Raw Food Basics


Why eat raw food?

For millions of years, humans had only our senses to rely on in selecting food. We were guided to eat fruit by our ability to see colors against a contrast of green, smell enticing fragrances and taste sweetness. During those millions of years, our bodies adapted to our environment and became entirely dependent on certain conditions for optimal health. The closer we can get to those ideals in our modern lives, the higher the level of health we will enjoy.

Humans have been cooking food for thousands of years. Nevertheless, our biological and physiological requirements were in place long before the practice of cooking food began. Evidence that we are flouting our biological heritage by cooking our food is plain to see. No other animal on Earth cooks its food, and no other animal besides humans (and the animals we feed) experiences disease on the scale that we do.

Heat changes the molecular structure of foods, rendering nutrients mostly unusable. Cooked and otherwise denatured or processed food is less digestible than raw food. Anything that is consumed that cannot be digested or stored must be eliminated as waste. Eating cooked food produces so much waste in the body that our eliminative organs cannot keep up, and waste accumulates. It is this accumulation that leads to an overall toxemic state in the body and results in disease. Biologically-appropriate, raw food is almost entirely usable by the body, and provides all the nutrients that the body requires, as it does for all the other species of animals on the planet.

What do raw foodists eat?

For our purposes here at RawSchool.com, the term “raw foodist” refers to someone who eats a diet primarily or exclusively comprised of biologically appropriate foods. (Please see the next question for a definition of “biologically appropriate”).

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.

Why don’t raw foodists eat grains, meat, and dairy foods?

“Biologically appropriate” foods are those for which we are physiologically adapted. Humans are a frugivorous or “fruit-eating” species. This is not a matter of speculation or belief. Belief is defined as the acceptance of ideas without regard to evidence for or against. We need not allow beliefs to guide us in matters of health. Rather, what should dictate our habits are the immutable laws of nature that are obvious and self-evident through simple observation.

Natural laws and principles of science are just as fixed and certain when they are applied to human health as they are when applied to any other subject, such as chemistry, mathematics or astronomy. For example, animals are scientifically classified according to their diets and their corresponding physiologies. Granivores eat primarily grains, insectivores eat mostly insects, and so on. When we compare human anatomy and physiology to those of other species, we find that we are distinctly different from granivores, carnivores, insectivores, herbivores and even omnivores (such as pigs and bears). We find, though, that we are remarkably similar, in fact identical in some important ways, to our primate cousins, who are all frugivores. Although mainstream nutrition “experts” commonly classify humans as omnivores, the stark differences between us and true omnivores and the preponderant similarities between us and frugivores leave absolutely no doubt that humans are, indeed, a frugivorous species. When the evidence is studied objectively, the facts are inescapable. It is these kinds of observations and logical conclusions which enable us to determine with 100% certainty what our natural foods are.

Where do raw fooders get their protein, calcium, etc.?

The story on protein has been so hopelessly and deliberately obfuscated by commercial propaganda that it’s always the first question that is asked about diets that include no animal products. It is surprising for most people to learn that human protein needs are actually very small. 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%.

The reality about all the various nutrients in food, including protein, calcium, vitamin b12, EFAs and the others, is that we needn’t concern ourselves at all with getting enough of them. What we need to do is determine what our real, natural foods are and just eat them. None of the other animals on Earth fret about getting enough of each nutrient, they just eat the foods that naturally appeal to them. We can do the same. Nature has it all worked out for us. As previously mentioned, it is not a mystery or a matter of theory which foods we’re supposed to be eating. This has been determined with as much certainty as whether we should drink water instead of Kool-Aid or breathe oxygen instead of carbon monoxide.

Further, it has been estimated that only a small percentage of the nutrients in food have been isolated and identified. It may well be that the ones yet to be discovered are even more important than the ones we unnecessarily obsess about getting enough of. Like most other misconceptions about health, the fear of nutrient deficiency does not originate from true scientific evidence but from the advertising efforts of the industries which stand to gain from our confusion – the meat, dairy, egg, medical, pharmaceutical, herb and supplement industries, to name a few. These ideas and fears need to be discarded in favor of rational thinking and sensible, fact-based information.

How does eating cooked food contribute to disease?

Cooking radically alters the chemical structure of food. Proteins are denatured, fats are oxidized and potentially dangerous compounds are produced, such as trans-fatty acids, free radicals and other toxic hydrocarbons. Sugars and starches are progressively caramelized and complicated, giving rise to erratic and excessive body sugar metabolism reactions. Although it is often claimed that the destruction of enzymes in cooked food forces the body to use its own ‘enzyme bank’ to digest the food, this is not the case.  The enzymes in food perform other functions that have to do with the growth and development of the plant or the food itself.  However, enzymes are extremely heat-sensitive and can therefore be regarded as the canaries in the coal mine — their destruction means that vital nutrients have probably been damaged as well.  In addition, cooking causes minerals to return to their inorganic ash state, making them unuseable and toxic to the body. Vitamins are inactivated, turned into toxic or useless chemical structures, and no longer add to the capable function of the body. Poisonous, highly reactive free radicals are instead produced, adding to the body’s burden. These are only a few of the problems that are created by the cooking of food.

When we eat a meal of cooked food, the body’s white blood cell contingent must triple or quadruple in order to expel and counteract the offending substances. Any poison or drug taken into the body elicits the same defensive response. This does not occur when we eat a meal of raw, biolgically-appropriate food.

Cooked food is obviously not a poison that will immediately cause us to fall over dead. Rather what it does is gradually and cumulatively overtax the various organs and processes in our bodies with a backlog of waste. Eating cooked food is like piling so much trash in your driveway that the trash collectors can’t keep up. Eventually, the trash is going to overtake the entire driveway and you’re going to have a problem. A lifetime of eating cooked food causes the body to become saturated in its waste. Tissues that are in constant contact with toxins and other waste become irritated, inflamed, ulcerated and indurated (hardened). Cells die at an accelerated rate, tissues degenerate and organs lose functionability. This is why people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who eat a cooked food diet typically have one chronic illness or another. The fact that people manage to live for decades eating a diet of cooked food doesn’t mean that it isn’t harmful, but rather attests to the human body’s capacity for tolerating abuse and demonstrates that our lifespans would be a great deal longer if we lived in accordance with our biological mandates.

What are the other healthful habits one must practice to acquire and maintain perfect health?

Much attention is given to nutritional matters, because that is where people have gotten the farthest off track. But there are many other habits which bear significantly upon our level of health. Exercise, for example, assists and improves many vital bodily processes, including the movement of lymph, which carries waste out of the body. During sleep, the body regenerates nerve energy, restocks cells and organs with fuel, replaces old cells and rids itself of uneliminated toxins. Breathing clean air means our respiratory and circulatory systems don’t have to work so hard to remove impurities. Sunshine enhances bodily nutritive processes overall and facilitates nutrient absorption and assimilation. Engaging in work that is creative and productive gives us a sense of satisfaction and self-reliance, and is a healthy outlet for our energy. All of these factors, plus many more, are important in determining how healthy we will be.

In addition to eating cooked or processed food, smoking, drinking harmful beverages, sleeping too little and not exercising enough, there are other habits that are particularly destructive of health. One of those is the practice of suppressing symptoms with medications, remedies, herbs and supplements. A cold, for example, is the body’s relief valve for eliminating toxins that have accumulated to a level that jeopardizes health. Taking cold remedies of any kind, even so-called natural ones, causes the body to retain waste that it would otherwise discard. To suppress any of the body’s eliminative efforts is to subvert its ability to maintain balance and preserve life. The wisdom of our bodies far exceeds our capacity to fully comprehend it. The body never makes mistakes. Our health-building habits should therefore include fostering in ourselves an attitude of trust, respect, and cooperation with the innate intelligence of our bodies.

What typically motivates people to go raw?

The reasons are many, but all have to do with a desire to be healthy. It is common to meet raw fooders who changed their diets as a result of having been seriously ill. Typically, people seek relief through doctors, naturopaths, acupuncturists and the like, but when their illnesses “return” or when they finally realize that symptom suppression in any form is not “cure”, they sometimes become open to a truly natural approach. Fortunately, many people are coming to understand that the best way to deal with disease is to remove the cause rather than treat symptoms. Disease is not a predator that seeks out unfortunate victims, and its causes are not mysterious. Understanding what disease is and why it occurs not only liberates us from the burden of sickness, but from the fear of sickness as well.

The idea that we can have so much power over our own quality of life just by living according to our bodies’ true requirements is a profoundly motivating reason to go raw. We can take the responsibility for our health out of the hands of disinterested third parties, like doctors and nutritionists, and put it where it belongs, on US. Nobody can eat, sleep, or exercise for us, and it is these behaviors which determine whether or not we will become ill. By learning how to incorporate the simple, nature-based principles of good health into our everyday lifestyles, we can discover the inner joy and well-being that can only come from an internally clean, healthy body

What’s the hardest part about going raw?

Many times when people hear about the health transformations and see the astounding before and after pictures of people who have gone raw, they jump right into the lifestyle without fully realizing the mental, emotional and lifestyle changes that are required to succeed long-term on a 100% raw food diet. Old unhealthful habits have to be replaced by new healthful ones. This is a very slow and painstaking process that requires conscious effort. In addition, there is much to learn and UN-learn. You’ll have to be prepared to devote a good deal of time to seeking out and studying new information, and casting off old ideas and ways of thinking. You’ll have to have enough knowledge about and confidence in what you’re doing to deflect well-meaning criticism from friends, co-workers and family members whose mistaken ideas about health may cause them to question or even condemn your new lifestyle. If you live in a ‘cooked’ household it will take strength and conviction to stick to your healthy practices while everyone around you indulges in their favorite cooked foods. Even if everyone in your household is raw, you’ll still be living in a culture where destructive habits are encouraged and supported. It will seem sometimes like you’re the only one in the world who cares about living healthfully. This is just a partial list of the challenges. On top of all that, you’ll have to have enough resolve and commitment to get through stages of healing and bodily adjustment that may occasion feelings of weakness, anxiety, lack of energy, discouragement and even acute (flu-like) symptoms. The process of detoxification is not torturous, but it can be unpleasant at times. It is a necessary part of getting well. Nature demands due accounting when we abuse our bodies. Our choices are either to pay now with a little short-term discomfort, or later with degenerative disease and premature death.

You also have to be willing to change your life in ways that go beyond eating habits. Your exercise and sleep habits, personal hygiene, social outlets, forms of recreation and even possibly your profession, among many other facets of your life, may become subject to re-evaluation and change if optimal health is what you desire.

In addition, health improvements may not happen quickly. In the beginning they may not seem equal to the sacrifices and work that are required. Healing happens at different rates for everyone but it can sometimes be very slow. Patience and cooperation are the order of the day. Our bodies are under no obligation to reward our efforts with instant or quick healing.

HOWEVER, even the most difficult and demanding aspects of going raw are worth every bit of effort in the end if you see them through. Until you have experienced them, the potential benefits defy the imagination. No disease, no fear of disease, clear thinking, deep sleep, balanced emotions, rational judgement, almost limitless energy, a firm/youthful body, clear eyesight, increased self-confidence and self-awareness, heightened senses, smooth skin, healthy sexual function and the knowledge that you will be independent and active into your old age, plus many, many others. Ultimately, the benefits you reap WILL be commensurate with the effort you sow.

What’s the best way to get started transitioning to a raw food diet?

We all have our own way of approaching these changes so there isn’t one formula that works for everyone. Some people need to research the information for months before taking the first step, and others like to jump in and learn as they go. In addition, we all start from a different place with regard to the habits we currently follow. Just eating fruit for breakfast instead of cereal and milk would represent a huge improvement for someone who lives a very junky SAD lifestyle. On the other hand, a person who is already eating a reasonably healthy diet might want to make bigger changes.

Sometimes when people are suddenly exposed to the truth, they want to take action immediately. There’s nothing wrong with someone who has abyssmal eating habits wanting to make sweeping changes right away, if the person has the determination and commitment to stick to it. Making changes too fast, however, can lead to backsliding which can have psychological consequences that are harmful to your health goals. Conservative, gradual changes tend to be more permanent than radical changes made in haste.

The importance of reading and gathering new information cannot be overemphasized. There is a vast amount of information available to new raw fooders about what to eat and why. The resources referenced here on RawSchool.com are a good place to start. In addition, it can be very helpful to create a social support system, whether this takes the form of people you actually meet in person or just interact with on-line. There are lots of ways for you to seek out people to learn from and commune with. The good news is that as raw foodism gains in popularity, it becomes easier to find others who are making the same changes you are.

Once you are convinced that transitioning to a raw food diet is for you, you should begin making changes right away. The sooner you start, the sooner you can begin enjoying the benefits.

Is perfect health possible?

The level of health that our populace experiences on average is such that doctors are quite happy to pronounce a person “healthy” simply if s/he is not exhibiting symptoms. Good health is not merely the absence of symptoms, however. Vibrant, robust health produces such radical improvements in physical, emotional, and mental well-being that it becomes apparent that what is experienced by most people is not good health at all. It becomes a joy to live according to your body’s actual needs once you have experienced these profound changes. Perfect health is not only possible, it is the natural birthright of every species on Earth, including humans. Just as disease is inevitable if we do not live in accordance with nature’s directives, perfect health is the inevitable result if we do.