The raw hype

Alicia Silverstone, Demi Moore, and Bill Cosby are all enthusiasts for the raw food lifestyle, which promises health, natural beauty, and a sound state of mind through eating uncooked foods.

The raw food movement began in the 1930s and has grown in popularity over the years — followers are commonly referred to as raw foodists. Essential to the raw food lifestyle is the belief in the power of enzymes; raw foodists believe that cooking zaps the food of nutritional value and enzymes. They eat fruits, vegetables, seafood, dairy, and meats that have not been cooked at temperatures higher than 120ºF to avoid destroying enzymes and nutritional value.

Opponents of the raw food lifestyle believe that most raw food enthusiasts are not realistic about the long term effects of eating a 100-percent raw food diet. According to an article in Wellness Foods, Dr. Mark Anthony asserted that a 100-percent raw food diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. “The usual argument against the all-raw diet is that there are risks for deficiencies, particularly calcium, iron, and B12,” Anthony wrote. “The risk of deficiency is present with any restricted diet....That’s why ‘variety, balance, and moderation’ is not merely a cliché but a solid nutritional defense strategy.”

In her book Eating in the Raw, supermodel Carol Alt describes her experiences crash dieting, which often made her sick. Frustrated, Alt began eating raw foods. “Unlike the millions of people who deprive themselves on diets, I eat as much as I want — so long as it’s raw,” she wrote. “I don’t weigh anything. That’s something I let my body dictate.”

Once a person decides to switch to a raw food lifestyle it is essential to have fresh food sources available and a positive attitude about eating raw foods. “Once you begin to think about food differently and to see raw food as food and cooked food as garbage it becomes easy,” Alt wrote, describing what kept her motivated. “Practically speaking, it’s all a matter of changing habits.”

Ready to eat raw? Below are a few tips to ensure that your raw food journey will be a success. These steps can be applied gradually to your current eating habits.

1. Start step by step. Switching from a typical American diet to a raw food diet requires a major shift in vitamin and caloric intake. Your body will welcome the change, but a gradual change will ease your mind and taste buds into the process.

2. Stock up your pantry with basic raw food needs. The beauty about the raw food diet is that it requires a lot of creative ideas to create new meals from scratch. Not having basic raw food cooking necessities can make both the transition and food bland. The website www.rawfood.com offers a variety of raw food essentials, including appliances and supplements.

3. Find raw food recipes you love. During the transitional phase, you may be faced with moments in which you miss your favorite foods. Still, no matter what that food may be, chances are there is a similar raw food recipe. Whether you love falafel, milk shakes, or cookies, you can find great recipes in raw food cookbooks, including Rawvolution by Matt Amsden, Eating in the Raw by Carol Alt, and Eating for Beauty by David Wolfe.

4. Plan out your meals. Create weekly menus to help map out your food’s nutritional value. Planning your meals will also ensure that you are getting variety in your meal choices.

  1. Do your homework. Before starting the raw food lifestyle it is important to make sure that the lifestyle is right for you: Do you have enough time to prepare your meals from scratch? What is your motivation? To research, read books and articles about the positives and negatives of the raw food lifestyle. Helpful websites include www.live-live.com, www.living-foods.com, and www.rawfoodlife.com.