NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina
Going raw is a big trend! Across North America, raw restaurants are serving up delicious versions of pizza, lasagna, wholesome burgers and desserts, along with their green smoothies. So before you rush out and buy a fancy, new kitchen range, consider that many folks are tossing out the microwave and covering their entire stovetop with a cutting board. This trend makes some sense. After all, plant foods are the healthiest foods in existence. And what can be better than eating them just as nature serves them up – raw?
Yet when we look at the science, what do we learn about those who follow raw food diets? Do raw food enthusiasts fare as well or better than those on well-balanced vegetarian and semi-vegetarian diets? Is a raw diet appropriate for children? Must we be 100 percent raw to enjoy the benefits? When our diet is centred on fruits and veggies, can we get enough protein, iron and calcium? When we add seeds, nuts and avocados, won’t our fat intake be too high?
It is certain that going raw is an effective route to weight loss. When we give up animal products, refined carbs and potatoes, plus all the fats we slather on such foods, we are bound to shed a few – or many – pounds. In the process, we shift from a diet that promotes chronic disease to one that supports well-being and longevity. Scandinavian research has established that raw diets with plenty of sprouted foods change the population of bacteria in our intestines so that we end up with a healthier mix.
On the downside, large German studies of raw foodists have shown that one woman in four lost her menstrual cycle, thereby affecting reproductive function. This occurred when the raw diet was unbalanced, mainly fruit-centred and very low in calories. (Those on a balanced diet thrived!) Although it has been well established that balanced vegan diets support the health and growth of children, there is insufficient research to show how this can be successfully done on a raw diet; there have been a few tragic cases in which the raw diet used was not properly designed. A pattern that is superb for adult weight loss doesn’t fit the unique requirements of a fast-growing infant or child.
Raw diets can be planned to meet our recommended intake for every nutrient, providing that we include a supplementary source of vitamin B12. It is not necessary to go 100 percent raw; high-raw diets can meet our requirements. Though rounding out a raw diet with seeds, nuts and avocados can lead to a high fat intake, the quality of fat in these foods is entirely health supportive. Whether you wish to ‘go to raw’ for a while or simply want to add a few more raw foods to your current way of eating, see the sidebar for some possibilities to explore.
This tasty smoothie is a great pick-me-up, with about double your vitamin C requirement for the day. It also provides a wealth of potent antioxidants and anti-cancer agents. (Source: Becoming Raw). Makes 3 cups (2 servings)
1-1/2 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 cup sliced mango, fresh or frozen
1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen
Place the juice, mango and berries into a blender and blend until smooth.
Vesanto Melina is a local dietitian and co-author of the new Becoming Raw as well as the Raw Food Revolution Diet, Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, Raising Vegetarian Children and the Food Allergy Survival Guide. For personal consultations, phone 604-882-6782 or visit www.nutrispeak.com