Raw foodists eat whole foods without heating them above a temperature 110 degrees (Exact limit temperatures vary from 108-118 degrees. My limit is 115 degrees.). These foods include vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, roots, squash, grains, beans, sprouts, herbs, spices, sea vegetables, fermented foods (like miso, kim chee, sauerkraut, and nut cheese), dried fruits and vegetables, cured foods, raw nut butter, cold pressed oils, and raw soy sauce (nama shoyu).


Heat destroys enzymes in food, which makes it harder to digest. Difficult digestion is not only uncomfortable, it is very unhealthy, especially over a long period of time (for more on enzymes, see "The Enzyme Debate" below).

Cooking also destroys much of the nutrients in food. Exactly how much nutrition is lost depends on how the food is cooked, for how much time, and which nutrient is in question. A very rough estimate is around half of the nutrients are lost when food is cooked.


Only an ideal diet will bring our bodies to ideal health. The Standard American Diet forces our bodies to spend undue energy on digestion, diverting energy to digestion that should be used for mental and physical energy. Everyone has experienced this. We all know that if we eat a lot of bread or pasta--which is hard to digest--we won't feel like going for a run afterwards. We'll feel like taking a nap, because our bodies have to spend too much energy on digestion. Only when I began eating raw did I realize how closely digestion is related to physical and mental energy. We should feel great after we eat, not tired or foggy.

The raw food diet is not just good for better digestion. If our digestion is good and we can eliminate toxins, our bodies can heal it's imbalances and create ideal operating conditions. The American diet creates a toxic load on our bodies over time, but we can detoxify by fasting or eating raw. Other benefits of our eating raw range from balancing hormones to making our bodies less susceptible to infections. The following benefits (listed below) are common among raw foodists. Depending on how sick one is to begin with, these benefits may be immediate or may not appear for some time. For example, when I started, my blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and mental clarity improved right away, but it took months for my hormones to balance out.

~Better digestion--no more cramping and bloating. Raw foodists actually have more energy after they eat, a feeling strange to many Americans (including me). More important than comfort is assimilation. If the body does not have to spend excessive energy ridding itself of offensive substances like dairy and wheat*, it can better absorb the nutrients it needs.

~Improved mental clarity--This partly results from better digestion. Some raw foodists have such a dramatic change in their mental clarity that they look at their previous lives as dreamlik.

~More energy--Until I began eating raw, I didn't realize I should be able to go through the entire day feeling energized.

~Better appearance--Besides bringing our bodies to an ideal weight, raw food also makes us look healthier. When I began eating raw, my acne improved, my skin became less oily, and my eyes got clearer.

~Better Mood: The American diet makes many people depressed, anxious, tense, and negative. There is something wrong with our bodies if we wake up uncomfortably groggy and go to bed at night worrying for no good reason. Eating right can make life a pleasure.

~A General Feeling of Emotional Balance: No more sugar crashes. Balanced hormones. Improved PMS symptoms (My PMS went from very painful to slightly unpleasant). Calm energy and mental clarity.

~Longer life--Although this is not as important as living an enjoyable and quality life (IMO), it is still quite important. Eating raw lengthens life in several ways. First, a diet of limited carbohydrates in itself slows aging. Eating raw can also remove most of our risk from several leading causes of death in the industrialized world. The leading cause of death in America, heart disease, is much less likely on the raw diet, especially for men. Cancer is also far less likely. There is a reason that cancer is not a leading cause of death in nations that do not eat the Western diet. (The American Cancer Association has a lot to say about the anti-carcinogenic effects of fruits and vegetables. See Link at bottom of post.)
Diabetes, the sixth leading cause of death, is nearly impossible if one eats a low glycemic diet**. The above are just a few reasons raw foodists live longer but, really, having a healthy, alkaline body makes us less susceptible most diseases.

WHO GETS INTO SOMETHING THIS RADICAL, ANYWAY? Many people who look into the raw food diet are desperate to cure diseases that traditional and even naturopathic medicine could not cure, especially chronic digestive illnesses and degenerative diseases. The raw food diet is excellent for these people because (the vast majority of it) is easy to digest and because it allows the body to continually detoxify and heal (similar to the action of a fast). Of course, this diet is great for most people. I consider it preventative medicine.

No! When I tell people about my diet, they often look horrified that I deprive myself of things like bread and chocolate. They know how much they would crave these things if they tried giving them up. But my addiction to these foods is over, and I have no desire to eat sugar, diary, or wheat. I don't even like their taste anymore. After only a month of eating fresh food, processed food started to taste fake and unappetizing. I love eating raw! .......But don't think raw foodists go without dessert. The best desserts I have ever made were made of nuts, dates, fruit, berries, coconut oil, carob, and agave nectar. Just try mixing up finely chopped almonds, dates, cinnamon, and vanilla!


Raw foodists use several tools and methods that many do not. The most important--and expensive--is the dehydrator, which is used for a wide variety of purposes, including making crackers, warming raw soup, drying nuts after soaking (see article on soaking nuts), drying fruit, and fermenting nut cheese.

Most raw foodists enjoy sprouts (see post on sprouting), and for this you need a couple quart or pint jars. (I use the ones coconut oil comes in.)

Another great tool to have is an ice cream maker (see post on raw ice cream). It sound weird, but raw ice cream actually tastes better than regular ice cream (fresh food ususally does), and it does not leave that slimy dairy feeling or the sugary aftertaste.

For more information on eating raw, check out Renee Loux Underkoffler's Living Cuisine, the ultimate guide to living raw (see post on Living Cuisine).
*Dairy and wheat are both very difficult to digest because they coat the intestines with mucus. This causes bloating, cramping, and tiredness.

**Many raw foodists do eat high-glycemic sweeteners, which is not healthy or necessary (see the post called "Sweeteners").

Link to American Cancer Association: <http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_3_2X_Common_Questions_About_Diet_and_Cancer.asp>

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


The raw food kitchen is not complete without a juicer, an awesome tool that allows us to give our bodies a break from digestion and a quick dose of enzymes and nutrients. Vegetable juice is great for detoxifying during juice fasts, and even cancer patients find it beneficial. There are endless possibilities for vegetable and fruit combinations, but here are some of the ones I have discovered. (You should use organic produce, and if you do, you can also juice the nutritious peels and rinds of your produce. Orange peel should not be eaten.)

Lemonade: 3 apples, 1/2 lemon

Orange juice: 3 oranges, tsp-sized piece of ginger

Green juice (this will not spike blood sugar): 1/2 bunch Swiss chard, 1 cucumber, 1/2 bunch of celery, wheat grass (optional), parsley

Apple carrot: 4 carrots, 3 sticks celery, 2 apples, 1/2 bunch spinach, 1/2 lemon, 1 clove garlic (if you like garlic)

Apple grape: 1 bunch grapes, 2 apples

Fruits and vegetables that are great for juicing: pear, apple, orange, lemon, strawberry, lime, grapefruit, pineapple, melons, cranberry (good for urinary tract infections), pomegranate, Swiss chard, celery (should always be juiced last, as the strings will clog the average juicer), spinach, beets (will make urine pink), basil, dandelion leaves, kale, garlic, ginger, turnips, mint, parsley, cucumber, jicama (starchy), sprouts of all types, wheat grass, any dark greens your juicer can handle.

A note on wheat grass: This is a popular thing to juice in small quantities. Wheat grass has an excellent nutritional profile and is a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin A, iron, magnesium, B-complex, super oxide dismutase (used by the body to make antioxidants). Among other benefits, it is said to cleanse the liver, help menopausal symptoms, prevent hair loss, cure constipation, detoxify heavy metals, improve digestion, and help prevent cancer.

Wheat grass juice is very potent and it can cause nausea if ingested by itself. In juice bars, it is usually added in shots to other kinds of juice. To get the most out of wheat grass, it is best to buy a wheat-grass juicer (buy a cheap one on eBay).

Tip: It is cheaper to grow your own wheat grass. The most nutritious wheat grass is grown outdoors through the winter, but it can also be done more conviently indoors over a period of about ten days. Just buy wheat berries, soil, and a plastic berry container. Put just enough wheat berries over the soil to cover it completely. Wheat grass needs 3-4" of soil, and it should grow about 5" tall before being cut with scissors. After being cut, it will continue to grow, but this new growth does not have the nutrients of the original grass.
(Cautionary Notes: 1. Drinking the juice of fruit and carrots will spike blood sugar. Drink it infrequently or with high protein foods. 2. Juicing spinach, beets, and collard greens on a regular basis can result in kidney stones. 3. A lot of green juice is a laxitive, which the body can adjust to eventually. Start out juicing in moderation. 4. You still need to eat whole vegetables. Juicing removes fiber, which maintains regularity. 5. Apple seeds should not be juiced. They contain natural cyanide.)
A helpful juicing website: http://www.juicingbook.com/

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Raw Ice Cream

There is such a thing as raw ice cream. For the committed raw-foodist, buying an ice cream maker is a great investment, as is a book called Vice Cream by Jeff Rogers. This raw ice cream recipe book has some unusual flavors (like pumpkin, which is excellent), in addition to the normal flavors. Here is a recipe I use, which is based on the recipes in Vice Cream.

My ice cream maker holds about five cups. Adjust the quantities according to the size of your ice cream maker.

3 cups almond milk
1 cup truly raw cashews (any fatty nut works well, but nuts with skins make the ice cream gritty.)
1/3 cup agave nectar
Any fruit (2 bananas, a cup of strawberries, blackberries, 1/2 cup of carob, raspberries, essential oil of mint, orange juice [or whole])
vanilla (optional. This is good by itself or with fruit.)

Blend all ingredients until smooth (a full five minutes or more). Follow instructions for ice cream maker. This is best eaten immediately because it will freeze solid in the freezer.

An alternative recipe I like:

The contents of a young Thai coconut (This is sweet, fatty, and has excellent flavor, unlike those regular brown hairy coconuts. It is also easier to get into.)
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup carob powder (banana would be good too)
1 tbsp. vanilla

Put contents of coconut in blender and add enough water to make four cups. Add other ingredients and blend. This recipe is based on a coconut macaroon cookie recipe in Raw Food Real World. It's macaroon ice cream.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Raw Recipes I Invented

Raw Tomato Soup
(no dehydrator required)


8 ripe roma tomatoes
12 sun-dried tomatoes
2 tsp. nama shoyu (raw soy sauce)

Basil (preferably fresh)
Oregano (preferably fresh)
2 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
2 cloves garlic
Pinch cayenne
3 sticks celery
1 white onion
1 cup steamed potatoes

Steam potatoes. Boil 3 cups of water, turn off heat and put chopped celery and onion into it to soften for about a minute. Blend all tomatoes, tamari, basil, oregano, parsley, oil, lemon juice, and cayenne. Mix potatoes, tomato mixture, and strained celery and onions. Add salt and pepper.

Raw Pizza
(dehydrator required)


1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
2 jalapeno peppers (CORED!)
1 cup golden flax seeds, finely ground (a coffee grinder works well for these)

Blend all ingredients into a thick paste and spread about 3/8'' thick on a dehydrator tray. Dehydrate at 110 degrees for eight hours. They are good when still a little soft.


3/4 cups sun-dried tomatoes
6 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
5 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. nama shoyu (raw soy sauce)
1 tbsp. agave nectar
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
Celtic sea salt to taste
A pinch cayenne


1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
3 tomatoes, seeded and sliced thinly
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped small
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (optional)
1/2 cups sliced black olives (if you can find raw ones)

Marinate chicken in nama shoyu, garlic, and ginger, and fry with oregano, thyme, and basil. (If you are raw, but eat meat and fish occasionally as I do, chicken is great on the pizza. It is, of course, optional, though.) Chop veggies and olives and mix together with the chicken pieces.

Cheese (optional):

The pizza already has enough flavors without "cheese," but here is the recipe:

3/4 cups pine nuts
Juice of half a lemon
2 cloves garlic
Celtic sea salt to taste
6 tbsp. oil (for spreadability)

Blend all ingredients in the blender or food processor.


You can cut the large cracker on the dehydrator tray into a large circle, like a pizza, but I prefer to make small pizzas--about hors d'oeuvre sized. Spread sauce on the crust, sprinkle with toppings, and distribute pieces of "cheese."

Stuffed Pesto Mushrooms
(dehydrator optional)


12 crimini mushrooms
4 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. nama shoyu
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic

3 cups basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
1 cup pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup raw black olives (optional)
Celtic sea salt to taste

Stem the mushrooms, and marinate the whole caps in nama shoyu, apple cider vinegar, and garlic for at least a half hour (overnight is good). Drain marinade. In food processor, blend basil, pecans, pine nuts, tomatoes, olives, and salt. Fill the mushrooms with the pesto and place in the dehydrator at 108 degrees for 1 hour. The mushrooms do not need to be warm, but they are better that way. If you don't have a dehydrator, put the mushrooms in the oven on the lowest temperature with the door slightly open. As with all foods, do not microwave them.

Soaking Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a major part of the raw-food diet, but many people have trouble digesting them. Nuts and seeds contain natural enzyme inhibitors which can be destroyed by soaking them in water. Soaking starts the sprouting process, rendering nuts alkaline forming, as well as tastier and easier to chew.

When I buy nuts, I soak and dehydrate them (at 105 degrees). Different nuts and seeds have different soak times. Hard nuts with skins, like almonds, should be soaked at least eight hours, while a soft seed like sunflower only needs three. I usually just soak them all overnight. After soaking, rinse them to wash off the tannins (brown stuff) that make them hard to digest. The time it takes to dehydrate nuts depends, of course, on the type of nut, but don't take them out until they are completely dry. Put the finished nuts in the freezer.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Raw foodists are obviously health-conscious people. Most of them know the dangers of white sugar and artificial sweeteners, but many still use sweeteners that are, although better than sugar, not truly healthy. Using raw maple syrup or organic evaporated cane juice is a step in the right direction, but these foods spike blood sugar and/or are acid forming. The only two sweeteners I know of that are low-glycemic (they don't spike blood sugar), plant-derived, and alkaline forming are stevia and agave nectar.

Stevia, which is derived from a South American herb, is 300 times sweeter than sugar and is therefore sold in small quantities (small bottles of liquid or packets of powder). It has been used extensively in Japan for thirty years with no known side-effects. Whereas the herb stevia provides its sweetness through a couple of unique chemicals, agave nectar is simply fructose-based. Fructose (fruit sugar) is about 1.25 times as sweet as sucrose (table sugar). Agave nectar is derived from the agave cactus and is used to make tequila. It is a liquid similar to honey, but it doesn't crystalize and it has less flavor.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Enzyme Debate

One of the main reasons that people stop cooking their food is that they want to preserve the foods natural enzymes. Enzymes are chemicals that help chemical reactions procede in every living cell. In digestion, enzymes are the chemicals that help break down food so that the body can absorb it. Some of these enzymes are provided by the pancreas and some are are already present in food, if it is raw. Cooking destroys enzymes, which, according to raw foodists, makes digestion more difficult. Difficulty with digestion--besides being uncomfortable--keeps the body from absorbing what it needs and makes the body tired. Anyone can tell the difference between how stir-fried vegetables digest and how a salad digests. Although there is some debate over whether enzymes actually do contribute to digestion, my body tells me they do, and I think they are worth preserving.

Problems with Eating Raw

There are several potential problems that a raw foodist may encounter. All of these may be avoided.

1. Detoxification symptoms. If you go directly from the Standard American Diet to a raw diet, your body will detoxify, which causes a plethora of unpleasant symptoms--diarrhea, cravings, rashes, headaches, etc. This usually lasts only a few days. It may be better to ease into the diet over the course of a week or so.

2. Early loss of too much weight. If you go quickly from a high-carbohydrate diet to a low-carbohydrate diet, your body may not adjust quickly enough, causing you may lose too much weight. It may be better to ease into the diet to allow your body to adjust.

3. Kidney beans (including sprouts) are poisonous when raw, as are buckwheat greens, and rhubarb greens.

4. Some people's digestive systems cannot handle woody vegetables--carrots, broccoli, etc--and these foods must be cooked (preferably by steaming). Not many people are this sensitive, but they should be aware that sometimes foods have to be cooked to render them digestible. Find what works for you.

5. Raw does not always mean healthy. There are several foods I often see in raw-food cookbooks that are not healthy. The most common ones are sweeteners, usually raw maple syrup, organic evaporated cane juice (sugar is sugar), and honey*. The ONLY two sweeteners that cannot cause health problems--as far as I know--are agave nectar and stevia, both of which come from plants. In raw recipes, I have also seen peanuts, which are hard to digest, coffee, commercial chocolate, and cashews**, which are almost always cooked.

6. Won't I become deficient in vitamin B12? This is a major concern of many potential vegetarians, because B12 deficiency can cause anemia. It is not, however, necessary to eat meat to obtain this vitamin because it can be produced in the human gut by friendly bacteria, just as it is in vegetarian animals (like beef, the best source of B12). As long as the bacterial balance of the gut is healthy, a deficiency is not likely. For more information on this subject, see <http://www.rawfoodexplained.com/why-we-should-not-eat-meat/vitamin-b12.html>.

*Honey--Honey is very nutritious, especially in its raw form, but it also converts to glucose quickly in the blood stream (a large percentage of the sugar in honey is sucrose and glucose). This can cause a more severe sugar crash than white sugar does, which is not healthy. I think it should be eaten in moderation or not at all.

**Cashews--When cashews are taken out of their shells, they are heated to temperatures higher than 115 degrees. A cashew package that says "raw" means un-roasted, not uncooked. It is possible to buy truly raw cashews.