How to get the most from a raw food diet


Cutting down on cooking can be a tasty way to better health and a happier planet – but it needs a bit of thought. 

When planning our meals, the first thought is often what to cook. And, if you are going to heat your food, here are a few tips to make it more eco-friendly.

But some of the foods we spend time and energy heating up are just as good – and sometimes better – in the raw.

So, as International Raw Food Day shines a spotlight on the subject, we sat down with leading nutritionist, naturopath and co-founder of wellness and self-care company ARDERE,  Lauren Windas, to discover how to get the very best from food in its natural state.

Hi Lauren and thanks for chatting to us. First, can you define exactly what a raw food diet looks like?

Yes, of course. A strict raw food diet is where your entire diet is raw and unprocessed. Foods are considered raw when they haven’t been heated above 48C, aren’t refined, pasteurised and haven’t involved pesticides. Of course, it is possible to increase the amount of raw food you eat without going this far.

Why do you think raw food-led diets are on the rise?

People are more conscious than ever about what they put into their bodies and there’s more awareness about how we can take a preventative approach to health when it comes to food.

Why can some raw food be better for you?

When you cook some foods you can lose some of the nutrients, such as the water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C, along with beneficial enzymes which help digestion and can fight chronic disease. Also cooking some food at high temperature can produce chemical compounds which are linked with chronic diseases such as cancer.

What are the health benefits?

Some people switch to a raw food diet because they believe it will give them clearer skin or more energy. While there’s little clinical evidence to substantiate that, a raw food diet mostly aligns with a plant-based diet, full of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds which are ultimately health promoting.

Are some foods better for you when cooked?

Yes, cooking can help boost some nutrients. For example, cooking potatoes releases a fibre that is beneficial to the digestive system and general health. Cooking tomatoes releases more of a red pigment called lycopene, a high intake of which is associated with a lower risk of cancer and heart attacks.

What should you include in a raw food diet?

You need to include foods that provide a plethora of micronutrients – vitamins and minerals – and that support your body’s physiological processes. Here are some of the main foods you should go for:

• Vegetables – especially the likes of spinach, rocket, watercress and bell peppers.

• Fruits – top of my list would be blueberries, bananas, apples and avocado.

• Nuts and seeds – such as almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, sunflower and pumpkin        seeds.

• Sprouted grains and legumes – aim for brown rice, buckwheat, oats, chickpeas, lentils

• Fermented foods – I’m talking things like kimchi and sauerkraut.

• Seaweed.

What should you not eat raw?

Cooking some foods protects us from pathogens and can help us digest some foods better, allowing us to absorb more nutrients. Some foods you should avoid raw are kidney beans, potatoes and aubergine which all contain toxins when raw, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli which are difficult to digest when uncooked.

Who should avoid a raw food diet?

Children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with certain conditions should be wary of a raw food diet and check with their GPs before trying it.

At ZENB we like to celebrate the planet, so is it more eco to eat raw?

Absolutely. Because raw foods aren’t refined or ‘processed’ you’re skipping huge parts of the food production chain, using less energy, and reducing your carbon footprint. Even if you use a dehydrator, it is more energy efficient than an oven!

And can it save you time and effort?

In some ways, yes. For example, there are many versatile salad dishes, full of nourishing ingredients that can be made in minutes. We have some fabulous raw salad recipes on Dinner can be more time-consuming because it can take time and effort to prep and make your meals interesting and versatile.

Do you think it’s about balance, increasing raw food in your diet, but also healthy cooking?

Completely. A raw food diet does crowd a lot of goodness in, but in its strictest form it isn’t sustainable. Cooking makes some foods more digestible, while just eating raw can be very limiting and it’s difficult to get some important nutrients like protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B12. More raw food will naturally increase the amount of healthy fresh fruit, veg, nuts and seeds in your diet. But cook healthy food in a healthy way too. It is a balance. Food should nourish us, but it’s also there to be enjoyed.

Thanks Lauren, It’s been a pleasure. 

Yours in wellness.

If you’d like to find out more about Lauren’s quest to increase the wellness of us all, check out her website and follow her on Instagram.

To discover some unusual foods you may not have realised you can eat raw but are super healthy, stay tuned!