Raw food is once again in a vogue as a healthy lifestyle fad, with restaurants springing up and cook books hitting the stores.
Basing their ideas on the nutritionist Norman Wardhaugh Walker, who lived to the age of 99, proponents argue that humans evolved to eat raw food in small quantities, but everything went downhill when they started to "destroy" nutrients by cooking them.
This, they claim, resulted in an emergence of various civilization diseases like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, chronic fatigue and pain. They believe that going back to raw food will set things right.
Whether or not that is sound scientific reasoning, there are certainly advantages to eating more fresh fruit and vegetables.
◆ Weight Loss
Food prepared at any heat under 45 degrees Celsius is considered "raw," with obvious examples including vegetable or fruit juice, green leaf salad, nuts and dried fruit.
Jeon Joo-ri, a cook specializing in raw food, said, "You could call bibimbap raw food. It would be great for your health if you have one raw meal a day."
One of the greatest advantages of raw food is that it is good for losing weight. "If you eat raw food, it takes longer to chew, and you can't eat as much because of the tough fiber," said Jeon. By eating food raw, people can take in natural enzymes and vitamins as they are, whereas high temperatures reduce the vitality of enzymes.
Uncooked food has a high level of active enzymes, helping the metabolism and detoxifying the body because high dietary fiber helps it discharge body waste and cholesterol.
◆ Not for Everyone
But those with weak digestive systems should be careful. Min Hye-sun, a professor of food and nutrition at Hannam University, said, "A raw food diet can help people lose weight, but it can also cause digestive problem."
Jeong Hye-kyung of Hoseo University said, "By eating raw food, you risk not getting enough essential nutrients as our bodies can digest and absorb much less from uncooked food."
Lee Jeong-joo, a nutritionist at Kyunghee University Hospital at Gangdong, said, "Dietary fiber is the most difficult nutrient to digest. Those suffering from gastritis or the elderly with less gastric acid and digestive enzymes are advised to eat cooked food."
Raw food is also not recommended for those with anemia or osteoporosis, because dietary fiber will discharge minerals such as calcium and iron crucial for treating the two conditions.
The key to healthy eating, it seems, is really is to maintain a balanced between raw and cooked food.