Diabetes Self-Management Blog

After writing about organic foods for the past two weeks, I decided to follow up with a somewhat related topic: the raw food diet. You may or may not be familiar with this type of eating plan. Perhaps you’ve come across it and wondered what it was all about. Maybe you’ve even wondered if it’s something you should try.

It All Started in Switzerland…
The raw food diet originated with a Swiss physician named Maximilian Bircher-Benner in the 1800’s. You can thank him for “inventing” muesli, by the way. Dr. Bircher-Benner ran a sanatorium in Zurich and believed that a diet of raw fruits and vegetables, as opposed to meat and potatoes, was the means for healing his patients. Apparently, the good doctor cured his jaundice by eating raw apples.

What’s It All About?
As the name implies, a raw food diet (also called raw foodism and rawism) means that one eats plant foods in their raw, or natural, state. So far, so good. But here’s what it “boils” down to:

• No cooking
• No microwaving
• No processing
• No irradiating
• No genetically engineering
• No using pesticides or herbicides

Raw foodism proponents believe that heating or processing foods destroys much of the nutritional benefits, such as vitamins, phytonutrients, and enzymes. The uncooked, unprocessed forms of foods are supposed to be more wholesome for the body.

What Does One Eat on a Raw Food Diet?
In theory, a raw food follower would eat nothing cooked or processed, and essentially be a vegan (someone who does not eat any animal products). The reality, though, is that most raw foodies don’t follow the plan 100% of the time, because a) it’s hard and b) it takes a lot of time to prepare food.

You don’t need a stove or oven if you’re a raw foodist because your foods are not to be heated above 115–118°F. But what you’d likely need to invest in is a food dehydrator, which makes your veggies crunchy and churns out plenty of fruit “leathers.”

Here’s a listing of what you might eat on a raw food diet: fruits, vegetables, juices, nuts, seeds, sprouts, raw almond butter, seaweed, grains, beans (yep, eaten raw), olive oil, virgin coconut oil, coconut butter, and herbal tea. If you’re not a vegan raw foodist, your diet might also include raw (unpasteurized) milk and cheese, raw eggs, raw fish, and even some raw meat. If you crave something sweet, you might make “cookies” with raw nuts, oats, carob chips, and maple syrup (instead of baking them in the oven, you’ll freeze them).

And here’s what you won’t be eating: refined sugar and flour, processed salt, caffeine, pasteurized milk, pasta, baked goods, conventional ice cream, most snack foods, soda, most juices, and most alcoholic beverages. Also, say goodbye to frequent dining out unless you happen upon a raw food restaurant or decide to scour the menu for something acceptable.

Here’s what you’ll do with much of your time in terms of preparing your food: dehydrating, juicing, blending, chopping, and sprouting. If you decide to make dehydrated kale chips, for example, plan ahead because that can take a few hours.

Benefits of a Raw Food Diet
If you’ve read this far, you might be thinking that a raw food diet actually seems rather healthy. And in many senses, it is, despite the time and effort you need to put into it. Unfortunately, there isn’t much scientific research or evidence to back up its claims. The handful of studies thus far have been rather small, in terms of subject size. But here’s what the literature says, in terms of benefits:

• A raw food diet can likely help you lose weight. In one study, people on a raw food diet lost 9% of their body weight over three months, which is nothing to sneeze at. Two other studies have shown significant decreases in BMI (body-mass index) and body fat.

• Another study found that out of about 200 people on a raw food diet, most had low triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which theoretically means a lower risk of heart disease.

• No studies have looked people with diabetes who follow a raw food diet, but it’s likely that, with a decrease in body weight, blood glucose and A1C levels would drop, as well, thereby improving glycemic control.

It’s not hard to argue the merits of a raw food diet. A raw foodie consumes plenty of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber (more so than the average American) while consuming fewer calories, fat, saturated fat, and, of course, additives, pesticides, etc.

Is There a Downside?
Following a raw food diet doesn’t necessarily come without a price, however (be prepared for a higher grocery bill, for one thing). For example, one study showed a decrease in bone mass and bone mineral density. Depending on one’s food choices, a raw food diet can be low in iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Not all foods are best eaten raw, either: Cooking tomatoes and eggs helps the body absorb their nutrients more efficiently. And some vegetables are potentially toxic when eaten raw, like potatoes, rhubarb, and cassava. Finally, nonvegan raw foodists who consume raw milk, raw fish, and/or raw meat are at risk for potentially serious food-borne illness.

If a raw food diet sounds appealing to you, talk it over first with your health-care provider and especially your dietitian. Your team can work with you to make sure that this way of eating meshes with the rest of your diabetes treatment plan. If you’re interested in learning more about foods that you can eat on a raw food diet, check out this Web site.

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Comments
  1. We invented fire 200,000 years ago for partly for cooking purposes.

    Posted by calgarydiabetic |
  2. I’m not so sure raw vs. cooked matters as much as amount of carbs. Like giving the example of eating a raw potato. Might as well eat a giant lump of raw sugar.

    Posted by Joe |
  3. I wouldn’t give up coffee and I have read that is good for diabetics. Sorry, this is not for me for more than one reason.

    Posted by Ferne |
  4. I Enjoyed this article very much. I have been a type 2 diabetic since 1994 and have had unfavorable control over the years. My weight bloomed to 240lb and my A1c Grew with it. About 1 ½ yrs ago I started dieting and lost down to 189 lb. My A1c dropped to 7.1 but I was still taking meds for triglycerides, cholesterol. Gemfibrozil and a statin both max doses. My blood pressure was borderline high and I was on meds for it too. I was taking 28 units of Lantus a day and 2000 Mg of Metformin.
    Then, in Nov 2012, I started on a holistic diet called the acid/ alkaline diet which was supposed to help my diabetes and help my wife battle her newly diagnosed lung cancer.
    It is a diet similar to what you describe in your article except that we can cook our foods from fresh produce and eat limited meats. The object of this diet is to try to alkalize our body to ward off health problems such as my diabetes and cancer among other health problems.
    We do eat mostly fresh raw veggies and fruits along with Almonds and seeds like sunflower seeds. We eat VERY limited processed grains, no flours, etc. We eat no artificial sweeteners except Stevia and no processed sugars in or on our foods, Only Raw sugar or unsulphered molasses and Only natural juices or fruits with no added sugars. Meats make up just a small portion of our foods and there are NO processed meats like bacon, sausage, lunch meats Etc. Very limited dairy products and only almond milk! Meats, processed grains are in the 20% of our intake!
    Our goal is to eat 80% of our intake from foods listed as alkalizing and 20% from acidic forming foods. We have charts listing foods as acidic or alkalizing to go by. We check our urine Ph every Am to check and see if our body had to get rid of acids via our urine, If so we tighten up on our foods Our goal is to have a urine of 7.2 or better every morning! This means our body managed to get rid of any acidic foods we ate without using essential vitamins and minerals to alkalize our blood!
    Since going on this diet I have lost weight and now am maintaining at 164 lbs. I have stopped my blood pressure meds as my blood pressure is at 90/67 and have cut my statins completely and my gemfibrozil in ½. If my cholesterol says at 145 and my triglycerides at 50 I will quit the gemfibrozil after the next checkup.
    My A1C dropped to 6.3 even though I am down to 6 units of Lantus and 1000Mg of Metformin @ day. I have not had a blood glucose check over normal (110 pre meal and 145 post meal) for 2 months now. My insulin resistance is less every day now and my Doctor of internal med cannot believe the turnaround in my health!
    Most of our veggies and ALL out fruits are uncooked but we will cook some veggies but as you said, on low heat. Our salt intake is under complete control with this diet and we use (again as you said) only unprocessed sea salt which gives such good control on our blood pressure.
    Oh, and on my complete blood profile on my last checkup everything was good for the first time ever, nothing too high or too low. As I said my doc was amazed.
    I am sold on this diet!!! Diabetic nutritionist need to look at this diet for real!!!!
    Feel free to email me if interested. I plan on beiing cured someday hopefully soon!!

    Posted by Dan Kashefska |
  5. AMY;I commented once on this article and need to respond again. I believe that carbs are emphasised too much by diabetics. I am mostly on the diet in this article and we do not count our carbs. In fact I have a smoothie with fresh fruit that usually contains 60+ carbs post dinner and never have a high glucose reading. I use this smoothie to balance out my carb-protein-fat ratio to the AMA 50/20/30 ratio. I do this by adding whey protein and/or almond butter to attain this and the added fat and protein keeps the glucose more level. 2nd. Cooking foods at too high a temp destroys the nutritional values of the foods. The water you throw out contains sometimes more of the nutrition than the part u eat! The water you boil the potato in has most of the good part of the nutrition and just leaves the carbs for the most part.

    Posted by Dan kashefska |
  6. Thanks but no thanks I will enjoy a steak every now and then. I already have given up some things I love like moon pies, honey buns, cakes and pies. I do enjoy eating veggies raw at times……..

    Posted by PAT |
  7. Depending on the type of lifestyle and results desired, raw food diets may include a selection of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds (including sprouted whole grains such as gaba rice), eggs, fish (such as sashimi), meat (such as carpaccio), and non-pasteurized/non-homogenized dairy products (such as raw milk, raw milk cheese, and raw milk yogurt).
    Raw foodism can include any diet of primarily unheated food, or food cooked to a temperature less than 40 °C (104 °F) to 46 °C (115 °F). The most popular[citation needed] raw food diet is a vegan diet, but other forms may include animal products and/or meat. Raw foodists can be divided between those that advocate raw veganism or vegetarianism, those that advocate a raw omnivorous diet, and those that advocate a 100% raw carnivorous diet.
    http://www.hnfi.org/media-in-touch.aspx

    Posted by Azzi |
  8. I started a 95% raw food diet for four weeks. The first week was hell of detoxing with headaches, dizziness, and nauseau. I have been on it for four weeks now. I take supplements and drink Almond Milk and eat fermented foods to boost gut flora.

    I am prediabetic and have asthma and allergies to cats and grass. I also have bipolar disorder. I started this diet because I saw testimonials on youtube that it elminated mental illness symptoms - 80/10/10 raw food diet. I thought i’d try it to lose weight and stabilize more.

    After four weeks on this diet, I lost 36 pounds. I also went to someone’s house who owned a cat because I tutor teenagers, and I noticed that my nose wasn’t stuffed up around the cat.

    Normally, I tell this teenager to take the cat out of the room and not to turn on the ceiling fan because the dander and hair will fly around and I will have a stuffed nose, itchy eyes, and feel congested through my sinuses.

    After noticing I had no reaction with the cat in the room, I took a risk and pet the cat and rubbed that hand all over my nose. My sinuses were clear. I did it again and no allergic reaction. I picked up the cat and put my face on the top of the cat’s head and breathed it in and out several times and still no allergic reaction.

    I am completely stunned! If this diet has boosted my immune system to that degree that it can eliminate allergies, I am going to pursue it whether it gets rid of diabetes or not because a strong immune system can prevent a huge amount of diseases.

    Posted by Liz |
  9. I forgot to mention that i have no more anger problems with the bipolar disorder and my relationship with my husband is way better now. That was not even by eating raw. That was just by first introducing raw organic veggie green juices to my diet. I juice, purple cabbage, kale, collards, parsely, cilantro, carrots, cucumber, spinach, and ginger. I’ve since added burdock root, which is supposed to clean the liver and diabetics and overweight people have fatty livers. I also eat raw sunchokes, which are roots that i bought at Wholefoods. They are supposed to lower blood sugar levels and you just need to eat one a day. After a month, you will notice a difference in blood sugar - it is supposed to be significant. Also, the sunchoke strengthens the pancreas. I also found out that you can grow your own. Buy one and plant it in a 5 gallon pot or container outside. They grow like weeds and one sunchoke will give you like 25 bulbs. Do not plant in your garden because they will spread like weeds and you won’t be able to get rid of this plant. They taste great.

    Posted by Liz |
  10. I haven’t finished reading yet, but I wanted to point out that there is a mistake right at the beginning of this article. Vegans are people who do not use ANY animal product. That includes clothing and every thing else a person uses in there daily life.
    There are several types of vegetarians, and some one who practices raw foodism can be either a vegetarian who doesn’t eat eggs, dairy or fish; or they can be a vegan.

    Posted by Jade |
  11. Some other thoughts on a raw diet:
    You don’t have to be 100% raw. You can, for example go 70% if you would like.
    Check with the FDA website. They tell you whether a food looses nutrients with cooking. A standard store bought agaricus mushroom for instance, retains 98% of its nutrients while cooking. They can also tell you which foods are poisonous if eaten raw.
    If you are involved enough, you can obtain all of the nutrients you need, consume all of the type of proteins needed and you can take vitamins just like many other people- raw or not.
    Over all, the hardest part is changing your lifestyle- that is what it takes to change your diet.

    Posted by Jade |
  12. Thanks, Jade. Actually, what you pointed out is not necessarily a mistake. Most, but not all, vegans avoid the use of all animal products.

    Posted by acampbell |
  13. I for one as a type 2 have no passion for all raw food.

    I have had enough of giardia, ameoba, bacterial pests.

    many items live in super strong casings that only stomach acid can digest and release.

    Washing, amonia, clorine leave those pests untouched.

    Here as a diabetic type 2; I find my intestines due to diabetes have a more appealing environment to the pests and more fun getting rid off.

    Sub micron filters and cooking strongly are all that get rid of some pests. So they add chlorine/ammonia bfd - the pests are left to make you ill. Studies on washing foods and vegetables are equally dismal and ineffective.

    I am told Giardia can survive hot coffee no sweat. It takes multi-minutes of rolling boil to nail that crap.

    Raw foods - not for me. I sm told the early chinese immigrants to America were always more healthy from drinking tea from boiled water and cooking their food.

    Posted by jim snell |

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