Raw Foods: Hype or Hope?

There has been much hype recently in the media about raw foods and their benefits. What does ‘raw food’ actually entail? And is it really necessary to eat only raw foods?

Raw foods are never heated above 44C, and are unprocessed or refined. Some advocates believe this also means that the foods must be organic and gluten free as well.

Foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, and in some instances raw fish.

When looking at it from a general health point of view, any food movement which encourages increased consumption of unprocessed, unrefined foods, with more focus on a plant based diet I think is a great thing – these are the foods which, to steal a line from an old banana commercial, ‘make your body sing’!

Walk into any supermarket and the amount of highly processed, high sugar, high fat, high salt choices is astounding. There is more than 15,000 different products available in some supermarkets, with the majority of these an unhealthy choice. Choosing raw foods is an easy way of cutting out less healthy options.

However, research does show that some nutrients are actually more bioavailable (easily used by the body) from certain foods when the food is cooked. For example, broccoli. Raw broccoli has more vitamin C, whereas cooked broccoli contains less vitamin C, but more folate, vitamin A and K. The availability to the body of the nutrients in broccoli depends on how well (or little) it is cooked.

Another example is fish. If you wish to eat this raw, it must be very fresh in order to avoid growth of bacteria which can result in poisoning. Choosing to consume sashimi, or make recipes without heat, such as ceviche is a great choice from a health perspective, as there is often very little added. That said, many people are unable to access fish this fresh, for whatever reason, so unless they are able to cook it, miss out on the nutrients (and the taste!).

Variety is something else to keep in mind. Do a google search and you will find a plethora of recipes using only raw ingredients. But think about the amount of meals removed from your diet if only consuming raw foods.

My take home? A fresh, unprocessed, unrefined, mostly plant based diet is essential for optimal health. Always avoiding anything cooked is not necessary, but raw foods can make a great addition to a healthy diet.

See below for my take on raw nut & date balls – enjoy!

NutAndDateBalls

Raw Nut & Date Balls

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup pitted dates
  • 1 tbspn raisins
  • 8 brazil nuts
  • 2 tbspn pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbspn goji berries
  • ¾ cup raw almonds
  • Dash water
  • Chia seeds (for rolling)

Method:

  • Add dates, raisins, goji berries, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts and almonds to blender and blend to smooth paste, adding a little water as necessary. Mixture should create a smooth paste
  • Tip chia seeds onto a dinner plate
  • Roll mixture into balls, then roll each ball in the chia seeds until it is covered
  • Store in fridge

Makes ~12 balls

About Chloe McLeod