Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Progress on a High Raw Foods Diet

For several months, I have been reading about, and experimenting with a diet with a higher concentration of raw foods.  Raw food advocates claim that uncooked foods are healthier than cooked foods.  As I said in my previous post on the topic, I will stay with the Nutritarian approach with is high in raw fruits, vegetables, with some raw nuts/seeds, but also includes some cooked food because I am convinced that some cooked foods such as steamed vegetables, vegetable and bean-based soups, vegetarian chili, and even some whole grain pasta dishes are nutritious and supply needed calories for my highly active lifestyle.  

In his book Raw Controversies, Frederic Patenaude (pictured here) outlines some of the pros and cons of 100% raw diets versus high raw diets.   He defines high raw diet as about 80% raw.  Patenaude's overview of 100% raw diets can be summarized as follows:

  • Elimination of foods that are harmful to health such as animal foods (although some animal foods can be eaten raw), dairy, grains, wheat gluten, MSG, processed foods, fried foods and excess animal fat.  Although animal foods can be eaten raw, this is not advisable because uncooked meats can transmit disease.
  • Increased energy
  • Consistency, i.e., develop the lifelong habit of only eating whole natural foods.
  • Supports an active lifestyle due to the ease of digestion of these foods plus their nutrient density.
  • Requires less sleep
  • Social isolation, i.e., raw foodists can find it difficult to eat in many social situations and in many restaurants
  • Quantity of food needed to meet calorie requirements, especially for highly active people.  Athletes need to plan their meals very carefully.
  • Body sensitivity, i.e., Patenaude claims that "The purer a diet becomes, the more sensitive your body becomes." For example, raw foodists can be extremely sensitive to medications, and are at higher risk for adverse reactions to medicines.
  • More cariogenic, i.e., raw foodists are more prone to dental caries because the high fruit content of their diet.  
On the other hand, mostly raw diets have the advantage of being more compatible with a typical American social life, offer more flexibility, are more compatible with family life, offer a wide variety of foods, supply a higher concentration of calories, and add the enjoyment of healthy cooked meals.

I believe that some cooked foods such as soups, stews and steamed vegetables offer variety and additional nutrients to the diet.  Also, cooking vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables can increased the bioavailability of some nutrients. 

My diet is about 70% raw.  My ideal cooked foods include whole wheat tortillas, lentils, beans, brown rice, steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, kale, collard greens, and lettuce.  I find that eating a raw breakfast, usually a green smoothie, a mostly raw lunch and some cooked foods for dinner offers me an ideal combination of high nutrition, relatively low calories, convenience, sufficient calories to fuel my cycling and strength training, variety, the ability to eat in social situations, and ease of eating during traveling.  

If you will double click on the image to the left, you will see a summary of the nutrition for the past three weeks on a high raw diet.  I record my food in a computer program Cron-O-meter.   

During this three week period, my average calorie intake was about 2800, and I met well over 100% of my nutritional requirements for every nutrient except vitamin E, which was just under 100%.  If I ate more nuts, such as raw almonds, I would exceed my requirement for vitamin E.    I estimate that my net calories, adjusting for exercise, is about 1900-2000 per day.  I have lost a few pounds during this period and should probably up my calories to maintain my weight.  

Macronutrients break down about 75% carbohydrates, 17% fat and 8% protein.  People ask whether I am getting sufficient protein.  The answer is yes.  I will address this in another post.

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