You’ve no doubt heard this before, but I’m going to say it anyway. Raw foods make you feel good.
When I started out with my personal experiment of incorporating more raw foods into my diet, I was sceptical about all the claims I had heard about them.
They will make you more beautiful, one website claimed; they will make you glow. They can cure even terminal illnesses. They will make you live longer, look younger, make your boobs grow bigger, or smaller, depending on your preference. And so on. I did some research and could not find any science to back up the claims, aside from the possibility that my long-term health would be improved through eating more fruits and vegetables generally.
The China Study demonstrated that consuming less animal products and more fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts resulted in lower rates of most types of cancer and various types of diseases, however raw foods were not particularly addressed by the study.
So I thought I’d try an experiment of my own.
I love smoothies as much as the next woman but I didn’t feel up to experiencing a green smoothie right away. Raw cucumber blended with spinach and raw carrot??! I thought it sounded like a blend for disaster. So I started out small, and began by incorporating raw veggies into my diet gradually.
I started munching raw carrots and broccoli sticks at dinner time instead of my usual steamed accompaniments. I bought some cacao nibs and added them to my usual home-made muesli mix. I already ate fruit most days but I made a point of upping the amount I ate. I also started eating more salads and including raw vegetables such as peppers in them, and adding seeds to more foods than usual, for example sandwiches.
Over time I noticed that I had made the transition to eating a high-raw diet with ease. I had also started enjoying more foods that I’d always been meaning to eat more of, such as spouted legumes and seeds, more nuts, and pure coconut oil (delicious spread on rice cakes, mashed with banana to make ice cream, or on toast instead of vegan spread). I entered a new relationship with crunchy, succulent kale.
There’s a common misconception that eating a raw food diet means eating only uncooked foods. In reality the definition of a raw foodie is someone who eats a lot of raw foods, which means plenty of unprocessed plant foods that have not been overly cooked, or heated above 40°C. I added at least 50% of raw foods to my usual diet over a period of three weeks, and I certainly noticed the difference this made to my mental clarity and physical wellbeing.
I felt so much healthier. It’s not that I was unhealthy before, but now I felt really, really energised. You might say that I understood how Popeye got by on just spinach. There’s no way of knowing or measuring whether I really was glowing, but I certainly felt like I was. I felt like I was glowing on the inside. It was a bit like a natural high, and I was eager to ascertain for certain whether the high-raw lifestyle was causing it. So, I cut back on the raw veggies I was eating- and the change was almost instant. Where had that exceptional clarity of thought gone? Was the truth really in the raw foods? I tried the same trial with my husband, who had been eating a few more raw foods due to my dietary experiment, but not a massive amount more. We had similar results; he felt more connected with the world after eating high-raw foods for a few weeks.
So what’s the secret?
Raw foods contain less calories than their cooked counterparts and there is some evidence that consuming fewer calories than one needs can actually reduce propensity to certain health problems and lead to a longer lifespan. Eating smaller meals, also known as ‘grazing’ rather than consuming a few large portions a day has also been linked to better health overall. But I didn’t substitute everything I was usually eating for raw foods, I simply added them to my diet, which is why I’m sure that those foods added the feel-good healthy feeling to my body and mind.
There are some interesting scientific findings behind raw food health claims. A 1985 study titled ‘Effects of a raw food diet on hypertension and obesity’ found evidence that a well-balanced raw diet can reduce obesity and hypertension. A study into high-raw veganism showed a reduction in the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. And research conducted in Germany in 2003 found significant reductions in breast cancer risk through consuming a large amount of raw vegetables.
So, I’ll leave you with those thoughts.. I’m off to make myself a green smoothie.