Is a Raw Food Diet for You?

Featured Article, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Plans
on January 5, 2012

Like most people, you probably eat a certain amount of food each day that is raw–a salad, perhaps, or fruit. In fact, there are advantages to having raw foods regularly, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Because they undergo so little processing, raw foods are usually loaded with fiber. They take a longer time to digest compared to cooked foods, and so, can be incredibly filling. Many raw foods also offer more nutrients than their cooked counterparts, so you get more vitamins and minerals per calorie. Diets high in raw foods have been associated with lower body weight, a decreased risk for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia, lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and higher levels of beneficial plant compounds like lycopene and beta carotene. Raw foods are more likely than cooked to contain enzymes and beneficial bacteria that support a healthy GI tract. (Of course, they can also contain harmful bacteria, so it’s important to use fresh foods and wash carefully.)

"Raw foodists” are people who believe most food should be eaten raw. About 80 percent of their diet is uncooked. But you don’t have to take it that far to reap the benefits of raw foods. Try increasing raw foods in your diet to 20 to 30 percent and see if it doesn’t help you lose unwanted pounds. Here are some easy ways to do that.

Make salad a meal. To greens, add fixings such as salmon broiled with BBQ sauce, black beans, corn and red pepper. Or have Chicken Caesar Salad or a Mediterranean Salad with black olives, red onions, and feta cheese.

Add raw veggies to sandwiches and pizza. If you’re trying to limit yourself to half a sandwich or one slice of pizza, pile your plate with carrots, radishes, cucumber and celery. For every bite of sandwich or pizza, have a bite of veggies. You’ll feel more satisfied with your lower-calorie meal.

Drink tomato juice. Research shows that people who drink at least eight ounces of tomato or vegetable juice at the start of a meal go on to consume fewer calories. In one 12-week study, people who included vegetable juice as part of a heart-healthy diet lost four pounds, while people who followed the same diet but did not drink the juice lost an average of only one pound.

Have salad “to go.” If eating out of a bowl is inconvenient, stuff your salad into a pita pocket or make a wrap using a large lettuce leaf.

Freeze fruits. Bananas become a creamy cold dessert when frozen, then put through a food processor. You can use the banana alone, or add some water or milk. Top with nuts, fruit or shaved chocolate and serve immediately. Other frozen fruits that go great with banana: raspberries, peaches, mango. 

Try muesli. This raw granola is easy to make, lower in fat and sugar than traditional granola, and keeps well. It is simply a mix of old-fashioned oat flakes and dried fruits and nuts. Serve mixed with hot milk or water.

Go Indian. Try raita, a cool and refreshing relish and a perfect partner for hot and spicy dishes.  Mix peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber with finely chopped fresh mint, salt, yogurt and a pinch of ground cumin. Mix ingredients together just before serving. 

Make a green smoothie. To a blender, add a handful of fresh spinach or chard (remove tough stems first), along with fruit (banana and mango are favorites) and enough juice or water to make it drinkable. The trick is to have slightly more fruit than greens, so that the drink is sweet and refreshing, not “grassy.” You can even freeze smoothies into popsicles.

Create slaws. If you like coleslaw–shredded cabbage and carrots with dressing–try other slaws, which last for days when refrigerated and provide wonderfully blended flavors.  Try thinly sliced fennel with grapefruit segments, celery and fresh tarragon; carrot, raisin and mint salad; or a carrot salad with cumin, coriander, raisins and yogurt. Or serve this Southwestern Slaw with grilled chicken.

Chop it. Chopped salads are easy to make. Fresh salad ingredients are chopped into uniform size, so each spoonful has several kinds of veggies in it. Each veggie also gets full contact with the dressing, so chopped salads are quickly marinated and flavorful. Foods that might otherwise be intimidating raw, like broccoli and cauliflower, do well in chopped salads. Waldorf Salad (made with apples, celery, almonds and low-fat mayonnaise) is a classic chopped salad.

Think soup. Maybe you’ve had gazpacho, a marvelous blend of tomatoes, cucumber, red peppers, onion, garlic, olive oil and, sometimes, stale bread. Other raw vegetables work equally well in soup, especially when combined with avocado or coconut milk. Fruit soups also make an elegant introduction to a summer meal.  Try Watermelon, cherries and fresh ripe peaches also make great fruit soups. Try adding some lime juice, ginger, cinnamon, mint, yogurt or sour cream.

Massage your kale. Kale can be tough eaten raw, but if it is sliced into thin ribbons (chiffonade cut) and “massaged” with sea salt, it softens. Try adding gorgonzola cheese and sliced apples for tasty, healthy salad. Here’s a video on how to massage kale:

Make marinara. Make a fresh marinara sauce using ripe raw tomatoes, rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano, sea salt, olive oil and fresh basil. Mix the ingredients in a blender to a thick sauce.  Serve over thinly sliced zucchini “noodles” (use a potato peeler to make them) with grated Parmesan cheese.