We all want to be healthy, and diet plays a major role in health.
One eating regimen that has gained many health-conscious followers in recent years is the raw food diet, also known as raw foodism.
So, what exactly is it?
Put simply, it’s eating only fresh, unprocessed foods, as defined by Dr Petra Bracht, a specialist in general and nutritional medicine, and author of several nutrition guides.
There’s just one rule: To preserve foods’ freshness, they’re not heated over 42°C.
So you can give your stove a rest – a raw foodist’s most important kitchen helpers are a food processor, blender, and perhaps a dehydrator.
Do raw foodists eat only fruit and vegetables?
While there are vegan and vegetarian variants of a raw food diet, it can also include raw fish, raw meat, raw eggs, and sometimes raw (unpasteurised) milk, as well as raw milk cheese.
Raw cuisine can take many forms, says Dr Bracht.
It can be spaghetti made from zucchini and carrots, for instance, or no-bake brownies made from dates and nuts.
Raw foodism lends itself to creativity, and among those who explore this are German food bloggers Melanie and Sönke Brummerloh, who eat more than half of their food raw.
”Although it’s always about healthy food with us, taste is actually our highest priority,” they write in their German-language blog, which presents whole-food, vegetarian recipes without refined sugar.
Health reasons were behind the couple’s adoption of a predominantly plant-based, raw food diet, however.
Melanie suffered from joint pain, and her husband Sönke had battled neurodermatitis, hay fever and other allergies since childhood.
They decided to change their diet, and say it wasn’t long before they noticed an improvement in their symptoms.
”A raw whole-food diet can help very fast,” acknowledges Dr Bracht.
As soon as you start it, your microbiome, i.e. gut flora, changes, which directly affects your immune system, she says.
A raw food diet can also help to normalise unhealthy blood fat levels.
In her surgery, Dr Bracht says, she’s seen rapid improvement in many modern lifestyle diseases following a dietary change, including diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies, pain and cardiovascular (heart) disorders.
She advises against eating nothing but raw fruit, vegetables and herbs though, warning it can lead to a protein deficiency.
An overly one-sided diet can also result in severe weight loss, according to her, which may cause women to stop having their period or to have irregular periods (see p8).
A person’s diet must be ”liveable”, she remarks, adding: “A diet consisting of 50% to 70% raw food is optimal.”
If you want to incorporate more raw food meals into your diet, it’s best to start with small steps, e.g. salad as a side dish, a breakfast of freshly ground grain and fruit, and a homemade energy ball made of dates as a snack.
Dr Bracht herself has followed a diet of at least 50% raw food for about 30 years now.
“You should give yourself about a quarter of a year to get used to it,” she says.
Thoroughly chewing your food is particularly important if it’s raw.
This is the groundwork for digestion.
To prevent nutrient deficiencies, she recommends regularly taking vitamin B12, as well as a multivitamin product.
Along with motivation and background knowledge, raw foodists should have the proper equipment.
According to the Brummerlohs, this includes a good knife, cutting board and stable blender – and openness to the variety of raw food.
A vegetable that especially takes their fancy is cauliflower, as it can not only be mixed into salads and smoothies, but also makes for excellent vegan cauliflower sushi. – By Vera Kraft/dpa