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Review: The Raw Food Diet


By Katie Lewin


Raw Food Diet advocates are convinced that conditions like diabetes can be blamed on cooked food — or anything that’s been cooked over 115 degrees — as the diet’s premise is that cooking above this temperature breaks down essential enzymes. This means any food not found in the produce aisle or stamped with a “raw” label is pretty much off-limits. 

The Theory: The Raw Food Diet has roots in a series of experiments that Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner conducted in the early 1800s to cure his jaundice. Dr. Bircher-Benner’s modern-day disciples maintain that cooking obliterates most of the vitamins in food and nearly all of the immune-boosting plant nutrients.

Pros: Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake is never a bad idea. And those who follow this diet claim to feel closer to the earth and their natural bodily rhythms. 

Cons: The Raw Food Diet's omission of dairy, meat, and fish runs the risk of iron, calcium and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies. These deficiencies can lead to low bone mass and increased risk of osteoporosis. And while most raw foodists stick to fruits, veggies and nuts, some omnivorous ones consume raw meat and eggs, which have been linked to foodborne illness. 

Bottom Line: The Raw Food method contains some solid principles — like eating more fruits and vegetables that are lightly cooked to maintain nutrients — that are probably more sustainable and safe than others — like eating raw meat and eggs. But as with any eating plan that eliminates whole food groups, beware of nutritional deficiencies.


Published January 5, 2015. 

Katie Lewin is a Bay Area-based health and lifestyle writer. 

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