Maybe you've thought about “going raw” for a while. Or maybe you haven’t because you (a) have no idea what it is; or (b) think it's too much of a hassle. A raw food diet is simply eating uncooked, whole foods such as raw fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, etc. for the sake of preserving natural enzymes in food that are destroyed in the cooking process.
There are many benefits to the raw food diet, especially if you live in a high-stress, low-sleep environment: aka, college. A diet heavy in processed, cooked foods can make you lethargic, break out, and gain weight—things that can keep your from enjoying college life to the fullest.
Here are five reasons to go raw in college:
1. You'll save big bucks.
Let’s face it: meat is a huge grocery expense that most college students can’t afford. (PS. I’m talking about whole, unprocessed meat here, no pink slime). Besides, a raw food diet doesn’t mean uncooked meat. It means no meat (unless you enjoy getting food poisoning, which I hope you don’t). Get your protein from raw nuts (almonds, cashews, etc.), yummy spinach salads, and grains like quinoa.
2. You'll get maximum nutritional content.
Eating food in its raw state means that you get all of the beneficial enzymes, vitamins, and antioxidants that nature offers. The high temperatures of cooking destroy a lot of the nutrition in food, so you lose out on some awesome health goodness when you eat mostly cooked foods.
While staying up till 2am for a physics test isn’t good for your health, munching on raw carrots instead of potato chips will go a long way toward warding off sickness.
3. You'll look awesome.
Preservatives, chemicals, and GMOs (main ingredients in most processed foods) are toxic to our bodies and make our organs work extra hard to detoxify them from our system.
Without toxins to work out, your skin (your largest organ) can focus on being beautiful rather than oozing out the icky toxins, which makes you break out and look dull. You’ll find that you need to use less makeup, too, which both saves you money and clears you of unwanted chemical toxins!
4. You'll channel your creativity.
Raw food can feel limiting to some people, but for most, it opens up a whole new world of adventurous eating and creative cuisine. Before eating raw foods, a sandwich was just a sandwich to me.
Now, it's way more fun to Google the best raw recipes, browse through Whole Foods for the exciting ingredients, and experiment in the kitchen for something that tastes good and is healthy! Suddenly, I discover new raw wraps (there is such a thing!), veggies, and dressings that I can make entirely on my own to suit my tastes. Way more fun than slapping turkey on white bread, right?
5. You'll say bye-bye to illness.
A college dorm is essentially a festering Petri dish of germs. In my experience, it can take 24 hours for one infestation of the common cold to spread to everyone on the floor, especially if you share a common bathroom.
In this type of environment, your diet can either heal or harm your body. Our bodies were created to heal themselves, and they can only do this if they are being fed properly. A diet of whole, raw foods—chock full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants that haven’t been lost in the cooking process—will fight against illness. You’ll be happy come Friday night, when you’re the only one not hacking up a lung in sweatpants.
There are many other reasons for why college students should consider a raw food diet. For example, it helps you sleep better, it restores energy (no more $50/week Starbucks binges necessary, thus saving you money, too), and it gives you a stronger connection to your body.
A word on refrigeration
If you live in a typical dorm room, chances are that your refrigeration options are limited. Since most raw foods, like vegetables, require refrigeration, this is where you get to be creative.
Buy snacks like raw almonds, kale chips, granola, and apples (which don’t need refrigeration). Find a friend who also wants to eat raw and share fridge space, or see if you can rent a second mini fridge for a small cost. Make sure you hit up the salad bar while visiting the cafeteria, and eliminate all processed foods that don’t provide nutrition, such as soda and potato chips.
While there are challenges to eating raw on campus, it's worth it when you examine the health benefits. When you put so much effort into maintaining your body’s strength and health, you will have a deeper connection between your body and your mind and emotions. We do good things for that which we love…and with a raw food diet, you learn to love yourself even more. In college, there may be no better lesson to learn.