THE PROBLEM WITH RESTRICTIONS
By excluding animal products from their diet, raw foodists and vegans are at risk of nutrient deficiencies, whether they eat their food cooked or raw, says Vanessa McNamara, dietitian at The Travelling Dietitian. These include protein, iron, zinc, calcium, some essential amino acids, omega fatty acids as well as vitamins B12 and D. Vitamin D is found mainly in fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon, and in small amounts of beef, liver, egg yolks and cheese – all of which are not part of the “approved” food group.
As a result, significant health problems may arise. Lack of vitamin B12, for instance, may lead to anaemia, poor balance and neurological impairment such as memory loss. Also, some vegans who do not cook their food have been found to have abnormally low bone mass, which is associated with increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures, notes a 2005 study by the Washington University School of Medicine in the US. More bad news: Soya-based foods are not the solution as some contain high amounts of oxalate and phytate (phytic acid) – compounds that inhibit calcium from being properly absorbed into the body.
And while raw foodists may get some protein from plant-based foods, such as nuts and seeds, they do not get some essential amino acids found only in animal products as well as lentils and pulses, which need to be thoroughly cooked at temperatures higher than 47 deg C in order for them to be properly digested, says Vanessa. “It’s best to bring them to the boil.”
Next: How safe is the raw food diet?