If you’re looking to spring clean your eating habits and boost your energy levels after a long winter, then you may want to think about increasing the quantity of raw foods in your diet, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. We talk to two Nutritionists about the best ways to increase the amount of raw food in your diet and what the benefits can be.
Nutritionist Shona Wilkinson, from Superfood.com, the online destination for all things health and wellbeing, explains “Raw food is thought to be healthy as it helps the food retain all the nutrients which could otherwise be destroyed during the cooking process, and therefore helps foods to retain their essential enzymes and nutrients.”
Nutritionist Cassandra Barns explains, “Most of the foods we can eat raw are whole plant foods, so are naturally high in fibre. This means by making a focused effort to include more raw foods in every meal, you’re likely to naturally increase your fibre intake. Fibre, of course, is beneficial for your digestion as well as helping to fill you up for fewer calories.”
It can help you reach your 5-a-day (and more…) “Vegetables and fruit should form the bulk of your raw food intake. So, again, focusing on eating more raw foods should naturally increase your veg and fruit consumption, as well as the variety you go for,” explains Cassandra.
It can give you a vitamin burst “Vitamins can easily be lost from foods in the cooking process – especially the water-soluble vitamin C and B vitamins.” Cassandra explains, “As a result, raw foods can contain much higher levels of some of these vitamins.”
… And an antioxidant boost
Like vitamins, plant antioxidants such as polyphenols can be destroyed when a food is cooked or heated. Eating raw helps to preserve these active substances. And did you know that polyphenols are not only present in vegetables and fruit? Raw cacao – the unheated version of cocoa – is rich in them too. Try OMBAR (£1.99, Planet Organic) – a range of raw cacao bars in delicious flavours, such as Goji Berry and Cranberry and Mandarin. Cassandra says: “raw cacao has fantastic antioxidant benefits. Cacao is also a good source of minerals such as magnesium and iron. It’s a true super food as well as being a tasty treat!’
Increase of Nutrients
Shona explains, “Cooking food may diminish its nutritional value. For example, certain vitamins, such as vitamin C and folate, are destroyed by heat.” However Shona goes on to explain, “We do know that some foods can be better for us when cooked because the fibrous part is broken down. This can make them easier to digest. Cooked tomatoes are higher in lycopene than uncooked ones.” Like anything therefore, it’s good to have a healthy balance between raw and cooked foods.
“There is a theory that the typical modern diet high in refined and processed foods and animal products may cause increased acidity in the body. This may in turn be linked to poor health, including bone loss as minerals are released from bone to try to ‘buffer’ the excess acidity. Raw plant foods, however, can have an overall alkalising effect, helping to create a better balance and favouring long-term health,” says Cassandra.
Shona also advises that there are some food that should always be eaten cooked, these include; red kidney beans, soy beans, fava beans, buckwheat greens, some mushrooms, rhubarb leaves, potatoes, parsnips and cassava. For the greatest benefit and to make you feel your best it’s important you listen to your body and make sure you’re eating a wide range of different foods.