Did you know that at least half of the food you consume should be raw? This is because when we expose food to heat and lots of water, many of the beneficial substances such as vitamins, minerals, enzymes and useful bacteria is lost.
Besides the nutrients, there are other benefits of eating raw foods. According to Fausta Akech, a nutritionist at Healthy U, uncooked foods pass through our digestive system quite quickly.
“This helps to keep our bowels moving and helps with lowering our glucose response, facilitating elimination of waste and also supports weight loss. Our digestive system is designed to effectively handle uncooked food.”
Foods such as nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables are very suitable for eating raw. For example, you could have only fruit for breakfast and a raw vegetable salad for dinner or have fruit and nuts (that are not roasted) as snacks and during breaks. As for vegetables, they may be blanched in hot water or just eaten raw but remember to wash them well.
Jamiru Mpiima, a nutritionist at Victoria University Wellness Clinic, says these red vegetables contain nutrients that act as body cleansers. They are good for the skin and contain vitamin B and potassium which are good for your heart and kidney. You can eat them raw or add them to food while cooking.
“The more ripe the tomato (the redder), the more beta-carotene it contains. Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant which improves your vision. Some of the nutrients are, however, likely to be destroyed by cooking so these benefits are better achieved if the tomato is raw,” Mpiima says.
Mpiima says despite the temporary bad breath, chewing raw onions improves your oral health because onions kill bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum diseases. Onions also contain vitamin C which is good for the skin and hair.
A mixture of onion juice (the raw one) and honey can be a good remedy for a cold. You can also put a small piece of onion under the nose and inhale to slow down nose bleeding.
“Raw onion is known to lower the production of bad cholesterol and keep your heart healthy. Chromium, also present in this root vegetable, may help regulate blood sugar. Also, the vitamin C in the onion which remains intact while they are in raw form along with the phytochemicals helps build immunity,” Akech says
Beetroots are rich in iron which help to increase the amount of blood and its flow in the body. Consuming beetroot and drinking beet juice regularly helps in the growth of red blood cells in the body which treats anaemia. It can also be a good home remedy for menstrual disorders and helps to purify blood. Beetroots also contain nutrients such as vitamin A which promotes good sight, especially in low light. Deficiency of vitamin A can lead to sight problems.
Carrots are good for your eyes. When eaten raw, carrots stimulate the gums to produce more saliva which kills bacteria and foreign bodies in the mouth thereby reducing oral health problems.
“Carrots contain dietary fibre which is important in maintaining good digestive health. Carrot juice improves stomach and digestive health and reduces the severity of constipation as well as protecting you from colon cancer,” says Akech.
This vegetable has been known to heal many skin problems and under eye swelling. Cut circular pieces and place them on the eyes or wherever you may have a skin problem. They have excellent cleansing properties and can remove accumulated waste and toxins from your body.
“They also have the ability to prevent splitting of the finger and toenails and also to protect your body from constipation and kidney problems. They can also help in the management of diabetes,” says Mpiima.
How to eat
Aim to have something uncooked or raw at every meal. For example, have plenty of fruit for breakfast, nuts and more fruit as snacks, and then raw vegetables, avocado and seeds with your lunch and dinner.
Try to have some meals without any cooked food. For example, you could have only fruit for breakfast and a raw vegetable salad for dinner. Try to make and drink vegetable juices and smoothies. This allows you to increase your intake of raw vegetables.
Some vegetables such as spinach and broccoli may be hard to eat uncooked but are much easier to consume in juice form. Adding a fruit helps to make the juice more palatable.
The ratio of vegetables to fruit should be 4:1 or 3:1.
The main concern with raw vegetables is possible bacterial contamination, which can lead to food poisoning. Cooking foods at high temperatures kills bacteria; skip the cooking, and you do not get the same protection. Nutritionists recommend reducing your risk of bacterial infection by choosing unbruised vegetables, keeping them separate from meat, poultry and seafood, washing them well and storing refrigerated items at temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.