WHY EAT RAW?

WHAT DO RAW FOODISTS EAT?

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).

WHAT'S WRONG WITH COOKING?

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.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EATING RAW?

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.

IS IT A HARD DIET TO FOLLOW?
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!

HOW DO RAW FOODISTS PREPARE THEIR FOOD?

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>

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sweeteners

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.

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