We understand the appeal of the raw food diet. It sounds great: you don’t have to cook after a long day and you eat a ton of produce. Fruits and veggies are good for you, right?
The raw food diet requires that all of your food is uncooked—nothing is prepared or heated above 116-118 degrees Fahrenheit (46-48 degrees Celsius). That means no processed foods, no microwave, and no oven. Instead, you can juice, puree, soak, or ferment raw fruits, vegetables, and grains. That includes fresh produce, sprouted grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, and uncooked oils like extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil. For most people, the raw diet is also a vegan diet, but you can eat unpasteurized milk and butter, cheese, honey, raw fish, and uncooked meats. You can’t have any salt, prepared food, or processed foods! That’s the biggest pro to the raw food diet as, by cutting out processed foods, you reduce your salt and sugar intake dramatically.
Proponents of the raw food diet also claim that cooking destroys critical natural enzymes, vitamins, and minerals in fruits and vegetables. While we can all attest to how bland and unappetizing steamed or boiled veggies can be, nutritionists argue that the idea that raw food is inherently more nutritious is wrong. Cooking can actually release nutrients like potassium and zinc in certain vegetables and most “natural” enzymes are broken down by your stomach acid and digestive tract.
Worse there are plenty of cons to eating an exclusively raw diet. Without cooked meat, dairy, or fish it’s hard to get enough healthy proteins, natural fats, and critical nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and iron. Raw food is very low in fiber and can lead to indigestion, bloating, and gas. Unpasteurized milk and raw meat and fish can carry foodborne illnesses like listeria and salmonella.
We should all eat more raw fruits and veggies, but there’s no need to commit to an exclusive raw food diet—and, for most people, raw food will do more harm than good.