"An Interview with David Wolfe
Long-Term Success on Raw-Food
and Vegetarian Diets"
by Frederic Patenaude
David Wolfe is a well-known author and lecturer on raw food and health. He is the author of the books, Eating For Beauty and The Sunfood Diet Success System, and the co-founder of Nature's First Law. I've known David for years and I've always been interested in his latest research. Here is an interview that I've done with him recently. My comments are in green and my questions in italics as always. To go to David's website, click here.
Why dont you tell us a bit of your evolution as a raw-foodist, from the moment you started eating raw, and how your diet has evolved over time. What has been the biggest change in your perspective on diet?
I think when I first started I didnt really know much about minerals. The biggest shift has been for me to realize the importance of minerals and the importance of a complete nutritional picture. When I first began, I thought that you could get enough from fruits and vegetables bought from an organic store. I didnt realize the differences among foods, in organic foods.
Another thing that was a big shift for me was the power of super-foods. When I first started out, it was like, No Im not going to have spirulina, I dont eat that. Why would you need blue-green algae? Why would you need bee pollen, or royal jelly or these types of things? Now I realize that those are great super-foods, and its probably better to have less of the regular food, and more super-foods, because super-foods are really foods with some exceptional properties and mineral richness.
For example, cacao is a great one raw chocolate beans. It has a very exceptional nutritional profile. For example, cacao is the highest source of magnesium found in any food on the whole earth. And it can actually reverse a mineral deficiency in the mineral magnesium. There are other super-foods out there, like maca. Maca is an incredible invigorator an incredible aphrodisiac. Its a very powerful food you can live on it alone for quite some time. Its one of the highest sources of iron of any food on the earth.
What I also have found in my journey is that its a lot better and a lot easier to be on liquid foods than to be on solid foods. I had no idea of that when I started out.
So basically, youve expanded your diet. Its less restricted than it used to be?
That would be a good way to summarize it. Becoming aware of whats actually out there that can be considered raw plant food. Theres a lot out there, and I think that most of us are not aware of it. How do we know, what is actually the best plant food for us, unless we try everything thats out there? So, thats more of my approach when I give seminars now. Giving out the whole cornucopia of choices: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, seaweed, grasses, herbs, sprouts, cultured foods, and superfoods and supplements, and talking about each different category and how each plays a role.
Success of raw vegan diets in the long term
There is plenty of evidence to show that a raw vegan diet is extremely cleansing and beneficial in the short term. However, how do we know the results in the long term? Why dont we hear about 90-year old raw vegans?
Well, we do! I mean, I do, from where I am. Dr. Esser just passed away recently and he was in his 90s and he had been a raw vegan for about 60 years for a very long time. Does that mean that the raw vegan diet is perfect for everybody? Probably not. I think the main thing we have to look at is commitment to educating oneself and metabolism. We have to look at the troublesome areas where people can go fall off the deep end. If we give a general program like what I just outlined (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts, grasses, cultured foods, super-foods, supplements that whole array of food), I think we stand a much higher chance of success. If were really clever I think we can actually keep some people going on raw plant foods who wouldnt normally make it. By broadening the horizons we give people the greatest chance of success on a raw-vegan diet.
[Comments by Frederic: Dr. Esser was not a vegan. In one interview, Dr. Robert Sniadach, who worked with him, wrote: "Dr. Esser goes for a little cheese. He uses a salt-free, raw milk cheese that he gives to guests a couple times a week with salads at dinner time."
I also received the following from John Fielder in Australia: "Dr Esser was a personal friend of mine and I know this to be completely untrue (that he was a vegan). Until very recently Dr Esser had kept his own goats and consumed their milk and milk products. Anything said to the contrary is entirely untrue."]
For example, there are troublesome areas with certain oils, like omega-3 fatty acids (long-chain omega-3 fatty acids). Flax seed for example is a medium-chain omega-3 fatty acid, so is hemp seed. But our brain is made of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. So we see certain problems with some vegetarians, vegans and raw-foodists with brain chemistry in the long-term, because some people cannot convert medium chain omega-3 to the long-chain omega-3 fast enough, or efficiently enough. Some people cant even convert it at all. So we have to start looking at those problem situations to make it more viable for more people. There are also protein issues. We have to find the right level of protein in the diet. For some people, who have a high protein need, generally, we recommend hemp seed protein as the best source of protein at this point, from what we now know. Thats even better than the algaes, which is what used to be recommended. Not to say that algaes are not great sources of protein. They simply dont work for everybody. Hemp protein works for more people.
Problems in the raw vegan diet
Many raw-foodists experience problems after many years on the diet, such as osteoporosis (low bone density), tooth decay, and deficiencies. How do you explain these failures to thrive on the raw vegan diet?
Thats a great question. Lets look at low bone density. There are a few factors involved. One is an insufficient amount of magnesium in the diet, or an insufficient amount of silica in the diet, or a detoxification process which is too much, too fast, and which leaves one deplete of magnesium, silica, calcium and iron. Also, theres a hormonal aspect to this. We find that some people, if theyre not getting the proper raw materials, cannot produce the proper hormones. For example, if someone gets too estrogenic, they will start losing bone mass. So we need to have foods that are testosterone builders or progesterone builders, or that build DHEA. Foods like that are coconut oil, yam, maca, evening primrose oil, the fennel class of foods, and many other specific foods that do that. These foods can give you the proper hormone-building materials. That still may not be enough for some certain people. If its not, then I recommend going with a unique type of coconut product called pregnenelone (which has already been reacted along the path with the metabolic pathway towards producing progesterone, and/or testosterone). That is a supplement, but its really coming from a food.
In terms of silica and magnesium, well we know we can get a lot of magnesium from nuts, and especially three nuts: macadamia nuts, cashew, and cacao. And thats one of the reasons why people really have that craving for those three. Another reason is that we have not enough green leafy-vegetables in the diet, and thats another source of magnesium, and thats also another great source of silica and calcium. But the best source of silica is usually something that we dont have in health food stores, such as nettles, or something like horsetail, or something like hemp leaf.
We have to really look at all these factors.
In a more general way, how would that be that some people set themselves up for these problems, maybe on a more psychological level?
I think what happens is that people take their emotional stuff into whatever diet theyre doing. For example, people who had been abusing refined sugar on a normal diet will start eating massive amounts of dates or sweet fruit on a raw-food diet. So whatever predisposition of abuse in relation to food that people have, generally they take it with them in whatever diet they try. With raw foods, you have to be a little bit more careful because this food has real energy. Its really powerful and also very cleansing. To eat 50 dates is very different than eating refined sugar. Refined sugar is more of a toxin, but dates can be a cleanser. The fruit sugar can act like a solvent and start breaking down toxic deposits. Eating too much sweet fruit and too much sugar, which is a very strong solvent, may be a cause of bone loss and tooth decay.
Raw vegan pregnancy
We have had many reports of women experiencing difficulties maintaining a raw vegan diet during pregnancy as well as raising health children that way. Any comments on that? In your opinion, what would be the ideal nutrition for pregnant women and young children?
There are a lot of important nutritional qualities that need to be looked at during pregnancy. One is that you cant just go on fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and get through a pregnancy in a really proper way, in nearly all cases. But then, of course, there are some people who can, because their reserves are higher, or they produce more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, or whatever metabolic reason. What weve got to look at more is the super-food category and experience, by the mother, before pregnancy with the entire spectrum of raw plant foods available.
When a woman gets pregnant, her body is going to go back to what shes familiar when, to whats known to her. For example, if a woman has been a raw-foodist for a year and only done a very limited thing, maybe a natural hygiene kind of raw-food diet, then if she gets pregnant she could get all these crazy cravings for all this exotic kind of stuff and old foods. That may be an uncontrollable thing because her body doesnt have enough nutrition in that type of diet to actually carry a pregnancy all the way through. What would we do then? Well, we look at some of the super-foods, we look at long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which is found in fish. Now where does the fish get it from? It gets it from algae. Well, you can grow algae that contains long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and dry it and press the oil out of it, and get that pure, long-chain omega-3 fatty acid. I recommend that for pregnancy. Thats the main cause of post-partum depression having all the omega-3 sucked out of the mother.
Of course youve got to look at highly-mineralized diet. 92-minerals wheatgrass is a technology that we have now, where you can grow wheatgrass with diluted ocean water, and that grass pulls in all minerals. And when you have that kind of thing, you have a complete mineral complement every single day. Thats a very powerful technology for a pregnancy, because in pregnancy there may be a specific desire for a certain mineral that might not be present in a standard, kind of raw vegan, natural hygiene diet, but could be in a 92-mineral wheatgrass drink. There are all kinds of things that are becoming available to us now that make it possible to work.
Actually, Ive seen many successful raw pregnancies. But I dont see many natural-hygiene raw vegan pregnancies, or when I do, the woman is very depleted from the whole situation when the baby is born or when the baby starts to be breast-fed.
Protein on a raw-vegan diet
Many raw vegans feel that protein is not something we should worry about as there is supposedly enough in fruits and vegetables. Do you feel that this statement is right or is protein of more importance than what many raw vegans have thought?
I feel that some people do need a high amount of protein, some people need a moderate amount of protein and some people need a low amount of protein. The difference is based on metabolism. If some people are following a traditional fruit-vegetable-nuts-seeds kind of diet but have a high protein need, probably they arent going to make it. Its just that their metabolism isnt going to be able to convert energy from say, the fats from avocados and fruit sugar they need to convert the energy from a protein source. And that is just metabolism.
For me personally, I do best on a high-fat, moderate-protein, low sugar diet. Thats what Ive found out over the years. Ive seen people exactly the opposite from that. A lot of the protein propaganda is coming out of the vegetarian world, which is really an anti-meat propaganda, because the meat industry basically uses meat synonymously with protein. Its a little bit misrepresentative of the importance of protein. And I think thats one of the things that is significant about super-foods, is that they usually are very high in protein. For example, wolfberries: complete protein. Maca: complete protein. Spirulina: complete protein. Blue-green algae: complete protein. Those are all super-foods. We can start looking at some of the other things that are in that zone, for example hemp seed and hemp seed protein hemp seed is a complete protein and a superfood. And we can go on.
A raw-food diet is generally vegan, which means that it avoids most animal products, including eggs, dairy products, fish, meat, and bee products. But when we look at all cultures in the world, there is not a single one that has been 100% vegan, and there is no evidence either that humans have ever been vegans in any time in history. So, do you think that it is actually beneficial over the long-term to be 100% vegan, when we keep on finding more nutrients that are problematic to get in a vegan diet (long-chain fatty acids, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, etc.). Your thoughts?
Those are excellent questions. Well first of all, I think that when were dealing with long-term success on a vegan diet, we have to look at covering all bases. And this is reiterating what weve been saying. We have seen that people can get omega-3 fatty acids deficiencies on a vegan diet. And this doesnt happen if someone has fish in their diet, or has some kind of unique animal oil in their diet. However, having said that, I am convinced, based on my experience, that any nutrient that is in any animal product, can be found in a plant. And Dr. Michael Klaper, who is a famous vegan doctor, corroborates this position. Everything you can get from, say fish, or fish oil, can be found in a plant. For example, long-chain omega-3 DHA, which is very important for long-term success on any diet, because DHA is really responsible for building proper brain tissue. And thats one of the main reasons we can see nerve degeneration in vegans. You can get that from algae oil and you can get it from algae even - blue-green algae contains it. It doesnt contain very high quantities, but enough that it can get some people by. Some other people dont need it, as they can convert it all from flax seeds and hemp seeds.
Theres another long-chain omega-3 fatty acid called EPA that is very much related to people who have schizophrenic problems or chronic depression or ADD. Well, the highest plant source of that happens to be purslane, which is an herb. Now imagine not knowing that. Most people dont know that most vegans dont even know what purslane is. Thats why we really have embarked on a real educational process, not only for raw-foodists but also for vegans and vegetarians, because our goal is to make those diets work, and they can work. There are vegetarian sources of all nutrients that we need, and there are raw vegetarian sources of all nutrients, but weve got to know what they are, put them on the playing field and make them available.
So do you think that the vegan diet is ideal? Do you think that its the natural diet of humans?
Whats natural for humans? A humans natural diet is to eat anything, just to be a scavenger. Thats whats natural. If youre out in nature, you just try to survive on whats there. Does that mean that that whats the cleanest source of nutrition available to us? No. If wed be eating anything out of the environment these days, weve got a tremendous level of pollution in our biosphere. And thats one of the reasons why we have to go towards a vegetarian, vegan and/or vegan raw-food diet over the long-term, because its the only thing thats sustainable. Everything else is going to be so polluted that its not going to be sustainable. For example, your average pound of meat has fifteen times the levels of pesticides as your average pound of conventionally grown vegetables. With dairy products, its five times. So as you go into the future, that equation is going to get even worse. Its going to shift in a way thats not really the way we want it to shift. And therefore we have to make vegetarian, vegan, and live-food nutrition work, and we have found out the information/technology to make it work.
However, we have to make that information available to vegetarians, vegans and live-foodists so then they know how to have long-term success.
How to find truth in raw vegan diets
There are many different approaches in the raw vegan movement. Some promote a natural hygiene philosophy, others a fruit-based diet, others an Ann Wigmore type diet, others instinctive eating, etc. The beginner is usually confused when looking at all this information. In this situation, how can one find the truth?
I think it comes to really looking at whos getting the results that they want. Thats the best way to assess the validity of any diet. Look at the person whos behind it. If the person whos behind it is centered, their brain is working properly, they look good and they have great skin health, they look young, they feel great, they have a positive attitude, then that would probably be an indication that the diet that theyre on is working. My recommendation, just over a long period of time on this, is to look at a very wide spectrum of all raw plant foods and make people aware of them.
If youre going to get on a diet that really is unique, empowering and powerful, its probably not going to be just eating fruit off a tree. Youre going to have to be pretty clever about it. And thats why we give a whole presentation about it.
We want to show people, Hey, heres what you should probably include, heres some things that you might want to experiment with, heres where the problems are: vitamin B-12, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, getting enough protein, and heres how you can solve those problems. Also minerals, getting enough minerals, and heres how you can solve the mineral problem. And if we get all those problems solved, then we have created a format, or a structure for people to have long-term success.
An overview of a David Wolfe's diet
If a person doesnt have a lot of time, or if nutrition is not their main interest, they have a busy life, a job, etc., how would that person find the best diet for them without reading hundreds of books on the subject?
I think people who come to my seminars get the information were talking about here. And what this does is empower them with general principles of understanding. And again, in a moment Ill reiterate all of the general principles, so its pretty clear what were looking at here. From those principles, people can guide themselves to a healthier lifestyle.
When we get into specifics in nutrition, any diet is wrong the specifics are always different for every person. When were looking at general principles, thats when the diet philosophies of Ayurveda, of Macrobiotics, of European folk herbalism, of native American shamanism, of traditional American raw-foodism, of the protein diet, the Atkins diet, etc., the general principles can and usually are valid. The specific application may be completely ridiculous. So what were looking at with raw foods is simple. Lets take individual foods from each category:
Fruits. Generally staying away from high-sugar fruits, getting more into the low-sugar fruits, like cucumber, green apple, bell pepper, tomato, because we see that there can a problem with too much sugar in the diet.
Vegetables. Green leafy vegetables. If were confused, not sure what to do, then green vegetable juice is a great way to start. That would be celery-based, celery-cucumber, celery-cucumber-apple, that kind of thing.
Nuts & seeds. Certain nuts and seeds have more nutritional qualities than others. For example, Brazil nuts have a very high amount of selenium, so that would be something we would want to look at as a food. We talked about hemp seeds and flax seeds: very important. With pumpkin seeds, those three would be the ones that I would highly recommend.
Sprouts. When were looking at sprouts, Id recommend growing sprouts or growing grasses with diluted ocean water 20 to 1 solution of ocean water presents all minerals to the sprouts, and grass can pull all minerals present. This is a very unique and amazing technology thats now crossed paths with the raw-food diet in the last year! With this, you can get complete mineralization from grass if its watered with diluted ocean water, because the ocean contains all minerals. That, all of a sudden, is now on the table.
Super-foods. Weve got to look at things like cacao, because it has a such high amount of magnesium. Magnesium is important because the number one mineral deficiency in our culture is a magnesium deficiency, and that usually gets worse when someone starts cleansing. Magnesium is also highly alkaline and opens up the elimination pathways. So we need enough magnesium to get through the cleansing process. What else: maca, spirulina, bee pollen. Honey is a superfood, especially some of these really high antibiotic types of honey. And we have to look at things like the wolfberries and the Goji berries, because they have such a unique nutritional profile a nutritional profile so unique its not even well understood. Cacao is like that too. Cacaos nutritional profile is so unique that theyre finding new chemicals and compounds in it every single day. Its probably the most complex seed on the whole planet in terms of its chemistry theres just nothing like it.
Herbs. Herbs have an intelligence, they know where to go. You can use medicinal herbs on a raw food diet, for example by creating a Pau dArco tea. You can make a sun-tea out of that, or heat it up to 120 degrees, which is plenty hot enough, and bring it back down and drink that. Thats a wonderful super-herb. Its an antiviral, antifungal, and anti-carcinogenic tea. There are many things like that in the herb category. You can also use horsetail and nettle, which is a way of getting silica, that mineral we talked about which is hard to get.
Supplements. Things like algae oil, which really isnt a supplement but a food. You can get that now: DHA, long-chain omega-3 DHA. If you have hemp seeds with coconut oil, you double the conversion ratio of medium-chain omega-3 to long-chain omega-3, which is very interesting if you have coconut oil and hemp seed oil together. Theres all kinds of little tricks like that.
What about vitamin B-12? Best source of vitamin B-12 found in nature is spirulina. And, another great source of vitamin B-12 is dirt, or earth. We live so disconnected from the earth, we dont eat foods right out of the earth anymore, so we dont get those natural bacteria and nutrients that we find in the earth. One of the biggest deficiencies in our culture is a vitamin B-12 deficiency, and most people are meat eaters, but they still have a vitamin B-12 deficiency. So I think thats saying something about our disconnection from eating from the earth directly. And there are more, we can keep going on.
(Comments by Frédéric: Spirulina doesn't contain human-assimilable vitamin B-12. See the interview with Nazariah for more information. It's recommended for vegans to take a vitamin B-12 supplement.)
The Best Diet
What is the best way to design a diet that works for a person based on her own constitution and needs?
1. The first issue to look at is how that person deals with sugar. Do they have extreme reactions to refined sugar, cooked sugary foods or fruit? Can they eat fruit only at a meal and stay mentally, emotionally, and energetically balanced? If sugar reactions are harsh or hypoglycemia is present, then we immediately know to be careful of fruit, sweet juices, and sweeteners.
2. What whole raw food is the person most attracted to and enjoys the most? Before we get specific, let's get this already friendly raw food increased.
3. Identify what the person is actually capable of incorporating and shifting in their diet.
4. Assess the person's genetic and life health and diet history. From there establish a STRATEGY that is preventative towards genetic predispositions already present and to health challenges already present. This strategy is created using knowledge of how different liquids, herbs, foods, etc. in the cornucopia of choices affects each organ.
5. Implement the strategy with certain safeguards which include:
- How much raw food can be taken in at the beginning?
- The level of green juices that can be comfortably drank daily.
- What foods are reactive or allergenic in the person.
This isn't a complete breakdown of how I design a diet for someone, but it gives some general ideas.
What do you think are the most important steps one a person take in order to improve his diet? And what are the health benefits that can be expected from doing so?
The most important step a person can take to improve their diet is to eat with gratitude and love. What can follow from that choice is eating raw, organic plant foods that agree with that individual, especially alkaline, neutralizing green foods and green vegetable juices.
The health benefits from eating with gratitude and love arise out of the awareness of what the food experience can actually mean. Eating with intention is the first step in dietary transformation.
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