The Raw Food Diet: An Answer to Diabetes?
The 21st century epidemic of diabetes has engulfed the United States and Europe, and it is now overtaking countries in the East that historically have had lower levels of the disease. Japan has had the healthiest of diets: fish, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, and seaweed, which have very little fat or sugar and is all very fresh. Yet as Western eating habits invaded the country, the Japanese have also started to fall prey in large numbers to obesity and diabetes. What does this tell us about the importance of diet in holding diabetes at bay?
The raw food diet is one that has gained popularity with vegetarians and vegans since its introduction by muesli-inventor Maximilian Bircher-Benner in 1897. Raw foodists believe that cooked foods may encourage cancer and other diseases, and that the natural diet of humans was historically, and should still be, raw fruit and vegetables. The diet bans all cooked and processed foods, coffee and alcohol, but any uncooked fruits, vegetables, oils, grains, nuts, seeds, and sprouted seeds are permitted. Foods may be warmed or liquidized to make them more palatable. Obviously some vegetables are inedible and these are not included in the diet, whilst dried foods such as raisins are permitted. Some foods, including some types of bean, cassava and rhubarb, are toxic until cooked. Some raw foodists consume raw milk and cheese made from raw milk and eggs.
The consumption of large quantities of vegetables, fruit and other unprocessed plant foods is highly recommended by doctors for the prevention and care of diabetes. These foods are all low-glycemic; that is, they do not cause a sudden rise in blood sugar levels when eaten, but instead release their carbohydrate slowly and steadily into the body. They are also rich in fiber, both soluble and insoluble, which is very beneficial to diabetics – indeed to anyone. Consumption of food raw also means maximizing the intake of enzymes and micronutrients that are destroyed to a greater or lesser extent in cooking.
However, diabetics should consult their doctor before starting any new diet, and the raw food diet does present some problems. Raw food in large quantities is not to everyone’s taste, and anyone converting from a cooked diet to raw food may experience unpleasant symptoms during the initial detoxification of their system, including nausea, chills, cravings, and weakness. The temptation with a raw food diet is to eat a great deal of sweet fruit, and dried fruit such as raisins and sultanas, or even fresh grapes, are sugary enough to cause a rise in blood sugar.
One of the greatest perils from a raw food diet is food poisoning. In recent cases, such apparently innocent foods as cucumbers and bean sprouts have been the cause of outbreaks of e-coli, with loss of life. In the case of sprouted seeds, bacteria have plenty of opportunity to grow and multiply during the germination process and are then ingested alive with the uncooked food.
It is worth pointing out that some foods may acquire an increased value as a result of cooking. For example, tomatoes, which are richer in the cancer-fighting substance lycopene when cooked than when raw, and potatoes, which are the richest source of vitamin C in most Western diets, are inedible raw.
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