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The raw truth about raw meals.

MOST PEOPLE do not think of cooking their food as a bad thing. Chances are, you love baked potatoes, green bean casserole, glazed cooked carrots, and much more. Sure, you are game for the occasional salad and veggie fray with dip, but the thought of switching to a raw foods-only diet sounds pretty radical. What would you eat, exactly? Would your diet be balanced? Would you be getting the proper nutrition?

Well, it might be worth your while to think outside the box (or skillet). There are a lot more compelling reasons to go raw than you might think. All raw foodists have personal stories about how raw foods helped them lose weight, heal, gain more energy or mental clarity, look and feel better, or achieve some other benefit or goal. This diet even has attracted celebrities such as Demi Moore, Sting, Madonna, and Woody Harrelson.

If you are unfamiliar with the raw food lifestyle, it essentially means that you eat fresh, nutrient-rich plant foods that have not been heat processed. When foods are cooked, many of their nutrients are lost. You can go totally raw if you would like, or you simply can incorporate more raw foods into your existing meal plan to experience the benefits.

Most people report improved health and general well-being within weeks of switching to a raw food lifestyle. The nutrient-rich raw diet is high in antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats (such as omega-3 fatty acids), so it maximizes health and vitality.

Raw foods are available in abundant variety and present delicious food choices, especially compared to diets that focus on calorie restriction and deprivation. Temporary diets often are quite unhealthy and doomed to failure because people cannot maintain the regimen as a lifestyle. However, the raw diet is abundant with flesh produce as well as nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.

The facts are indisputable: a raw plant-based diet leads to lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity.

Many raw foodists look 20 years younger than people of the same age who eat cooked foods. This youthfulness is due in part to the nutrient density of raw foods, which are rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and vitamins that protect the body from free radicals, which attack healthy cells--and people who are well nourished tend to feel good and maintain a healthy body weight well into their golden years.

The body, moreover, will feel hungry until nutrient needs are satisfied. Therefore, even if you eat enough calories to fuel your body, you still are hungry--for nutrients. In this situation, your metabolism slows down; you stop burning fat; and you crave more food. The fast-food industry is in business to provide people with lots of opportunities to eat sugary and fatty fare. With a raw plant-based diet, you can eat all you want of fresh, ripe, and raw foods without worrying about counting calories. After eating a mostly raw diet for a few weeks, your body begins--naturally--to regulate how much you need to ingest by turning off its hunger-response mechanism when you have had enough.

When the human body is well nourished, it is healthy and active, and has an abundance of vitality. Fats, especially heat-processed oils, slow you down because they require long periods of digestion, which steals energy from your body. Light foods, such as fruits and vegetables, digest easily.

Also, less sleep is required when you eat foods that are fresh and light. When you consume heavy, cooked foods, especially in the evening, several hours of sleep time are spent digesting food rather than moving you to the deep sleep zone that is required to reach beta levels and the dream state. Raw foodists often report that they sleep one to three hours less and still have more energy than when they are mostly cooked foods.

Your brain needs nourishment, too, and whole, ripe, raw organic plant foods provide the power needed for strong mental acuity. The essential fats that the brain requires, such as omega-3 fatty acids, are in leafy greens, flaxseed, chia, hemp, and walnuts as well as many other raw plant foods. The human brain also should get plenty of water, magnesium, and organic sodium; whole raw foods offer an abundance of these nutrients.

When nutrient- and water-deficient foods--including pasta, pizza, and other fare that is laden with hydrogenated, saturated, and cooked fats and salt--are replaced with nutrient-dense whole plant foods and healthy fats, brain function improves.

Most raw foodists find that their diet reduces of even eliminates their respiratory problems, colds, flus, and allergies. A raw diet especially is effective for people who are intolerant of dairy, wheat, and soy because raw foods virtually have no hidden ingredients. Apples and carrots, for instance, are dairy- and lactose-free, wheat- and grain-free, soy-free, egg-free, and even corn-free. A raw diet would eliminate a lot of allergy-related worries.

A raw diet also frees you from cooking, while raw food preparation is (for the most part) quick and easy with meals that are a breeze to clean up. No greasy stoves, hot ovens, or messy fryers. Of course, any gourmet food takes time to prepare --raw foods included, but you can make satisfying raw meals without a lot of fuss. A knife and a blender are all that is required to whip up smoothies, soups, sauces, and even desserts in a flash.

Although some raw foodists do consume small amounts of meat and fish, we recommend following a raw vegan diet, which includes only plant foods. When all of your recipes are vegan, no animal suffering is involved. The animal husbandry industries can be quite cruel to creatures. Chickens, cows, lambs, sheep, pigs, rabbits, and other sentient beings that are used for food feel pain and fear, just as we do. These creatures become ill without proper living conditions, and the fact is, we are healthier when we do not eat meat.

A raw lifestyle supports sustainable farming, creation of healthy topsoil, protection of watersheds, and reduction of your carbon footprint. A vegan diet also protects natural resources by not contributing to the deforestation that is inherent in the meat industry. Moreover, raw food, when purchased in its natural state, contains little to no packaging; it is packaged by nature. Cooked and processed foods in cans, plastic containers, and plastic-coated boxes add to the volume of unnecessary waste.

Any reluctance you may have felt to try raw foods should be abating by now. After all, who does not want to improve his or her health, appearance, mental clarity, and much more while being friendlier to the environment in the process? So many people are looking for a magic bullet that will help them look, feel, and be better. Well, the raw food diet just might be it.

Dan Ladermann and Cherie Sorie are co-operators of Living Light International, Fort Bragg, Calif., and coauthors of Raw Food For Dummies.
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Title Annotation:Mind & Body
Author:Ladermann, Dan; Sorie, Cherie
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2013
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