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Are you looking to get back to basics when it comes to eating? This diet is about as basic as you can get, focusing on the base nutrients of the food we consume. There are some benefits but also some shortcomings, so it is best to know all about it before you think about diving in.

The Raw Food diet consists mainly of fruits and vegetables and stresses the importance of cooking (or not cooking) them at the right temperature. The suggested temperature range for cooking any food  is 104 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit but this can vary a bit depending upon different views within the diet. What is most important is that you focus on maintaining the most amount of nutrients you can in the food you eat. According to the raw food movement, cooking our food is thought to break down the enzymes that give the food its powerful nutrient punch. If we don’t get enough of these enzymes then our body has to work harder to consume food and derive energy from that food. This is thought to lead to digestive problems, nutrient deficiency, accelerated aging and weight gain.

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You can cook your food (as long as it stays below 118 degrees of course) with the help of a dehydrator. Other methods of food preparation are blending, fermenting, pickling, juicing and sprouting. These can be time consuming though so make sure you have at least a day a week to dedicate to food preparation. Many raw foodists are vegan or vegetarian but again, there is some variation within the diet so research which route would be best for you and your family.

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According to WebMD those who maintained a raw food diet had healthy levels of vitamin A and dietary carotenoids which can protect against chronic disease and promote slow aging. Also, because of the high dependence upon fruits and vegetables, people who begin this diet are likely to notice significant weight loss. Critics argue that there are key nutrient staples that are missed when you don’t consume enough animal products. Raw foodists were found to have B12 deficiency which is necessary for nerve and red blood cell development. This can lead to anemia and neurological impairment.

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If  you’re thinking about diving into this diet then the American Dietetic Association has a few recommendations for you. Make sure you are consuming enough iron, which is almost twice as much as non-vegetarians. Good sources of iron are spinach, beans (will have to be sprouted), and tofu. Calcium can also be hard to get on this diet if you follow a vegan interpretation, but some raw foodists do consume dairy products. Examples of vegetables and fruits that are calcium rich are cabbage and figs so load up on these if you are abstaining from dairy. You will most likely need a B12 supplement so make sure to stock up on a good multivitamin and additional B12 if necessary. Omega-3 is also a trouble area on the diet so the ADA recommends upping the intake of flaxseed and walnuts to combat your low levels. (photo credit here)

The ADA does not recommend a raw food diet for infants and children.

Still looking for some guidance on what foods are great to consume on this diet? Check out these suggestions.