If you are new to raw food, then hopefully this page will help to answer some of your questions. If you have any more, then feel free to pop them in the comments.
What are raw foods?
Raw foods are plant based ingredients that have not been heated above 40-46C (104-115F). After this point the nutritional properties of these foods start changing. There are also theories that the changes in structure of the food once it is cooked may also be causing a mild inflammatory reaction especially for those that already have heightened inflammatory responses with chronic diseases or illnesses.
Can you only eat raw foods on a raw food diet?
Everything you put in your mouth is your choice. It is up to you want you want to eat and what you feel is best for you. Most people don't eat raw food all the time. Some choose to be "raw till 4" where they will only eat raw food until 4pm, others prefer more flexibility and will aim for around 80% of what they eat to be raw foods. Some people choose to only eat raw foods - some absolutely flourish on this and others feel that they need to add a little more in their diet. Everyone is different. What works for one person may not be right for another. Compared to a diet full of processed foods and refined sugars, any substitution for raw plant based foods can only be a bonus. Don't feel that it has to be an all or nothing change, and don't beat yourself up for "falling off the wagon". Raw living foods are something that help you to thrive when incorporated as a lifestyle change to improve your health rather than a quick temporary eating change.
Is everyone who eats fully raw food a vegan?
Although many are, raw honey is often used by others.
Will you lose weight on a raw food diet?
Calories are calories regardless of what you are eating. If you eat large amounts of food of any kind, then you can put on weight. There are many underweight people who have gained a normal body weight by switching to raw food. For those that are overweight and switching to a raw food diet, most people will lose a large amount of weight initially. There are often many factors that contributed towards the excess weight - over eating, stress, poor gut health, lack of sleep, medications, pre-existing health problems, sedentary lifestyle, emotional relationships towards foods and food addictions. By eating foods that are less addictive, generally less calorie dense, and higher in nutrients, people will usually consume less calories naturally, start feeling like they want to be more active as they notice their energy levels start to improve with the increase in nutrients, and hopefully start to find other ways to manage emotions rather than binge eating. Raw foods do not give the same emotional high as refined sugar. The extra nutrients will also go towards supporting normal cell functioning, heart function, blood pressure, regulating blood sugar levels and more, so those switching to a raw food diet who are in poor health may find that they experience less of their usual symptoms and loose weight from water retention too.
What is the easiest way to start a raw food diet?
Because everyone has different food preferences, there is no right or wrong way to start eating more raw food in your diet. For a lot of people, the easiest way is to start swapping things you would normally eat. You may want to swap a whole meal a day for example you might want to swap cereal for a smoothie bowl. Or you may want to swap one component like swapping rice for parsnip rice or even swap half your rice and combine the parsnip rice in until you get used to the flavour. Other people thrive better with a challenge, so may want to try eating only raw food for a couple of weeks then deciding at the end how much raw they want to carry on with. If you are going to try doing this, I would recommend finding plenty of recipes first so you don't feel that you are constantly trying to look up ideas of what to eat when you are hungry.
Is it healthy to eat a fully raw diet?
There is no research that categorically shows that any one way of eating is best for optimal health. This very much includes the standard Western diet, which was based around a food pyramid invented off the back of a piece of research which was heavily manipulated to show what the researchers wanted it to show. In fact, the food pyramid recommendations are very similar to the nutritional make up of pig feed aimed at helping them gain weight. However, there have been multiple studies showing links with chronic disease and processed foods as well as consumption of certain meats. Conversely there have been many studies suggesting high fruit and vegetable consumption to be linked to reduced risks of many different cancers and chronic illnesses. Anecdotally there have also been countless reports of different illnesses being significantly improved and even cured by taking out meat, grains and processed foods, and adding in large amounts of plant based foods.
B12 - As with any vegan based diet, the only vital element that you need that is normally found only in animal products is vitamin B12. This vitamin is produced by a group of bacteria as well as a few algae - These bacteria are found within the stomach of many herbivore mammals who absorb the B12 produced directly as it is produced in the stomach. However farm animals are frequently supplemented with B12 to avoid deficiency also. It is also present to some extent in the ground, with the greatest amounts found in earth with higher levels of bacterial activity - so animal dung goes a long way in helping their multiplication. After the animals have absorbed it, the vitamin is passed to the humans that eat them. B12 has been found in some plant based foods but never consistently - maybe because of differences in the soils that the plants were grown in, or maybe because of soil contamination with the plant on testing. It seems that when humans do house B12 producing bacteria, it is usually at a level within the bowels below the level that B12 could be absorbed at. It is believed that a low protein diet may in some cases allow the bacteria to move further up and become useful but again this is not consistent, Fermented foods have also not been shown to give a reliable source of B12. The vegan society advises not to rely on plant sources for B12. Signs of deficiency may take years to develop in adults, but can increase the risk of heart problems or pregnancy complications before symptoms develop. Problems tend to occur much quicker in children so a supplement or eating regular fortified foods are recommended for all. Examples of fortified raw foods may include nutritional yeast or almond milk.
Protein - This is often a concern to many, however protein is found in all nuts and seeds and to a lesser extent, also in all fruits and vegetables. So if you are eating a varied raw diet and consuming enough calories then there should be no problems with obtaining enough protein.
Calcium - Many people are worried that without dairy in their diet, they will become calcium deficient. However dairy does not have the monopoly on calcium. Canada has even knocked it off the list for their official nutritional guidance on what makes up a healthy diet. Calcium is abundant in many plant based foods. Especially almonds, sesame seeds and green leafy veg. A varied raw diet should be sufficient for most, however children, pregnancy and breastfeeding have greater calcium requirements so you may wish to make recipes that make it easy to add in more of these calcium rich foods e.g. kale crisps.