Raw foodism is a lifestyle promoting the consumption of uncooked, unprocessed, and often organic foods as a large percentage of the diet. Depending on the type of lifestyle and results desired, raw food diets may include a selectÄ±on of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds (including sprouted whole grains), eggs, fish, meat, and unpasteurized dairy products (such as raw milk, cheese and yogurt).
A raw foodist is a person who consumes primarily raw food, or all raw food, depending on how strict the diet is. Raw foodists typically believe that the greater the percentage of raw food in the diet, the greater the health benefits. Members of the raw food community claim that raw food encourages weight loss and prevents and/or heals many forms of sickness and many chronic diseases.
The consumption of raw food is a universal practice among animal species. Among humans, it dates to prehistoric eras, before humans began cooking with fire. Some believe that prehistoric humans were largely vegetarians, and thus that the human digestive system is configured for raw veganism. Others believe that prehistoric humans were chiefly hunters who ate raw nuts, fruits and vegetables. However, archaeological evidence suggests that cooking pre-dates the anatomically modern human form.
Raw foods gained prominence throughout the 1900’s, as proponents such as Ann Wigmore and Herbert Shelton claimed that a diet of raw fruits and vegetables is the ideal diet for humans.
Artturi Virtanen (1895-1973), showed that enzymes in uncooked foods are released in the mouth when vegetables are chewed. It is believed that these enzymes interact with other substances, notably the enzymes produced by the body itself, to aid the digestion process.
Leslie Kenton’s book, The New Raw Energy, in 1984 popularized food such as sprouts, seeds, and fresh vegetable juices, which have become staples in many different food cultures. The book brought together research into raw foodism and its support of health, citing examples such as the sprouted seed enriched diets of the long lived Himalayan Hunza people, as well as Max Gerson’s claim of a raw juice-based cancer cure. The book advocates a diet of 75% raw food in order to prevent degenerative diseases, slow the effects of aging, provide enhanced energy, and boost emotional balance.
Today, the raw food lifestyle is practiced widely. Restaurants catering to the diet have opened in large cities, and numerous all-raw cookbooks have been published.
Those who follow this way of eating:
* Think that raw foods contain enzymes which aid digestion, meaning that the body’s own enzymes may work unimpeded in regulating the body’s metabolic processes. They hold with the theory that heating food degrades or destroys these enzymes in food.
* Think that eating food without enzymes makes digestion more difficult, which could lead to toxicity in the body and cause excess consumption of food, obesity and chronic disease. This goes against the accepted medical definition of toxicity.
* Suggest that raw foods contain bacteria and other micro-organisms that affect the immune system and digestion by populating the digestive tract with beneficial flora.
* Think that raw foods have higher nutrient values than foods which have been cooked.
* Consider wild foods, particularly edible wild plants, to be the most nutritious raw foods.
* Argue that Freezing food is acceptable, even though freezing decreases enzyme activity.
Anthropologist Peter Lucas of George Washington University in Washington, DC, US, was reported in New Scientist magazine in 2005 as having the theory that man being the only mammal with chronic poor dentition, and the only mammal to significantly process and cook his food, are causally linked. He believes that the adoption of food processing and cooking reduced the size of our jaw through evolutionary processes, but not the size of our teeth.
Early 20th century
A 1933 paper by E. B. Forbes says, “Cooking renders food pasty, so that it sticks to the teeth, and undergoes acid fermentation. Furthermore, the cooking of food greatly diminishes the need for use of the teeth; and thus tends to diminish the circulation of blood to the jaws and teeth, and to produce under-development of the maxillary and contiguous bonesâ€”thus leading to contracted dental arches, and to malocclusion and impaction of the teeth, with complications of great seriousness.”
In a 1936 work entitled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, dentist Weston A. Price observed dental degeneration in the first generation who abandoned traditional nutrient dense foods which included unprocessed raw foods e.g. un-pasteurised milk products, fruit and dried meats. Price claimed that the parents of such first generation children had excellent jaw development and dental health, while their children had malocclusion and tooth decay and attributed this to their new modern insufficient nutrient diet (which would have included a proportion of raw food).
Dr. Edward Howell, an Illinois physician, wrote Food Enzymes for Health & Longevity in 1941. Forty years later he published Enzyme Nutrition, a book which claimed that the pancreas is forced to work harder on a diet of cooked foods, and that food enzymes are just as essential to digestion as the body’s self-generated enzymes, claims which have not been verified. The book was based largely on ideas from his previous book, and ideas derived from flawed enzyme research from the 1930s before it was established that enzymes were proteins.
A study by the University of Toronto and another published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggest that ingesting cooked or pasteurized dairy products may increase risk of colon cancer. The increased risk is due to the effect of heating casein, a phosphoprotein found in dairy products.
Several studies published since 1990 indicate that cooking muscle meat creates heterocyclic amines (HCA’s), which are thought to increase cancer risk in humans.Â While eating muscle meat raw may be the only way to avoid HCA’s fully, the National Cancer Institute states that cooking meat below 212 Â°F (100 Â°C) creates “negligible amounts” of HCA’s. Also, microwaving meat before cooking may reduce HCA’s by 90%.
German research in 2003 showed significant benefits in reducing breast cancer risk when large amounts of raw vegetable matter are included in the diet. The authors attribute some of this effect to heat-labile phytonutrients.
Many foods in raw food diets are simple to prepare, such as fruits, salads, meat, and dairy. Other foods can require considerable advanced planning to prepare for eating. Rice and some other grains, for example, require sprouting or overnight soaking to become digestible. Many raw foodists believe it is best to soak nuts before eating them, in order to activate their enzymes.
Preparation of gourmet raw food recipes usually call for a blender, food processor, juicer, and dehydrator. Depending on the recipe, some food (such as crackers, breads and cookies) may need to be dehydrated. These processes, which produce foods with the taste and texture of cooked food, are lengthy. Some raw foodists dispense with these foods, feeling that there is no need to emulate the other non-raw diets.
Care may be required in planning a raw food diet, especially for children. There is little research on how to plan a nutritionally adequate raw food diet; however, nutritionists and raw M.D.s are usually willing to provide professional advice. Raw foodists claim that with sufficient food energy, essential fatty acids, variety and density, people of all ages can be successful at eating raw foods, although whether the diet works for any one person depends on their unique metabolism.
As the consumption of raw foods gains popularity, some unsafe foods have re-entered the diets of humans. The following should be consumed with caution:
* Buckwheat greens are toxic when raw, particularly if juiced or eaten in large quantities by fair skinned individuals. The chemical component fagopyrum is known to cause severe photosensitivity and other dermatological complaints.
* Kidney beans, including sprouts, are toxic when raw.
* Rhubarb: when eaten in sufficient quantity, leaves can be toxic when raw, stalks are completely safe to eat when harvested early.
* Potatoes: a member of the nightshade family, can produce the toxic alkaloid solanine. The flesh of the potato just beneath the skins is usually green if solanine is present, but one may be present without the other. Solanine can be removed by peeling the potatoes, or neutralized by cooking in a deep fryer. In processed potatoes such as chips and fries, there is little hazard since peels are removed and they are fried.
* Raw foods contain bacteria and may contain parasites, which may cause foodborne illnesses. Washing properly according to Health Department or common sense will cleanse the food properly along with proper storage.