raw food FAQs
Why Eat Raw?
Beyond the easily noticeable, and self-proven health, fitness, mental, and spiritual benefits, here are a few reasons why a raw food diet is beneficial. Every animal, mammal, insect, reptile, amphibian etc. eats foods that they are physiologically designed for, generally one food at a time, in their natural raw state. The only exceptions tend to be our domesticated pets, or when ideal foods are scarce, or animals scavenge from us. Not coincidentally we and our domesticated animals 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 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, and fats are rancid-ified, these factors among others lead to toxicity, 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 fresh, 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 natures gifts to us to build and maintain the highest levels of health. While some would say dehydrated foods are raw, they are missing one vital essential nutrient, water, and cannot be considered whole. That being said, it is what you do most of the time will have the largest impact on your health. Ripe, raw, fresh, organic fruits, leafy greens, 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, food that have not been cooked. There are some people who choose to eat a raw food diet with meat and dairy, and others that only consume plant foods (as I do) and they 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, etc) as you care for and including smaller quantities of raw nuts, seeds and fatty fruits.
Are There Other Raw Food Diets?
There are more than a few raw diets out there, some include meats, dairy, eggs and other animal products. I do not recommend any of the above for various health, ecological, and ethical reasons. The majority, and more mainstream raw diets shun filling up on fruit and instead get the bulk of calories from fat, eating nuts, seeds, avocados, coconuts, and sometimes oils and olives. As vegetables are quite low in calories, people adhering to this raw diet find their total calories coming from up to 60%+ fat. This is higher than even the SAD (Standard American Diet at around 45%). These diets turn out to be unsustainable in the long-term, as too much fat, even raw fat, invariably causes various predictable health problems and the under-consumption of our main fuel sources carbohydrates. More than often you find people advocating 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 (monkey), sharing over 99% of our genes with us, they consume the bulk of their calories from fruit. Also, nuts, seeds and avocados are seasonal, and they have a short season at that, and are labour intensive. Taking advantage of the recommendations of the most renown experts (Graham, Ornish, Campbell to name a few), some of the healthiest, longest living cultures, and the largest studies in the field of nutrition (The China Study), it is found a diet that 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 decent amount of vegetables for their higher mineral and higher protein content, and small amounts of nuts, seeds and fatty fruits (1/2 – 1 avocado, or a small handful of raw 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. In fact the only way to under consume protein is by under consuming total calories, and thereby starving. Over consumption 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. Fruits typically yield 4-8 % of their calories from protein (or more accurately essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein), and roughly the same as mother's milk at 6%. Veggies average 15 – 20% protein, providing more than adequate amounts when enough calories are consumed to fulfill your personal needs. The truth is 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.
Do I need Vitamin B12 supplements?
This is a large issue, one with much to be considered. Firstly b12 deficiency isn't an issue restricted to vegans, but also shared by vegetarians and meat eaters alike. B12 is not found in meat, rather its a bacterial by product found on both meat, and 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 analog 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 availably, but absorption. Various factors affect absorption, namely disrupted digestive function, 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 may not be a issue. That said, each individuals specific condition must be considered, if due to the above or past health factors one is exhibiting b12 deficiency symptoms, it shouldn't be "the end of the world" to supplement until the crisis is passed, and healthy production and absorption is regained.
Dr Douglas Graham gives a much more thorough and scientifically backed explanation of this issue in his book The 80-10-10 Diet, which I highly recommend.
Above everything else, eating raw foods is an enjoyable lifestyle. Once you cut out all the CRAP processed foods, your tastebuds will burst with every bite of a simple apple. Plus you'll have more time and energy to do the things you love most in your life. Youthful vitality, vibrant health, and a joyous disposition is our natural state, one we all can enjoy with simple lifestyle changes.