I am a vegan in my dietary and consumer habits. Over the past year, I have been gradually incorporating more and more “raw” food into my diet. Although I am vegan for ethical reasons, I am transitioning from a vegan to a mostly-raw diet primarily to maximize my chances to experience optimal health, now and in the future.
“Raw food” means to not heat food over a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The theory behind a raw diet is that heat over that temperature destroys beneficial enzymes, thereby depleting the nutritional content of food. Additionally, raw food is not “processed”. So much of our food today – even vegan foods – is processed. So what is wrong with processed foods? Processed foods, like cooked foods, in addition to being nutritionally less healthful than raw foods, are difficult for the body to break down into useful nutrition.
Take a ripe avocado and a Twinkie, the poster child of processed food. Put them on your kitchen counter. Let them sit there. After only a couple of days, the avocado will noticeably decompose. But the Twinkie will be there, fresh as ever, months from now. Now put yourself in the shoes of your pancreas, liver, and other digestive organs. The avocado does most of the work of breaking down itself and providing nutrition. The Twinkie, on the other hand. . .I see a pancreas saying, “what the heck is this? What can I create to break this down and extract nutrition from it?” Brendon Brazier, vegan Canadian triathlete, drawing from his book, Thrive, might describe the Twinkie as a “nutritional stressor”.
It is no surprise that so many people who eat the standard American diet, which includes meat and dairy, feel a need to take a nap after a meal – after all, their digestive system is being taxed and stressed. While true that persons can and do live for decades eating meat and dairy, it is statistically highly probable that quality of life will be adversely affected by eating meat, dairy, and processed foods. Examples include the epidemic we are seeing of adult-onset diabetes, as well as cardiovascular issues, including impotence, for which Big Pharma advertises heavily on television.
A raw food diet has the opposite effect: it increases the likelihood of optimal health. It gives one physical energy and clarity of mind. It makes food nutritional, as opposed to stressing the body, and thereby frees the body up to do things such as strengthen the immune system. And it is easy. I use a VitaMix blender, food processor, and dehydrator. I make dishes such as raw pad thai, raw ravioli, and raw portabella mushroom burgers using no processed foods. Using my dehydrator, I even make my own raw corn chips, which takes all of 3 minutes to prepare – the dehydrator does the rest. All I do is put corn, jalapeno, red pepper, walnuts, and sunflower seeds, and a touch of Agave nectar in my VitaMix blender, pour the thick mix onto sheets and into the dehydrator. The chips, others have told me, are infinitely fresher and more satisfying than even the best of traditional bagged chips.
To learn more, I would recommend to the reader www.rawfoodexplained.com. Additionally, a fantastic raw food cookbook is Alissa Cohen’s Living on Live Food.