Raw foods: will they help your health?

by Nick Rose, M.S., PCC Nutrition Educator

This article was originally published in January 2013

Most of the healthiest foods on the shelves at PCC are raw foods. However, the reason they are the healthiest foods is not just because they are raw. Today, “raw food” is not just fresh produce. It also includes raw packaged foods such as crackers, nut butters and other snack foods never heated above 116° F (while no regulations exist as to what can be called “raw,” this temperature is largely accepted by the raw foods community).

These packaged raw foods are healthy choices not just because they are made from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains or beans, but also because shoppers seeking out raw foods also demand foods with minimal added sugars, fats and salt. Raw food advocates report that increasing your consumption of raw foods will give you:

  • More energy/vitality from consuming foods in their natural “living” state.
  • Enhanced digestion from enzymes present in raw food, that are destroyed by cooking.
  • Higher nutrient levels, because heat reduces vitamins and minerals.
  • A better mental outlook and improved immunity, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other health benefits.
  • A “crunch factor” to your diet, forcing you to slow down while you eat.

That said, there is nothing wrong with cooking food. In fact, the carotenes in carrots are better absorbed after cooking, and the immune system benefits of mushrooms are enhanced by cooking. Cooking food also increases the variety of foods available — potatoes, winter squash, beans, meat and seafood either are indigestible, unsafe or less safe to consume raw. Most nutritionists do not support the idea that the enzymes in raw foods offer any nutritional advantages because enzymes are broken down in our digestive systems and nutritional losses can be minimized by proper cooking techniques. Most 100 percent raw dieters also are vegan and, therefore, reap both the benefits and the challenges of a completely plant-based diet.

Adding raw foods to your diet most likely will improve your diet quality, but if you prefer the flavors of cooked foods, then don’t worry that lightly sautéing your kale will completely destroy any nutritional benefits. It’s still kale!

 

Six tasty raw foods to try at PCC

PCC Deli Rainbow Salad

Tossed squash, cucumbers, carrots and fresh mint deliver a full range of vitamins and minerals.

Harmless Harvest Coconut Water

Raw and organic refreshment sourced from small, organic agroforestry farms.

Artisana Organic Walnut Butter

A rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, essential vitamins and minerals.

Fearless Chocolate Chocolate Bar

Roasted at a low temperature to retain the cacao’s natural earthiness, freshness and nutritional wealth.

Firefly Kitchens Kimchi

Locally made fermented cabbage that offers abundant flavor and probiotic power.

Alive & Radiant Kale Krunch

Addictive snack chips dehydrated at a low temperature for a satisfying crunch.

 

Quick tips

Fermented and/or cultured foods like sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha are always best raw because they contain beneficial probiotic bacteria that are destroyed when heated. Look for unpasteurized versions of these foods.

You don’t need to go 100 percent raw to benefit from raw foods. Incorporating a raw salad, sauerkraut or fruit to your meal will greatly improve your overall diet.

Don’t obsess — enjoy your food! If you prefer cooked broccoli to raw broccoli, then eating cooked broccoli will probably result in you eating more broccoli than if you force yourself to eat it raw. It is more important to eat your five cups a day of vegetables than it is to force yourself to eat raw veggies.

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