Raw food diets hit a tipping point in 2014, gaining popularity among health conscious men and women across America. Still supported by many alternative medicine practitioners, raw food diets promise better health and vitality to those who can manage to stick to the nutritional plan’s unconventional requirement: No cooked food.
In theory, the raw diet seems like a great idea. The composition of food changes when it is cooked, leading to a decrease in enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Proponents of the raw diet believe it delivers higher concentrations of naturally occurring nutrients to promote health, wellness, and vitality. However, recent studies suggest following the raw diet can actually be harmful to the body, especially the teeth and gums.
Raw Food Diet: Bad for Teeth and Gums?
Below are 7 of the most common reasons holistic dental professionals warn patients to be wary of the raw diet:
1. Adjusting to a raw diet may cause you to eat more.
The most popular raw fruits and vegetables are typically lower in calories and more fibrous than cooked foods like chicken, beef, and pork. As a result, following the raw diet might increase the overall mass of daily food intake, though caloric intake may decrease. This introduces a larger volume of plant-based enzymes in a raw form that can adversely affect the health of the thyroid and digestive system, as described below.
2. Increased intake of certain raw foods can hurt the thyroid gland.
Many popular raw food vegetables are known as goitrogens. These naturally occurring compounds have the potential to cause hormonal imbalance. Specifically, goitrogens can perpetuation thyroid disorders. For individuals with existing thyroid condition, goitrogens can make it more difficult for the thyroid to produce vital hormones, leading to hypothyroidism and goiter. Most common vegetables with goitrogens include kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens, and brussel sprouts (i).
3. Raw foods may agitate the digestive system.
In addition to causing thyroid issues, raw foods can be more difficult for the digestive system to efficiently break down and absorb. An over abundance of vegetables increases total cellulose and fiber, both of which can be difficult for the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to digest efficiently. This can lead to bloating, indigestion, weight gain, malnutrition, and inflammation.
4. Agitated GI tract can have a negative affect on nutrient absorption.
Ideally, food is properly broken down as it is passed through the GI tract. This is vital when it reaches the small intestine, where nutrients are supposed to be drawn through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. However, irritation and inflammation make it more difficult for the body to fully absorb nutrients from the foods we eat.
5. As nutrient absorption falls, oral health begins to suffer.
Nutrient absorption decreases as inflammation increases, causing a significant oral health and total body wellness issues. This makes it difficult for minerals to naturally remineralize teeth, ultimately leading to weak enamel, tooth decay, and even gum disease. See also: How minerals and trace minerals remineralize teeth.
Additionally, nutrients are not fully extracted from fruits and vegetables unless their fibers are fully broken down. In this way, cooking or heating food increases the bioavailability and absorption of nutrients. To illustrate, consider that a cooked tomato has 3-4 times the lycopene as a raw one (ii).
6. Raw food diets can wear down your enamel.
Finally, an exclusively raw food diet has a detrimental impact on tooth enamel. Over-reliance on tough, raw, fibrous foods increases the rate of “wear and tear” experienced by teeth. Enamel fades more quickly, which can make it easier to develop tooth decay and gum disease. The damage is compounded by the fact that raw food diets often make it more difficult for the teeth to naturally remineralize themselves, as noted above.
7. Raw food diets have been linked with decrease in brain power.
A fundamental lack of nutritional “brain power” is perhaps the most compelling reason to avoid a raw food diet. This finding is the result of a study conducted at the University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that was later published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Commenting on the study, neuroscientist and research team member Suzana Herculano-Houzel explains, “If you eat only raw food, there are not enough hours in the day to get enough calories to build such a large [human] brain,” (iii). Harvard University primatologist, Richard Wrangham, proposed a similar theory in the 1990s, stating that the human brain enjoyed rapid expansion about 1.8 million years ago, when early humans first learned to cook meats, tuberous roots, and vegetables over open flames (iv).
Nutrition and Holistic Dentistry
The best way to build a life-long healthy smile is to give the body everything it needs to re-mineralize teeth naturally and efficiently. At Assure A Smile, we take a holistic approach to dentistry, and we believe that your teeth will enjoy a much healthier lifestyle through proper nutrition, diet, and care.
We invite South Florida residents to schedule an appointment online to experience holistic dentistry firsthand. Readers are also invited to speak with a friendly member of our front desk by calling 305-274-0047.
(iv) See above