How healthy are vegetarian and raw food diets?


It seems every celebrity is on a vegetarian or raw food diet these days. Are they just a trend or do they offer real benefits to your health? Dr. Andrew Weil shares his thoughts on the pros and cons of each.

Transcript There’s a lot of epidemiological evidence that vegetarian diets are very healthy, that vegetarians in general have lower rates of chronic disease, good longevity but there’s vegetarian diets and vegetarian diets. I meet vegetarians who eat mostly macaroni and cheese three times a day – that’s not a healthy diet. And raw diets for me are problematic. The people who argue for raw diets say that the enzymes in foods are destroyed by cooking and that these are vital to good health. That’s nonsense. Dropping enzymes into stomach acid is at least as violent transformation as cooking and enzymes are proteins, they are digested like protein molecules in the stomach. They really serve no role in human nutrition. Also some micronutrients, especially the carotenoid pigments, things like beta carotene, lutein which is protective of eye health, lycopene which is very protective against cancer found in tomatoes for example. These are much more available from cooked foods than from raw foods. And finally there are many natural toxins in vegetables, which we don’t even think about, that are easily broken down by cooking. So I think those are the main arguments against an all-raw-foods diet. I think an optimum diet should include a mix of raw and cooked foods.
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  • Dr. Andrew Weil M.D.

    Dr. Andrew Weil M.D. Director, The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine Dr. Weil is Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine of the College of Medicine, University of Arizona. He has traveled widely collecting information on drug use in other cultures and is a well-established author. more about this expert »

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