The Raw Rort - Healthy or Hoax?

by Dean McKillop 2580 views Nutrition

The Raw Rort - Healthy or Hoax?

Before you sit down with your warm spiced chai latte at your favourite raw organic café for your favourite piece of raw cheesecake, maybe think about what you are actually about to eat before you swallow down a ‘guilt free’ treat. Are raw foods all they are cut out to be or are they simply just another marketing brainwash?

What even is guilt free food anyway?

I suppose in its simplest term, guilt free food is any food that you can consume without associated guilt directed towards its consumption. However, where should the guilt really lie?

Often the foods that are promoted as guilt free are not processed, are ‘natural’ and generally they contain as few ingredients as possible. They are ‘healthy’.

Conversely, a guilty food is traditionally one you avoid due to the fear of thinking it comes with an inherent ‘bad’ effect on your health and your goals.

‘Bad’ or ‘guilty foods’ are usually either more heavily processed, less ‘natural’ and they are recognised as being calorie laden, making them 'bad' for your waistline.

But are ‘raw foods’ really all that much better?

In order to be considered a raw food, the ingredients to make the recipe must simply be in their natural state and are usually, but not always, are uncooked…They are raw…

But does this status deserve them the right to be considered ‘guilt free’? Why is the cooking status of the ingredient a determinant for its score on the healthy versus bad scale?

Why is raw better?

I’ll tell you why raw is better…

Raw foods are marketed to be healthier and by default, healthy foods are then considered to be guilt free. Ahhhhh, Guilt free…

So you can eat as much of them as you want without negative consequence right? Errrrr Wrong!!

Why is that wrong? Because the raw movement fails to acknowledge the importance of nutritional context and instead focuses on comparing 1 food versus another, that's why.

You see…Raw foods are generally ‘healthy’ in that they provide high nutrient dense foods in their natural state. This is a great thing! But what a lot of raw food eaters fail to recognise is that these foods are also largely very calorically dense, and if consumed in large quantities, will have the same adverse health impacts long term when compared to their opposing guilty treats due to the likelihood of body fat gain associated with excessive caloric intake. 

Let’s look at this a little more simply with a comparison

On one hand, we have a well-known McDelicious Cheesecake slice and on the other, we have a raw cheesecake recipe from a popular online blogger.

First.. let's look at the ingredients:

McDelicious Raspberry Cheesecake

Cream Cheese [Milk, Cream, Salt, Vegetable Gums (410, 412), Starter Culture], Raspberry Filling [Raspberry, Apple Juice, Sugar, Thickener (1422), Vegetable Gum (440), Food Acid (330), Flavour, Preservative (202), Mineral Salts (509), Colour (122)], Thickened Cream [Cream, Milk, Mineral Salt (450, 500) Stabiliser (400)], Sugar, Biscuit Crumb [Wheat Flour, Sugar, Palm Oil (Antioxidants (307-Soy, 322-Soy), Golden Syrup, Coconut, Milk Solids, Mineral Salts (500, 450, 503), Flavours)], Egg, Sour Light Cream [Reduced Fat Cream, Gelatine, Culture], Butter [Cream, Water], Thickener (1422), Glaze [Sugar, Water, Gelling Agents (407, 440), Acidifier (330), Acidity Regulators (331, 341) Preservative (202)], Flavour, Vegetable Gum (415).

Blogger Raspberry Chocolate Cheesecake

Organic dates, organic oats, shredded coconut, cashews, frozen raspberries, maple syrup, coconut water, lemon juice, coconut oil, vanilla extract, organic dark chocolate, almond milk.

Ok, so it's safe to say that looking at those 2 recipes at face value, that the raw cheesecake is far ‘healthier’ in its ingredient list… but is it guilt free?

What about the calories per 100g?

McDelicious Raspberry Cheesecake Blogger Raspberry Chocolate Cheesecake
325kcal 418kcal
5.5g Protein 7g Protein
21.9g Fat 27g Fat
26g Carbohydrates 36g Carbohydrates

Now, to be fair the raw cheesecake also has chocolate added, but if it were to be removed for comparison purposes, the raw cheesecake still comes in at 396kcal per 100g of cheesecake.

Surprised? I’m not…

Often, raw cheesecakes use large amounts of naturally derived sugar syrups like agave and maple, with a similarly large dose of nuts and oils to create the consistency of a standard biscuit base, which by default increases the calories.

cheesecake

Now I suppose you’re asking…Do the calories really matter when you consider how much ‘healthier’ the nutrient profile of the raw cheesecake is?

The short answer is yes. The answer with context is also yes.

Whenever looking at nutrition, health and the holistic approach, one must always consider the question being asked within the context of an entire day’s, weeks or months intake of food.

The problem with the raw revolution is it lacks context.

It lacks the context of where ‘health’ and nutrients sit in the context of daily caloric intake and the importance of ensuring you remain within your caloric requirements long term in order to maintain your health.

Why is this important? Because consistently over consuming calories leads to weight gain and weight gain (especially if primarily from increased stored fat) is a HUGE indicator of actual internal health.

The reality is this…You can gain weight and become unhealthy by over consuming ‘clean’ food and gaining body fat.

Likewise, you can also gain fat and reduce your health markers significantly by only consuming junk food.

What’s the point you ask? The point is that the sales pitch of raw food being ‘guilt free’ provides the uneducated consumer with a false understanding of thinking you can eat raw foods and clean treats endlessly without concern.

This is simply not the case!

Do raw dishes contain a tonne of nutrients? Sure they do. But they usually also contain a tonne of calories as well. And therein lies the problem...

It's a raw hoax! 

Nutrition, weight loss, health and performance are all about finding the balance between physical, psychological and social health.  In order for you to achieve this, you need to stop labelling food and fear less, while enjoying the foods you love, in moderation, with the understanding of how they fit within the context of your daily lifestyle.

Determining whether a food is good, bad or guilt free isn't as simple as looking at it in isolation.

True guilt free eating comes from education, not marketing manipulation! 

Dean McKillop

Exercise Scientist

I completed my Exercise Science Degree at the University of QLD and have worked in the fitness industry for over 8 years, including a short stint at the Brisbane Broncos in 2010 as a student. I also hold my Level 2 Strength and Conditioning Coach accreditation (ASCA) and have competed in 1 bodybuilding season, placing 2nd at the IFBB u85kg Nationals.

View Dean's Articles