Sunday, June 3, 2007

What the heck is this raw foods thing you're doin'?

Frequently Asked Questions: Part 1

So it occurs to me that some of my readers, including my closest friends and family, have no clue what exactly this whole thing is about...

Here are some questions that I bet you've wanted to ask, but haven't.

1) Why raw foods?
I believe that human beings, like all animals, have a diet that is prescribed by Nature and perfectly-designed to keep them healthy and functioning within their ecosystem. Moving away from that natural diet results in disease of all kinds.

Cooking food destroys many of the nutrients and enzymes in the food. It creates toxins called AGEs and acrylamides that are associated with serious diseases such as cancer. Cooking food also allows us to eat foods that are not designed for our species, such as meat and grains, and when eaten over time, these foods cause chronic diseases.

2) So, what exactly do you eat?

I eat a diet based on fruit and tender greens. Many so-called vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, are actually fruits.

3) Isn't that dangerous?


4) Are you sure? All the experts say we have to have a balanced diet. Where will you get your protein and calcium and all that stuff?

Lots of "experts" say lots of things. Let's look at nature. Let's look at human biology. Let's look around us at the effects of that so-called balanced diet.

First off, human beings need the most protein when they are infants because they are growing so rapidly. And yet, the protein content of human breastmilk, the sole food they need for the first year or so, is only 5-15% protein. How can an adult require more protein than an infant?

Secondly, excess protein consumption CAUSES calcium loss. We can easily get all of the calcium we need from fruit and tender greens, if we aren't consuming things that cause calcium loss (too much protein, salt, acid-forming foods).

Thirdly, human beings cannot digest high protein foods easily. Humans lack the digestive systems of carnivores or omnivores. They do not have high-levels of stomach acid to digest raw meat. Likewise, legumes are indigestible in their raw state, and cause much digestive discomfort in their cooked or sprouted state.

Finally, studies show that protein consumption, especially animal protein, is linked with increased risks of cancer and other chronic diseases. (For more information on this, read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.)

Our closest relatives in nature are the Bonobo monkeys. They eat a diet of primarily raw fruit, with some raw shoots and a very small amount of raw seeds. Our tooth structure, our digestive system, all of our innate senses and abilities--all are most like animals who are fruit-eaters, not like those of carnivores, omnivores, granivores, or insectivores.

5) What about Vitamin B-12? Human beings need it and the only place to get it is in animal products. Doesn't this prove we need to eat meat?

A lot isn't known about Vitamin B-12 and why deficiencies of this vitamin are becoming so common. Actually, Vitamin B-12 deficiency is equally common among meateaters than it is among vegans. The primary problem with B-12 deficiency arises from a lack of B-12 absorption rather than B-12 consumption. Eating the proper foods means your digestive system will work better, making deficiency less likely.
Also, it is thought that our industrialized food system might have something to do with a loss of B-12 in the soil because of farming practices. Also, there is thought to be a loss of B-12 on produce because of treatment with pesticides or irradiation. Some have suggested that exposure to pollutants might cause our bodies to become deficient in B vitamins. Another theory is that our food is too clean and that exposure to the bacteria in soil, insects, and feces would prevent Vitamin B-12 deficiency. All of these are theories.

Many raw vegans have normal B-12 levels without consuming supplements. Others choose to take supplements just in case. Some people feel that it is important to avoid consuming frozen foods because they may kill off intestinal flora in the gut and interfere with B-12 synthesis. Others claim that periodic fasting increases the body's ability to absorb B-12.

Anyone who is concerned that they may become deficient in B-12 can have their blood tested by a doctor and consume a supplement if they choose.

6) Yeah, well, I guess something has to kill us. We can't live forever. I'd rather have fun eating before I die.

O.k., that's assuming people are having fun. Everywhere I go, everyone I meet is suffering needlessly every day. They are overweight or obese. They are depressed and tired. Over 80% of Americans take some form of medication daily. This figure doesn't count all of the stimulants people consume in the form of caffeine, nicotine, etc. All of the surgeries and medications and technologies are not making us less sick and tired. And for what? The joy of a hamburger, cola and a sundae? Are they really THAT good?

Believe it or not, the cause of disease is not genetic. It's not nature attacking us with germs or viruses. When our bodies are healthy, we do not suffer disease.

You don't need to have "fun" with junk food. I have fun eating ripe colorful delicious fruits. I have fun gardening and walking and spending time with friends and family. I feel great physically and have the energy for many fun pursuits. As I age, I'll be healthy enough to continue to be active and have adventures, rather than spending a lot of time and money trying to stop my body from falling apart.

7) Isn't it really complicated? Lots of sprouting and dehydrating and making green smoothies?

No. There are some raw foodists who choose to eat a lot of pretend cooked foods or complicated recipes. There are sproutarians. Then there are raw foodists who are inspired by the Natural Hygiene movement and its followers, such as Doug Graham. I am following the last group because it makes the most sense in terms of health and biology.

If we really study our body's biology, we find that our ideal diet consists of mainly sweet fruits such as bananas and melons, supplemented with other fruits, tender leafy greens, and possibly a very small amount of overt fats from seeds and avocados. Anything else can cause serious health complications. For example, dehydrated foods often cause constipation, dehydration, diarrhea, mouth wounds, tooth decay, etc.

Many raw foodists eat an enormous amount of their calories from fats such as nuts and avocadoes, which causes all kinds of health problems. See Dr. Graham's 80/10/10 Diet for more information.

8) So just whole fruit and salad? That sounds unappetizing. I couldn't live without hamburgers or spaghetti or cake and ice cream.

First of all, fruit and salad are absolutely delicious. Try it and you may like it. In fact, cooked food is actually not very good without adding huge amounts of excitotoxins (toxins that are addictive because they create an opiod sensation in the body, like a drug), such as salt, spices, sugar, chemical food additives, etc.

Here's a test, take out your hamburger meat and smell it. Mmmm, don't you want to just shove some in your mouth? O.k., now take some in your hand. Ooo, doesn't that feel good? No? O.k., cook it up. Now, take a bite. Don't add any salt or catsup or seasoning of any kind. Really taste the flavor. Hmmm. Not so hot?

Try again. Take out some wheat flour. (You couldn't even try the wheat berry in it's whole form--it's impossible to chew and digest.) Sniff--not too hard, it'll go up your nose! Taste. Mix with water into a plain pancake and cook on a nonstick surface--don't add anything to it including oil or syrup. Yummy?

Now, repeat this test with an apple or a banana or your favorite fruit.

9) Doesn't eating this way make you an outcast? I bet there are no restaurants you can eat at. What about all of the holidays and birthdays?

No, I'm not an outcast, although sometimes when I'm feeling melodramatic, I feel like one. Yes, being different can be a challenge. Some friends and family do make an effort to have fruit and salad available at social occasions. I try to fly under the radar with people who I feel won't be supportive. Most people don't really notice, or at least, don't say anything. I can connect with people on other things that we have in common. Food isn't the only thing that connects us!

As for restaurants, I can usually get a plain salad anywhere. Buffets are sometimes a good option, although it depends on the buffet, because the salad and fruit can be poor quality. I don't eat out much; it's not that thrilling to me anymore.

Birthdays and holidays are a challenge for me because I want to help my kids make good food choices, which can be challenging in these settings. Also I don't always enjoy feeling singled out for being different. So far, I personally don't feel deprived at these occasions. I don't really miss the junk--it's not even "food" to me anymore.
10) Are you 100% raw? Have you ever "fallen off the wagon"?
I was 100% raw from late April to late September, 2007. From September through December, I struggled with emotional eating, eating lots of junk food. I gained 30 pounds during that time. I am working on clearing my emotional blocks so that I can enjoy my health again.
11) Doesn't the fact that so many people struggle falling off the wagon show that the 80-10-10 raw way doesn't work? You must be deficient in ____________, don't you think?
People use food as a substance to numb their feelings. In particular, eating fat, cooked food, or chemical-laden junk food requires so much energy to digest and eliminate, that our body is forced to shut down the processing of feelings. Many people don't realize how much they have relied on food as a coping mechanism.
So, I think when a person struggles with "falling off the wagon," it would be helpful to try to sort out the emotional baggage that it interfering with their success. Chances are, that baggage is contributing to a lot of other problems besides overeating.


Valerie Winters said...

You did an excellent job on your FAQ. Lots of helpful info for folks new to raw foods.

Greenmama said...

Thanks, Val. I had more to say, but it was getting too long. So I decided I would make a Part 2 at some point.


Anonymous said...

LOVE IT! Thanks for posting! :)

Laura said...

This is fabulous! :)

Princess Phatso said...

I love your story...very can never tell what a person is going through by just looking, but everyone you meet is dealing with something...I have supreme confidence "this tree is about to take root"

Andrew said...

Great information, thanks.

Via811 said...

Great job witht he FAQ's section. I loved it. Ciao