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Why I’m Not 100%

I’ve been involved in the raw food scene since 1997, but I didn’t eat only raw foods 100% of the time. I only ate a 100% raw food diet for about 3 and 1/2 years in my early days, and since then, after a lot of experimenting, I now eat a combination of raw and cooked foods.

Of course, during the last 15 years, I’ve had periods when I ate more or less raw foods. I also ate 100% raw for months at a time.

But it’s been very clear for many years that a 100% raw food diet as an ideal to maintain for life was just not right for me.

Today I’m going to present to you six reasons why I personally don’t eat an entirely raw food diet. These all apply to me personally, but have also applied to many others before.

6 Reasons Why I Don’t Eat 100% Raw

#1: Cooked food is not toxic

One of the main reasons why I don’t eat a 100% raw food diet is that there’s really nothing that has convinced me that this is necessary to be healthy. A lot of the raw food “advice” spread everywhere in books and websites often implies that eating cooked foods will make you sick, because it is “toxic.”

Pseudo-scientific arguments have included:

– The food enzyme theory

– Pottenger’s cat studies

– The digestive leucocytosis study

– Kirlian photography

– The “diet by design” arguments

– The “no other animals cook their food” argument

In this article I will not debunk each of these myths. You can already find plenty of information on the subject on my website on many of these myths to give you another point of view.

My conclusion is that cooking food does not make it “toxic” by any stretch of the imagination. Some cooked foods are unhealthy, some cooking methods are relatively bad as well, but so are some raw foods or raw food combinations.

It’s not whether a food is “raw” or “cooked” that matters. This is really an oversimplification. We have to look at many more factors to judge whether a food is healthy or what could be its part in a healthy diet.

Raw foods are great for you— of course. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big proponent of raw foods. This is a lot of what this website and my products are about.

But cooking some foods also can be just as good for some people. It essentially increases the variety of foods you can consume and increases the overall quality of your diet. Many vegetables, for example, are difficult to eat raw, but extremely healthy after being just lightly cooked.

#2: I enjoy traveling too much

One of my passions in life is traveling. And when I travel, I like to discover and enjoy other cultures. On a 100% raw food diet, traveling can be a big hassle. You’re essentially condemned to spend all your time looking for fruit markets and then eat your food in tupperware containers in your hotel rooms. No bueno!

I don’t travel all the time, but enough to want some flexibility when I travel to try some local cuisine, or be able to leave the hotel room for more than a couple of hours without worrying about running out of food.

Maybe this reason wouldn’t apply to everybody, but for me enjoying some stress-free travel once in a while without constantly obsessing about food is one of the main reasons I don’t eat 100% raw.

#3: I like not freezing to death

I live in Canada. While I tend to spend some time in the tropics every year, I do live in a cold climate most of the year.

I’ve done a 100% raw food diet in cold climates. And I’ve done a diet that includes warm, cooked soups and other cooked foods in the same climate. Which one is easier? I think just asking the question is answering it!

Yes, a 100% raw diet can be done in cold climates, for sure. But even the raw foodists that are doing it are often planning to move to a tropical country or state!

At this point in my life I have no interest in relocating to another country full-time. I like to visit other places, but not live there permanently.

In the heart of the winter, coming back home from a cold day only to turn on your blender and make a cold soup can be downright demoralizing. I’m only speaking for myself of course, but I see nothing wrong in enjoying a big pot of hot vegetable soup on cold days, instead of having to settle on a cold salad of raw lettuce and tomatoes.

#4: My digestion is strong enough 

Many raw foodists tend to yo-yo back and forth between 100% raw and cooked food diets, only to return to more cleansing and detox and an even stricter raw food diet later.

They find that whenever they eat cooked food, it totally “destroys” them. A bowl of rice will make them pass out as if they ate a big Thanksgiving dinner, and eating out at the restaurant causes them to feel so sick that they’ll spend a week recovering from it.

I call it “the raw curse” and talked about this weird phenomenon in many of my books. Raw foodists incorrectly think that their bodies have become so pure (as in “super healthy”) that it now rejects the toxic cooked foods that most people are habituated to (like a drug).

In reality, what’s really going on is that the “raw food body” has simply stopped producing the proper mix of digestive enzymes and they simply can’t properly digest more complex foods. By eating only foods that require almost no digestion (like fruit and greens), their digestion has “dumbed down” to the point it can’t handle anything much more complex.

Some people even take this to an extreme, making their diets even stricter with time, like eliminating fatty foods like nuts and seeds entirely. This leads them to become even more sensitive and weakens their digestion further.

The same phenomenon happens in reverse. Someone eating a junk food diet devoid of fiber with lots of meat, white bread and few vegetables can experience some serious digestive discomfort when they start eating lots of fiber-rich foods, like beans or fruits and vegetables. In can take them weeks or months to adapt to this new healthy diet.

Some long-term raw foodists have even fantasized that if they ate a hamburger they would end up in the hospital, and possibly die. That’s a little extreme and probably not likely to happen, but there’s a good chance that hamburger would make them seriously ill!

The trick to avoid the “raw curse” is to retrain your body to digest certain foods. You can do it for almost anything. And eventually, eating a bowl of brown rice won’t put you in a coma, and having a little bit of garlic in your stir-fry won’t cause you to have nightmares all night!

#5: My teeth are stronger now

I will be the first to say, I still eat a lot of fruit. But because my diet is more varied now, and my nutrient intake higher and my teeth are stronger than ever before.

When I was 100% raw or close to it, my teeth would be weak, prone to cavities, and often sensitive. Now I don’t get the sensitivity in my teeth from eating certain sweet foods or acid foods like I did before, nor do I get any cavities.

One change I’ve also made in the last few years is that I now rarely eat a lot of citrus or very acidic foods. Eating large quantities of these foods over a period of time can do a number on your teeth. Part of this is due to fruit ripeness.

Now I focus on fruits that are milder, like bananas, apples, mangoes, papayas, and melons. However, whenever I eat acidic foods, my teeth are fine because they’ve re-enamelized and built some resistance. And because my diet is more varied, I get my calories from a wider variety of foods and don’t have to rely on a single staple food, like oranges or grapes.

#6: I enjoy having a life

You can have a life if you’re 100% raw, I know! But it will be a life that revolves around food.

You will think about food, plan your food intake, and worry about food a lot of the time. And very likely, you’ll have to avoid many social situations around food, choose your friends carefully, always justify your diet, and surround yourself as much as possible with other food-obsessed raw foodists.

After having obsessed about food for all of my 20s, I enjoy having enough flexibility with my diet that I don’t have to constantly worry about social situations and how I will handle them with my “weird” diet.

I don’t go out of my way to eat junk food, and for the most part, I enjoy staying at home better than going out. However, the human being is a social creature. And I enjoy being part of the “world” without having to create a world of my own all the time.

So when family or friends invite me over, they’ll try to make something healthy for me. But I’m not going to analyze every single ingredient that goes in the food that I’m eating all the time. And if everybody is having wine, I’m going to have a glass too and enjoy it.

Your diet has to fit your personality, and make you happy. For some people, eating 100% raw fits their personality and maybe helps them control other aspects of their lives better.

My personality does not fit a 100% raw diet. I’m someone who’s passionate, always interested in new things, open-minded, and not an attention-seeker. I’m also very curious about the world, food in general, other cultures, and new ideas. To stick to a strict no-exceptions-permitted-diet simply doesn’t work with who I am and never did.

I’m not saying that I’m 100% right but I definitely know what’s right for me and that’s what’s most important. I also know that most people, no matter how hard they try, will not be able to stick to a 100% raw food diet. And that’s okay! Seek your own truth and be you, not who somebody else thinks you should be.

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.