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Diet Comparisons

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With the seemingly millions of different dietary practices out there each claiming to be the cure-all, choosing what to include in each meal and what not to can be one of the most confusing decisions you make all day. We break down the similarities and differences between a few of the more popular lifestyles, including eating raw, raw meat, vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, plant-based, and juice fasting. Each lifestyle has its own set of benefits (as well as cautions), and different dietary practices are more ideal for different situations. Should you eat differently for weight loss than you would recovering from surgery? What diets are good for cleansing compared to diets that are ideal for the long-term?

 

Juice Fasting

Juice fasting is a short-term dietary practice that can be done for weight loss, to improve vitality, a mind opening and releasing experience, or for health conditions and detoxification. This is a beautiful way to bathe and hydrate the cells using organic fruits and vegetables that contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The length of fasting time varies, but the most popular is between 1 and 7 days. Under medical supervision, an extended fast can last up to 60 days, however juice fasting long-term provides the body with little to no fiber, affecting the bowels and blood sugar.

When juice fasting, fluids (like fresh fruit and vegetable juices, herbal teas, and water) are the only things consumed. The ideal juice ratio is 75-80% vegetables and 20-25% fruit, because high amounts of sugar in the fruits combined with the elimination of fiber from the diet can result in elevated blood sugar. While there are many recommendations on how much juice to consume throughout your fast, the purpose of juicing is to replenish your body with plenty of nutrients, so focus on making sure not to deprive yourself when you’re hungry.

Juice fasting gives your digestive system a time to rest. Approximately 70% of our energy every day is spent on digestion! With more energy going towards detoxification during fasting, symptoms of nausea, headaches, hunger, bowel problems, and emotional instability can all come into experience. It’s important that you understand these are normal responses and provide yourself with tools to support your mind and body during the process.

 

Raw

Raw diets are based on the notion that when a food is cooked, it’s no longer living. The process of cooking results in a loss of the vitality, or “life force,” of the food. A raw food diet is a very nutrient-dense way of eating. It consists of unprocessed, uncooked, and unrefined plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains, beans, dried fruits, seaweed, and fermented foods. Raw food diets may also include raw fish, meat, and eggs, and unpasteurized dairy. In addition, foods that are processed and/or cooked above 115 degrees are omitted. While not all raw foodies eat 100% raw, most eat approximately 75%-80% raw since the greater the percentage of raw food in the diet, the greater the alleged health benefits.

The benefits of eating raw include lower obesity rates, decreased inflammation, reduced hypertension, improved rheumatoid arthritis, reduced risk of breast cancer, improved energy, skin clarity, weight loss, improved mental state, improved digestion, and prevention of nutrient deficiencies. Even so, Barbara Wren (a naturopathic nutritionist) states that eating a raw food diet long-term is not for everyone. Some of the long-term risks include deficiencies in calcium, iron, protein, vitamin B12, and omega 3 fatty acids, lower bone density, dental erosion, and extreme weight loss. Eating raw is not recommended for people who suffer from certain digestive issues like inflammatory bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, or people who cannot break down certain enzymes effectively, as well as people who are underweight, infertile, suffer from depression, osteoporosis, or decreased muscle mass.

While most plant foods can lose nutrients when heated, some foods (like tomatoes and sweet potatoes) contain antioxidants that are released when cooked. Cooking also can improve digestibility of foods and kill bacteria and pathogens. Also, cruciferous leafy greens contain goitrogens that can be a problem for thyroid diseases, and cooking reduces and deactivates these compounds.

 

Raw Meat

Including meat in your raw diet has both benefits and cautions. Eating raw meat improves digestibility and helps the healthy enzymes stay in the food. Cooking meat reduces the nutrient density. Water soluble vitamins, like vitamin C and B6, are not heat stable. Cooking also increases carcinogens, the formation of AGES, increases oxidation, and releases heterocyclic amines, chemical compounds that form when you cook meat directly over an open flame or in extreme heat. On the other hand, cooking meat kills bacteria and parasites, as raw meat can be a carrier of E.Coli and harmful bacteria.

To reduce the risk of eating raw meat, freezing the meat for 2 weeks before eating it can kill most potential pathogens. Dehydration, curing meat with salt (fermentation), and acid marinated meat with lemon or vinegar are also ways to decrease your risk of foodborne illness. Even after taking every precaution, children, pregnant women, and those with a compromised immune system should refrain from consuming raw meat.

 

Vegan

A vegan lifestyle omits all animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and honey.

This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains, which often means an increased consumption of nutrients like vitamin C and fiber and a lower consumption of saturated fats, resulting in improved cardiovascular status and lower BMI. Other nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, are more difficult (but definitely not impossible) to get in adequate amounts.

 

Vegetarian

Vegetarianism is a plant-based way of eating similar to veganism that excludes meat, poultry, and fish, but includes eggs, honey, and dairy products. Like a vegan diet, some essentials to be aware of are vitamin B12, iron, calcium, zinc, long chain fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamin D, and protein. With a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods and supplements, this lifestyle can improve heart disease, blood pressure, decrease the risk of cancer, and help with weight management.

 

Fruitarian

Those who eat a fruitarian diet consume mainly raw fruits (around 75%) with the remainder of the diet being raw vegan. This typically involves seven basic fruit groups: acid fruits, sub-acid fruits, sweet fruits, nuts, seeds, oily fruits, and dried fruits.

Fruits are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, all of which are good for the immune system and help protect against disease. They are cleansing and may reduce the amount of water that is needed as fruit has a high content of water. Even so, fruits are high in sugar, which can result in cravings, addictions, fatigue, blood sugar imbalance, and hunger due to nutrient imbalances. The high sugar content of fruits can lead to tooth decay, issues with insulin control, and weight gain.

Digestively, those who follow a fruitarian diet can have bloating and fiber overload resulting in diarrhea or constipation. This way of eating lacks vitamin D and contains small amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium, which are all important for bone health. Fruits contain minimal amounts of fat, which is important for the heart, brain, hormones, and enzymes.

 

Plant-Based

This lifestyle consists of eating unrefined, whole foods, which include fruits, whole grains, vegetables, tubers, and legumes. It minimizes meat consumption, including chicken and fish, dairy products, eggs and refined foods that consist of flour, refined sugar, and oil. A person eating a plant-based diet could be a vegetarian or vegan, but the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

This lifestyle can reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer, improve mental states, and fight chronic disease. Having the opportunity to consume a wide variety of foods eliminates chances of deficiencies and creates the foundation for balance.

 

DQ1 Comparisons of Diets by Linda Smiciklas

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