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Questions and Answers on the Raw Food Diet: Does Fruit Sugar Make You Look Old?

Here are answers to some of the questions I’ve received lately.

Loose Stools on a Raw Food Diet

QUESTION: I, and a number of my friends have made an effort to use much more raw food in our vegetarian diet. But there is a serious problem that I have not see mentioned or dealt with before. When eating more raw foods, I and most of the people I know have had a BIG PROBLEM with VERY LOOSE STOOLS – which has stopped after eating less raw food. None of these people have a medical problem. This problem has persisted over time. 

ANSWER: Before I answer your question, I would like to ponder why big or loose stools would be a problem in and of themselves? In general we tend to compare our health to an artificial norm. Our health can be outrageously good but because it differs so much from the norm, we may start to see it as bad. “Abnormal” may simply mean “outside the norm.”

In the case of digestion, it’s a simple fact that if you get most of your calories from fruits and vegetables you’re going to be ingesting a tremendous amount of soluble and insoluble fiber. On top of that, fruits and vegetables are full of water.

Our digestion is also affected by our previous diet. So when you embark on a mostly or completely raw diet, it’s pretty normal to see a significant difference in your stool composition. Loose stools are not necessarily a problem — they can be simply a sign that you’re eating a very large amount of fiber.

Compact and almost dehydrated stools are the norm in a diet that is almost devoid of water and fiber. A raw food diet is very different.
People that are prone to constipation may find themselves to have normal or “average” stools when eating this way. Other people, more prone to diarrhea, may have more loose stools.

I’ve pondered this question for a long time and I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as other signs of health are there and that your overall digestion is good, stool composition is not much of an issue. It also takes some time for your body to adjust to a new diet.

People eating a raw food diet also tend to have more bowel movements and constipation goes away completely. Going to the bathroom for number one or number two takes almost the same time — as digestion is efficient and there are no dry stools to pass.

Another possible cause for loose stools is insufficient quantities of vegetables in the diet. Fruit contains mostly soluble fiber (meaning that the fiber is “soluble” in water, forming a gel-like substance). Soluble fiber tends to be passed quickly during digestion. Vegetables, like greens, contain more insoluble fiber. This type of fiber passes through the stools close to its original form. Therefore it can help form more “normal” looking stools and slow down your digestion a bit. A combination of fruits and vegetables is best for health.

Should I Replace Oats with Legumes?

QUESTION: Hello Fred, I’m Sam, I’m a guy from London, UK.. Firstly, I am in transition to becoming a raw ( vast majority) vegan, I’m already a vegan and since I’m 18, I believe the benefits are greater if started at a young age!. Well, I am doing extremely well…However, I have been eating oats for my last meal of the day and this is playing on the back of my mind but I feel I must have a shelf stable plant food always available and I am still in transition which I’m sure you understand the mental barriers. I do not eat any junk what so ever only wholefoods…but I am considering moving from oats ( grains ) to legumes, but would like your views on whether this would be of better benefit…it just seems more right in my mind for some reason. So if you could give me your view, I’d greatly appreciate it!

ANSWER: I do not see the consumption of oats as a big problem. Oat (such as steel-cut oatmeal) is quite nutritious and easily digestible to most people. Especially for someone of your age, it may be difficult to get all of your calories from just raw food. If your current program works for you, I would keep it up for a while. There is no rush to go 100% raw right away.

Legumes are in a completely different category as oats. Legumes are rich in protein, should never be eaten raw (as they can be poisonous that way), and in general most people should not eat more than 1 cup of day, if they eat them, because of the protein content. Oatmeal, on the other hand, is a source of calories. If you find that your current program works for you, keep it up. If overtime you find that cutting down the oats gives you better result, you’ll have to add extra fruit calories to make it work.

Did Meat Make Us Smarter?

QUESTION: Hello. I’m an avid follower and would appreciate your opinion and assistance. I am a raw foodist and recently was learning under Eric Rivkin and am considered a “raw foodist” however I just say I eat a whole foods, plant based diet. Question – without going into much detail -: my 25 yr old nephew was starting to eat a more plant based diet, with shakes/green smoothies and greens and really feeling more healthy, etc. but recently watched a movie as cited above, re cooked meat made us “smarter”. He feels the evidence of eating cooked foods are more “believable” and make more sense than the argument of “raw” foods. Unfortunately, I can not open the movie (yet) to watch it, and want to know if you have heard of it and have any points that could help me to defend a plant based diet is better than an all meat diet. Have you heard of this movie? Any musings you could offer would be appreciated. 

ANSWER: The author you’re referring to is Richard Wrangham, who wrote the book “Catching Fire.” I wrote a post on the topic at:

Bottom line: cooked foods undeniably played a huge part in human evolution and may explain better how the human brain developed. However, in our modern world, we have the opposite problem: calories are too easily available. That’s why raw foods work as they are low in calories. In a survival situation, there’s no doubt that a “raw food tribe” would not have thrived for very long as opposed to a “cooked food tribe,” because cooked foods make it a lot easier to get more calories from foods that can be kept a long time. So it’s very doubtful that humans ever lived on a pure raw food diet.

However, in the modern world, raw foodists can thrive because we have access to a year-long supply of fruits and vegetables imported from all over the world.

Physical Appearance of Raw Food Authors

I am interested in giving Frederic’s raw diet a try, but I was concerned when I saw him interviewing Dr. Douglas Graham on YouTube. 
This dr. has been raw for over 30 years so I would have thought he would look more vibrant. I found out he is 58 but I really would have guessed him to be older. I have seen many people who are that age who look younger and healthier than him even though they are not raw foodists, vegans, or even vegetarians. I am a vegan and as I mentioned am considering trying raw foods, but now I am discouraged after seeing how this Dr Graham does not have any kind of healthy vibrancy to his appearance. I wonder if this is what too  much sugar does. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks, Mary

ANSWER: It’s easy to criticize someone’s appearance because they look different than our image of perfect health. Everybody ages slightly differently. Some factors that will affect your appearance when aging are:

– Genes determining hair loss or the appearance of white hair
– Lifetime exposure to sunshine which may age the skin faster
– Overall genetics

Some people may appear very healthy in appearance but are completely unhealthy under the surface. To give you an example, my own father died last year at almost 64 of a sudden heart attack. He had a full head of hair and very few gray hair for his age. I don’t seem to have inherited from that gene as I had more gray hair than him! But in spite of his appearance that made him look perhaps a decade younger, he was extremely unhealthy and died without a warning sign.

The problem is really that our culture is obsessed with youth. In fact, it’s probably one of the defining factors of the last few decades in the Western world. We judge people based on their youthful appearance and we value youthful beauty above any other factor.

In the case of Dr. Graham, I personally think he looks quite good for his age. Maybe my criteria are different, but I can confirm from having spent a lot of time with him that he’s extremely physically fit and in fact in much better shape than most people 30 years younger than him!

It’s important to look beyond the surface in order to find out what true health is.

Fructose Malabsorption

QUESTION: I have recently bought several products from Frederic and really liked his information and recipes! However, I found that I often have indigestion, particularly from certain fruits high in fructose. My doctor says I may have fructose malabsorption and has recommended not to eat any fruit for some time to ease my symptoms and then gradually include small amounts again. Since then I have been eating mostly raw or steamed vegetables and small amounts of cooked whole grains to keep my energy up. I wonder whether Frederic has already made any suggestions to people with this condition (apparently it is quite common with something like 30% of people having fructose malabsorption). I don’t want to eat fat and I don’t get enough calories from just vegetables. I can eat half a cup of blueberries and one banana a day, otherwise I get stomach ache and intestinal cramps and really bad gas.

ANSWER: Fructose malabsorption may be a real condition but I think the term is thrown out there without much evidence. I recommend to follow a raw food diet that is nutritionally sound. This may not be a 100% raw food diet. The diet I recommend is also not completely fat-free. Make sure to include SOME fat in your diet, such as a few ounces of nuts per week. Bad digestion can have multiple causes and may not automatically mean fructose malabsorption. However, if someone truly suffers from fructose malabsorption then it is not possible to eat a raw food diet, because without fruit a raw food diet cannot be healthy. However, in my 15 years of experience I’ve never met such a person and I think the term should only be used if one has enough diagnosis tools to prove it.

Do I stand by The Raw Secrets?

QUESTION: Hello Frederic. I read your ebook recently” raw secrets”, do you still stand by what you wrote in that book today? you said we eat way too much oils/fats and protein and now you are positive on Amazon about the book Brandon Frazier wrote where he uses a lot of protein powders and oils/fats? how come? If you changed your mind of got new insight, please feel free to share…

ANSWER: I wrote a long essay on things that I have changed since my book The Raw Secrets was published in 2002. This will be released in a future book coming out this year. However, my brief answer to this is that I stand by most of what I wrote in Raw Secrets. The only difference is my sense of proportions and priorities. For example, in Raw Secrets I strongly came out against all seasonings such as garlic and onion. Now, although I still think it’s more optimal to eat your food bland (for health), I don’t think that using some seasonings is such a big deal.

Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.