Diet Series Part Two The Raw Diet
Everyone knows how a diet that is rich in raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains contributes to good health. Every meal should contain a variety of fresh, raw foods. Organically grown raw foods provide even higher-quality nutrition and proper digestion.
The concept behind a raw food diet is that the human body requires enzymes to digest food, and various enzymes in foods assist proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. When foods are heated above 115° F., vital enzymes are destroyed. Each whole, raw food contains naturally occurring enzymes designed to help break down that particular food. In his book, Intuitive Eating, Humbart Santillo,M.D. states, "A human being is not maintained by food intake alone, but rather by what is digested."
Alkaline vs. Acid
Eating raw foods helps to alkalize the body, a key factor in building good health. When the body is in an alkaline state, it is better able to absorb nutrients and to expel toxins more efficiently. The Standard American Diet (SAD) of meat, bread, dairy products, processed and cooked foods, caffeine, and alcohol creates an acidic state in the body, which contributes to a variety of health problems -- cancer, heart disease, auto- immune disorders, arthritis, asthma, obesity, diabetes, and the list goes on.
Sprouted (germinated) nuts, seeds, and grains are "live" foods. When nuts, seeds, or grains are soaked, enzyme inhibitors are removed, and germination occurs. Germinated foods are easier to digest because the availability of enzymes is increased making all of the nutrients readily available and easier to assimilate.
Whole raw foods are also rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants. Research suggests that phytonutrients may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes. They may also help slow the aging process.
Omnivores or Frugivores
Many people believe that the raw diet is what our bodies were designed to eat. If you look at the structure of our teeth, hands, and digestive systems you can see that they are quite different from carnivores (cats, wolves), omnivores (bears, pigs), graminivores (grain eaters, birds) and herbivores (grass eaters).
Anthropologists theorize that our ancestors evolved eating a fruit diet. We are frugivores. Our bodies are perfectly suited to a diet based primarily on fruit, with some smaller amounts of vegetables, nuts, and seeds. We see in color to help us find ripe fruit, we have flat teeth which are ideal for chewing fruits and vegetables. We are born with a sweet tooth, meant to guide us to eat sweet fruit; our digestive tracts are long and twisted, not short and straight like a meat eater's.
It hasn't been such a long time in the history of mankind that we have been eating foods we are not designed to digest, such as cooked meat and dairy. Our health has suffered with the inclusion of these foods. It's not really coincidence that obesity is an epidemic at the same time that our diet is the most unnatural it has ever been with most Americans living exclusively on processed, convenience, and fast food.
Toxins & Cooking
Our bodies are able to remove toxins from our bodies quite efficiently, and they do so everyday. When we eat our natural diet, the foods are properly digested and absorbed and/or eliminated and toxins do not build up, allowing us to enjoy health and well being.
Heat alters food so that nutrients become toxic in the body. The normal methods of elimination of toxins (the liver, kidneys, bowels and skin), become overburdened and are not able to keep up. If the body can't eliminate toxins fast enough, these poisons build up and illness is the result. Raw food helps to detoxify the body by flushing out the toxins.
Humans have been cooking their food for only a short period of time compared with all the years that we ate a natural raw diet. Cooking is actually a chemical process that changes the molecular structure of the food. Our bodies are not able to fully utilize foods that have been cooked.
Many alternative health advocates believe that heating foods destroys much of its vitamin content. Raw food advocates believe that the all uncooked diet is most healthful. However, if we were to eat only the foods that humans are meant to eat (fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds), and we cooked them, we would still have a higher level of health than most Americans.
Raw foods are much easier to digest and contain a much higher level of beneficial components such as vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. When we eat fresh, live, raw foods we are providing our bodies with the best possible nutrition and our bodies will respond by giving us the best health possible.
How Do You Start?
First you need to get off the Standard American Diet (SAD). Drink water or tea rather than soda, coffee, bottled juices, and the like. And start adding smoothies to your diet. With a strong enough blender, you can liquefy your fruits and drink them.
I use a Vita-Mix for my smoothies. You can actually add fruits -- seeds, peels and all, and end up with a completely smooth drink that contains all the good parts, including the fiber-rich pulp, that are thrown away with a regular juicer. I have no connection with Vita-mix other than having owned one for many years.
Next you start to eliminate the refined, sugared, denatured, processed, preserved, precooked, and pasteurized foods. These are the white breads, white rice, and white potatoes, the deep fried foods like French fries and donuts, and the fried foods like bacon and eggs. You will also want to eliminate foods like boxed cereals, and processed soy products.
What Do You Eat?
In place of these you start adding whole grains and whole grain breads, brown rice or quinoa, cooked cereals, sprouted seeds, grains and raw nuts, and especially fresh fruits and vegetables. You also want to use only certain cold pressed oils such as virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or nut oils.
You can also eat fermented foods such as miso, kimchee, and sauerkraut as well as vinegars and foods cured in vinegar. Many people enjoy seaweeds. For sweeteners there is raw honey or pure maple syrup. And for flavoring there are fresh herbs and raw spices.
Finally, if you want to go 100% raw, you're ready to give up meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. Many people don't believe they'll be able to get enough protein with just plant foods. It is possible with the right combination of foods, such as legumes and grains. However many raw diet/vegans prefer to continue eating eggs and/or dairy.
Not everyone on a "raw" diet eats everything completely raw. There are levels for those on a "raw" diet and only those on the top levels actually eat everything raw. Many eat lightly cooked foods. They will steam some of their vegetables, or cook small amounts of meat, poultry, or fish. However, the "High Raw" food enthusiasts believe that when you ingest toxins (i.e. cooked food) your body produces mucous. That mucous lines the intestines to protect the tissues, and reduces assimilation. The result is a difference of 10 percent nutritional assimilation with 99 percent raw to 30 percent nutritional assimilation with a 100 percent raw diet. Food for thought, no pun intended.
However far you want to go on this diet, you will be healthier if your method of cooking does not include frying, grilling, or broiling. Try steaming, roasting, poaching, stewing, boiling or baking instead.
Those who decide to follow the raw diet will need to learn about food combining. For instance, fruit is best eaten by itself at least three hours after a meal or 30 minutes before a meal. If you eat it with other foods, you risk gas and discomfort. There are other food combinations that are beneficial and some foods you don't want together. You'll need to find that information and some recipes before you begin.
People on a raw diet want to be healthier, and they're willing to work harder and spend more to do so. Much of their food is organic. They use a lot of sprouts, since sprouting increases the vitamin, mineral, and enzyme content of foods, so they will have to learn how to grow them.
For those who choose the raw food diet, there are certain appliances that will make it easier to work with raw foods. You will need a good strong blender, a sprouter or glass jars with canning lids, and a dehydrator will come in handy. Unless you have a source of pure water, you will need a distiller, or a good water filter. The owner of this website uses the Big Berkey which can filter ditch water effectively if need be.
A diet with raw fruits and vegetables, sprouted seeds and grains, and pure water can be very healthy, if you know what you're doing, and you listen to your body. You don't have to stick to a raw diet 100% to be considered a raw food enthusiast. Most raw diet fans consider 75% raw foods to be a "raw" diet. Or you can reap the benefits just by adding more raw foods to your diet, get rid of your worst food offenders, and let the diet conform to your life style.