Most people don't think of cooking their food as a bad thing. Chances are, you love baked potatoes, green bean casserole, glazed cooked carrots and much more. Sure, you're game for the occasional salad and veggie tray with dip, but the thought of switching to a raw foods-only diet sounds pretty radical. What would you eat, exactly? Would your diet be balanced? Would you be getting proper nutrition?
Well, according to Cherie Soria and Dan Ladermann, it might be worth your while to think outside the box (or the skillet), offering a lot of compelling reasons to go raw.
"All raw foodists have personal stories about how raw foods helped them lose weight, heal, gain more energy or mental clarity, look better, feel better, or achieve some other benefit or goal," said Soria, coauthor along with Ladermann of "Raw Food for Dummies."
"This diet has even attracted celebrities including Demi Moore, Sting, Madonna and Woody Harrelson."
If you're totally unfamiliar with the raw food lifestyle, it essentially means that you eat fresh, nutrient-rich plant foods that have not been heat processed. When foods are cooked, many of their nutrients are lost.
"You can go totally raw if you'd like, or you can simply incorporate more raw foods into your existing meal plan to experience the benefits," explained Ladermann.
Here are 10 reasons why raw might be the way to go:
* Looking and feeling better. Most people report improved health and general well-being within weeks of switching to a raw food lifestyle. The nutrient-rich raw diet is high in antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats (such as omega-3 fatty acids), so it maximizes health and vitality.
"Raw foods are available in abundant variety and present delicious food choices, especially compared to diets that focus on calorie restriction and deprivation," pointed out Soria.
"Temporary diets are often very unhealthy and doomed to failure because people cannot maintain the regimen as a lifestyle. However, the raw diet is abundant with fresh produce as well as nuts, seeds, grains and legumes."
* Reducing health risks and healing from disease. The facts are indisputable: A raw plant-based diet leads to lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and obesity.
"As opposed to people who eat other types of vegetarian diets (including lacto, lacto-ovo, and even cooked vegan), people who eat a raw vegan diet are less prone to obesity, coronary disease, high blood pressure, cancer and type 2 diabetes," shared Ladermann.
* Avoiding premature aging and promoting longevity. Many raw foodists look 20 years younger than people of the same age who eat cooked foods. This youthfulness is due in part to the nutrient density of raw foods, which are rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients and vitamins that protect the body from free radicals, which attack healthy cells.
"People who are well nourished tend to feel good and maintain a healthy body weight well into their golden years," confirmed Soria.
*Achieving an ideal body weight. Many people believe that the body continues to feel hungry until nutrient needs are satisfied. Therefore, even if you eat enough calories to fuel your body, you're still hungry -- for nutrients. In this situation, your metabolism slows down, you stop burning fat, and you crave more food.
"The fast-food industry is in business to provide people with lots of opportunities to eat sugary and fatty foods, and many people are addicted to these foods," said Ladermann. "But with a raw plant-based diet, you can eat all you want of fresh, ripe and raw foods without worrying about counting calories. After eating a mostly raw diet for a few weeks, your body begins to naturally regulate how much food you need by turning off its hunger-response mechanism when you have had enough."
* Increasing energy, vitality and stamina. When the human body is well nourished, it's healthy and active, and has an abundance of vitality. Fats, especially heat-processed oils, slow you down because they require long periods of digestion, which steals energy from your body. Light foods, such as fruits and vegetables, digest easily and leave you with energy for activity.
"Also, less sleep is required when you eat foods that are fresh and light. When you consume heavy, cooked foods, especially in the evenings, several hours of sleep time are spent digesting food rather than moving you to the deep sleep zone that's required to reach beta levels and the dream state," explained Soria. "Raw foodists often report that they sleep one to three hours less and still have more energy than when they ate mostly cooked foods."
*Enhancing memory and mental clarity. Your brain needs nourishment, and whole, ripe, raw organic plant foods provide the power you need for strong mental acuity. The essential fats that the brain needs, such as omega-3 fatty acids, are in leafy greens, flaxseed, chia, hemp and walnuts as well as many other raw plant foods. The human brain also needs plenty of water, magnesium and organic sodium; whole raw foods offer an abundance of these nutrients.
"When nutrient- and water-deficient foods (including pasta, pizza and other fare that's laden with hydrogenated, saturated and cooked fats and salt) are replaced with nutrient-dense whole plant foods and healthy fats, brain function improves," asserted Ladermann.
* Reducing colds, flus and allergies. Most raw foodists find that their diet reduces or even eliminates their respiratory problems, colds, flus and allergies. A raw diet is especially great for people who are intolerant of dairy, wheat and soy because raw foods have virtually no hidden ingredients.
"Apples and carrots, for instance, are dairy- and lactose-free, wheat- and grain-free, soy-free, egg-free and even corn-free," said Soria. "Yes, it's a 'duh'-type statement, but you have to admit that a raw diet would eliminate a lot of allergy-related worries."
* Forgetting about cleaning dirty pots and pans. Hallelujah! A raw diet frees you from cooking! And raw food preparation is (for the most part) quick and easy with meals that are a breeze to clean up. No greasy stoves, hot ovens or fryers.
"Of course, any gourmet food takes time to prepare -- raw foods included," clarified Ladermann. "But you can make satisfying raw meals without a lot of fuss. A knife and a blender are all that's required to whip up smoothies, soups, sauces and even desserts in a flash. And if you spend just one day a week making foods for the pantry and fridge, you can ensure that food prep is quick and easy for the rest of the week."
* Demonstrating kindness to animals. Although some raw foodists do consume small amounts of meat and fish, Soria and Ladermann recommend following a raw vegan diet, which includes only plant foods. When all of your recipes are vegan, no animal suffering is involved.
"The animal husbandry industries can be quite cruel to animals," reminded Soria. "Chickens, cows, lambs, sheep, pigs, rabbits and other sentient beings that are used for food feel pain and fear, just as we do. These creatures become ill without proper living conditions, and the fact is, we're healthier when we don't eat meat, so why do it?"
* Protecting the environment. A raw lifestyle supports sustainable farming, creation of healthy topsoil, protection of watersheds and reduction of your carbon footprint. A vegan diet also protects natural resources by not contributing to the deforestation that's inherent in the meat industry.
"Moreover, raw food, when purchased in its natural state, contains little to no packaging; it's packaged by nature," points out Ladermann. "Cooked and processed foods in cans, plastic containers and plastic-coated boxes add to the volume of hazardous waste."
"Hopefully, any reluctance you may have felt to try raw foods is abating," concluded Soria. "After all, who doesn't want to improve his or her health, appearance, mental clarity and much more ... while being friendlier to the environment in the process?"
"So many people are looking for a magic bullet that will help them look, feel and be better," Ladermann adds. "Well, the raw food diet might just be it."