This week is the RAWFEST in Buenos Aires, an event dedicated to promote the philosophy of “raw food”. It will be located in the Faena Hotel from February 18th to 22th and is organized by the Hippocrates Health Institute from Florida, USA. The event will have conferences with international speakers, workshops, free samples and live music. This event inspired me to write this post and to get the raw food diet naked.
· What is raw food diet? Also called "live food diet" or vegan raw, people that follow this diet eat fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and algae, all cultivated without agrochemical processes and without heating them to more that 107ºF, to supposedly preserve their nutrients and boost energy and vitality production and to promote mental and physical health. Raw food diet followers believe that heat “kills” foods reducing their nutrients, making them toxic and less digestible. Foods are consumed raw, dried with low temperatures or fermented.
· Mith: heat destroys nutrients. It is true that fresh fruits and vegetables are very nutritive. But, heat destroys cells walls and fibers increasing the disponibility and digestibility of several nutrients. For example, cooked tomate has more lycopene available or cooked carrots have more beta-carotene available than raw. We should eat both raw and cooked vegetables to get the best of both groups.
· Mith: cooking destroys food enzymes. This is true. Heat destroys enzymes, but is doesn´t matter because the body produces their own enzymes to digest food. Even more, raw food enzymes are destroyed by stomach acid. And, if raw food had their own enzymes to help digestion they would autodigest before we can eat them!
· Another crash diet? Raw food is a tendency that growths globally and we as food experts must be well aware of it. Celebrities like Natalie Portman, Demi Moore y Robbie Williams are raw food diet followers. Now, I wonder whether in Argentina this is a culinary trend or another crash diet that we will forget about in the next few months. Some have already seen the business aspect and several restaurants in Buenos Aires started to commercialize raw foods like Kensho y Buenos Aires Verde, Buenos Aires Raw Club. Others restaurants like Experimental Raw Bar y Verde Llama went out of business.
· Raw vs. Asado. It´s kind of difficult to follow this diet 100% (adherents try to consume 50-100% of all foods raw) , specially in Argentina....First, our food culture is way different from a algae and pea´s sprouts salad (Argentina is the country with the highest beef consumption in the world). Second, some raw recipes are time consuming even with no “cooking”. And, some food are really costly here in Argentina (if you can get them). On the other hand, this diet has to be well designed with professional help to prevent nutrition deficiencies. It is not recommended for kids because inadequacy of some nutrients. Depending on personal preferences some people include raw milk and raw meats like in ceviche, carpacchio or sushi.
What is good about this diet is that promote the consumption of healthy vegetables and fruits. But their rational seems to be more philosophic than scientific. I truly respect their followers, but as a nutritionist I think that it has some risks and has to be well planned. What do you think?
Like I said in last week post, this month is dedicated to the heart as it’s the American Heart Month (don´t forget Wear Red this Friday!) and also St. Valentine´s Day, celebrated on Friday 14th. The day is named after St. Valentine, a third century priest who tradition says was martyred on February 14, 270. St. Valentine is known for conducting weddings contrary to the decree of Emperor Claudius II. This religious celebration turned to be a more pagan event especially in English-speaking countries. Over the last century many countries beyond western culture started to celebrate Valentine´s Day with their own versions. (Please share Valentine´s Day traditions in your country!)
In Latin America, February 14th it´s also the day of love and friendship. In Argentina, Valentine´s Day is becoming more and more popular. In general, lovers give each other a small present like chocolates, candies, flowers, etc. Eating out is also common, as special menus are offered at local restaurants. Like in all celebrations, food has a protagonist role. I think that worldwide, the most popular food in Valentine´s Day is chocolate. And, speaking about love and sweethearts chocolate is good for HEART health!
Why? Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids (e.g. cacao polyphenol) which are antioxidants and may lower blood pressure and improve the blood flow to the heart. White chocolate has no flavonoids and milk chocolate has very little (plus, saturated fats and high sugar). The highest cocoa content the higher the benefits. It is thought that chocolate flavonoids increases body's production of nitric oxide, a powerful substance that causes blood vessels to relax and dilate. This, in turn, causes an increase in blood flow to the heart and a decrease in blood pressure. Nitric oxide is also stimulated by drugs such as Viagra, that may be one of the reasons why chocolate has had a long reputation as an aphrodisiac (although there is no proof of that). Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, which research suggests is a stimulant that releases endorphins giving us a sense of well being and pleasure. Many other benefits have been linked with chocolate like stroke prevention, reduction of diabetes prevalence, support of cognitive function, etc.
So, this Valentine’s, choose a good quality dark chocolate to give to your loved one or just to indulge yourself (and your HEART!). Don’t forget that chocolate is high in fat and calories, so moderation is key. Just a square of a chocolate bar can provide all the benefits.
Happy Valentine´s Day!!
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