The new mania for raw foods traces its roots back to the late 1800s when a doctor named Maximilian Bircher-Benner discovered he could cure his jaundice by eating raw apples. Since then, hundreds of experiments have been launched to test the effects of raw food on human health.
These last few years, the raw food diet has become a movement (or a fad, depending on your point of view). Enthusiasts believe it will cure or prevent practically every chronic disease. I don’t go that far, but it does have some real benefits. Even if you don’t go for it whole-hog, here are some reasons why you should make at least a half-way move toward a whole-food diet. . .
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A true raw food diet means you eat food that hasn’t been changed in any way from its natural form. That means you stay away from anything that’s cooked, processed, microwaved, irradiated, or genetically modified by high-tech gene-splicing, as well as anything grown with pesticides or herbicides.
The result is a diet that consists mostly of organic, fresh fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, herbs, and vegetables.
Several variations to the diet exist, but typical raw-food enthusiasts allocate 75% to 80% of their daily diet to food that hasn’t been heated above 115 degrees. The theory (which I consider well-founded) is that cooking depletes food of at least 30% of its natural nutrients and all of its enzymes.
Some even argue that cooking food can chemically alter its structure and may convert certain foods to toxins, carcinogens, mutagens, and free-radicals, all of which are associated with cancer.
There’s no question that cooking food alters proteins – that’s actually one reason we cook meat. Cooking turns chewy, rubbery raw meat into something that breaks down pretty easily in the mouth. If the heat is high enough, it also modifies a wide range of fats and oils, turning them into toxins.
It’s well-established that over-grilling and charring foods introduces toxins into your body.
Most followers of the raw food diet are vegan, though occasionally you’ll find someone who eats raw animal products such as unpasteurized milk, raw fish, and certain kinds of raw meat. Any food that’s pasteurized, processed, or refined is off limits. That means you can’t eat baked goods, pasta, store-bought juices (nearly all are pasteurized), or milk — among other things.
Why go on a raw foods diet in the first place?
Because advocates believe cooking reduces or eliminates the vitamins and antioxidants in foods, they contend you’ll get higher levels of both if you follow the diet. So on the surface, a raw foods diet makes a lot of sense.
For starters, you wind up eating loads of fresh fruits, berries, vegetables, and nuts in their natural state. Because the food doesn’t get cooked or irradiated and isn’t exposed to genetic engineering or pesticides, you’re all but guaranteed a higher nutritional content.
A significant factor is that you’re consuming thousands of plant compounds that either haven’t been identified yet, or whose benefits haven’t been analyzed yet. I have little doubt some of these unknown compounds pack a powerful nutritional punch.
Consider that resveratrol, curcumin, pycnogenol, anthocyanins, astaxanthin, lutein and many other familiar nutrients were unknown just a few years ago. Very likely they’re just the tip of the iceberg. While I’m a strong advocate of taking food supplements, a raw food diet remains the better choice.
You’re getting all those unknown wonder nutrients instead of just one or two that have been isolated, extracted and put into a pill. And you’re getting them in a more bioavailable form.
The raw food diet is also an effective weight-loss diet, if that’s your angle. Most people who follow a raw foods diet eat only half the calories they’d get with a cooked-foods diet. Among other things, the fiber fills you up so you don’t have to eat so much, and the diet doesn’t include addictive, binge-inducing sugar or MSG.
One thing you’ll find is that foods that don’t get most of us excited, like a kale salad, are delicious when you’re hungry and you’re not allowing yourself the easy fix of carbohydrates. At the same time, few of us will down a second helping of kale salad the way we’d scarf down a second helping of mashed potatoes.
On the raw foods diet, you tend to eat until you aren’t hungry anymore, and then stop. That’s a good thing.
The resulting weight loss often helps prevent or control diabetes. You’re not eating the sugar and refined grains that bring on insulin resistance and spikes in blood sugar.
Another advantage to raw food is that it helps your body reach an alkalized state, which (according to its advocates) brings on healing, weight loss, and detoxification. I’m not a big fan of the acid/alkaline theory of disease – but without question the same diet that’s said to make your body alkaline is healthy anyway, on more sensible grounds.
Other claimed benefits (this time, with a better foundation): You’ll have more energy, better digestion, clearer skin, and you’ll even be lightening the toxic burden that’s wrecking the planet.
It’s not without risks, of course. If you follow a strict raw foods diet, you’re at risk of insufficient caloric intake. In women, this can lead to amenorrhea, which causes menstrual periods to stop and may contribute to uterine cancer.
The fact is, I don’t think a pure raw foods diet is practical for most people. It requires more will power than a Buddhist monk or a Christian hermit in the desert. That’s why I say, “Go half way.”
Going raw is already a prominent part of disease prevention
The alternative cancer world is no stranger to the value of foods in their natural state. Several famous cancer-prevention protocols rely on the raw-foods approach. The best-known is probably the Gerson Therapy, which uses an organic, plant-based diet, raw juices, coffee enemas, and natural supplements.
We wrote about the Gerson Therapy in the first book we ever published, Natural Cancer Remedies that Work. Our best-selling Special Report How to Cure Almost Any Cancer at Home for $5.15 a Day also advocates an eating plan that is strong on raw foods – but as just one part of a six point program. Raw foods are not the whole show.
Raw foods are also prominent in the organic juicing trend, which gives you massive boosts of raw foods all at once, without the fiber. (You can read more about juicing in Issue #314 of our newsletter.)
It goes without saying that the raw foods diet includes top foods proven to help treat and prevent cancer, such as:
· Green tea
· Fresh vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
· Fresh fruits such as tomato and pomegranate
· Medicinal mushrooms
· Fresh wheatgrass
· Probiotics and fermented foods
Raw foods: Part of the total health package
If you’re looking to stay healthy and keep your body in top condition, it’s a good diet to try for short stretches at a time – say, 21 days or so. You’ll get ample sources of fruits and vegetables, and you’re nearly guaranteed to lose weight. After 21 days, taper off, but not all the way off.
On the other hand, it’s a diet with a ton of rules. It takes a lot of time to prepare the foods, compared to the diet of prepared and fast foods most people are used to. You’d be wise to invest in a quality juicer, blender, and dehydrator. Also, I don’t recommend it for infants and children, unless you have a lot more information than I’ve presented here.
I’m a great believer in half-measures as being better than nothing at all. I don’t follow a strict raw foods diet, but raw foods are substantial part of what I eat.
Probably the best half-measure you can take is a green smoothie every day, because it tends to be a powerful antioxidant drink and involves consuming many, many servings of raw, leafy vegetables that you probably won’t find tasty in other dishes.
When you juice this way you do miss the fiber, but you ingest a mega-dose of nutrients – more than you would get if you ate the whole food, because the fiber fills you up. I’ve seen a whole package of carrots disappear into one glass of carrot juice.
At the very least, balance your diet with a good daily proportion of uncooked fruits and vegetables. It’ll help reduce your toxic load and give your body ample nutrition.