The power of eating raw food

Raw pizza anyone? What about raw cake? Believe it or not they are tastier than you think and are bursting with as many health benefits as they do with flavour.

Cape Town residents Noel Marten and Natalie Reid have been eating a high raw diet for roughly six years. Once they got into the swing of eating raw however, they found that many recipes for raw food were quite bland and tasteless. So they decided to start experimenting and three years ago they launched Earthshine, a company which sells delicious raw foods such as kale chips, raw pizza takeaways, and they also hold Eat More Raw workshops to teach people how to incorporate raw eating into their lives. Now they are launching thier first book, Easy Living Food.

One of the delicious raw desserts Natalie and Noel make - minty cacao mousse cake.

“We decided to go raw because of the great benefits we gained when we tried it out.  We felt great, looked better, and really enjoyed eating this way,” explained Natalie.

But what does eating raw entail?

Noel says that when you cook food, and heat it to over 47 degrees centigrade, it doesn’t qualify as “raw” any longer. This, he says can also kill most of the nutrients in the food you’re cooking.  

However, this doesn’t mean eating raw only includes munching on uncooked veggies and fruit. There is some degree of cooking to release some of the nutrients in the food so your body can digest it.

“Often cooking can destroy between 50 and 90% of the nutrients in the food. But we will often soften some vegetables by putting a lemon and salt mixture on them to naturally break down the vegetables and we also sometimes lightly cook food in warm water, never boiling water,” says Natalie.

She adds that some vegetables need to be cooked, such as white potatoes, but sweet potatoes can be eaten raw. And some hard vegetables, although they can be eaten raw are more digestible when steamed.

“Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and broccoli can be eaten raw when shredded but may be enjoyed more lightly steamed.

 The benefits of eating raw

Before stumbling across raw eating, Noel said he suffered terribly with Irritable Bowel Syndrome -  a condition which he claims has completely cleared up since going raw. He says he also feels he has greatly improved energy since going raw.

Natalie has only been raw for about three years, but in that time she has drastically renovated her life and overcome an addiction to alcohol, cigarettes and overeating and experienced an impressive 20kg weight loss.

“All the bad habits I had I was able to overcome by eating more raw – and the more raw I ate the healthier I felt,” she said.

They say the benefits of eating raw include:

  • Promotes natural weight balance
  • Improves digestion and elimination
  • Detoxifies your body
  • Increases energy levels
  • Fun and easy to make
  • Slows down the aging process
  • Regulates blood sugar levels
  • Alkalises the blood
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Improves mental clarity
  • Promotes a glowing and youthful complexion
  • Promotes a positive, abundant and sustainable environment
  • Improved libido

The best foods to eat raw

So what foods are best eaten raw? Plants of course! As well as seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables and leaves.

However, don’t assume that going raw will limit you to a diet of ‘rabbit food’ and cold salads in winter. Natalie and Noel make the most of eating raw from delicious vegetable soups, to their very popular raw pizzas and raw cheesecake.

What the experts say about eating raw

Health24’s DietDoc, Dr Ingrid van Heerden says that while eating more foods raw has many health benefits, cooked food also has a place in a well-balanced diet.

“It has been postulated that one of the reasons why human beings developed a larger brain and increased in size, is because the discovery of fire and the means to cook foods made many otherwise unavailable nutrients available to our digestive systems and thus to our bodies. Cooking also helped to preserve our teeth for longer periods and increased our lifespan.

“So on the one hand, eating predominantly raw food will ensure that few nutrients are lost during the cooking process, but on the other hand it will make many nutrients that are less easy to digest unavailable to humans,” she says.

She adds that many foods, especially those that have a high dietary fibre content or require nutrient release via gelatinisation or fermentation (a type of pre-digestion), do provide greater benefits to our diet after some form of heat treatment, particularly when we consider very young and older individuals. An older person with digestive problems such as lack of dentition, low stomach acid levels, or a reduced digestive capacity may not be able to eat and fully digest primarily raw foods.

Van Heerden says that there are also a number of foods which need to be processed before they are safe to eat and in this sense cooking food is a valuable step in the preservation of the food supply because we do not all have access to freshly harvested foods at all times.

Protein foods need to be cooked to aid digestion and to remove antinutrients such as avidin in egg white.

“I would encourage the public to eat fresh fruit and most vegetables raw whenever possible, but to cook other foods such as cereals, grains, meat, fish, eggs, etc. By taking care to cook foods just sufficiently to make them safe or to extend their shelf-life, or make them more digestible, we can restrict the loss of nutrients to a minimum.”

How much raw food do you incorporate in your diet and how has it benefited you? E-mail us at

Here are some of the mouth-watering raw food recipes from Easy Living Food on Food24:

Chocolate fudge
Raw mushroom soup
Sweet and sour skewers

(Amy Froneman, Health24, October 2012)

Read more: 
Egg whites and other anti-nutritional factors in foods

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