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Healing Foods—The Raw Life
By Lisa Turner
I went raw once, and I did so with a great deal of enthusiasm for the health benefits I would accrue. Certainly, eating only uncooked food seemed easy enough. Make a bunch of salads, gorge on apples and oranges, sprout some nuts and beans—piece of cake, I thought. After three weeks, all I wanted was a piece of cake. And bread. And hot, hot soups. Slowly but surely, after two months, I returned to my old eating habits, and to my beloved stove. I didn’t know what I know now: that with a few simple tricks, you can conquer your cooked-food cravings, as well as other common obstacles to the raw foods diet.
The payoff for eating raw foods makes it worth it. When you cook food above 114 degrees, it destroys the enzymes that help you digest and assimilate the food. High temperatures also alter the chemical structure of vital nutrients. Overall, “You lose 50 percent of the protein, 80 percent of the vitamins and minerals, and about 95 percent of the phytonutrients,” says Gabriel Cousens, MD, author of Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine (North Atlantic Books, 2003).
By enhancing nutrient absorption and making digestion easier, raw foods allow the body to spend its energy on other important functions. “If the body’s working on trying to digest heavy, difficult-to-process food, it can’t focus on healing,” says Natalia Rose, author of The Raw Foods Detox Diet (Regan Books, 2005). The potential benefit of going raw? More radiant health. Says Cousens: “A live foods diet decreases inflammation, slows the aging process, increases immunity and energy, and results in increased mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.”
Scientific research also supports the health benefits of raw foods. In a review of 11 studies examining the relationship between vegetable intake and cancer risk, for example, nine of the studies found that eating more raw vegetables lowered your risk of breast, lung, and colorectal cancers. The study’s authors suggest the reason for the correlation may be that cooking food reduces the availability of some nutrients and makes the food harder to digest.
Keep in mind though that cooking your food does carry some advantages—besides the yummy taste. Heat actually makes some nutrients, like lycopene in tomatoes, more bioavailable by breaking down the plant’s cell wall. Cooking also destroys so-called “anti-nutrients,” for example, phytates in grains and legumes (which block mineral absorption), as well as trypsin inhibitors in nuts and legumes (which hamper protein digestion). However, soaking and sprouting raw food, helps destroy these compounds, too.
More importantly, raw foods don’t work for everyone. Both Traditional Chinese Medicine and ayurvedic traditions teach that uncooked foods cool the body and may actually require more energy to digest. Thus, people who naturally tend to feel cold or dry should avoid them. “
Author: Lisa Turner
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