Eating a diet high in raw foods comes with quite a few benefits. Though we never suggest going fully raw, we do recommend incorporating several servings of raw foods into your day. If you’re used to eating almost exclusively cooked foods, don’t worry! You can learn how to start a raw diet so that you make the transition without shocking your taste buds, and you’ll actually enjoy the journey.
Benefits of Raw Foods
So why eat mostly raw foods?
Digestive Enzymes, Vitamins, and Minerals
Think of food like a world traveler. When it’s raw, it’s taking its little suitcase full of everything it needs on the trip. What’s in the suitcase? Helpful digestive enzymes that help your body break down and process that food. When it’s cooked (in many cases, but not all), it’s like its luggage got lost on the trip and it has to borrow almost everything it needs. Once it hits your digestive system, it’s got to borrow the enzymes from you. You can also take digestive enzymes before meals with cooked foods to help with the process.
Similarly, some vitamins and minerals are lost when certain foods are cooked. Not only does that mean we’re getting less from the foods we eat, that means we want to eat more and more because our bodies are still asking for those nutrients despite the fact that we just ate a good meal. A study showed that vegetables lost about 25% of their minerals when cooked compared to raw. Vitamin C is also destroyed by heat.
Granted, this isn’t always the case (and that’s one reason we don’t suggest a 100% raw diet). For example, the lycopene in tomatoes is increased and more easily utilized when cooking is involved. A study in The British Journal of Nutrition showed that subjects on an all-raw diet had normal levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene, but they were low in lycopene.
It Tastes Good
The raw food diet celebrates all the nuanced flavors of foods, so don’t worry about everything being bland or boring. Once you start to notice how all the fresh flavors come forth, you’ll realize it’s easier to adopt a mostly raw food diet than you may be thinking right now. There are even comfort food substitutes, including sweets (we’ll talk about those in a minute)!
Ease of Preparation and Portability
A mostly raw food diet can take a lot less time than diets primarily made up of cooked foods, and they can be so much easier to manage.
Just cut up ingredients and mix: You won’t be dedicating much time slaving over a hot stove when you’re enjoying a mostly raw diet. You’ll be cutting up your ingredients and mixing sauces or dressings, but you may feel like your schedule’s opened up quite a bit when you start to make the transition.
Never worry about how to reheat at work or on the go: If you hate worrying about what you’ll eat for a snack on the go or lunch at work, a mostly raw diet removes some of the issues. Once you’ve mastered a few recipes you love, you can take them with you without any worries of reheating.
Not Everything You Eat on a Mostly Raw Food Diet Will Be Cold
Some foods are better for you when they’re cooked because the heating process makes the nutrients more readily available, so we’re not suggesting you go raw 100% of the time. You can also warm food (steaming, for example) without officially “cooking” it, or taking it out of the raw food category. As long as you’re not cooking food past 114 degrees, the enzymes and nutrients still remain intact.
Make a Gradual Transition
The first thing to remember when you’re learning how to start a raw diet is to make this a gradual change. Don’t try to do it overnight, for a few reasons:
- Drastic change is harder to stick with. These changes and their benefits are exciting, but trust us on this one if you want to make a lifestyle change, not a temporary one.
- Too much raw food at once may be too detoxifying for your body, so you may not feel so great if you do too much, too fast. The switch in diet will kick up the toxins stored in your body. This is why it’s important to go slowly and cleanse as you make these changes. Pace yourself!
- Experimenting with new raw recipes each day or a couple of times per week keeps it fun and interesting long enough to create a habit. If you try to learn, make, and try every raw recipe that looks good over the course of a couple of days, you may burn out and return to old habits. Keep it fresh, pun intended.
So how do you tiptoe into a new, mostly raw diet?
- Continue to eat cooked dinners if that’s what you’re used to. Make healthier substitutions where necessary, like quinoa or brown rice instead of white rice, less meat (high quality), and using coconut oil or vegetable broth instead of butter or olive oil to cook vegetables.
- Eat something raw—salad, celery sticks, Glowing Green Smoothie, Probiotic & Enzyme Salad, etc—before you eat any cooked foods, regardless of the meal time. This not only introduces extra digestive enzymes to your system right off the bat, these raw foods will digest more easily than the cooked foods. By eating the foods that are quick to digest first, you’re avoiding creating a road block that causes digestive issues, like bloating, gas, plus the fatigue overall discomfort that come with digestion difficulties.
- Start eating salads at lunch. If you’re craving something cooked and you’re at home, try putting cooked vegetables on top of your green salad. Or you could pair the salad with a vegetable soup.
- Take a look at what you’ve been snacking on. For snacks you munch on early in the day, you may be able to swap fresh fruit or a green smoothie for whatever you’ve been eating. For snacks you typically eat later in the day, you may be able to enjoy a chia seed pudding, a smoothie (can be heavier than the morning smoothie, with avocado, protein powder, seeds, etc), or even a quick salad made up of tomatoes and avocado slices.
Comfort Food Substitutes
All these tips may sound great—until you start craving mashed potatoes, sweets, and other comfort foods. There’s a raw solution for that, too!
So what if you’re craving mashed potatoes?
You can make raw mashed “potatoes” with cauliflower, a little olive oil, some garlic, and a pinch of salt. Try our recipe. Let us know what you think!
Want something crunchy and maybe a little bit salty?
Chop some peppers into slices, grab some carrots, and enjoy dipping them in some chickpea-less hummus. The tahini will make it a little salty, plus you can add high-quality sea salt to scratch that itch for something salty without caving in and going for the chips. You’ll get that crunch you’re craving from the veggies.
Sometimes, nothing will do but a Italian food.
If you’ve fallen victim to an Italian food craving more than once, you’ll love the JMP Raw Lasagna. It won’t leave you feeling heavy the way all those noodles and cheese in the real thing would, but it’s delicious.
And what about sweets?
Even raw sweets made from healthy ingredients should be eaten in moderation, but when you’re going to give in to your sweet tooth no matter what, you’ve got to have a few quick fixes in mind. A girl’s gotta be prepared! Here are some of our favorites:
- Dairy-free options for ice cream, including banana fro-yo, coconut milk ice cream, hempseed ice cream, and fruit sorbet.
- Raw Cacao Truffles, which are fantastic if you’re craving chocolate and don’t exactly want to go straight for the organic dark chocolate bar (sometimes that’s just not the texture you want!).
- Thyroid-Boosting Macaroons, which coconut lovers will adore.
- The Serengeti Smoothie, which was featured on The Queen Latifah Show, is also good when you want something sweet.
The more you transition into a healthier diet with more raw foods, the fewer cravings you’ll have to resist or find raw/healthy solutions for. Your body will naturally begin to want more of the good stuff. Just remember, baby steps are a must when you want to know how to start a raw diet. Which baby steps you choose to take first don’t really matter as long as you continue to progress.