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Why Eat Raw?
The answer to this question could fill a whole book easily cited with common sense and science backed answers. Beyond the easily noticeable and self proven health, fitness, mental, and spiritual benefits here are a few tidbits. Every animal, insect, reptile, amphibian etc. eats foods that they are physiologically designed for, generally one kind at a time, in their natural raw state. The only exceptions tend to be our domesticated animals, or when ideal foods are scarce, or animals that scavenge from us. Not coincidentally, both our domesticated animals, and us, also exhibit the highest levels of degenerative disease, poor health, unhealthy body weight, and shortest respective life-spans. When you look into human history it is also relevant to know we have only been cooking some of our foods (until the last few hundred to thousand years cooking has been a luxury for most) part of the time for less than 1% of our species time on this planet. When foods are cooked, carbohydrates are caramelized, proteins are denatured, fats are rancidified, and many other toxic substances can be formed such as, advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These factors, among others, can lead one to toxicity, inflammation, impaired digestive function, and are by far one of the largest factors in our general state of poor physical, mental, and spiritual health, not to mention rampant degenerative diseases.
What is Considered Raw?
Although you can get differing opinions, the most precise and basic answer is, foods that are ripe, in their whole form, not having been subjected to any cooking. Foods that can be eaten as is, and are enjoyed fully as a meal all by themselves are the best of all nature’s gifts to us to build and maintain the highest levels of health. While dehydrated foods are technically raw if you keep the temperature under 118˚ F, they are missing one vital essential nutrient, water, and cannot be considered whole. That said what you do most of the time will have the largest impact on your health. Fresh, ripe, raw, quality, organic fruits and vegetables, in their whole form are always the best choice.
What is a Raw Foodist?
Typically a raw foodist is one who eats mostly to exclusively, generally 80 – 100% of their total calories, foods that have not been cooked. While there are some people who maintain a raw food diet with meat and dairy, those who only consume plant foods (as I recommend) are considered raw vegans. I recommend a diet predominated by fruits, packed with as much tender young greens and fruit veggies (tomato, cucumber, zucchini, sweet peppers, eggplant etc) as you care for and including smaller quantities of hardier veggies, nuts, seeds and fatty fruits.
Are You a Fruitarian?
Although I know a few people who have had some success on a all fruit (liberally including fruit veggies, and some fatty fruits) diet, I do not recommend taking this course, at least in the long term. All of the most vibrant and healthy long term raw foodists I know and have learnt under recommend and enjoy vegetables, particularly young tender dark leafy greens to ensure optimal mineral intake and exceptional health. I recommend that 2 – 6% of your total calories (over time) to, on average, come from greens. Depending on your size, weight and activity level, all of which determine your caloric needs, this could look like 1 – 2 lb of romaine or celery, 1 – 4 heads of romaine or any other tender young green. For some developing the taste for greens takes time and is best done by introducing smaller amounts, chewing extremely well, or blending with fruits for green smoothies, or with fruit veggies for soups and stews 🙂
Are There Other Raw Food Diets?
There are more than a few raw diets out there, some even include meats, dairy, eggs and other animal products. I do not recommend the above non vegan option for various health, ecological, and ethical reasons. The majority, and more mainstream raw diets shun fruits and instead get the bulk of calories from fat. While most raw foodists who adhere to this program wouldn’t consider it high fat, if fruits are kept to a minimum, particularly sweet fruits, it invariably means fats (nuts seeds avocados coconuts, and sometimes oils and olives) provide the bulk of their calories. As vegetables are quite low in calories, people adhering to a higher fat raw diet find their total calories coming from up to 60%+ fat, higher than even the SAD (Standard American Diet at around 45%). These diets turn out to be unsustainable in the longterm, as too much fat, even raw fat, invariably causes various predictable health problems and the underconsumption of our main fuel source, carbohydrate. More than often you find people advocating, or adhering to this diet also peddling, using, or recommending supplements, stimulants, pills, supposed “superfoods”, and/or powders, to make up for the lack in their diet, or as they would have you believe, our natural foods.
Through comparing our physiology and eating habits with our closest relatives (the bonobos sharing over 99% of our genes with us) as well as thinking about seasonal foods (nuts, seeds and avocados are seasonal, have a short season at that, and are labour intensive) common sense knocks loudly. Taking advantage of the recommendations of the most renown experts (Graham, Ornish, Campbell, Gregor, Barnard, Esselstyn to name a few), some of the healthiest, longest living cultures (The Blue Zones), and the largest studies in the field of nutrition (The China Study) it is found a diet is low in fat and protein while high in carbohydrates is the common thread. Bringing this knowledge over to raw foods nutrition we find the most healthful and sustainable raw food diet constitutes primarily fruit, being naturally in high in carbohydrates, calories and virtually all essential nutrients, a large amount of vegetables for their higher mineral and higher protein content, and smaller amounts of nuts, seeds and fatty fruits (1/2 – 1 avocado, or a small handful of nuts/seeds on occasion).
What About Protein?
This is the most common question I hear, it is interesting to note that protein deficiency is so rare, there isn’t even a established medical name for it unless one is under consuming total calories, and thereby starving. Overconsumption of protein is a much more pressing problem with various major health implications such as kidney failure, cancer, acidosis, arthritis, premature aging, and kidney stones to name a few. A random mix of fruits yields roughly 4 – 8 % of their calories coming from protein (or more accurately essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein), roughly the same as mothers milk at 6%. A random mix of veggies yields 15 – 20% protein providing more than adequate amounts when enough calories are consumed to fulfill your personal needs. If one is concerned they can also add a tablespoon or two of hemp seeds (high in protein and an amazing EFA profile) or another high protein seed alongside their vegetable heavy meal to bolster their protein intake. The truth IMHO is that the media and our various dietary recommendations have been infiltrated by special interest groups (meat, dairy, medical etc) whom inflate our needs for protein to fill their pockets, at the expense of our health and environment.
What About Vitamin B12?
This is a large issue, one with much to be considered and thus I made a whole video on it here that goes much deeper into this. Firstly b12 deficiency isn’t a issue restricted to vegans, but also a common issue shared by vegetarians and meat eaters alike. B12 is not intrinsically found in meat, but rather it is a bacterial by product found in both meat, and in some plant foods, in healthy organic soil, as well as in the intestine and mucosa of healthy individuals. Some maintain seaweeds and algae contain adequate b12, but evidence shows these to also contain the analogue form, which actually blocks and prevents absorption of human-active b12. In the past before soil degradation by chemical companies, all of our produce contained b12 in healthy amounts on their skin and around their stems. Even with all these factors, the most common issue in b12 deficiency isn’t availability, but absorption. Various factors affect absorption, namely disrupted digestive function, chemicals on our foods, GMO’s, over use of antibiotics / antibacterial products, routinely eating frozen foods, and high content of fat in the diet, which compromises the bacteria’s production of b12 and clogs uptake sites. Taking all this into account, by following proper food combining, eating fresh, ripe, raw, organic and/or wild foods, restricting or eliminating eating foods still in their frozen state, and living a otherwise healthful lifestyle, b12 need not necessarily be a issue but truthfully often is. This all said, each individuals specific condition must be considered, if due to the above, past health factors or current environmental factors, one is exhibiting b12 deficiency symptoms ( I recommend testing for uMMA and Homocysteine), it shouldn’t be “the end of the world” to supplement at least until the crisis is passed, and healthy production and absorption is regained. With our current realities imho most people would be best to test and consider supplementation. Again watch my video here for even more info on this important subject.
What about Vitamin D?
This is another large issue, one with much to be considered and thus I made a whole video on it here. In short the most reliable and healthful way to get adequate vitamin D3 production is to get enough time, but not too much, in the sun. Many factors come into play including your skin tone, how long you stay in the sun, what time of day, your geographical location, what season it is, the clothing you wear, if you use sunscreens, among others. This is a crucial nutrient involved in bone health, hormonal health and many other important functions, for this reason I recommend you check out my entire written / video post on “My Top 4 ways to get vitamin D as a vegan” Here.
What About Salt?
Eating extracted sodium chloride in any form (sea salt, table salt) contains inorganic minerals, has toxic qualities that causes tissues to retain water to dilute from, and act as a irritant to the body. Our body much prefers and can more easily and fully utilize organic minerals. Salt overstimulates our taste buds, deadening them to the subtler tastes of natural foods, is said to inhibit digestion, and causes disruption of our natural electrolyte balance. In the past in Japan, a common method of suicide for a samurai was to consume one ounce of salt! Organic sodium, along side other minerals, on the other hand are in whole plant foods, found especially in leafy greens, celery and tomatoes, and can supply more than enough healthful organic salts as well as other minerals needed, when eaten in adequate amounts, in their proper ratios for optimal health. Although it can take years to rid your body of all accumulated salt, within a few short weeks of living salt free the bulk of accumulation and cravings drop greatly. Abstaining from salt to the largest degree imho is well worth your time and energy.
What about Spices, Condiments, Onions, Garlic?
While there is a lot of controversy around these substances, and while there are many beneficial nutrients in them there is no doubt that they can act as irritants to the body, contain antibiotic and toxic substances which can in turn deaden our taste buds to the fresher tastes of fruits and vegetables. In more than a few religions and philosophies they are said to disturb the mind and bring up darker emotion, this may be due to the ability of certain substances in garlic to pass through the blood-brain barrier and temporarily separate some connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain! Eat any of these once you have cleaned your body out and your skin, breath and “pits” will reek of them as your body is expelling it as fast as possible. One useful guide to follow, and learn from is simply put “if you can not make a meal of it, it’s not likely people food”. When in transition or if you use a dab here and there, it’s a personal choice, that said, your health and tastes are best served by abstaining from these, or keeping them to a minimum for the most part.
How about Vinegar?
Vinegar is made from acetic acid, this is found in its pure form with skull and cross bones in any chemistry lab. “Food grade” vinegar is diluted by 19 parts water, but is still undoubtably a toxic poison, effecting negatively many of your bodily processes. Some of these include impaired thyroid function, body weight issues, headaches, lethargy and also speeding up of the aging process. This is true for all forms of vinegar, including balsamic and apple cider. It’s interesting that people control the rotting of foods, bottle them and sell them back calling them a health food. Try drinking a cup of any of these and tell me they are health foods, actually don’t, I wouldn’t wish you the harm. I would recommend using the juice of a lemon or lime in place of your vinegar.
What about Oils?
Oil in any form is pure fat, and thus cannot be considered a whole food. Being completely stripped of all minerals, fiber, water and vitamins, they are truly a processed food containing empty calories. Once again we have whole foods processed into a lesser form sold back to us as a over priced misrepresented health food. All of the EFA’s we need are found naturally in fresh ripe organic plant food in the proper ratios for optimal health.
More to come 🙂
Email me at any time on my Contact Me page with any questions or comments or to set up a personalized consultation. I aim to answer all questions either directly, or when appropriate on my mailing list, or here on frequently asked questions.
One last tidbit, there are no food born nutrients your body needs that can not be found in their highest quality, most easily digestible and easily assimilated form than in fresh, ripe, raw, organic fruits, young tender leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Youthful vitality, vibrant health, and a joyous disposition is our natural state, one we all can enjoy with simple lifestyle changes.
Happy eating 🙂