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What is a raw foods diet and are there any risks or benefits associated with it?

      Raw foods diets are not new. They have been around since the mid-19th century when Sylvester Graham promoted the idea that people would never become ill if they only consumed uncooked foods (
      • Craig W.J.
      Going raw A new trend.
      ). Recently, raw foods diets have become fashionable, as celebrities and high-profile chefs have begun to embrace them, restaurants catering to the raw foods diet trend have opened, and numerous raw foods cookbooks have been published. While there is no exact definition of a raw foods diet and many variations exist, it is usually described as an uncooked vegan diet (

      Havala Hobbs S. Review of the literature on raw foods diets. Available at: http://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2002issue4/rawfoodsdiet.htm. Accessed June 7, 2004.

      ). Typically, fruits, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains and beans are eaten in their raw state, with actual raw food consumption ranging from 50% to 100% of intake (
      • Messina V.
      • Mangels A.R.
      • Messina M.J.
      ). The only “cooking” that is allowed is via a food dehydrator. This device blows hot air through the food, which concentrates flavors and adds a crispy exterior to some foods (
      • Craig W.J.
      Going raw A new trend.
      ). Foods are not allowed to reach a temperature above 118°F, but even exposure to this relatively low temperature increases the risk of harmful bacterial growth that can lead to food-borne illness. Raw foods diet proponents, however, claim that this temperature keeps enzymes intact and leads to better digestion. The problem with this theory is that the body already makes the enzymes needed to digest and absorb foods, and the enzymes in food are inactivated by the acidity of the stomach.
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      References

        • Craig W.J.
        Going raw.
        Vegetarian Nutrition Update. 2004; 12: 5-6
      1. Havala Hobbs S. Review of the literature on raw foods diets. Available at: http://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2002issue4/rawfoodsdiet.htm. Accessed June 7, 2004.

        • Messina V.
        • Mangels A.R.
        • Messina M.J.
        The Dietitianʼs Guide to Vegetarian Diets. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Boston, MA2004
      2. The Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian diets. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/Public/GovernmentAffairs/92_17084.cfm. Accessed June 8, 2004.