Some Like It Raw
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The Raw Data
The raw-food diet delivers levels of fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats that would make a nutritionist do cartwheels. And as you're not eating any flesh (beast, fish, or fowl), you don't have to worry about antibiotics or growth hormones.
But there are downsides, says Sass, who experimented with the diet herself and has counseled raw-leaning clients. Eschewing all animal products and processed foods may shortchange you on essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. While the masses look to dairy and fortified products for calcium and vitamin D, raw fans must turn to lots of leafy greens for the former and sunlight to deliver the latter (along with increased skin-cancer risk). Supplements like spirulina and bee pollen are popular sources of B12, but Sass recommends Red Star brand nutritional yeast as a more bioavailable source of it and other B vitamins.
Getting these nutrients in a raw diet takes planning, says Sass, but it's important. A study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine found that raw-food vegans had lower bone mass than those eating a more traditional American diet; this might make them vulnerable to osteoporosis later in life. In addition, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia and nervous-system damage.
Also, many people forget that almost all produce is grown in fertilized, manure-laced earth. "Any raw vegetable or fruit can be contaminated because of the soil," cautions Sass. "So those who eat raw must be highly diligent about washing veggies properly, even if they're organic."