|"Raw fooders" are people who have chosen to return to a natural way of eating and not only avoid processed foods, additives and preservatives, but also cooking. Their belief is that humans are not designed to eat cooked food as they are primarily plant eaters. Their arguments and reasonings come from the beginning of time when fire was unknown, and from religious references advocating natural uncooked foods such as those found in the Bible, the Essene Gospel of Peace and the Bhagavad Gita. More recently, David Wolfe, an authority on raw food nutrition, justifies that raw plant food is truly the most perfect food for human consumption by writing:
"The structure and function of humanity's teeth, jaw, digestive canal, sense organs, instincts of the young, psychological aversion towards killing, emotional feelings towards animals, as well as the cause and cure of disease and unhappiness all demonstrate that humans are biologically raw plant eaters." (1)
And, another authority on raw food, Dr. Edward Howell, writes:
"No matter from which angle we view health and disease we cannot escape from being entangled in the conclusion that intractable disease is as old as cookery. Disease and cookery originated simultaneously." (2)
And if that hasn't convinced you we have to remember that our nearest surviving relatives are orang-utans and gorillas who live on fruit and nuts, and have amazing strength, power and stamina!
The benefits of eating raw food are numerous. They provide high levels of natural, essential nutrients such as fibre, essential oils, antimicrobials, plant hormones, bioflavanoids, vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll which all benefit the human body. Raw food also provides digestive enzymes saving the body's own enzyme production for metabolic processes, supplies high levels of antioxidants to fight reactive oxygen species and boost the immune system, and has high potassium to sodium ratio for optimum cell function and pH balance. These benefits can be physically interpreted as feeling revitalised, looking great, improved concentration, more balanced emotions, natural body weight, increased energy and incredible enthusiasm for life(3). This all sounds brilliant, so let's explore the practicalities.
What do raw fooders eat? They choose from an abundant array of natural foods including fresh fruits, vegetables, salad fruits, leafy greens, herbs and wild greens, sea vegetables, spices, flowers, fungi, small vegetable seeds, dried fruits, cold pressed oils, algae and sprouted beans, peas, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds. Drinks include fresh fruit and vegetable juices and water. Most "raw fooders" will have store cupboard items including agar flakes, arrowroot powder, psyllium husks, carob powder, vanilla pods, almond butter, miso, nori sheets, olive paste, sea vegetable flakes, sprouted wheat bread, tahini and tamari. For those less than 100% raw food conscious, maple syrup may also be lurking there, but sadly is not truly "raw", however the good news is that there will be a bottle of quality, organic wine, which is definitely raw!
What kinds of food do they prepare? They make incredibly, wonderful, tasty foods using kitchen tools from as little as a knife, chopping board, fork, bowl and sprouting jar. More sophisticated equipment will include hand blenders, food processors, juicers, dehydrators, fridges and freezers. The dehydrator takes the place of a cooker and operates below 104 degrees fahrenheit to create dried apple rings, banana chips, peach slices, tomato rings, cucumber and courgette chips, herb sprinkles and seasonings, bread replacements such as wheat crisps, grain crackers and seed wafers, and a delicious range of sweet treats such as fudge, fruit cookies and biscuits. The freezer is used for making fat free ice cream from blending bananas with water and ice pops from freezing peeled bananas coated with coconut or carob flour. In general "raw fooders" make soups, juices, smoothies, desserts, dressings, sauces, whips, pates, seed cheeses, hummus, nut milks, sweet treats, grated and chopped fruits and vegetables.
What is a typical daily raw food diet? David Wolfe, an amazingly healthy, 100% raw food eater, describes a day's nutrition as 2 avocados, 30-40 ripe olives and/or 25-30 macadamia nuts, 1 papaya or 1 melon or 20-30 figs, 2 pounds of kale and or wild green food, 4-5 pieces of citrus fruit, apples or another juicy fruit in season, 2-4 ripe hot peppers, and 2-4 strips of dulse seaweed.
Will a raw food diet provide enough protein, iron, calcium and B12? If the correct quality, quantity and food combinations are adhered to, and the person's physiology is functioning well, then the answer is yes. Protein can be adequately supplied by raw plant food and a menu plan of 5 apples, 20 pecans, 25 macadamia nuts, 3 cucumbers, 1 courgette, 2 oranges, plus spinach, romaine lettuce endive, kale and green cabbage provides 49.2 grams of protein, which falls into the guidelines set by the World Health Organisation. Iron and calcium are found in many fruits and all green leafy vegetables, and B12 can be made by beneficial bacterial synthesis in the digestive tract.
How do I change to a raw food diet? The best way is to modify your existing diet slowly by adding more fresh produce and experimenting with different combinations of raw foods so that eventually each meal is based around raw ingredients. Most people can quite happily achieve a 75-80% raw food diet, but more guidance may be needed to achieve a 100% raw food diet that is healthy for you. Advice can be sort from a well established, qualified, nutritional practitioner and the "Fresh Network" who provide free information, support and help(4)
If raw food is so wonderful why doesn't everyone eat it? I think the answer has to be work, social and family pressures, lack of knowledge of how to plan a diet and simply that raw food may not suit your particular, unique, present metabolism. There is another reason too. Cooked food is pleasurable and a quote from my 11-year-old son David will probably echo many of your thoughts:
" Well I like raw food better than cooked food ----- but I still like my baked potatoes"
© Originally Published in Positive Health magazine
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