Why to do it. How to do it, and what NOT to worry about.

What will I eat? How do I prepare it? Are peanut M&M’s raw? (…please say they are raw). What about protein? For the love of god, give me something hot!

Yep. I’ve been there.

These are some common thoughts and feelings when transitioning to a raw or mostly raw food diet… or frankly even considering such a “radical” dietary shift.

My hope here is to show you that:

  1. There is nothing to worry about and it’s not that hard. So don’t freak out before you even get started.
  2. It’s not that radical.
  3. It could be the most transformational thing you have ever done for your health.

What Are Raw Foods?

Raw foods are completely natural foods (meaning plants and animals) that have not been heated above 118 degrees nor pasteurized, refined or treated with any preservatives or chemicals.

These would mainly fall into the categories of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains. Technically things like sashimi grade fish, other raw meats and even insects can fall into this category (though not on a cleanse).

This may sound extreme to only consume fresh and natural plant foods, but logically it is really what our bodies were designed to eat.

Why Eat Raw Foods?

The raw or mostly raw diet is the true “paleo diet”. 

You do not need to dig too deeply through NatGeo videos to observe what modern day, largely uncontacted native tribes eat: 

Mainly raw plant foods, some bugs here and there, and maybe a tiny bit of meat if they are lucky enough to catch a monkey that day. 

Those bros aren’t grilling steaks for dinner – they’re roasting bugs and eating leaves. Yum.

Our primate ancestors before them ate mainly raw fruits, leafy greens and nuts if they could find them. These foods are what our bodies are designed to extract nutrients from, which is why a diet with a high concentration of them can be extremely beneficial for human health.

Proponents of a raw food diet  one of the health secrets lies in the preservation of enzymes, which are usually denatured during the cooking process. Some nutrients are also lost during cooking, but some become more available in certain foods during the cooking process as well (more on this later).

For the purposes of cleansing, weight loss and healing chronic disease, the main benefits of a raw diet come from the almost sheer impossibility of eating anything at all unhealthy, while at the same time consuming tons of fibrous, filling low calorie, high(est) nutrient foods. This enables the body to accomplish miraculous feats of healing and weight loss in a mind blowingly short amount of time.

So why eat mainly raw foods on a cleanse: 

In a nutshell (sorry, had to do it), you get incredibly healthy and incredibly lean, incredibly fast.

How To Eat Raw?

First off, this is not a competition to see who can be “more raw”. In fact, some super healthy natural foods are even more healthy when cooked. So when moving into a mostly raw phase of a cleanse, keep it at just that, mostly raw.

I find most people have almost no struggle with eating completely raw until dinner. A typical day would look something like:

  1. A big smoothie, chia pudding/overnight oatmeal, or acai bowl for breakfast
  2. A green juice for a mid morning snack
  3. A huge salad for lunch
  4. Some nuts or a banana with nut butter mid afternoon
  5. Then dinner

Doesn’t sound impossible, right? Doesn’t even really sound that hard for a lot of folks. Sounds even good to others!

When cleansing during warmer months, it may be nice to have another big salad, a zoodle dish, or a decadent raw lasagna for dinner. In colder months, a nice brothy soup will do just fine.

Yes, cooked soup and broths will alter the enzymatic structure of the food. However, water soluble nutrients, such as many vitamins, which raw food purists do their best to retain by refraining from cooking, can actually just leech into the water of the soup, which you then eat. Not too shabby.

Soups are also very easy to digest which requires less enzymatic activity to assimilate the nutrients into the body. 

So unless you have a serious medical condition in which a purely raw food diet is prescribed, soups get a big thumbs up on a mostly raw phase of a cleanse in my book.

Which Foods Are Fine To Cook?

Carrots

Carrots are good for you no matter how you eat them, but studies have shown that your body can absorb significantly higher amounts of carotenoids from cooked carrots rather than raw, and whole carrots rather than diced and quartered.

Adding olive oil in while cooking increases the nutrient bioavailability even more. 

With this in mind, an easy way to get the most nutrients out of carrots is to lightly glaze them in olive or coconut oil and roast them whole.

Potatoes

Potatoes have frequently been looked down upon because they were thought to be too starchy to be healthy. However, potatoes actually contain a very important type of starch called resistant starch

There are four different types of resistant starches (potatoes are type 3), and unlike other starches, the resistant ones aren’t digested. Instead, they remain intact until they get to your large intestine where they feed good bacteria living there. 

This effectively makes them a prebiotic and able to help your body extract nutrients from food more effectively. 

There is a catch, though. 

Only potatoes that have been cooked and allowed to cool completely develop resistant starch. Freshly cooked ones contain easily digestible starch that gets converted quickly into glucose. 

You can cook, cool, and reheat potatoes if you’d like them to be hot, and the resistant starch will remain intact.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes contain a carotenoid called lycopene that is a powerful antioxidant found to decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer. 

Studies have consistently shown that cooking tomatoes significantly increases their lycopene content as compared to eating them raw. 

One study found that cooking tomatoes at a low heat of 190°F for 15 or 30 minutes showed an increase of lycopene by 171% and 164%, respectively.

The Rawsome Truth

One does not need to be a militant raw foodist to reap the health benefits of fresh foods. In fact, it looks like some foods may be even more nutritious for our bodies when cooked.

Focusing on increasing the amount of raw foods in your diet during a cleanse is a great way to accelerate results, and probably a good idea to keep in mind during “normal” life as well.

Just focus on adding in as many fresh foods as you feel is beneficial to your health goals, but don’t go nuts (last time, I promise).