Eating raw yields benefitsWritten by Lauren Bee | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Eating a raw food diet can become a permanent lifestyle, although it’s not always recommended to go all the way.
“Most of us think about investing in our financial future, but not in the future of our health,” said Don Bennett, disease avoidance specialist for Become Healthier, a natural health care organization based in Ann Arbor.
Bennett was looking for the healthiest way to live and decided to eat a fruit and vegetable raw diet that excludes items like cooked food, processed foods, refined sugars, meat products and dairy. He has been eating a 100 percent diet of raw foods for 18 years.
“You can get everything you need from a fruit and green, leafy vegetable diet. They are what we were designed to eat in the first place,” he said.
There are different raw food diets, Bennett said, and “gourmet” raw food restaurants mimic meat dishes like lasagna and meatballs. He cautioned, though, this type of raw food is high in fat because of the nuts and other ingredients used to make the food.
Bennett also said it is important for people to realize the difference between dieting and a diet. A diet, he said, by definition is the food you eat on a regular basis.
“Variety is key in your diet,” Bennett said. “You also need to be active enough. Some people don’t make the connection between healthy eating and activity. We’re designed to be active, so if you’re not active, you may be undereating in nutrition.”
Debbie Verkin-Siebert, a dietician with St. Vincent’s Mercy Children’s Hospital, acknowledged that American diets need improvement, including borrowing some of the practices of those who adhere to a raw food diet. She said dietary guidelines published by the government are recommending many of the principles of raw foodism, but a raw food diet alone would exclude entire food groups.
“We can extract principles of the raw food diet,” Verkin-Siebert. “We need to move more toward unprocessed food and move away from refined products. But I don’t think we can allow the pendullum to swing all the way the other way. I don’t think it’s something we’d be ready for as a general population.”
According to Verkin-Siebert, many nutrients in meat and dairy products are easier for the body to absorb than they are in raw foods that provide the same nutrients. Red meat is an important iron source, she said, and the iron is more “bioavailable” — easy for your body to process — than vegetable sources of iron, such as kale, collard and mustard greens.
“When you go to grocery store, shop the outside aisle,” Verkin-Siebert said. “Try to eat less fast food, less convienient things. To take it to the extreme … I don’t know how much more benefit that would be. Move more toward better eating, but not necessarily the extremes.”
If you choose to try a raw food diet, Verkin-Siebert said it is important to let your physician know. She recommended growing children, adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women not make drastic changes in their diets.
What has helped Bennett stick to a raw food diet are the results — not only his personal results, but what he has seen happen for other people. He has seen people battling diabetes, heart disease and other health issues, which have improved greatly after beginning a raw food diet. The most typical struggle people have, he said, is being pulled to the things that they used to eat like pizza and chocolate, things Bennett calls “designer” foods. Bennett recommends a “raw food buddy” and to stay socially connected to people who can support you.
For more about Bennett’s Become Healthier natural health care, visit becomehealthier.org.