the heavyweight category on account of its healthiness, but you get what I’m saying… So why is eating raw vegetables good for you?
Raw food is pretty unique. Unlike cooked food, which has its own unique toxic by-products, raw food contains the complete opposite – nutrients that our body needs to stay its healthiest, that you won’t find anywhere else. A bit like Beyoncé in the pop world. There’s no-one quite like her, and there probably never will be. Yeah, I’m a fan. Not only is she crazy talented, but she’s also vegan. What a Queen!
Victoria Butenko describes some nutrients in raw foods that we just don’t get anywhere else, and should be big hits in your food chart.
Falcarinol is found in raw carrots, and scientists have found links between consuming fresh carrots and reducing the intensity of cancers. Even blanching carrots can reduce the falcarinol content by half, so we need to eat them raw to get the full benefits.
Found in olive oil, red grapes and some other veggies, resveratrol has been found to lengthen life, as well as prevent and treat illnesses related to ageing. Starts eating 2 punnets of grapes a day.
You may have already heard of phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, many of which are the source of the beautiful colours of fresh fruits and veggies. Butenko describes how these phytonutrients strengthen our immune systems, reduce inflammation, fight harmful viruses and bacteria, and, wait for it, can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. In fact, there’s a plethora of studies showing how raw fruits and veggies have cancer-fighting properties, which are reduced when the food’s cooked. If that’s not a ‘stuff you’ to cooked foods, I don’t know what is!
6. Raw food is great for our mental health
It’s not just physical health that raw vegan food supports. Our mental health is just as crucial as our physical, so we need to look after it. Studies suggest that we fare better on a diet abundant with fresh veggies than with cooked food, meat especially. This study reported a this one showed an improvement in mental and emotional quality of life in those eating raw vegan.
Just to sock it to cooked food even more in the mental health arena, this study showed the link between a higher intake of raw fruits and veggies as opposed to cooked ones, and better mental health,. It concluded that raw produce, but not cooked, predicted better mental health outcomes for participants, and so researchers recommended the consumption of raw fruits and veggies.
It even lists the top 10 raw foods for better mental health. These include citrus fruits, fresh berries, kiwifruit, carrots, apples, bananas, dark leafy greens, lettuce, cucumber and grapefruit. On a raw vegan diet, you’ll get plenty of these foods every single day, whether in the form of banana nicecream, a creamy green smoothie or a decadent apple crumble. Despite what society might try to tell you, raw vegan is anything but restrictive!
7. Raw food tastes amazing
As I discussed in my first ever blog, mention the words ‘raw veganism’ to friends or family, and you’ll likely hear one of the following responses: ‘Why would you want to eat lettuce all day?’, ‘Is that even safe?’, or, my least favorite, ‘Bacon though’. Sigh.
The problem is, because society isn’t yet fully informed about the reality of raw vegan – it can boost your energy, boost your life, and the food is amazing – people make assumptions about it being some kind of pledge to the rabbit food Gods, when it’s anything but. When foods are left uncooked, their natural flavors are still alive and kicking, and ready to make your taste buds tingle!
From pasta primavera and ‘chicken’ salad and to pecan truffles and crème brulee (drool), there are endless recipes online and in recipe books to have you enjoying food like you’ve never enjoyed it before. And not feeling sugar-crashed, lethargic, or downright ill afterwards. Trust me when I say that raw food tastes amazing.
How do I go fully raw?
Thinking of cutting the cooked yet? When you’re ready to give it a go, take a look at my blog for everything you need to try fully raw. From the epic benefits of the raw vegan lifestyle and how to start a raw diet, to raw vegan protein myths and the raw kitchen must-haves, give fully a raw a go with the help of my top tips and advice. YouTube is also a great place to find inspiration. From how to beat cravings and emotional eating to going fully raw on a budget, there’s a whole raw vegan world out there just waiting to be explored!
And after a few weeks of giving it a go and feeling those incredible benefits for yourself, you’ll walk past the cooked stuff with ease, knowing that it is not gonnado you any favors. I’ll tell you what does do you favors. This delish fully raw chocolate cake recipe. I know, right. How can you eat raw vegan though?!
T. Goldberg, MS RD, et al., “Advanced Glycoxidation End Products In Commonly Consumed Foods,” American Dietetic Assoc. Journal 105(4):647 (April 2005).