There are many diets out there that are based on eating like our ancestors, such as the Palaeolithic diet and the “caveman” diet. There is one aspect of such diets that I think holds great benefits – the rule that you should try and eat less processed foods and instead choose more unprocessed/raw food like meat, fish, legumes and fresh fruit and vegetables. This blog will discuss the benefits of eating such unprocessed foods.
Some highly processed foods can have additives, such as preservatives, that have the potential to negatively impact on health and metabolism. For example some additives may be seen as toxic to the body and thus could interfere with metabolism.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and some minerals in food can be very volatile and can be destroyed easily through processing – so the less the food is processed, the more natural vitamins and minerals it will contain.
Cooking can also be considered to be a form of processing, since it changes the structure of your food. Therefore, this too has the potential to destroy some of the nutrients in foods.
Absorbing energy from food
Cooking foods, in some situations, can actually help the body to get more of the energy from that food. When you cook food, it changes structure. This is similar to “pre-digesting” the food. Therefore, when you eat it your body finds it easier to digest it fully and you potentially absorb more of the nutrients and thus energy. Sweet potato is a good example of this. The more it is cooked, the more calories there are available to digestion (however try not to cook to a crisp as this probably reduces the number of antioxidants it contains!).
In my view, this can be seen as beneficial for some and not for others. For athletes, who view foods as fuel for their muscles (the way it should be viewed!) cooking food may be seen as a positive thing as they can get the most energy from one sitting as possible.
However, for people who want to restrict calories, this may be a negative thing as they would like to limit the amount of energy (calories) they get from their food.
The answer for people trying to achieve weight loss is to eat raw foods where possible as this will make their body work harder to digest the food, thus burning more energy through digestion.
Almonds are a great example of this – their structure is quite complex and so our body finds them quite hard to break down, therefore it means that we don’t get all the energy available from them as they are often not fully digested. Also our bodies burn calories trying their best to digest them. Win win!
Blood sugar levels
Unprocessed carbohydrates tend to be digested slower than processed ones because they typically have higher levels of fibre and also potentially have a more complex structure. This means that they have less of an impact on blood sugar spikes, because they release the sugar into the blood slower. Therefore you have a more stable blood sugar level (and your insulin levels will also be more stable), giving you more sustained energy as opposed to peaks and dips.
Some valuable unprocessed foods rich in carbohydrate are:
Green peas, lentils, kidney beans, corn, butternut squash, parsnips, potato, sweet potato and whole grains.
As you can see, for those who wish to get the most out of the foods they eat, eating raw and unprocessed seems to be the way forward.
Good luck cavemen!