Pros and Cons of Raw Food–From The Ohio Beacon Journal
Raw Food Heats Up Some Pros and Cons
by Marilynn Marter
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Raw food as an alternative lifestyle has been promoted since the '50s. In recent years, the success of raw-food restaurants in California has spread the concept nationwide. With Raw (Ten Speed Press, 2003), two visionary chefs — Charlie Trotter in Chicago, Roxanne Klein in San Francisco — created a landmark volume celebrating raw food, giving it gourmet glam and nudging it into the culinary mainstream.
Certainly, eating some raw food is natural and healthful; raw-food vegetarian diets can promote health and healing. But questions of long-term success, and possible vitamin deficiencies, remain. Face it, the concept runs counter to evolution and thousands of years of cooking. If that's not enough to stir controversy, add the nutritional complexities to the mix and you could have a food war on your hands.
Here are a few of the pros and cons: Raw food contains live enzymes that aid digestion, said chef-author Matthew Kenney. Heated past 118 degrees, those enzymes begin to die, leaving only the enzymes our bodies produce to digest what we eat. When the body supplies those enzymes, some believe, it speeds up the aging process. Research has shown that a raw food diet can have a major effect on health, normalizing weight and increasing energy. Raw foods can be more easily digested, producing less acid and bile. Combining raw and cooked foods at the same meal, however, may cause indigestion.
There is some concern that raw foods have higher pesticide levels than cooked foods, thus use of organic ingredients is recommended for raw food dishes. A small supplement of Vitamin B-12 is suggested with vegetarian diets since that nutrient is found primarily in meat. Nuts, seeds and sprouts are good sources of protein. But because plant proteins don't have the "balanced" amino acid profile found in animal protein, it is best to include a variety of protein sources in vegetarian diets. For essential fatty acids, Omega 3, typically found in fish, is very important. A precursor of Omega 3, alpha-linoleic acid, is found in green leafy vegetables and walnuts.
Take note: While eating most foods raw won't hurt you, the nutritional benefits of eliminating cooked foods, or for that matter, of going vegan and cutting all meat and dairy items from your diet, remains a subject of controversy for dietitians and doctors.
For those interested in learning more about raw foods, here are three books to explore:
Complete Book of Raw Food: Healthy, Delicious Vegetarian Cuisine Made with Living Foods by Lori Baird (Healthy Living Books, 2003) — More than 350 recipes from more than 40 top raw food chefs worldwide, with tips for making elegant and healthy meals, from preparation to presentation.
Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods by Renee Loux Underkoffler (Avery Publishing, 2004) — A comprehensive introduction to a raw-foods lifestyle, including tools, techniques, nutrition and safety tips and more than 300 gourmet vegan recipes from the former chef/co-owner of Raw Experience in Maui.