By Lindsay Ercanbrack
Advocates of the raw food diet say they have found a new lease on life while critics say there are better options to a healthy diet.
David Jubb, a behavior/exercise physiologist in New York, said on the WebMD Web site the diet is made up of “fresh, raw fruits and vegetables, organic [whenever possible], in season and ripe; sprouted seeds, nuts and legumes; and some fermented foods that are properly combined for easy digestion.”
“What you eat has much to do with how you feel, and people just want to feel good,” nutritionist Ralph Roberts said in an article titled “The Raw Deal” published on WebMD.
Becky Johnson, a raw food coach from Alpine, gave a list of benefits from this diet. “There is an increased energy level, the body dumps down unwanted toxins and moods become more leveled,” she said.
Johnson also said this diet has been around for a long time, but has skyrocketed in Utah over the past year.
“Those with bad health are given the option to take their health in their own hands and make it better,” Johnson said.
Brittany Shirley, 23, a hairstylist from Orem, has been on the diet for two months. So far, she has lost 15 pounds from eating raw foods. Shirley said she feels happier overall, her energy levels are up, she has more endurance when exercising and her quality of life has increased.
“My life no longer revolves around food,” Shirley said.
Critics of the diet say there are drawbacks to eating strictly raw foods. “The assumptions behind the raw food movement — that is that you ingest it [food] better and preserve the nutrient content better — I don”t think have a good basis in scientific fact,” said Lora Beth Brown, associate professor of nutrition, dietetics, and food science.
Brown also said one of the main health risks of the diet is that without cooking certain foods, people lose some of the protection against contaminants that are killed through heat.
Raw food dieters feel cooking foods such as vegetables takes away essential nutrients. Molly Kimball, a nutritionist with the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, feels raw food dieters may be “a bit extreme in that regard.”
In reality, cooking foods can add nutritional benefits.
“Cooking increases the availability of the beta carotene in carrots, for example, as well as releasing the lycopene in tomatoes which have been shown to offer protective benefits against heart disease and cancer,” Kimball said on the WebMD Web site.
Brown offered what she sees as a better diet.
“Variety, moderation and balance are the key words,” she said. “A diet that is generous in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, low in high fat products, and moderate in protein is recommended.”