Is raw food the key to reversing diabetes? – The Indian Express

A raw food diet, as the name suggests, is a diet comprising raw food items – predominantly vegetables, fruits and legumes. According to several studies, consuming such a diet can help reverse diabetes – a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. But, is it true? If yes, how?
A documentary titled ‘Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 days’ chronicles the lives of six diabetic Americans who switch to a diet consisting entirely of vegan, organic, uncooked food. By the end of the month, some members were able to completely come off diabetes medications and others saw a considerable reduction in the amount of insulin and other medications they were taking.
Explaining how a nourishing diet is a must in order to treat diabetes, Dr Ashok Kumar Jhingan, Senior Director – BLK-Max Centre for Diabetes, Thyroid, Obesity and Endocrinology, BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi said, “Healthy eating not only helps in controlling blood sugar levels but also maintain a healthy weight. Studies say that incorporating raw foods into the daily diet may help in the management of diabetes.”
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He added that it is due to the “non-activated enzymes which are present in raw foods”. “These enzymes have potential health benefits on the body, which often get lost in a moderate to high amount after cooking or processing.”
Another reason is that raw foods are chewier and fibre-rich and do not lose nutrients on account of heat and processing, Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Clinical Dietician, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore said. “So, they are rich in phytonutrients, minerals and zero additives which release energy in a sustained manner and stabilise sugar. They are not addictive like processed junk food so one eats in moderation.”
The experts, however, stressed that a raw food diet helps ‘manage’ the condition and not ‘reverse’ it.
What is a raw food diet?
Also known as ‘raw foodism’ or ‘rawism’, raw food diet has been used for ages to treat various illnesses including diabetes, Dr Pragti Gupta, SR Institute of Ayurveda Science, said.
Explaining, he added: “The simple philosophy behind raw foodism is avoiding all processing forms, including cooking, microwaving, genetic engineering, and pesticides. It is regarded as raw if food has never been heated over 104–118°F (40–48°C).”
Dr Jhingan added that a raw food diet mainly consists of beans, fresh fruits, grains, seeds, seaweed, nuts, unprocessed organic foods, fresh vegetables, dried fruits and legumes. “For a sweet tooth person, one can make delicious cookies with some raw oats, maple syrup and raw nuts, and freeze them instead of baking them in an oven,” he added.
Benefits of a raw food diet
As discussed, a raw food diet is beneficial in managing diabetes as it is “high in potassium, fibre, magnesium, phytochemicals and folate and low in sodium”.
“All these properties of a raw diet help in lowering the risk of diabetes and related complications like heart disease and cancer,” Dr Jhingan said.
However, apart from stabilising glucose levels, a raw food diet has several other benefits, experts say. “Consumption of raw food diet is associated with various other advantages, such as weight loss, greater vitality, higher energy, and improved treatment of chronic diseases, improved general health, and a little negative environmental impact,” Dr Gupta shared.
Possible risks
Dr Jhingan stressed that diabetics do not entirely need to revamp their diet to manage the condition. “By slowly starting to include more raw vegetables and fruits in the diet, together with workouts and weight management, can help immensely.”
One must also be careful while consuming raw food items because “if the raw material is not washed properly. it may cause food poisoning due to pesticide residues,” Dr Rohatgi added.
Additionally, she shared that eating larger portions of raw foods may also lead to bloating.
Dos and don’ts
Before you switch to a raw food diet, you must take note of these essential dos and don’ts, as shared by Dr Rohatgi.
Do’s
*Wash the raw food materials/vegetables thoroughly
*Stick to portion size
*Try new combinations with caution, and slowly
*Let it be well distributed
Don’ts
*Don’t consume in a jiffy
*Don’t miss out on washing the raw food materials/vegetables
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