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?
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