In the early noughties, it seemed that anyone and everyone was on a low-fat, high sugar, fad diet. The supermarket shelves – and our trolleys, too - were stacked high with foods promising to help us lose weight, to shape up and cut back calories.
However, unbeknown to us, all these foods had one thing in common – they were artificial, highly processed and loaded with sugars, salt and other junk. They didn’t help us to get fit, or to get healthy. In fact, they tended to do the complete opposite.
Fast forward ten years, and now it seems that everyone is a health guru. From supermodels beaming over their homemade green smoothies, to actresses sharing their recipes for healthy chia cookies, we’re all at it – and it seems we all know that eating naturally is the way to a healthy body, and a healthy mind.
Among the cluster of natural diets is the raw food lifestyle. The raw diet is fairly simple and pretty much does what it says on the tin – it involves eating uncooked and living foods, free from chemicals and other nasties, many of which are used to treat products found in our supermarkets today.
To enjoy all the benefits of a raw diet, followers simply need to eat food in a fresh, unprocessed form. In other words, you eat in the way nature intended.
Food on the diet must also remain uncooked (or at least it cannot be heated above 115 degrees) and organic wherever possible. Eating a diet rich in raw foods is thought to be one of the best ways of keeping our bodies both as healthy and as lean as possible.
Followed by plenty of A-listers, including Demi Moore and Scarlett Johansson, the raw diet also happens to be largely vegan-based and is credited for transforming the bodies of thousands.
It may sound restrictive, but following a raw plan is fairly simple, with followers of the diet eating at least seventy-five percent raw and living foods. Believe it or not, but there also happens to be much more to it than simply smoothies, salad leaves and so-called rabbit food – you can even eat our Lucy Bee coconut oil!
A raw foodie’s staples will include plenty of plant-based, organic foods, such as:
Although you’ll be ditching your oven if you do follow this diet, there are many ways of preparing raw food. These methods can include soaking (which releases the goodness in foods such as cashews or legumes), dehydrating (think the ever-popular kale chips, raisins or sundried tomatoes), blending (the ever-faithful smoothies, or cold soups and dips such as hummus), juicing and pickling.
Some advocates of a raw diet also include non-vegan foods such as raw eggs, meat (steak tartar, for example) and fish (such as sashimi). Meanwhile, foods that have undergone a small amount of processing are also popular. These foods include:
Lucy Bee organic, raw coconut oil is a staple in many a raw foodie’s cupboards. Cold pressed, extra virgin, organic AND raw, it’s a fantastic product which can be used to replace many of your old favourites – butter, processed cooking oils, the lot!
There’s a huge array of uses for our coconut oil (have you seen the beauty benefits?1) but it’s particularly handy in the kitchen. In fact, we bet you won’t even miss your usual spreads and oils if you do happen to eat raw!
You can use our oil to spread across your (raw and homemade!) crackers2, add to your green smoothies and juices, or even use it to make raw sweet treats or to stir into raw granola or porridge3.
Although it can seem overwhelming and a lot of effort, eating raw food is overloaded with health benefits for those who give it a go. From weight loss to soaring energy levels and clearer skin, there are plenty of reported pros.
You see, many nutritionists and health experts believe that eating foods in their raw, natural form helps to lock in all the goodness, nutrients and minerals.
Why? Well firstly, it’s thought that a high-enzyme diet can boost your health by helping to aid digestion (the digestive system needs enzymes to work and to absorb nutrients). You see, when we cook, a food’s naturally-occurring enzymes are destroyed by heat. This then puts pressure on our bodies as they go into overdrive, trying to produce the enzymes needed and digest the food, all at the same time.
What does this mean for you and your body? Well, a lack of enzymes from food is thought to lead to digestive problems, nutrient deficiency, accelerated ageing, and weight gain.
Meanwhile, raw foodies believe that cooking food can ruin its nutritional values. Take, for example, broccoli. Boil it to serve up alongside your dinner and you’ll lose a heck of a lot of its cancer-fighting compounds, known as sulforaphanes. The vegetable’s vitamin C levels and folate levels are also dramatically cut by cooking, meaning you’re far better off eating it raw.
What raw foodist, T.C. Fry, says is that the cooking process destroys vitamins. He added: "Minerals quickly lose their organic context and are returned to their native state as their occur in soil, sea water and rocks, metals and so on. In such a state they are unusable and the body often shunts them aside where they may combine with saturated fat and cholesterol in the circulatory system, thus clogging it up with cement-like plaque."
It may seem obvious that a diet rich in raw, unprocessed foods (often low in calories and high in protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats) can help you lose weight.
However, due to those clever little enzymes we just talked about, the raw food diet can help many followers to fit into their skinny jeans better than ever before. In fact, many raw foodists say that they see significant weight loss.
Why? Well, here’s the science part… those enzymes that we keep hearing all about have a knack of controlling pretty much everything in your body, from speech to regulating hormone production. Raw and unprocessed food is, happily, full of enzymes, which then work to help us to digest and metabolise the food we eat.
Better yet, when our foods are loaded with nutrients and fibre, we’re less likely to want to over-eat and our body becomes better and better at clearing out the digestive system.
Another theory for the weight loss side of things is that raw food is largely alkaline-based, which helps your body to flush out toxins and waste (including body fat).
As we mentioned, eating foods in their uncooked, natural forms can help to retain goodness and nutrients. Raw foods are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. In fact, the only exception to this we can think of is tomatoes, which contain more cancer-fighting lycopene when cooked or treated, even as ketchup!
There are plenty of studies out there which suggest that many vitamins and minerals (although not all) are lost in cooking. In a study4 by Mieko Kimura and Yoshinori Itokawa, foods were analysed for their mineral content before and after cooking. The researchers found that cooked foods only had 60-70 per cent of the minerals of raw or uncooked foods. Vegetables in particular lost a high amount of vitamins, particularly when boiled.
Of course, we all know how important vitamins and minerals are in boosting our health. But the phytonutrients found in raw foods are also crucial to our wellbeing because they help to support cell function, strengthen the immune system and slow down the ageing process.
Start eating raw and it’s likely your energy levels will soar so far into the sky that you won’t know what’s hit you. The mornings you spent propped up over a mug of steaming coffee will be long gone. In fact, some followers say that their energy levels are so good that they need up to three hours less sleep a night – amazing, right?
When you eat raw food, the foods you chow down take up less nerve energy for their absorption. For example, fruits need very little (almost no) energy to digest, whereas animal products need the most and can often spend days in the digestive system. This means your body wastes far less energy in digesting and processing foods, meaning it can be used for other things like running, dancing, laughing – whatever tickles your fancy.
If you’re into your fitness then it’s also likely that this will have a big effect on your workouts. Who needs energy drinks when you have nature’s fuel driving you on…?
Sit looking at Instagram long enough and it’s likely the endless snaps of beautiful, healthy celebrities will make you green with envy. Everyone wants supermodel-worthy skin and glossy hair, right? And, let’s face it, we’re all on a never-ending quest to find that magical (seemingly non-existent) way to look ten years younger.
Well, really, there is no magic to it. And, while for a lucky few it’s down to good genes, our beauty can definitely be improved with the right nutrition and a quick wave of nature’s wand.
You see, those vitamins and minerals that we keep talking about are key to us looking our very best and help us to glow from the outside, in. In fact, eat your greens (especially raw ones) and you’ll get a huge array of vitamins and minerals absorbed by the body, including:
Want to increase your body’s absorption of those minerals? Then, yep, you got it – the best way is to eat them raw! Our favourite beauty-boosting greens include: rocket, cucumber, broccoli, celery, swiss chard, kale, and wheatgrass.
Eat them for clearer skin (yep, back to that better digestion again), bright eyes and great hair.
So, you want to go raw but don’t know where to start? Here’s our top tips on how to ease yourself in and start embracing nature’s goodness now.
Don’t dive in at the deep end. Instead, start slowly by enjoying one raw meal at a time. Why not try a homemade green smoothie at breakfast5, one of our favourites
or try making Raw Quinoa Porridge by soaking a cup of quinoa and two tablespoons of chia seeds in coconut milk overnight? Simply add one chopped apple, one banana, one tablespoon of almond butter and one teaspoon of pure maple syrup, and blitz until creamy in a processor.
If you love your sweets and puddings, then don’t worry – you can still enjoy them on the raw diet, you just need to learn a few recipes, or simply graze on fresh or dried fruits! Make the most of raw food blogs and take your pick from Raw Chocolate Mousse6 to healthy cheesecake7, chia pudding and chocolate truffles – your favourite foods are possible to make with pure ingredients, and without cooking.
If you love the sound of a raw diet, but can’t quite embrace the idea of living it full-time (it can make going out for meals particularly tricky, for example), then why not live it five days a week instead? This will still help you to enjoy many of the benefits, but will also mean you can enjoy your weekends out too.
We all know that the hardest part of any diet is when the hunger pangs strike mid-afternoon. All of a sudden, that vending machine or chocolate bar is looking pretty alluring, right? To try and avoid this, keep raw snacks to hand (such as fresh fruit and vegetables, kale chips or homemade crackers) to help avoid temptation. In the same way, make a meal plan – and stick to it!
Of course, the raw diet can take a heck of a lot of effort, which is why many raw foodies only eat a percentage of their food raw. Clean eating, or ‘eating clean’, is a little more relaxed, but can still give you the same stellar results.
So, what is eating clean? And what can you eat exactly? It’s all up for debate, and it’s a phrase which gets thrown about endlessly (how many times do you hear someone say they’re eating ‘clean’ nowadays anyway?), but it’s all about getting back to basics and enjoying the food you eat.
In fact, there’s one thing most experts can agree on: clean eating means waving goodbye to processed rubbish and, instead, enjoying a balance of foods, preferably across six small meals every day. It’s less of a diet and more of a lifestyle – think long-term changes, with a huge impact.
To eat clean, you’ll need to cut out the artificial, processed foods and instead embrace as much of nature’s goodness as possible – and that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, fats and lean, healthy proteins. It’s also best to look at where your food comes from and choose fresh, organic produce and grass-fed meat wherever possible.
If you are buying in the supermarket, a good idea is to read the label. If it’s full of added ingredients, or even has more than five ingredients on its label, then chances are it’s not ‘clean’.
Eating clean is all about boosting your body with the best fuel you can by ditching the junk. Beloved by many a celebrity and supermodel alike (think Rosie Huntington Whiteley and Karlie Kloss, for example), eating clean can also help you to shed the pounds and keep them off, helping to achieve that much-admired long and lean silhouette.
By eating plenty of lean proteins, you’ll also stay fuller for longer, meaning you’re less likely to reach for the biscuit tin come 3pm, or hit an energy slump.
Like the sound of that? Of course you do! But it gets even better - the lifestyle has also been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes8. Pretty good, right?
Still not convinced? Then read this9 and see just how easy a clean lifestyle can be – it doesn’t have to be expensive, or an impossible mountain to climb. Nope…In actual fact, everyone can do it.
So, now you’ve heard all there is to know about raw food and eating clean, dish up and enjoy – you won’t look back.
About Lucy Bee Limited
Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.