February 17

I started experimenting with my diet back in 1996, and ever since I’ve been searching for the healthiest, yet most practical way to eat and live.

I first went on a very strict (and confused!) natural hygiene diet. From there I began making my way into raw foods and experimenting with various types of raw food diets.

After that I experimented with cooked foods again, then back to raw foods, and have since been fine-tuning my diet to find the ideal.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have touched a piece of bread with a 10-foot pole, but was perfectly fine with gorging myself with fancy raw recipes and avocados, just to make sure that I wouldn’t awaken my “cooked food cells” and stayed raw.

There was a time when I did everything in my power to eat the freshest, best organic raw foods there was, yet was not feeling the vitality or mental clarity I had before I was even a vegetarian.

There was a time when I binged on all sorts of cooked foods I had sworn never to eat again, out of the frustration that the raw diet was not working for me, and the shame I had for not having succeeded.

I now look back at these difficult days and realize that all of this turmoil was unnecessary. I worked things out using the empirical approach — that is to try everything out in order to come to my own conclusions. This is a time-wasting technique, but it did allow me to truly learn these things for myself. 

In that process, I learned that:

  • The means is not the end. Being a raw-foodist for example, is not the point. We shouldn’t focus on that.
  • We have to keep in mind what we’re doing this for. In that search for the perfect diet, we’re doing this to be healthy and enjoy life more — not to achieve an “ideal.”
  • Willpower is not enough to maintain, we need knowledge too. You can have the willpower to climb 10,000 stairs, but why waste so much energy when there’s a lift that will take you to the top in no time? Using the lift is like utilizing proper knowledge.

My Introduction to Rawdom

In 1996, I was 20 years old and quite easily impressed by what appeared to be logical or scientific information.

The piece of advice that I came across when I first heard of the concept of raw eating seemed logical, but proved to be quite misleading to others and myself. It went something like this:

“Eating raw foods is the most natural way to eat. All that you have to do is follow your instincts and eat as much as you want, as long as you are eating fresh raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.”

Impressed by the simplicity of this system-less-system, I embarked on a journey that led me through deep nutritional imbalances.

But first, the advice worked. I packed my fridge with fruits and vegetables and was eating all day long. I didn’t know about recipes or durian. I ate lots of food and went through a quite intense period of detoxification. I went through it and was feeling mostly good, even though I was still struggling with cravings. My will was as strong as could be and I was ready to be a raw-foodist for life and change the world along the way.

The next part of my journey took me to California, where I discovered raw food recipes, an exciting world where all my repressed cravings could express themselves again.

Pizza, chocolate cake, and pasta were back on the menu again. All raw of course.

I was eating lots of fat, lots of raw food recipes, and lots of fruit, and I was just not feeling right.

More Misleading Advice

Two new pieces of raw food lore would prove to be fatal for me. The first was, “Anything raw is better than anything cooked” and the second, “it’s probably detoxification.”

So I kept eating and eating and kept saying to myself: “well, it’s raw.” I kept feeling bad and kept saying to myself: “it’s probably detoxification.”

The Raw-Food Movement

Since then, the raw-food movement has been changing the way that it’s presented and many of the ideologies behind it.

Yet many raw food books are still filled with made-up facts, bogus science, anecdotal evidence that just isn’t relevant to everybody.

One person says that eating fruit will make you sick; the other one says that you should only eat fruit.

One says that eating oil is bad for you; the other one recommends that you should eat lots of oil.

Here are a few false statement made by raw-foodists I’d like to clear the air on once and for all.

“Cooked food is toxic.”

Statements like this are what tend to give the raw food movement a bad name.

Cooking food doesn’t immediately turn it into something toxic. If this were as true as some people say, no one would be alive!

It is true that certain methods of cooking, such as frying and barbecuing, create many carcinogenic substances in the process.

But claiming that all cooked food is toxic is just silly.

“Anything raw is better than anything cooked.”

Reality check: Many raw food meals prepared at most raw restaurants do not fall in the category of “healthy food.” Many of them contain unnecessarily high amounts of salt, oils, and spices.

The fact that a food is raw doesn’t make it necessarily healthy. There is more to a healthy diet plan than just eating raw, just as there is more to health than just eating.

“Fruit is bad for you.”

Most raw-foodists are living on such a high-fat diet (often more than 60-70% fat) that they can no longer handle fruit anymore. It has been proven that high-fat diets decrease insulin sensitivity (the effectiveness of insulin in carrying sugar to the cells), and thus raise blood sugar levels.

So those living on high fat a diet, that is most raw-foodists, will inevitably experience more blood sugar swings when they eat fruit.

Thus, the myth has spread now that fruit is not very healthy and that we should all aim at eliminating or reducing the quantity of fruit in our diet.

Fruit is definitely one of the healthiest (and most palatable!) raw foods you can eat.

So whenever you hear a bold statement that is the contrary of all common sense, such as “fruit is not a healthy food” — don’t take it for cash. Study the facts first and decide for yourself.

Raw Food Hype

The raw food diet has become more and more popular over the years. Celebrities are now jumping on board; raw food restaurants are popping up in most major cities, the media is talking about it, and articles have been published in many magazines and newspapers.

Raw-foodists usually rejoice when they see another article in the mainstream about the raw food diet, yet many of the time the message being conveyed to the masses really isn’t the healthiest one.

Many of these articles start by quoting raw-foodists (mostly out of the context) expressing statements such as “cooked food is poison” or “cooking kills your food,” then they go on to talk about all the movie and pop music stars who are supposedly into it, they mention raw gourmet cuisine and raw-restaurants, and then conclude the article with a few nutritionist bashing and scoffing at the whole theory.

There is more validity and merit to the raw food diet than just a passing phase for the media to take advantage of or for celebrities to temporarily hop on board with!

“Raw Food” Means Really Raw

Raw foods are fruits and vegetables in their natural state, not dehydrated for hours and turned into crackers, raw cookies, and cakes.

Prepared raw foods can still have a place in a healthy diet, but it really isn’t what the whole prospect of eating raw foods is really about.

A plate of steamed broccoli is closer to being a natural food than a raw cheeseburger or raw cake sold at a raw restaurant somewhere.

Eating raw is about filling our bodies with an abundance of natural vitamins, minerals, organic water, fiber, and all the nutrients needed to meet our needs, both for energy and maintenance. Time and time again, these needs are met the best with foods that are in their freshest, most natural form.

Beyond Fanaticism

If you are 100% raw and feel wonderful and someone comes along to tell you that what you are doing is killing you, I recommend you don’t waste any time discussing it. Just go along with your life and let them think what they will.

If you are eating 50% raw and feel great and some annoying raw-foodist comes along and just, “can’t believe that you don’t eat 100% raw” — just forget them too. You are here to eat and do what makes you feel your best, not rise to the expectations of others around you.

What are you doing this for anyway? Because you want to call yourself a raw-foodist or a vegan? Hopefully not!

Hopefully, you are eating and living the way you do because it’s what feels right to you and allows you to look and feel your very best.

Eating raw is not the end-all, it’s simply a means to get you where you want to go.

What have been your experiences with raw-food-fanaticism and everything in between? Let us know in the comments below!

I’ve had a lot of personal experience in the raw food movement. Much of my adult life I’ve been actively seeking information and learning from others on the topic of nutrition and raw foods.

Over those years, I’ve heard many things said about what is the healthiest way to eat: like how your body supposedly reacts to certain foods and what is the healthiest type of water to drink, among many other things.

But one thing that always caught my attention was digestion people experienced on a raw food diet, and how a raw food diet may impact it.

Raw Foodists and Digestion

Any health-orientated person has taken a greater interest in their digestion, or how your body utilizes and absorbs nutrients from the food you eat, once they started to get in tune with how largely it impacts how you feel.

We all know the feeling of a sour stomach, and when your stomach isn’t happy, it’s hard to think about anything else.

Raw foodists, Natural Hygienists, and many Indian and Eastern health philosophies all put an emphasis on the importance of digestion.

Some stress the importance of eating certain foods together at the same time, or specifically not eating specific foods together at one time.

Food-combining has been written about for decades now, and is something I personally used to follow relatively rigidly for several years.

Specifically, the Natural Hygiene approach to food combining, like not eating melons with other foods, acid foods with sweet foods, and so on.

The Digestion Industry

Digestion has become so important to the general public now that it’s become a bit of a food-marketing gimmick.

Everything from probiotic-boosted green powders to endless brews of kombucha and lacto-fermented yogurts line the shelves of most grocery stores and supermarkets today, all touting a specific amount and strain of probiotic bacteria.

They’re sold with promises of improving the balances of bacteria in your intestinal tract, in-turn allowing you better digestion, sharper mental performance, clearer skin, etc. etc.

I think to a large degree, many of the benefits of these specific strains of bacteria and the packaged foods that are “boosted” with them are overall exaggerated to market them.

Naturally fermented foods like raw kombuchas, kimchi, and sauerkraut are much more likely to have truly beneficial bacteria in them vs. powder-boosted items too.

You can make these foods in your own home from your own garden!

It’s also questionable as to how many of the once-living probiotics actually survive from the time of packaging to you eating it, after transit and shelf-time.

I’m not saying that they may not offer some benefit to your digestion, but I feel that truly healthy gut flora starts with an otherwise healthy gut via eating and living healthfully, not a reliance on supplemental bacteria from packaged foods.

Some raw foodist will go as far as buying digestive enzymes in powdered form to supplement the enzymes everyone’s body naturally produces.

This could be a topic for a whole other article, but for now I’ll just say that the body produces all the digestive enzymes you need perfectly fine by itself, given you take care of it.

The Raw Curse

There is something that at one time felt like a phenomenon, but now just makes more logical sense as a natural progression of human adaption.

“The raw curse” is something I’ve written about in my books, “The Raw Food Controversies” and “The Raw Secrets”.

One thing I noticed amongst fellow raw-food-enthusiasts was that there seemed like a predictable decline in digestive abilities the longer they followed a strict raw food diet.

The longer they followed a raw food diet, the less ability they had to digest any other foods than raw foods.

The longer they followed that path, the types of raw foods they ate started being limited, too.

In many circles, you see people eating mostly mono-meals of one type of sweet fruit and tender, leafy greens, for most of their food intake. These are among the easiest foods for the digestive system to digest, as they are mostly composed of simple sugars.

This is a good and a bad thing.

There are valuable nutrients in fruits and tender leafy vegetables that can be easily absorbed by just eating them as they naturally come to you, from the garden or your nearest produce aisle.

But when you eat these foods and absolutely nothing else, you body quits producing the proper digestive enzymes and gastric juices to digest other foods, like dense proteins or starches.

Humans can eat and absorb nutrients from proteins and starch-dense foods just fine, but your body needs to “get used” to digesting them first.

Tuning Up Your Body’s Digestive Fire

I’ve come to the conclusion that many of the so-called digestive imbalances and woes that many people face amongst the vegetarian, vegan and raw food scenes may not always be caused by a complex imbalance of specific digestive bacteria, and more to do with the individual’s inability to digest foods that other people can digest, without any supplements.

The raw foodist who gets knocked out by eating a bowl of rice for the first time in nine months isn’t necessarily a sign that rice is bad for them. It could just be their body wasn’t used to digesting the rice.

You can observe this by the same person eating rice (and many other things!) in the years before and digesting them at least relatively well enough to still function and not be doubled over in pain.

Whether they are incredibly happy to admit it or not, there are many people who previously swore by a 100% raw food diet and now eat cooked foods of many different kinds. The same foods that people swore at one time would wreak havoc on the system are now being eaten and digested perfectly well.

Did their body magically gain the ability to digest the previously “poison!” cooked food from all of that meditation?

While the meditation probably doesn’t hurt anything, it’s mostly just a matter of the body producing the same digestive acids again, in the proper balance, once the new foods are reintroduced into the stomach. The body re-learns how to digest them again.

Like riding a bike!

Keeping Your Stomach Strong

Even basic activities like regular walking and movement/exercise of any kind improves the muscles in your stomach, leading to stronger, more efficient digestion and absorption of the food you eat.

You digestion is much more multi-faceted than some may lead you to believe, so when diagnosing your own circumstances, I encourage you to consider all points of view.

What have been your experiences with digestion, supplements promising to improve your digestion, or anything else you care to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

January 20

Caffeine Blues

Filed under Raw Food & Health, Raw Food Controversies by Frederic Patenaude

Coffee is one of those beverages that has always received mixed reviews.

At one time, it was everybody’s favorite breakfast item to criticize, saying that it was too stimulating and hard on your adrenals, so you should swap it for a green juice or tea.

More recent years people have come up and argued the contrary and said that it’s actually full of antioxidants and all sorts of other nutritional components that actually make any small side effects from the caffeine negligible.

Some people will go as far to say that dark roast black coffee is very good for you, and will cite a number of studies arguing that dark coffee is good for the following conditions:

  • – Type 2 diabetes
  • – Parkinson’s disease
  • 
– Alzheimer’s disease
  • 
– Prostate cancer
  • – Liver cancer
  • 
– Kidney cancer
  • 
– Etc.

Now in a moment I will give you what I believe is a more balanced view on coffee.

But first, let me be clear that I absolutely LOVE coffee. I totally understand the love affair that the world has with coffee, and other caffeinated beverages, like tea.

But for me coffee has always been a love/hate relationship.

I love caffeine and its immediate effects on my body. However, I also know that I’m very caffeine sensitive and I know the short and long-term effects of caffeine’s effects on my body.

If I consume coffee one or two days in a row, I will inevitably get headaches as a result. I will also get depressed and lack energy a day or two after I stop coffee.

If I keep drinking coffee and make it a habit (I have done that at times in the past), I personally experience the following symptoms:

  • – Irritability
  • 
– Clouded thinking in the morning until I have coffee again
  • – Regular migraine headaches
  • – Back pain
  • 
– Bouts of irregular feelings of depression

I know that I am more sensitive to caffeine than most people. Therefore, I treat coffee with respect. I don’t underestimate its effects as a drug and I stay away for the most part.

But as I said, I love coffee and the feeling of caffeine in general. So once in a while, I can’t resist having a cup of tea or coffee and go ahead and have one.

When I do, I like the immediate effects. But I know there will be some consequences.

I have found that if I don’t consume caffeine more than a couple of times a month (say 2-3) then I can manage with it.

There are times, for example when traveling, when using a little bit of a boost is not a bad idea.

After all, certain circumstances in life are unnatural to begin with, like traveling across multiple time zones in minutes or hours.

But what’s important is that I treat coffee for what it is:

Not a beverage like fruit juice or green juice, or even an innocent breakfast beverage: a drug!

Just a little bit of research into the effects coffee has on the human body quickly brings to mind the effects of any other type of stimulating drug.

Many books have been written on the subject of caffeine and coffee specifically not being good for the human body. They list a number of side effects and conditions:

  • – Energy swings or periods of fatigue during the day
  • – Mood swings or periods of depression
  •  -Headaches
  • – Gastrointestinal distress, cramping, and diarrhea
  • – Constipation and/or dependence on caffeine for bowel movement
  • – Tension or stiffness in the neck, shoulders, hands, legs or stomach
  • – Premenstrual syndrome, menstrual irregularity, cramps, sore breasts
  • – Insomnia
  • – Anxiety
  • – Irritability, including inappropriate fits of anger
  • – Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • – Light-headness/dizziness
  • – Waking up feeling tired
  • – Generalized pain (back, stomach, muscles)
  • – High blood pressure
  • – Ulcers
  • – Anemia
  • – Shortness of breath
  • – Difficulty in concentration
  • – Ringing in ears
- Coldness in extremities

Of course, not every coffee drinker will immediately, or possibly even ever experience all of these symptoms. Some of these more intense side effects would only occur at a sustained level of consumption. Which in the western world isn’t that far from the norm.

For some people however, they notice very acute symptoms after drinking coffee or caffeine.

Some other people are sensitive to the high levels of caffeine in coffee, but can drink green tea every day.

Others seem to process caffeine better and do well with a certain amount of coffee per day, like a cup of espresso or a cup or two of dark coffee.

Everybody seems to have a little bit different tolerance level for coffee and/or caffeine, ranging from can’t-have-a-drop to multiple cups of coffee or tea everyday with seemingly little to no negative effect.

I believe this is mostly due to different people’s individual makeup and ability to process caffeine via the liver.

Caffeine being a drug has its side effects as well as potential benefits.
But nobody likes to talk about the side effects. It’s just not popular to question America’s most popular drug!

I feel some people can have at least a certain amount of caffeine in their life, whether it be from tea, coffee, or a bit of chocolate. Yet at the same time, for certain people, it’s likely that their healthy amount is next to no caffeine.

But I want to hear from you. Do you consume any form of caffeine? Do you consider yourself sensitive to caffeine? Have you quit coffee or caffeine?

Let us know in the comments below!

Over the years of being in the raw foods scene, I’ve heard a lot of crazy theories as to 
“why” people ate a raw food diet and didn’t cook their food.

Some of them really do make sense, like the preservation of nutrients.

Others, like when someone says that they should eat green bananas because of the enzymes present in them, don’t hold as much weight.

I will say that a 100% raw food diet may be very appropriate and beneficial for many people. For others however, the all-or-nothing approach just doesn’t work the way they want it to.

There are also many different people who believe many different things. And anything you believe is just that: something you believe. That can change.

I personally don’t think there is any life force in food, something touted in raw circles, besides the raw materials necessary for human nutrition. I haven’t found any proof to bring me to another conclusion for myself.

However, you may disagree with me and still think that there is indeed life force in food or any other thing you want to believe. Nobody needs a rational reason to think or believe anything, and that’s okay.

I have certain beliefs that are not completely rational.

For example, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. That kind of belief is based on my personal experience, and it also works for me. But I know it’s not necessarily “rational”, it’s just something I believe.

Top 5 Reasons to Eat Raw

Nutrient Density

Fruits and vegetables are the most-nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and most of these foods are better eaten raw than cooked.

When we say that a food is “nutrient-dense,” we mean that it has many nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, per calorie. Starchy foods are calorie-dense, but not as nutrient-dense as fruits and vegetables.

In other words, 500 calories of rice or potatoes will contain fewer vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals than 500 calories of kale, or 500 calories of apples.

By eating a diet composed mainly of fruits and vegetables, we take in more nutrients than if we were to eat mostly cooked foods.

There are some exceptions, however. Cooked green vegetables tend to be more nutrient-dense than raw greens, simply because we can eat more of them more easily.

For example, you probably remember taking a huge amount of spinach and cooking it down in a matter of seconds to almost nothing. Well that small cup of cooked spinach is now jam-packed with minerals, and will only take you a few minutes to eat. On the other hand, the same amount of raw spinach would take a long time chewing to get down.

Raw foodists can use the same principle by using a blender and other devices to process their food, such as the case of green smoothies.

Caloric Density

One of the most important concepts to understand in human nutrition is that of caloric density. Caloric density is an estimation of a food’s energy content by weight.

For example, an entire head of lettuce weighing over one pound contains less than 100 calories. That means that the caloric density of lettuce is less than 100 calories per pound.

On the other hand, a single tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories. So you have more calories in 1 tablespoon of oil than in a pound of lettuce. But guess which one is going to fill you up more?

The principle of caloric density is to encourage eating sufficient nutrients while feeling satisfied eating a larger volume of food and a healthy amount of calories.

Studies have confirmed that if you feed people foods of low caloric density, they will eat as much as they want, not be hungry and lose weight, without having to count calories.

Let’s take a look at the average caloric density of certain foods. Keep in mind that this is an average across a category. For example, we know that bananas contain more calories per weight than apples, but overall, fruits have a similar caloric density.

Food Caloric Density Per Pound
Fresh raw or cooked veggies 100
Fresh raw fruit 250-300
Cooked Starchy Vegetables, Intact Whole Grains 450-500
Legumes and Beans 550-600
Meat Products 900-1000
Dried Fruit 1200
Processed grains and Flours (even if made from whole grains) 1200-1500
Cheese 1800
Nuts and Seeds 2800
Cheese 1800
Oil 4000

Now it’s important to note that nobody will ever really successfully live off a diet of just raw vegetables, and I wouldn’t recommend doing so.

However, you want your diet to contain plenty of raw vegetables by weight. The concept of caloric density is to look at the overall caloric density of the foods you eat throughout the day.

Low Toxic Load

When cooking carbohydrates (such as potatoes) at high temperatures (baking, frying, etc.), a compound called acrylamide is created. In animal studies, high doses of acrylamide cause cancer and doesn’t sound very promising for your health.

More acrylamide is created when foods are cooked at a higher temperature or for longer periods of time.

We also know that other molecules called “Maillard Molecules” are formed when foods brown and caramelize during cooking. Some people speculate that these new compounds, created in the cooking process, may affect health negatively.

It’s also important to note that the act of being alive and living is toxic to you, and every bite of food you ever intake will always have varying degrees of “nutriment” and varying degrees of “toxicity”.

While certain forms of cooking appear to be relatively harmless (steaming, for example), the surest way to reduce the amount of toxins in your diet to the lowest level is to eat foods in their raw state.

You Eliminate Everything Else That’s Really Bad for You

One of the main reasons why people get sick is that they eat so many “dead”, pre-packaged foods in their diet.

These foods are not only heavily processed, but they contain a long list of suspicious ingredients, including MSG, preservatives, artificial coloring, and more.

Eating a raw food diet automatically eliminates all of this unhealthy food, which means that your diet will be 100% more clean and pure. It will be “wholesome” in the true sense of the word.

When I started the raw food diet, there were no pre-packaged raw snacks available. All that I bought were actual foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Eventually I got into olive oil, but that was a pretty simple product. The “worst” thing that raw foodists bought was jars of olives that could possibly have been marinated in salt water.

Nowadays, a variety of raw food snacks — from kale chips to chocolate brownies — are available at a variety of stores. Many of the people making these products do remain true to their nature of keeping them free of artificial flavors and preservatives, but processed foods are still processed foods and eaten in moderation.

Phytochemicals

Raw fruits and vegetables, as well as raw nuts and seeds, are absolutely packed with phytochemicals.

“Phyto” means “plant,” so the term phytochemical designates different compounds in foods that protect against illness. Some phytochemicals can prevent DNA damage caused by free radicals.

You’ve probably heard of antioxidants with cancer-preventing benefits found in many fruits and vegetables and dark leafy greens. Antioxidants are a class of phytochemicals.

Some of the most potent phytochemicals are found in raw foods, and many of them are heat-sensitive. Therefore, eating a raw food diet or a mostly raw diet will give you an abundance of phytochemicals — and this could prove to be one of the main benefits of the diet.

Some notable phytochemicals are to be found in:

The Cruciferous Family — including cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc. These vegetables contain a class of phytochemicals (called sulphoraphane and indole-3-carbinol) that are converted into cancer-fighting enzymes by the liver.
Berries — This includes pomegranate, cherries, blueberries, grapes etc. They contain many phytochemicals that increase immunity.
Citrus fruits — Those fruits contain many phytochemicals (close to the skin), in addition to lots of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant.

Pretty much every raw fruit and vegetable contains health-enhancing phytochemicals. Cooking food sometimes enhance the bio-availability of certain phytochemicals, like lycopene in tomatoes, but in general we get more benefits from eating foods in their raw state.

Conclusion

When we use bad arguments to promote a certain philosophy, it often leads us to make mistakes. Sometimes people oversimplify a health philosophy and refuse to look at new information on top of it all.

There are so many great reasons to eat more raw foods in your diet, I feel that being conscious about the reasons we give for them are important to gaining a better understanding of ourselves and our food!

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

Many people tend to get a bit scrambled when it comes to following a new diet, or even just changing their diet in the simplest of ways.

Why? Because there are so many different people out there all saying that ONE specific way to eat is the only sane, healthy way to eat and live.

See the contradiction?

Today Dr. McDougall sheds a bit of light on the topic by sharing his experiences with people following what they considered a “vegan” diet, and his own experiences with
“starch-based” diets.

Check it out and you’ll learn:

  • Why all vegan diets are not created equal, and why “vegan” doesn’t automatically mean healthy.
  • The differences between starch-based diets and the typical plant-based diet you may think of, and what this means for your health.
  • Why the food industries hardly give consumers a fair chance at choosing the right foods to eat for their bodies by using confusing terminology to cloud the truth.
  • Ways that you can educate yourself so that you can understand what you are eating just by changing how you describe your food.


Many of us have had personal or second-hand personal experience with somebody following a vegan diet, and we’ve also had different experiences with vegan diets.

I think the important thing to remember with following any diet is to remain free-thinking so that you can learn and grow along with everybody else.

What have been your experiences? Let us know in the comments below!

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I’m a big fan of raw foods.

Whether or not you eat an entirely raw food diet isn’t really my biggest concern. But one thing that cannot really be avoided is the health benefits inherent in eating plenty of fresh raw fruits and vegetables, regardless of what you eat on the side.

But at the same time, many people have given (frankly) silly reasons for eating raw foods, particularly to the exclusion of all other foods.

So while I offer you my top 6 bad reasons to eat raw foods, keep in mind there are many more great reasons to eat raw foods and include more of them in your diet. It’s just good to be realistic about what you put in your mouth!

The Top 6 Bad Reasons To Eat Raw

1) Enzymes

This one is easy: Plant enzymes are produced by the plant for its own purposes. For example, a green banana is full of starch and amylase. As the banana ripens, the enzymes in bananas called amylase breaks down the starch into simple sugars and it becomes sweeter.

We produce our own digestive enzymes, like amylase. We don’t need the enzymes in raw foods to help our digestion. In fact, most those enzymes are destroyed when they reach our stomach acid. We also do not have a “limited supply of enzymes” like a few people once thought. Ask any medical professional or true scientist and they will agree that you don’t need to limit your consumption of any specific type of food because of a “limited supply of enzymes”.

2) It’s the diet of our “species”, the human species

I admit that for a long time, I used to believe that every single human had one species-specific diet, and even taught it as such.

The idea is that every animal has a natural diet. For examples, carnivores, like cats, must eat meat. Omnivores, like pigs, eat a bit of everything.

If we look at nature, we’ll find that the closest relatives to human beings are the chimpanzees. If we compare their anatomy to ours, we’ll find that it’s remarkably similar. Chimpanzees eat fruits, leaves, and even small invertebrate animals with regularity; therefore, we must do the same, right?

Although personally I would never recommend eating termites, it’s worth a look at the chimp’s diet.

The truth is that humans and chimps have several serious differences. Chimpanzees can eat certain astringent and fibrous types of wild fruits that humans could never even dream of digesting.

If modern-day raw foodists tried to live on what chimpanzees eat in the wild, they would live in a more or less permanent state of indigestion and would likely not be able to lead a very meaningful life.

Just take a look at what most raw foodists tend to eat.

People love the sweetest mangoes, the sweetest melons, the least acidic oranges, and would cringe at eating very acidic fruit like a quince.

Chimps in zoos fed bananas and kale are NOT fed their natural diet. And even so they still prefer hybridized human food, even cooked food compared to their natural food.

Humans produce in their saliva up to 12 times more amylase (an enzymes that digests starch) than chimpanzees do. This is an evolutionary adaptation humans have gone through as a whole.

The main thing to keep in mind is that over 4 to 7 million years of evolution separate chimpanzees from humans. They may be our closest relatives, but they are very distant ones indeed.

3) We never “adapted” to cooked foods.

The human being has adapted to eating cooked foods, to some degree. This is evidenced by our smaller digestive system, which is 25% shorter than that of chimpanzees (by body size). The idea behind this adaptation is that we are used to eating more concentrated nutrition than they do. We also produce more starch-splitting enzymes, among many other changes.

Modern day raw foodists do not eat like wild animals. They blend foods, eat highly hybridized, extra sweet fruit, and have many ways to make vegetables easier to chew and digest. That’s because as human beings, we are adapted to eating highly nutritious and more concentrated foods of higher caloric density, as opposed to the low-calorie wild fruits eaten by chimpanzees and other apes.

This attribute to humans is also what allowed us to take the time to kick back and paint a picture, a beautiful piece of music, or muster up the gumption to build skyscrapers.

4) We are the only animal on the planet who cooks its food

“Have you ever seen a wild animal with pots and pans cooking up their dinner? Well maybe that’s the reason they don’t get sick!”
No, I haven’t seen a deer roast some potatoes, but I’ve also never seen a wild chimpanzee blending up bananas in a Vita-Mix, for that matter.

There are a ton of things that wild animals don’t do — like wearing clothes, making music and writing books. But I wouldn’t encourage the human race to give all of those things up just to be like monkeys.

Wild animals DO get sick sometimes, mainly due to parasites and viruses. The sick animals also get weak and eaten by predators first typically, before they have time to die of disease.

5) All cooked food is toxic

It’s true that cooking changes food at a molecular level. In some cases, cooking foods at high temperature creates toxins, but absolutely everything you eat and do is “toxic” on some level or another, too.

If you are frying or roasting your foods to the point where they are deeply brown or blackened, there of course is going to be excess toxins that you may not want to be eating all of the time.

Yet there is no evidence that steaming vegetables or boiling rice creates toxins that truly harm the human body.

6) The Bible Says we should eat raw

Many Christians use the Bible as a reference on how to eat and live, and while I will agree that many of the points referenced have good value, it is sometimes taken out of context in reality at times.

I would suggest following your own intuition as to what feels good and right for you when it comes to what you should eat and how you nourish your own kingdom.

Really in the end, I could sum it all up just by saying, go ahead and eat raw foods. Just eat them for your own reasons, not some made up reasons that someone else told you!

What have been your experiences with any of these failed reasons to eat raw? Let us know in the comments below!

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Many people are aware of the very real dangers of poor diet and lifestyle. We’ve been witnesses (or victims!) to the downfalls of these types of behaviors since we could even think about it.

The Standard American diet hasn’t been doing anybody any favors, with the exception of “big business”. The truth is, unhealthy diet and lifestyle has real effects on not only the individual eating and living unhealthfully, but on the entire world as a whole.

Check out this video today where Dr. Dean Ornish explains just a few of the dangers behind eating your typical Western diet, and how making simple changes to our diet and lifestyle can radically change our entire world for the better.

You’ll learn:

  • Why in just a single generation certain Asian families have gone from having the lowest rates of chronic diseases to the highest.
  •  How a simple change in diet and lifestyle is translating to tumor reductions and healing in once sick people.
  • The surprising truth on how ill people actually are: why this generation may live shorter lives than their parents!
  • How healthy living and eating can actually be good for business and the strength of the economy.


I think that Dr. Ornish brings up some great points, and it’s actually a little shocking to learn how poor the Western world’s health is becoming.

But just as he mentioned, it’s also just as easy to make the diet and lifestyle changes necessary to bring about the best health you can for yourself and everybody around you. It just comes down to a matter of actually doing it!

What have been your experiences with changing your own health with diet and lifestyle? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

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Many people don’t really know what Natural Hygiene truly is, yet many have been enjoying its benefits without even realizing it.

Back in the 19th century, many doctors carried the medieval belief that bathing and fresh air were damaging to health. When patients had a fevers, many doctors thought they were doing the right thing by giving the poor sick person hard liquor, denying them any water, and closing the windows to prevent any fresh air from coming in.

Early Natural Hygienists of the past century fought hard to promote rationality in medicine and especially the importance of bathing. Now the medical community claims that they were the ones to promote the concepts of bathing and hygiene to the masses, when in fact this was done by rogue, outcast doctors who were ridiculed by the medical community in their time.

Let’s not forget that just 50-60 years ago, doctors recommended smoking as a health practice and white bread was considered health food!

Hygienists were way ahead of their time, and their influence are still felt today. If you can go today to a store like Whole Foods and purchase organic fruits and whole grain products, you can thank Sylvester Graham and his friends for that.

Unfortunately, these names have been forgotten from the history books, and now we only think of names like Louis Pasteur when it comes to hygiene.

So when I’m pointing out some of the mistakes of Natural Hygiene, I don’t want to sound like I’m taking anything from the movement. I just want to bring these great ideas to the forefront, shake them up a bit, and remove the few wrong concepts that just don’t stand up to the realities of human health.

It’s important to mention that Natural Hygiene is essentially a philosophy of health. Modern Hygienists have vastly different ideas on what is the best die and lifestyle for health, but all agree on the methods of the body’s healing capacities.

Fasting

Fasting is an integral part of the Natural Hygiene doctrine. Unfortunately, in spite of the amazing benefits that can be derived from supervised water fasting, most of the medical community is particularly clueless about it as a real healing modality.

Although humans throughout all recordable history have practiced fasting, it really became a true method of healing with the Natural Hygiene movement in the 19th century. That’s why it was called “water cure” at the time.

Fasting is true physiological rest. It’s not just the act of not eating that works, but it’s also everything that accompanies a proper fast, such as complete rest in bed.

Fasting works because:

1) It removes the cause. Most diseases are caused by our lifestyle — mainly what we put in our mouth. By not eating for a while, you are certain to remove any dietary causes of disease.

2) Fasting is digestive rest. Digestion takes a huge energy toll on the body. Not eating redirects those energies towards healing.

3) Fasting itself is a physiological process that leads to healing and recovery. Many animals fast in times of stress and disease, and this is no coincidence. After a few days of fasting, the body starts burning its fat reserves and goes through a complex set of physiological changes that leads to having the nerve energy for the body to heal itself.

It’s a shame that water fasting has not gained yet the popularity it deserves. I’ve got nothing to criticize on the topic of Hygienic fasting, except that it has to be conducted by a competent doctor with extensive experience with it.

The Appeal to Nature Fallacy

One of the areas where I feel Natural Hygienists got some of their philosophy wrong is what we could call the “appeal to nature” logic.

This, by the way, is not just a mistake made by Hygienists, but also by raw foodists, environmentalists, paleo dieters, and pretty much any person in the natural health scene. We’ve all been guilty of it.

The appeal to nature fallacy is this concept that the wild state of nature, or perhaps the way humans were living thousands of years ago (presumably: in nature), should be the way we should live our lives today.

Some examples:

– Humans should not eat ANY foods other than fruits, greens and nuts, because those are our natural foods (why? look at our modern cousins, the chimpanzees, who live in “nature”).
– We should never take drugs, under any circumstances, because they are not natural.
– We should not eat foods that we can’t make a meal out of, because obviously, in nature, we wouldn’t be able to do that
– We should never process our foods in any way
– Human progress and civilization is wrong, because it takes us away from our natural state, where we would be healthier and happier
I want to be clear that Hygienists aren’t the only ones confused by this fallacy.

Paleo diet promoters will claim that we should eat meat, fruits and vegetables, and avoid all grains because those foods have only been part of our natural diet for the past 10,000 years. On the other hand, meat and produce have always been part of our natural diet.

There are also people who will refuse to eat fruit as they feel it’s been too hybridized and the fruit “in nature” would be the only kind we were/are really supposed to eat.

The Appeal to Nature is a subtle underlying philosophy that has actually been with us since the dawn of civilization. People will always want to revert back to “the good old days”, as it were!

Forbidden Foods: Mushrooms, Garlic, Onion, and Other “Unnatural” Items

Natural Hygiene forbids a lot of foods. Generally, animal products are off the table completely. Cooked foods are frowned upon for the most part, and so are absolutely all seasonings you could imagine.

Prominent Natural Hygienist Herbert Shelton rejected all spices, garlic, onion, seaweed, and even mushrooms.

I must say that I followed that philosophy for a long time, and it’s not specific just to Natural Hygiene. Many Asian health philosophies eliminate garlic, onion and strong spices, finding them too “stimulating.”

The reasoning they give is quite simple. Garlic and onion are simply too strong. You could never make a meal out of them. They contain toxic mustard oil that irritates the digestive track.

Mushrooms are not human foods. They contain almost no nutrients, and are largely indigestible.

Seaweed is pond scum. Would you salivate in front a pile of seaweed? I didn’t think so. Makes sense because it’s not that natural to eat plants growing in the ocean.

This reasoning sounds good on paper, but the problem is that science is actually showing that some of these foods are good for us, and there’s no reason to avoid sources of nutrition on a modern world given they prove time and time again to be health promoting.

At the very least, these foods are not evil or toxic for you. You can eat and enjoy them and be just fine. Most likely, you’ll even enjoy some health benefits in the process.

Although I avoided onions, mushrooms, and spices for a long time, I now eat them regularly. I find they digest just fine for me and my body accepts them without any issues at all.

Likewise, I don’t like raw garlic except in small quantities in hummus or guacamole.

But I don’t mind a bit of cooked garlic or onion, and I do like some red onion on my salads.

As for seaweed, I’m not a big fan either. That’s just my personal taste. I don’t mind nori in a recipe, but I don’t enjoy eating seaweed in general.

But that’s just my personal taste, and what I’ve found to be perfectly acceptable and healthy within my own health regime. It’s changed over the years, but this is where I currently feel best.

What have been your experiences with Natural Hygiene, forbidden non-hygienic foods, and any other fasting or hygienic healing modalities? Let us know in the comments below!

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Quite often I get people asking me questions about how much fat they should be eating in their diet, or what is a healthy amount of fat to eat.

Someone asked me recently what are some differences between my approach and other types of low-fat diets, a low fat raw vegan style diet, for example.

The low fat raw vegan diet is a diet where  the focal point of the diet is raw fruits, like bananas, dates, figs, cherries, melons, papayas, mangos, etc., followed by raw vegetables, like lettuce, celery, and tomatoes.

Although I’ve been aware of the dangers of high-fat raw food diets since 2002 when I wrote my book “The Raw Secrets,” it was not until 2005 that I really gave the low fat raw vegan approach a try.

I’ve learned a lot since 2005, and I have noticed that most people thrive on lower-fat, higher-fruit raw diets more than any other type of raw diet. Most other programs are just way too high in fat and don’t allow for near enough fruit to really be a healthy, long-term program. Short-term cleanse, possibly yes, but certainly not a way to eat for life.

Because I do not follow a strict low fat raw vegan diet as espoused by others, many people have been asking me what I think of it and what I would do differently.

I’ve found that most people who experiment with the raw food diet eventually either give up or find their own approach that works for them. In my experience, a low-fat raw food diet with a LOT of fruit and a LOT of greens works for the greatest number of people, but isn’t necessarily best for everyone.

My teachings are still very close to low fat raw vegans diets in many key areas, such as:

– The importance of the low fat diet

– Eating enough fruit, and not being afraid to do it

– Eating plenty of greens

– Fitness being just as important as nutrition for overall health.

Here are the few areas where our viewpoints differ:

1- No obsession about being 100% raw. I’m certainly a big fan of fruits and vegetables, and both still make up much of my diet, but I’m not strict about being raw like I had been in the past. I’ve found that healthy cooked foods like potatoes, vegetables, and whole grains are actually far healthier than the overabundance of fats and oils found in many raw food recipes. Plus I’ve found that some people just feel better including choice cooked foods in their diet.

2- Fat. I allow more than 10% fat, over the course of a month. Although I have done the “less than 10%” thing for a while, I prefer to stay in the 12-18% range, with 15% being a good target for most people.

Many low fat raw vegans have such a fear of fat that they’ll avoid all nuts and seeds. Thus they end up eating only fruit, or only fruit and little greens. However, there are important nutrients in nuts and seeds, such as essential fatty acids and minerals that are hard to get from just fruits and vegetables. So if your fat is coming from healthy sources, especially certain high-omega 3 seeds such as hemp, chia or flax then it’s fine to go above 10%.

3- Supplements. I am no supplement whore. In fact, I’m one of the few raw food promoters to never have launched a line of supplements. That’s because I find that 99% of what’s on the market is useless in comparison to fresh foods.

But, certain supplements can be intelligently used, and it would be hard to argue that they don’t have their place.

I’ve explained in the past why most raw foodists and vegans should consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement to avoid any possible deficiencies that could lead to disastrous results. Vitamin D can also be an issue for some people, and intelligent use of a supplement is often advisable when you live in a northern climate year round.

4- Condiments. Although in theory I agree with the idea that a condiment-free diet is best, most people, myself included, find such a diet too boring and ascetic.

In practice, I have found that using some fresh herbs, spices, and even some raw hot peppers can make food much more enjoyable.

I also don’t mind using some “non-raw” condiments sometimes, such as salsa in a jar, as I find it to be a more suitable way to add zing to a salad rather than using a fatty dressing.

The most important thing is to eat a lot of greens and vegetables. If you find it easy to eat them plain, then by all means go for it. But if you’re like me and find your salads and raw soups more palatable and enjoyable with a bit of spice, then don’t feel guilty for not being “perfect.” It’s far better to eat salads and soups more frequently with a little seasoning than rarely and stay 100% natural hygiene. Eating more fruits and vegetables is really what matters.

Some people can take these to extremes and even formulate “low-low-fat” diets, where no overtly fatty foods like nuts, seeds, or avocados are eaten, resulting in less than 10% of total calories coming from fat.

Even though nuts and seeds should be limited, let’s not forget that they contain important nutrients that cannot easily be found in fruits and vegetables, and I personally don’t recommend following any of these ultra-low-fat diets for any considerable period of time, outside of short-term cleanses.

It’s also noteworthy to consider that the  low fat raw vegan diet is rather new, and almost no one in the history of mankind has actually eaten that way for more than a couple of decades.

Therefore, it’s quite obvious that not *all* answers have been found and that although I think that the low fat raw vegan diet has much to offer, there’s still room for improvements, such as food quality/variety and individualization.

Ultimately there are a lot of overlaps between what I promote and many of the principles found in other low-fat raw and vegan regimes, I’ve just modified it over the years to allow for more individualization and long-term health.

So the best thing you can do to find out what works best for you is to experiment with different approaches and giving yourself permission to do so. Ultimately what matters is how you feel and the conclusions that you’ve reached for yourself.

There are numerous things I really enjoy about a raw vegan diet. Environmental and ethical boons aside, a high-fruit, high-carbohydrate raw vegan diet is simple to follow, allows you to feel great, and is downright sweet and juicy. Eating all the fruit you care for is appealing to a lot of people for obvious reasons. There are few greater feelings than sitting down to lunch and seeing 2, 3, 4 or more pounds of perfectly ripe, fragrant mangos sitting in a bowl and knowing that they are all for you. Yes, just you.

But with that all being said, I do believe that there are certain things that some people can adjust on their raw or mostly raw vegan diet to provide better results.

What inspired me to experiment even further with my diet and do more research?

I was cold. Downright chilly, in fact.

I never really saw it as an issue though. I just thought it was completely normal for me, during the wintertime, to need to wear 3 layers of shirts during the day and sleep with an electric blanket and a space heater. Granted, winters in eastern South Dakota USA can be pretty brutal, but it did get to a point where I wondered if it really was ideal to be so chilly all the time. I wasn’t under-eating by any means either (3,000 +calories from fruit every day), I was just cold.

I even objectively measured my core body temperature with a thermometer placed under my arms first thing in the morning. Most mornings, following the strict high-fruit, high-water, low sodium raw vegan diet I was, it was a frigid 95.4 degrees F.

Now there are some people in the raw food/health movement who believe that a lower body temperature like this is closer to ideal.

The theory is that most people are following an unhealthy lifestyle and eating plenty of unhealthy foods that cause their body to be in a constant fever, hence the average 98.4 F. And that made sense to me for the longest time. But then again, at the time I was more willing to accept what was said without doing my own research. That’s not what I want to teach anybody else to do. The wise words of George Carlin have taught me something important: “Question everything.”

So I started asking questions and starting to do a bit more of my own research. Are all forms of salt (sodium chloride) deadly poison? Is every single bite of cooked food you eat toxic? “Why are you asking me all these questions?” Good point. I’ll start answering some now.

The first thing I experimented with was adding just a little bit of salt to my evening salad. If you are wondering, it was just a pinch of that fancy pink salt you can buy in health food stores. It’s probably not any better or worse than most other kinds of salt, but from what I’ve researched, the high-heat-treated, chemical-laden salts many people use more than likely aren’t the best choice.

Dr. John McDougall, a medical doctor who’s promoted a low-fat vegan diet since the 1970’s, has some interesting fact-based things to say about salt in this presentation here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZ3hS9jpmm0

Honestly, it felt weird adding salt to my otherwise whole, fresh, ripe, raw, organic salad. Sacrilegious even. I had been told, and believed for years, that salt was deadly poison. Lucky for me, I didn’t die of heart failure or a stroke after the second bite.

It tasted amazing. And this is coming from just the very tiniest pinch of salt, mind you. After the first 2-3 days of doing this, I started to notice myself feeling less stressed and ultimately just more at-ease than I ever had before. I gradually added just a bit more salt after several days/weeks as well and felt better than ever.

Before, after eating my typical evening salad of water-rich foods of 3-4 or more lbs. of tomatoes, lettuce, celery, and cucumbers, I would feel like while in my mind logically I should be relaxed, my body just wouldn’t follow. Not to mention having to pee 3-5 times in the next few hours before bed.

Now it just felt like my body was happier, I could feel blood and warmth rush to my hands and feet, and I enjoyed my food more. Something was working. I also noticed a profound difference in the quality of my sleep. No more 4am adrenalin-surge wakeup coupled with a near exploding bladder.

But I also decided to experiment with something else totally crazy. After 2 ½ years of following a very strict, 100% raw diet (no pasteurized fruit juice or questionably raw dried fruit at all), I decided to try to eat some cooked food again. I figured organic steamed kale would be a good choice. I did end up burning my finger and realized I was a bit rusty at working with hot pots and pans, but the kale tasted fantastic.

Then in the coming evenings, I decided to steam up some winter squash. And then potatoes. All of them digested perfectly with no issues and the only side effects I experienced were sounder sleep, warmer hands and feet, feeling more at-ease, hair and nails growing significantly faster and thicker, and enjoying my food more. Since then, I’ve bumped my core body temperature back up into the 98’s degrees F. as well. Overall, I just felt better.

So what are the big takeaways from this? What am I doing differently? I’m eating a 100% vegan, fruit-based diet, predominately raw, but I also eat a bit of salt and some choice cooked foods when I desire them, like steamed root vegetables, rice, quinoa, and legumes. I don’t eat cooked food every meal, just when I desire it. Sometimes that’s every night of the week (mostly in the evening) or maybe just once or twice per week. Raw fruit is still my staple and where I get most of my calories.

Do note when I say, “cooked food” that I’m referring to healthy, clean, mostly whole, plant foods. I think most of us can relate to how silly that raw-food enthusiast sounds when they eat deep-fried soy protein fritters bathed in MSG sauce, feel pretty stodgy, and then conclude that all cooked food is no good. Sigmund Freud may have said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but cooked food is not just cooked food.

I also just drink water and fluids until my thirst is quenched, not passed it, and balance the juicier foods I eat with drier foods. If I eat a mess of mangos, I’ll eat some raisins with them. If I have a big juicy salad, I’ll have some dehydrated vegetables with it. My bladder is feeling much better as a result, and I’m feeling warmer and happier.

Besides faster and thicker growing hair and nails, better sleep, and a less stressed mind and body, my skin is also moister (no more dry, flaky skin in the winter) and my physical endurance and strength gains have improved significantly. It feels good being able to consistently lift more weight every time I go into the gym. Now if I could just find a personal trainer to help me with my bench-press form…

Again, I’m not telling you that you have to put some salt on your salad, that you need to eat some cooked food, or that you need to do anything differently than what you’re doing now. I’m just encouraging you to ask some questions and think for yourself.

The way I see it, if what it takes for someone to be happy and healthy on a conscious, compassionate vegan diet is to eat some steamed lentils with a splash of coconut milk and a pinch of salt and abandon their “100% raw” label, then I say go for it. I’d rather see a society of happy, healthy people eating plants vs. intermittent 100% raw foodists who flip-flop between banana smoothies and bacon sandwiches. Consistency and sustainability is the goal.

So maybe your diet doesn’t need an upgrade. That’s awesome. Keep doing what you’re doing. But if you feel you might be able to experience better health by opening your mind just a little further, then I’ll be waiting right here with a bowl of potatoes mashed with coconut milk…