The process of selecting the best raw foods is governed only by a few simple guidelines. Eating a raw diet means that no ingredients will be heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46°C). Consequently, the best raw foods are ingredients that are unprocessed and in their natural state, can be prepared for adequate digestion without applying traditional cooking techniques, and will be enjoyable to eat in their raw state.
Raw diets are overwhelmingly associated with vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, but it is important to remember that this is not mandated. Many animal products, however, are inherently excluded from a raw diet because their base ingredients must be heated past the accepted 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46°C) during production. Most commercially available cow’s milk, for example, is heated to temperatures exceeding 115 degrees (46°C) during the pasteurization process.
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Processed or packaged foods are generally eliminated from a raw foods diet for similar reasons. Not only are the high levels of salt, sugar, and preservatives often found in heavily processed foods contradictory to the goals of raw eating, but these products are often cooked in production. A good rule of thumb for choosing the best raw foods is to consider the process an ingredient has gone through. For example, even if an individual is not toasting a slice of bread before eating it, that bread is not considered a raw food if the manufacturer baked it in an oven at temperatures exceeding 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46°C).
To ensure that all chosen foods are in fact raw, it is wise to select ingredients that are as close to their natural state as possible. The best raw foods will be fresh, organic fruits and vegetables; nuts and seeds that have not been roasted; grains and sprouted grain products; and possibly fresh, high-quality organic meat and fish. Raw foods diets emphasize the importance of organic ingredients because these products are generally not treated with chemical pesticides or antibiotics. Buying local organic products is an even better way to select the best raw foods, because these vegetables are usually picked at the peak of ripeness and not forced to endure long shipments to grocery stores. They are usually more fresh, nutrient-rich, and flavorful than mass-produced varieties.
The best raw foods are also easily digestible without having to endure the application of heat. Some meats, grains, or legumes might be too tough to be enjoyed raw in their natural state. Usually, there are ways to treat these ingredients so they can be eaten and digested easily. For example, grains can be sprouted and then crafted into bread products, which significantly enhances their digestibility.