Without a doubt, if you do any research on what it takes to walk to walk (or more appropriately, eat the eat) of a vegan, chances are you’ve stumbled upon the Raw Food Movement (or more specifically the vegan raw food movement which is what I’ll be exploring in this section). Having been curious about the pros and cons myself, I decided to delve a little deeper and see what all the fuss is about.
First things first, what does it mean to eat raw? Well, in order to be considered raw, the food can never be heated above 115-118 (apparently there’s some debate in the raw world) degrees Fahrenheit. So pasteurizing, baking, boiling… all out for the raw foodist in your life. It means staying away from all processed foods and sticking with organic, whole, pesticide-free, non GMO.
Okay, so why do people do it? It seems downright difficult. And I thought finding a restaurant was hard as a vegan, it must be nearly impossible to go out to eat as a raw vegan! There do, however, exist raw vegan restaurants, it just takes some pre-emptive restaurant research (which vegans are plenty used to anyway). I found this helpful site, Raw Food Diet FAQs that answered some raw questions quite nicely. Some of the questions like the most obvious of them all, why not cook? Having cooked food all my life, I had no idea that it apparently:
“-Kills enzymes. Enzymes help you digest your food. Your body can create enzymes but that process takes a lot of energy. This process makes you feel tired and heavy after a cooked food meal. Further, the enzymes your body makes are not as efficient and effective as the ones that were destroyed in your food.
-Consequently, your food is not be broken down as well and thus harder to digest. This also results in food starts rotting in your intestines, that parasites have more chance to survive
-It is further believed that your body has a limited amount of enzymes that it can produce. If the supply is finished, body organs will function less and less. It will accelerate aging.
-Changes the pH of the food and makes food acidic. We like to eat alkaline foods. Eating acidifying food makes your body a welcome feeding ground for disease.
-Converts easy to absorb minerals into inorganic – hard to absorb – minerals. INorganic minerals such as calcium are hard to absorb and might cause calcium stones, whereas organic ones are easier to digest, make you alkaline, help you get rid of too many acids
-Destroys most vitamins
-Destroys the life force. Eating cooked food is eating dead food. This will make you feel heavy and tired. Live food has live energy. It will give you energy. Simply put. A raw seed will grow, a cooked seed won’t. When you pick (raw) unripe fruit it continues to ripen for weeks. Cooked fruit starts to decay within days.
These reasons are enough to explain why most people on a raw food diet feel more energetic and have a stronger immune system.”
Back to my constant bread and pasta dilemma, it took me so long to be okay with eating them after my initial weight loss and fear of eventual weight re-gain. So wait, what exactly do raw foodists eat if they’re not eating bread and pasta either? The Raw Food School was able to shed some insight on the subject:
“Raw foodists eat fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The ideal percentages seem to be 75-85% fruit, 10-20% green leafy vegetables, and 5% nuts and seeds. Most people who change to a raw food diet initially go through a period of eating very complicated combinations of foods as a way of replicating their favorite cooked foods. This is a healthy, painless way to transition. There are lots of ‘uncook’ books on the market now, with recipes for everything from raw lasagna to cookies and pies. These kinds of dishes can be very helpful in the transition process. At first, it is common to eat large quantities of food and to eat more fatty and dense foods like nuts and dried fruit, as these give us the “full” and “satisfied” feeling that we’re used to getting from cooked food. This changes over time. Eating cooked food for an entire lifetime causes our digestive systems to build up protective barriers to prevent too much absorption of the harmful, denatured substances in cooked food. A diet of raw, biologically appropriate foods allows the body to slowly and naturally shed that protection, thereby increasing its ability to absorb and assimilate nutrients. When this happens, our bodies demand less.”
Eventually, successful raw foodists invariably settle into a very simple way of eating. It is not hunger but our emotional addictions to food and our misplaced expectation that food should serve as entertainment or comfort which motivate us to combine foods in complex recipes. True hunger demands only nutrient-rich, uncooked, biologically-appropriate food, and preferably only one food at a time, since each food requires a different chemical environment for digestion.
And if I’m getting the “Are you sure you’re getting enough protein?” question from concerned relatives and friends, I can only image how bombarded the raw foody is! The Raw Food School resorts to a clever way to respond to even the most concerned of mothers (but you may just want to read this for the facts and go easy on mom):
“Overconsumption of protein presents a far greater threat to our health than not getting enough. The truth is, it’s practically impossible to not get enough, and actual cases of protein deficiency are almost nonexistent in our culture. Our true protein needs can be ascertained quite definitively by examining the relative protein content of human mother’s milk. When we are infants we grow faster than at any other time in our lives. Consequently our relative protein needs are the greatest at that time as well. Yet breast milk contains a very small amount of protein — 1-4%, depending on the age of the infant (percentages change at various stages of development). It is no coincidence that fruit contains roughly the same percentage of protein on average: 1-6%.”
Who gives a pH? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t really thought about pH since I was in my 10th grade science class. I don’t work for a pool company or a water shed so I guess it doesn’t apply to me and I can shut that part of my brain off and never think about it again. UNTIL I discovered some pretty interesting stuff about how hard you body works to maintain some sort of balance in pH which is all based on (you guessed it) the food you eat. Raw Food For The Beginner has an informative section on the what your insides are trying to do with, well, what you put inside.
“A very important factor in health is the acid/alkaline balance of the body. This determines whether or not disease can thrive in your body. On a scale of 1 to 14, 1 being acid and 14 being alkaline, the bloodstream needs to remain about 7.4. If it gets to 7.2, the body dies.
Cells, however, can get to 3.5 before the body dies. If the liver can’t detoxify or neutralize the bloodstream totally, the body stores toxins in the cells. But before it gets to that point, to compensate for toxicity/acidity, the body borrows important alkaline minerals such as calcium from the bones to neutralize the bloodstream.
This is the true cause of osteoporosis, too much acid food, not enough calcium-rich greens, and a generally acidic environment in the body. As you can see the human body goes to great lengths to maintain this balance, but it needs your help.”
So there you have it. There do seem to exist some clear benefits from eating in the raw, but as usual, these benefits certainly come at a price. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a place where everyone ate the same. I guess I used to live in more of a place like that when I was an omnivore and I prided myself in saying things like “you don’t have to worry about me, I’ll eat anything.” That same place where I didn’t have to ask for a list of ingredients before I accepted a food gift from a friend or have to politely decline when someone still doesn’t understand that I can’t eat what they’re trying to feed me so I just decide to say that I’m not hungry to avoid the topic altogether. Food is how people show love and it has so much to do with culture and tradition that it’s hard to shake or move past. I tell you, I give a raw foodist a lot of credit- it can’t be easy. As a vegan, I eat roughly 50% of my meals uncooked anyway but the full 100% is a truly amazing feat not to mention when you’re going 100% organic and non-GMO.
Although it’s not for me (right now) I am happy to have this knowledge about the benefits and look forward to running into raw foody brains to pick (only when ripe of course).
Doubt what you’ve been told to believe your whole life- it’s good for you. Read what Milton R. Mills, M.D. has to say about The Comparative Anatomy of Eating and see about what he has to say about human physiology and what it tells us about what we’re supposed to be eating… and not eating.
Like Food Trucks? Then you’re going to want to check out Karliin Brooks’ Raw Food Truck the next time you’re in NYC!