In theory, a raw food diet seems like a great way to drop unwanted pounds and eat healthy since many raw foods are low in calories, fat and sodium and high in fiber. There are also the nutritional perks.
Most raw foods you will eat are fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts – foods naturally high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals.
But there’s a flipside. Like with veganism, dieters must ensure they are getting enough protein, iron, calcium and vitamins and minerals. Because most people who eat raw foods exclude animal products, vitamin supplements will have to make up for gaps in the diet.
Plus, not everyone’s body adjusts the same way to eating raw foods.
“A lot of people have digestive issues, and raw food has all the nutrients, and their bodies metabolize those, and it causes more acid production and digestive problems,” says Forsberg. “Our bodies don’t break down vegetables the same way.”
When incorporated into a well-balanced diet, adding more raw food to your diet won’t hurt, but an entirely raw diet isn’t necessarily the most realistic option for most people long-term.
The hCG diet is an example of a popular plan that is not FDA approved for weight loss. This possibly risky medical intervention is a procedure where one is injected with the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and restricted to 500-1,000 calories per day.
People do lose weight so long as they are paying for their injections and going along with the dramatic calorie cutting, but most not only gain it right back after they go off, they often end up having put on additional pounds.
“Follow the money,” says Forsberg. “If it truly is a cure, it would take the world by storm like other great medical innovations, including penicillin, the small pox vaccine and insulin. If it really worked, everyone would be doing it…You can’t change for a day, a week, a month; you have to change for a lifetime.”
Monitored by a physician, this “diet” has the same risks as a very low-calorie diet along with unknown risks associated with long-term use of hCG.
Juicing is all the rage. People are attempting to “detox” their bodies by drinking homemade fruit and vegetable juices anywhere from once daily to surviving even a week at a time solely on juice.
“Juicing, along with a regular diet, is good, only because some people will drink it and will get more fruits and veggies through that drink than they normally would in a day. So if you include it along with your regular diet, I think it could be helpful with getting nutrients in, but not as a diet alone. I wouldn’t recommend more than half a day of just juice,” says Abels.
Kaely Jackson, also a clinical dietitian at Saint Francis, adds that it’s important to keep in mind that the human body detoxifies itself effectively when fueled with water and proper nutrition.
“For anybody with good, working kidneys who is drinking an adequate amount of water, their body is going to flush for them just fine without fasting or cleansing by drinking a lot of juice. That being said, you don’t need a juice cleanse to detox the body. Your body knows how to do that just fine on its own,” she says.