Whether you’re trying to change your eating habits or continue on your path of healthy eating, it’s important to do your research. But sometimes it’s tough to decode all the jargon. We had some questions of our own about the differences between raw foods, living foods, and fermented (can you blame us?), and did some digging so you don’t have to.
Raw foods are just that—fruits and vegetables that have not been cooked or cooked above 117 degrees. (Many raw food devotees believe that foods heated above 117 degrees lose their beneficial nutrients and enzymes, although some say this begins to occur at 106 degrees.)
There are some raw foods that have been dehydrated (like raw crackers), but supplements (like hemp seeds) can be raw, as well. According to the Journal of Nutrition, long-term consumption of a raw food diet has been linked to favorable LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (the main constituents of body fat).
Try: Raw Greens
Spinach, kale, chard…you name it—if it’s green and leafy, you’ll want to fill a quarter of your plate with it, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Load up on green veggies in salads, via smoothies (pick a powder that has a high concentration of raw greens, like Garden of Life Raw Protein and Greens), or as a side.
Raw foods and living foods are very similar, but living foods most often means sprouted foods. Sprouted foods—grains, seeds, or beans—are foods that have sprouts growing out of them, and are actually living and growing. For many living food devotees, these foods are generally consumed very quickly after they are picked.
Sprouting is most often achieved by soaking these foods in water. The thinking is that the enzymes in the growing food make the nutrition more bio-available (a.k.a. effective) to humans.
Sapna Punjabi-Gupta MS, RDN, LD, AP, a registered dietitian, certified Ayurvedic practitioner, and culinary wellness expert, explains that in Ayurveda, a historic system of medicine, living foods have more prana (a Sanskrit word for energy or life
Try: Sprouted Brown Rice
Sprouted (sometimes called germinated) brown rice is highly digestible and rich in fiber. It’s been linked to a lowered risk of diabetes, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology. You can sprout rice yourself, buy it ready to cook, or in a prepared product like cereal, or even try it as a supplement. According to the Journal of Food Science and Technology, sprouted brown rice is more bioavailable and nutritious than plain rice, and it offers a ton of health-boosting benefits.
Or…Sprouted Mung Beans
Punjabi-Gupta says sprouted mung beans are a staple in her household. The beans, which hail from Asia, are easy to put in soups, stews, or a tossed salad. Mung beans boast magnesium, potassium, folate, polyphenols, saponins, and vitamin C, among other compounds. According to the Journal of Cosmetic Science, sprouted mung beans will offer up some serious antioxidant activity.
You’re probably familiar with at least a few forms of fermented foods—like yogurt, kombucha, kefir, or sauerkraut. Fermented foods undergo a chemical process in which sugars and carbohydrates are converted into an acid or an alcohol. Fermented foods pack a healthy punch because they’re full of live microbes and probiotics that support gut health.
If you want the benefits of yogurt but can’t tolerate dairy, kimchi is for you. Made with cabbage, this spicy Korean food is chock full of probiotics, offering a full range of incredible health benefits, according to a 2014 article in the Journal of Medicinal Food. Try it as a topping, garnish, or lunch dish.