When is a raw food diet a good idea?
Ulcerative colitis, intestinal blockage, low stomach acid, SIBO and a number of other digestive complaints should be closely monitored by a specialist if a move towards raw foods is desired. If low stomach acid, low digestive enzymes, microflora imbalance along with slow transit time are seen in individuals then a high fruit and fibre diet (not the breakfast cereal) may encourage fermentation resulting in bloating, gas, pain, cramps and so forth. One should seek specialist help if reacting in this way to high volumes of raw foods.
Some foods contain compounds that can be unhelpful in SOME cases:
Goitrogens: substances that cause goiters, i.e., an enlargement of the thyroid gland. They are only a concern in those who have thyroid issues. Foods containing goitrogens include raw soya products and cruciferous vegetables. Slight cooking will destroy these compounds.
Tannins: complex plant compounds that are often bitter or astringent. They are most famously found in tea and will reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, specifically minerals.
Phytoestrogens: plant analogues of the hormone oestrogen. The effects of phytoestrogens seem to be lessened by fermentation rather than heat. These compounds are not always a bad thing as in many cases they can be used therapeutically to help restore hormone imbalances and support the reduction of hormone driven health complications.
Flatus-producing oligosaccharides: carbohydrates that cause flatulence (gas). These are found often in brassicas and pulses. In the case of pulses, the act of germination will reduce these to a negligible level and can be easily done at home by soaking the pulse of choice in fresh water until the little ‘tails’ appear. For some pulses this will take a day.
Phytates: substances that bind to minerals preventing absorption. These are destroyed by heat and fermentation and, to a degree, by the addition of certain acidic compounds such as lemon juice and apple juice.
Raw food diets tend to contain fewer synthetic and processed foods. The toxicant load is often lower and so this approach can be useful for those whose immune systems are under strain. Raw food done properly will promote weight-loss however eating endless cashew and avocado raw cakes will not, so being wise about food choices even in this format is always advised.
Types of Cooking: Pros and Cons
A great way to cook vegetables quickly without risk of leaching all the minerals out of them; brief steaming reduces damage to water-soluble vitamins as well.
Open flame cooking
Delicious and often preferred by those wanting to lose weight as it does not involve added oils or fats, the high temperature means carcinogenic compounds are formed on foods (the above mentioned heterocyclic amines and polyaromatic hydrocarbons).
This is excellent for leaching minerals from bones and ideally done on a low heat for a long period of time.
This is the healthiest way to prepare meats as it does not produce carcinogens. It is also a very easy cooking method. I would advise adding a generous portion of raw leaves/ vegetables at the end so you have undamaged phytonutrients and water soluble vitamins.
The high temperatures of frying can damage not only the food being cooked but, can also alter the molecular makeup of the fats being used to cook with. This is especially the case if they have numerous double bonds as polyunsaturated fats. If you must fry, then using a tiny amount of saturated fat is best and add the more fragile oils as flavour afterwards.
A combined natural approach
I would advise for most clients to adapt their diets to a combination of raw and cooked foods as the human biome has adapted to consume cooked foods and the low B12 levels seen in raw vegan blood tests suggests dangers of anaemia and issues with methylation of methionine and homocysteine.
Cooking meats at a temperature lower than 150 degree Centigrade will avoid the formation of heterocyclic amines and polyaromatic carbons in animal products. Inclusion of raw meats and fish from safe sources is good but be careful not to consume in too high quantities as proteins are not a good source of energy. The impact of excess protein on the uric acid cycle can be damaging to the organs, but also to the ability to easily transport nutrients through membranes as the by-products can alter the acidity of the body. Soaking pulses until they germinate helps reduce the phytate activity for both raw consumption and in the cooking process.
Steaming vegetables is the way to cook them although I would also advise incorporating a great deal of raw foods into the diet to reduce damage to water soluble vitamins and protective phytonutrients.