Some individuals follow a raw food diet, incorporating only raw materials, for health or ethical reasons. This diet is often vegan, and incorporates only raw foods because adherents believe that cooking damages the essential enzymes in foods. This way of eating grew increasingly popular in the 1990s, with a number of celebrities picking up the diet for various reasons, although raw foodists began to appear in force in the 1960s.
Most followers of the raw food diet are vegan, because they believe that animal products are unethical or unhealthy. Some individuals will eat animal products such as raw milk and cheese or some raw meats, although these represent a much smaller group. There are more extreme raw food diets, including fruitarianism, in which followers eat only fresh raw fruits.
Adherents to a raw food diet will not consume any food that has been heated over 115°F (46°C), in the belief that cooking damages the structure of the food. Some raw foodists use a dehydrator to assist in food preparation. The dehydrator gently heats food and uses a convection fan to keep the heat distribution even. It is possible to produce a variety of dehydrated breads, crackers, and nuts to supplement a raw diet.
If individuals on this type of diet are careful and conscientious about the source of their protein and other vital vitamins, it can be quite healthy and safe. The raw food diet does require a much more extensive knowledge of nutrition than most individuals have. An unsafe diet can result in illness and malnutrition, which are not generally the desired effects of the diet. Proponents believe that the diet is more natural than eating cooked foods, because humans evolved eating raw foods, with cooked food being a relatively recent introduction. Curious diners should be cautioned that some foods are indigestible or dangerous when eaten raw, however, and caution is advised.
There are a number of books available to assist people interested in this diet. A medical professional should be consulted before embarking on any major dietary change. Raw food also does not have to be boring, with a number of gourmet raw food restaurants popping up all over the world to satisfy sophisticated palates. Culinary schools that specialize in raw food are also an option for interested chefs, who will learn how to prepare a wide variety of delicious meals aimed at tempting the palates of everyone from committed vegans to carnivores.
Most people on the raw food diet do not eat fully raw, but try to dedicate a significant portion of their diet to raw food. Increasing intake of fresh vegetables and fruit is almost always healthy, and most individuals would benefit from a higher proportion of raw foods in their diet.