Q: Will eating a raw diet give me more energy?
–Marianne MacDonald, Mantua, NJ
A: It’s possible. Raw foods are high in fiber and contain digestive enzymes that our bodies need. We do produce some digestive enzymes ourselves to help us break down the food we eat into smaller, absorbable particles, but we need the enzymes in plants to help us absorb vital nutrients. Those enzymes are destroyed when we heat produce above 115°F.
Age, eating too many processed foods (and not enough fiber), rushing through meals, and not taking enough time to chew because you’re on the fly all contribute in some way to decreased levels of the digestive enzymes your body produces. Without enough of these enzymes, your body spends more energy digesting what you eat, which can leave you feeling depleted and exhausted. Worse, low levels of digestive enzymes can trigger inflammation, which plays a role in many chronic illnesses, including diabetes,hypertension, and high cholesterol.
I encourage my patients to get plenty of fiber: Six to eight servings of fruits and vegetables (one serving is about half a cup or a small piece of fruit) can provide up to 40 g of fiber per day. Besides gaining an energy boost, you get a bonus from eating your produce raw: A 2005 German study found that with increased consumption of raw foods, there’s a decreased incidence of cancer and heart disease. (Here are 6 tasty ways to get more fiber.)
TASNEEM BHATIA, MD, is medical director and founder of the Atlanta Center for Holistic & Integrative Medicine.