Raw food – The good, the bad and the fattening?

Firstly let me say that yes, I am an advocate of eating some raw food in ones diet. I recommend it to others as well providing your choices are made intelligently. Intelligently meaning you understand the benefits some foods can give when eaten raw and which foods can be detrimental to your health and well being. They say not all carbs are created equal and when looking at fats you definitely have do’s and don’ts. The same can be said for raw foods.

You may think eating more raw food is a good thing overall health; and who could blame you, it makes sense right? Eating more “naturally”, more “paleo”, more “raw”. What you may not realise is that eating raw foods may actually be negatively affecting your body composition by slowing down your metabolism and disrupting your thyroid function. Cruciferous vegetables (think Broccoli, Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Kale etc) have a thyroid inhibiting chemical in them called goitrogens. Goitrogens are substances that suppress the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake. To high of and intake of these vegetables UNCOOKED and the goitrogens inhibit the incorporation of iodine into thyroid hormone. For anyone who wasn’t aware…it’s pretty important for your thyroid to be functioning optimally if you want to have any kind of a metabolism that keeps you lean. Cooking these vegetables drastically reduces these chemicals as well as other potential toxins and microbes making them a better choice for health and body composition. Another great way to get the most out of these vegetables is through fermentation ie sauerkraut. These methods allow you to enjoy all the benefits cruciferous vegetables give you, like, helping boost detoxification enzymes in the liver to clear nasties out of your body and aiding in the absorption of the numerous vitamins, minerals and anti cancer properties they contain.

 

Before we go any further, am I suggesting you should boil the crap out of your vegetables, mash and turn them to mush so they can be drunken through a straw? No…absolutely not! Depending on the vegetable I like to blanch mine in boiling water for 1-2 minutes (although some cruciferous vegetables need even more cooking to broken down) or slowly bake them at or under 150 degrees so as to not denature the nutrients and enzymes.

 

Nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes are another good example of foods that should NOT be eaten raw. These foods can be destructive to our digestive system and may take more minerals from us than they give. They contain phytic acid, an enzyme inhibitor amongst other things. It is within the seed or grain so when humans or a ruminant animal eats it, the phytic acid keeps the nutrition within the seed, protected till it makes its way through the digestive system. While it passes through our digestive system, phytic acid helps rob our digestive system of our own minerals like, zinc, iron as well as other micro minerals like magnesium. Once this food has passed through our digestive system, the phytic acid releases and allows the nutrients within the seed, nut, grain or legume to be released and sprout. Nature has evolved to survive…turns out nuts, seeds, grains and legumes are tough critters; do you think you could survive being eaten alive, pooped out and then still muster enough strength to grow and full fill your destiny?

 

There’s an easy answer to overcome this and naturally release the phytic acid. All we need to do (preferably) is soak our nuts, seeds, grains and legumes for 8-24 hours in water. This tricks the nut or seed etc into thinking it’s going through the digestive system. Once you’ve soaked them, dry your seeds and nuts out and cook your grains and legumes. This could be the reason why many people find that eating oats raw can give them an upset stomach, yet in a bircher muesli that’s been soaked overnight it’s fine.

 

The flip side of this topic of course is that generally peoples problems stem from not eating too much raw food, it’s from eating too much processed crap that society calls food. So before you all jump on the “I don’t eat raw food cause it’s shite for dropping fat” wagon, stop, let’s try and keep it simple and if you want to know how I do things, check it out.

  • Cook but don’t kill your cruciferous vegetables (blanch for 1-2mins or steam).
  • Soak your nuts, seeds, legumes and cook your grains.
  • Minimally cook your meat and seafood.
  • Always use saturated fats when cooking at medium to high temperatures and try to eat omega 3 rich foods like eggs and salmon raw.

Happily eat your fruits raw as well as well as some other vegetables like lettuce, carrots and celery.