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Negative Side Effects of a Raw Foods Diet

By Kelli Cooper ; Updated July 18, 2017

Raw food diets consist of foods never cooked above 118 degrees F. The diet primarily consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts, though different versions exist. Proponents of this diet claim foods cooked beyond this temperature lose the enzymes necessary for healthy digestion as well as important vitamins and minerals; they also purport it makes foods too acidic, which has been targeted as a major cause of health problems in the alternative medical community. While this diet consists of many healthful foods, it also cuts out a lot and you will require careful planning to ensure adequate intake of necessary nutrients. Typically, conventional medical wisdom does not advocate any sort of diet that restricts so many different types of foods completely.

Variations of Raw Food Diet

Many different types of raw food diets exist in terms of what foods you can eat. Most are vegan – completely devoid of any animal products, while others might allow for dairy products, eggs or even fish or meat, typically consumed raw. The more restrictive the diet, the greater risk you have of nutritional deficiency.

Heart Health

An article regarding raw food diets, published in the October 2005 issue of the “American Society for Nutritional Sciences,” noted a German study that gathered data on subjects whose diets consisted of at least 70 percent raw foods – primarily fruits and vegetables. Researchers wanted to examine its effects on heart health. They found this diet had a positive effect on levels of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, but it appeared to raise levels of homocysteine – a type of amino acid believed to increase your risk of heart disease – and lower levels of the “good” cholesterol that protects the heart. The article also noted a meta-analysis of studies which found a vegan diet – the primary type of raw food diet – increased death rates from heart disease compared to a vegetarian diet that included dairy and eggs.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 plays many important roles in the body including promoting neurological health and producing red blood cells, which help transport oxygen throughout your body. You will only find B12 in animal products. Many claim you can find B12 in certain plant sources like sea vegetables, but this is not biologically active B12 that your body can use,explains Dr. William Sears. This deficiency is common in those who eat little or no animal foods and the German study found a majority of participants were either deficient or borderline deficient in this vital nutrient. If you consume a vegan raw food diet, you must use a B12 supplement.

Other Deficiencies

While you can find iron in a variety of plant foods, your body does not absorb this form as readily as the type found in animal foods. Lack of iron could lead to anemia, fatigue and impaired cognitive function. Eating iron-rich plant foods with vitamin C will increase absorption. Some plant foods rich in iron include pumpkin seeds, beans, dried fruits, molasses and prune juice. If you do not include dairy products in your raw food diet, make sure to eat calcium-rich raw foods like legumes, nuts, seeds and leafy greens to ensure bone health. You might also consider using supplements.

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