Eat your greens—ever since childhood, we’ve heard this phrase like a broken record. As children, it was a bargaining chip in exchange for delicious ice cream, while as adults, it transitioned to a healthy life choice. Vegetables and fruits have been central to many meals, including the recently trending raw food diet. Literally serving food fresh, the raw food diet cleanse is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a diet where you consume foods raw and unprocessed, sans any cooking. Other than being a lazy person’s dream diet, the raw food cleanse is actually quite healthy . So, what makes this one special amongst the paleo, keto, and other trending diets? We ask the experts.
What is a raw food diet?
It is said that cooking your food often destroys its natural enzymes and reduces the nutrients present, making what you eat not as healthy as it naturally is. Raw food is rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other disease-fighting phytochemicals and can be easily absorbed by the body. Dr. Cijith Sreedhar, Chief Medical Officer, Prakriti Shakti, says, “You are what you eat—eating the right food will give you good health, and raw food is the best food you can eat. It will give your body the goodness and vitality of the earth by establishing a strong and nourishing link between you and nature.” He describes a raw food diet as the most natural way to consume food. “It frees our body from the xenobiotic metabolism process and reduces stress on the liver.” According to him, raw food’s natural makeup requires minimal body energy during digestion, which prevents the body from overworking.
Shriya Naheta Wadhwa, the founder of Zama Organics, describes the raw food diet as a transition. She says, “It’s a transition of taking a highly processed diet into an unprocessed one. Personally, I do not believe in extreme diets. It isn’t a long-term solution—hopefully, it can teach us to incorporate more unprocessed whole foods into our system, and after the cleanse, continue a healthier way of life and be more conscious about what we put into our body.”
Raw diet & organic foods
Organic foods and any kind of diet go hand-in-hand, and Wadhwa agrees. According to her, when looking at unprocessed as a concept, you must look at what your food is made from. “I feel organic fits in naturally in this process, especially if you’re looking to heal your system. I believe in eating and living in colour—a lot of colour on your plate is how I’d look at the raw food cleanse.”
Who cannot do it
While the raw diet is meant for anyone seeking a healthy and natural lifestyle, a select few need to steer clear of it. People with malignant conditions, nutritional deficiencies, gut-related disorders, and those on prescription drugs, Ayurvedic medicines, or hormonal pills shouldn’t attempt the pure raw diet without the supervision of a naturopathic doctor.
Dr. Shreedhar adds, “If a person goes through an acute phase of dehydration, then it is better to avoid any type of food intake, including raw food, before the body returns to normal. In the case of anxiety, and if a person is presented with GERD and other digestive issues triggered by anxiety, it is better to avoid suddenly getting into a raw food diet without expert guidance. Someone with low blood pressure can do it, but they may have to add extra salt to the vegetables and include lime juice with salt and honey and tender coconut water to the diet program.”
Maintains your internal system
Dr. Sreedhar adds, “It is low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fibre, which helps to reduce weight and manage type 2 diabetes. Low sodium levels minimise the risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and kidney disease while keeping blood pressure in check. Since the natural composition is retained, raw food communicates well with the body’s internal haemostatic systems, like Leptin and Ghrelin hormones. A lack of synergy between these ‘hunger hormones’ can lead to eating disorders and poor metabolism. So, raw food ensures these hormones work their natural effects efficiently.”
Improves your mental health
A raw food diet is also integral to maintaining good mental health. According to Dr. Sreedhar, this diet contains brain-healthy micronutrients that aid in improving mental health and reducing depression and stress.
Balances the body’s acid-alkaline levels
A raw food diet reduces the chances of developing heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and diabetes. Dr. Shreedhar says, “It balances the body’s acid-alkaline balance—if your body is too acidic, it cannot absorb enough oxygen into the blood. The alkaline nature of raw food helps restore this balance and minimises risk.”
The dos & don’ts of a raw food diet
Do: Rest—physical, mental, physiological, emotional, sensory, and social rest are all important to get the complete benefit of a raw food cleanse.
Don’t: If you are not physically and mentally ready—you shouldn’t impose this diet.
Do: Follow the Naturopathic healing principles during the cleansing period. Go slowly and gradually.
Don’t: Go on a mono diet.
Do: Consume fruits, vegetables, and sprouts of different varieties and colours.
Don’t: Consume a raw food diet for a prolonged duration, as it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Do: Break the raw diet if you aren’t enjoying or feeling good when following it.
Don’t: Rush into a regular diet post a raw food cleanse—return to it gradually.
Do: Consult a naturopathic doctor before starting a raw food diet.
Chef Joy Matthew at Prakriti Shakti shares his favourite recipes for a raw food diet.
For the squares:
150 gm Broccoli cleaned and chopped
30 gm Sunflower seeds
20 gm Cashew nut powdered
15 gm Onion chopped
5 gm Garlic chopped
30 gm each Bell Peppers diced (Red, yellow, green)
2 gm Black Pepper crushed
5 ml Lemon juice
2 gm Oregano
5 gm Salt
For the Romesco Sauce:
100 gm Red Bell Pepper diced
50 gm dehydrated Tomato soaked
50 gm Almond
8 gm Onion chopped
3 gm Garlic chopped
1 gm Rock Salt
2 gm Lemon juice
50 ml Water (To soak the dehydrated Tomato)
For the Broccoli square
Step 1: For the Broccoli squares, coarsely crush Sunflower seeds and cashew nuts and set aside.
Step 2: Blend the Broccoli in a food processor with Onion, Garlic, Oregano, Black Pepper, Bell Peppers, Cashew nut powder, and Sunflower seed powder. Then season with rock salt and lemon juice.
Step 3: Mould this mixture into squares.
Step 4: Blend all the ingredients for the Romesco sauce to a smooth paste in a blender. Garnish each square with a dollop of this mixture.
100 gm Papaya chopped
50 ml Orange Juice
50 ml Coconut Milk
2 ml Lemon Juice
20 gm Honey
Step 1: Blend the papaya with orange juice, coconut milk, lemon juice, and honey. Pour into glasses and serve.