Whether you’re a raw foodist, carnivore, vegetarian, vegan, Oz dieter, paleo dieter, or follow any other specific diet plan, there are some foods that it just seems criminal to cook.
These foods, when found in their natural, raw state, are packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and live enzymes that too much cooking can destroy.
Raw foods are some of Mother Nature’s best remedies for everything from a lack of energy to digestive issues, and increasing your intake of such foods can even help to prevent serious health problems like heart disease and cancer.
Following are the top eight foods that you should try to eat raw whenever possible in order to enjoy their numerous health benefits.
Forget about energy drinks – the coconut is known to be one of the most effective natural hydrating foods there is, especially when eaten fresh and raw. The coconut water is made up of natural electrolytes that closely match what your own body produces.
The coconut meat contains healthy fats that can work to lower cholesterol and improve heart and brain function. Coconuts also have antibacterial and antifungal properties that fight off disease, making them one of the healthiest snacks you could ever choose.
2. Leafy greens
Fresh leafy greens like kale, chard and spinach are full of vitamin C that boosts your immune system and also contain chlorophyll, a powerful antioxidant, as well as fiber, enzymes and amino acids. Of course, these greens are healthy when cooked as well, but eating them raw preserves their nutritional concentration best.
Try preparing a raw kale salad with chopped nuts and a light balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing or top your sandwiches with raw baby spinach to give your lunch a healthy boost.
3. Fermented vegetables
Fermented vegetables are super easy to digest, as the fermentation process ensures that the starches are pre-digested, which makes it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients. Another benefit of fermented vegetables is that they are a good source of enzymes and probiotics that help your body build immunity and aid digestion.
Fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut are delicious in salads or as a topping for rice or bean dishes, or even on sandwiches.
Sprouts are the best “live” food you could eat, and are thought to provide more vitamins, minerals and enzymes per calorie than any other food, cooked or raw. This is because the sprouting process activates food enzymes and increases nutrient levels.
Sprouts also contain phytonutrients and chlorophyll, which work as antioxidants in your body. They can be a great addition to most salads and can also add a great kick to dips and spreads.
If you are only going to eat one serving of fruit per day you should choose blueberries. They are one of the best sources of antioxidants and are excellent for improving brain function. They also contain fiber, which is essential for a healthy digestive tract.
Try a handful of frozen blueberries for a refreshing on-the-go snack or add them to fruit salads and smoothies to increase their nutritional value.
Raw nuts like almonds, walnuts and cashews can lower the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood and are even thought to reduce the risk of blood clots by improving the lining of your arteries. Most nuts you buy in the supermarket, however, are roasted at a temperature higher than 170 degrees, which means that the good fats are broken down and turned into free radicals, which are harmful to your body.
Look for fresh, non-roasted nuts that are still in their shells to get the most nutritional value. A handful of mixed nuts make a great quick snack, but they can be added them to salads or grinded into tasty pastes and dips.
7. Chia seeds
If you want a food that contains fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, potassium, iron, magnesium and calcium, then the chia seed is going to be your new favorite snack. Four tablespoons of chia seeds contain as much calcium as three cups of milk and as much iron as half a cup of kidney beans.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy chia seeds without cooking them; you can make a cold chia drink with lime and a natural sweetener, sprinkle the seeds on salads or make a simple chia gel that can be added to dips, dressings and smoothies.
Raw cacao is a great mood booster due to the phyto-chemicals it contains, which explains why so many people turn to chocolate when they are feeling low. Unfortunately, however, the cooked cacao that is found in most chocolate bars and other chocolate products is actually harmful to your health.
This is because the heating process causes the oils and fats in the cacao to become toxic, not to mention all the sugars and preservatives that are added to most commercial chocolates.
Instead, make your own chocolate without any cooking by using cacao powder, natural sweetener, vanilla and some hot water.
About the Author: Joyce and Patrick Del Rosario are part of the team behind Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading providers of online courses for nutrition. When not working, Joyce and Patrick blogs about health and fitness.