Food / Health / Wellbeing

Raw food with nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill

In an era in which it feels like a dozen new diets enter the zeitgeist each week, it’s important to consider what’s right for you. The raw food diet is definitely not for the faint-hearted, nor is it by any means suited to everyone’s digestion, endocrine system or stage of life. In a nutshell, the raw diet eliminates all animal-based products (meat, dairy, fish etc.) as well as cooked food. The diet is focused on raw fruits, nuts, vegetables, uncooked grains, sprouts and oils, consumed as close as possible to their natural state. Many consider this way of eating very similar to that of our ancestors and a means to help avoid chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Sounds very appealing right? Just hold tight and chew on these points a little further …

The consistent stress from the fast-paced lives we live now
has a powerful effect on the way we digest food.

Our cavemen ancestors, evidently, lived in a very different time. As we evolved we had less time to simply sit and graze on food, and discovered cooking some foods would aid the release of energy, lessen the burden on the digestive system and make energy more available to the brain.

In the here and now, raw food isn’t great for everyone’s digestive health. Some may be fine, and others suffer bloating, flatulence, cramping and poor elimination. Just as our brains have evolved, so have our digestive systems. The consistent stress from the fast-paced lives we live now has a powerful effect on the way we digest food. If we are consistently under stress, our bodies find it incredibly hard to break down food with ease and gain the nutrients they need. Add raw food to this equation and there’s a chance we are increasing stress on our bodies, because they have to work harder to break down foods in their raw form.

In clinical practice I have seen profound benefits from shifting away from a diet high in raw food and moving toward lightly cooked (steamed, sautéed) ingredients. This can be done on a 50:50 basis or even an 80:20 raw to cooked ratio. What’s most important is finding your personal balance.

If you love raw food and don’t suffer any issues with digestion, energy or an imbalance of hormones, perhaps it’s ok for you. However, if you find yourself at times under increasing stress and are eating a predominantly raw diet, then tune into your body and act on the signs it gives you.