WHY SOME VEGETARIANS ARE EATING MORE RAW FOODS
Vegetarian Voice, 1998, No. 1 -- North American Vegetarian Society
Your being healthy is important for Jiv Daya, because most modern medicines and treatments are developed and/or produced using animals. Nutritious food helps you keep a doctor away.
Michael Klaper, MD
Nutrition Task Force of the American Medical Students Association American Academy of Nutrition Founding Director, Institute of Nutrition Education and Research
Sing the glories of food-as-grown! It is exciting to see the increasing awareness by the public, the medical and nutrition professions, and the vegetarian communities that whole fruits and vegetables -- as fresh out of the garden as possible -- are absolutely essential for good health.
Nutrients such as Vitamin C, many of the B complex vitamins, minerals, fiber, water and other essential molecules are needed for vital reactions all over the body, from blood formation and muscle contraction to nerve conduction and wound repair. Calorie for calorie, raw plant foods contain more of these substances than any other food.
All forms of cooking degrade vital nutrients in varying degrees. It is true that light steaming destroys only minimal amounts of nutrients, but for most people, "cooked," means a whole lot more than light steaming. Just flip through the pages of practically every cook-book on the market (including the vegetarian ones) or peek into the kitchen of any restaurant, and you will usually see veggies being fried, stewed, baked, simmered, grilled, roasted, or boiled.
Fiber, too, is degraded by heat -- even light steaming. This may actually be beneficial for some people (more on that later), but first let's consider the vast majority of our population. Once it's fiber is broken down, food becomes easier to eat. To illustrate this, imagine two equal heads of broccoli, one cooked and one raw. Consider the amount of time that each of them would take to eat. The cooked bunch could be reduced to a bowlful and eaten in a few fork-fulls (i.e. you are particularly hungry!), and if you eat it too fast, then you might even opt for more, before your stomach has a chance to say, "I'm full!" On the flip side, if you envision your self spending at least half an hour crunching away on the raw bunch, then you have likely discovered one of the advantages of raw food: It's possible to eat large quantities of highly nutritious food without consuming excess calories, and this is great news for anyone familiar with the consequences of overeating.
More people than you may realize actually do eat whole plant foods in their simple form without spicing, dicing or cooking. Many of these people consistently report that once fresh, raw plant foods are regularly consumed au natural, their original unadulterated flavor becomes absolutely unsurpassable.
However, for those who covet creative dishes made with a variety of flavors, there is a cornucopia of ways to prepare whole foods -- without using heat. Starchy vegetables can be made palatable when finely shredded, and then enjoyed in salads and lettuce wraps, served with tasty dressings or sauces. When soaked in water for several days, barley, wheat and other grains become soft enough to chew, and then they can be added to salads, pureed into pates, seasoned and pressed into "cheeses," and used in many other creative and tasty ways. Also, if you rinse and drain grains regularly for several days, they will sprout -- which greatly increases their digestibility. Sprouted grains can be made into "raw" sun-dried breads, pie crusts, and a myriad of other delectable dishes.
When discovering the number of cookbooks that contain predominantly raw food recipes, one might ask, "Are there people out there who only eat raw foods?" Yes, there are a few, but most people tend not to go the "100 percent raw" route. This is because it is difficult to get sufficient calories on an all-raw diet without heavily relying on nuts (high in fat) or fruit (high in sugar).
So, how do these "mostly raw" people get sufficient calories? They eat some grains, yams, and other fibrous, high calorie foods -- cooked. Remember the broccoli story? Once food is cooked, it's easier to eat a lot more of it. In other words, it's a great way to increase calorie consumption. This is very significant for people who are underweight, for children on vegan diets who need more calories, and for senior citizens with poor appetites. Conservatively cooked starches are a highly nutritious, low-fat, low-sugar calorie alternative to nuts and sweet fruits.
We do, of course, need fat in our diet to create cell membranes, hormones, skin oils and other vital substances, and raw nuts and seeds are an excellent source of essential fats for any diet. Flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts are especially nutritious with their bounty of omega-3 fatty acids (the human body can not make this substance which is required for hormone balance and cell membrane formation). Raw nuts and seeds are beneficial in other ways too; for example, a handful of raw, green, organic pumpkin seeds contains plentiful zinc, and almonds are an especially rich source of calcium. Fortunately, however, with the addition of some steamed rice, sweet potatoes, or other calorie-dense foods, people who need additional energy sources calories don't have to depend solely on nuts and seeds.
I know people who are sustaining themselves on predominantly raw foods -- and they seem healthy and extremely energetic. They report clearer thought patterns and greater productivity in their daily lives. I respect and honor them for their commitment to their health, as well as their ability to manifest a nearly all-raw cuisine in their diet. In my own experience, there is no question that the more raw food I eat, the lighter and more energetic I fell.
But in the world of "real eating," what's best? Fortunately, you don't have to completely change your dietary habits or "go raw" to reap the advantages of raw foods. It's easy to include large portions of fresh, raw foods at every meal; you don't even need a special cookbook. Sliced fruit can be added to hot or cold cereal in the morning, and a large mixed salad or raw vegetable cup, can accompany lunch or dinner. Dried fruit and nut mix, just-juiced vegetables, or a crunchy apple with almond butter make great snacks -- and smoothies or fresh fruit topped with sorbet can satisfy sweet cravings at desert time. So, there really are plenty of opportunities to eat more fresh, raw foods during the day -- it's just a matter of cultivating our appreciation for the taste of whole, unadulterated, unfired foods -- just as nature made them. Of course everyone has different schedules and preferences and we all have to listen to our body and our common sense when deciding how much raw food to eat.
Perhaps the best advice about raw foods (and cooked foods, for that matter) is to Chew! Chew! Thorough chewing is absolutely essential to breaking down the fibers of raw foods to allow complete mixing with digestive enzymes. If raw foods are going to constitute a large proportion of your daily diet, then be prepared to become a masterful masticator.
"Chewing your food to a cream" has benefits beyond increasing the absorption of nutrients. It also drives out the air that permeates all whole foods. This is important because the most common cause of bothersome flatulence and intestinal gas is swallowed air -- the gaseous molecules that are inevitably trapped between the grains of rice, within the folds of lettuce, amid the broccoli florets, etc. The more we chew, the quieter our tummies. When eating fresh, uncooked foods, don't be in a hurry. On the contrary -- linger, chew, and enjoy.
Recent scientific studies have verified the beneficial effects from the nutrients in raw foods, and I predict that soon there will be research confirming that eating raw foods causes increased energy and better concentration. (Forget about that post-lunch urge to nap!) In the meantime, let the good times and raw fruits and veggies roll. Crunch 'em, munch 'em, get 'em in any way you can -- every cell in your being will benefit. And do all in your power to assure that the fruits and vegetables you eat are grown as organically -- actually, "veganically" -- as possible. The fewer chemicals, slaughterhouse products, sewage sludge, and other toxic "fertilizers" used for the production of our produce, the better for all of us, for the animals, and for Mother Earth.
THE HYGIENIST PERSPECTIVE
James Michael Lennon
Director, American Natural Hygiene Society
For the past 160 years, the American Natural Hygiene Society (ANHS) has been the leading advocate of diets that include large amounts of raw foods. However, the ANHS does not recommend a totally raw food diet because people typically fare poorly over long periods of time on such diets, totally raw food diets are hard to implement from a practical standpoint, and there is no credible evidence showing that a whole-food, plant-based diet that is entirely uncooked is more healthful than one that includes conservatively-cooked vegetables and starches.
This may come as a surprise to many people who thought that the Natural Hygiene diet has always been an all-raw diet. But the various doctors who championed Natural Hygiene in the 19th century actually advocated a wide range of diets, and one or two of them were not even vegetarian.
A common argument in favor of an all-raw diet is that "no other species on the planet cooks its food." Without question, raw fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses. But an attempt to live exclusively on raw foods can present some challenges, such as having to "graze" (constantly eat all day long) in order to get sufficient calories. This may be fine for cows in pasture, but humans are usually busy with other activities, like working and going to the theater. Hence an underlying problem with all-raw diets -- in the attempt to "stock up on" concentrated calories, people may consume large quantities of fruit and/or nuts, thereby creating a high sugar and/or high fat diet.
Noting that all people are different and that diets should be designed to meet individual needs, current general ANHS dietary recommendations are to eat a whole-food plant-based diet that consists primarily (by volume) of fresh fruits and vegetables; plus steamed vegetables, hard squashes; and the variable addition of (raw, unsalted ) nuts, whole grains, and legumes.
THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN SALADS!
Internationally known cook, foods instructor, lecturer, food columnist
When I first became a vegetarian, everyone asked, "Where do you get your protein?" Later on, when I went vegan, people wanted to know, "How do you get you calacium?" Now, if I say I eat raw foods, everyone says, "Don't you get tired of salads?"
I love salads; salads with tender young greens and salads with no greens at all; salads with raw sweet corn and salads with crisp shredded Jerusalem artichokes; sprouted legume salads and sprouted grain salads. I love fruit salads and salads of tomatoes, olives, and fresh herbs. But if salads were all there was to a raw food diet, it might indeed become boring.
Fortunately, nature's diet -- one consisting primarily of uncooked foods -- is varied, innovative and delicious, as well as healthful and rejuvenating. A natural, raw food diet offers easy-to-make nut and seed cheeses, which can be used for everything from sweetened cream cheese frosting and creamed soups to savory dips, spreads and sauces. Even pasta and lasagna can be enjoyed raw using finely julienned zucchini or thinly sliced eggplant in place of processed noodles. Sprouted grain pilafs, date-walnut scones and sprouted grain crackers are a few examples of the unlimited variety of grain dishes which can be made simply, without cooking. Even ethnic foods, like humus, falafels and burritos can be prepared "in the raw."
Of course, preparing these gourmet delights requires a change in thinking and a large dose of creativity. On the other hand, most of these delectable creations are as easy or easier to make than their cooked counterparts -- and there won't be any dirty pots and pans to clean! In fact, if you don't like cooking, expanding your raw foods repertoire may be the way to go. If you love to spend time in the kitchen and create new, delicious treats for friends and family, then you will definitely enjoy this new cuisine. And, if you want to experience better health and increased vitality, you'll appreciate the rejuvenating benefits of raw living foods.
PROFILE OF A DIETARY CHANGE
Lecturer and health educator, and author of several books
Seven years ago, if you asked me what I though raw foods were, I would have said salad. In fact, for most people, raw does only mean salad, or perhaps sushi. Since then I have learned so much about how to prepare uncooked food. One gem of wisdom I discovered early on is don't eliminate, substitute. So, rather than feeling deprived by taking out the foods that I loved, I began a journey translating my Beverly Hills gourmet Jewish culinary background into that of a gourmet Jewish culinary background into that of a gourmet living foods cuisine.
It's been a rewarding journey. Texture has translated into grating, blending and juicing, and many other nuances of changing the presentation of food. For example, making a nut fluffy by blending pecans with dates and putting it in the dehydrator creates pecan mousse. I enjoy this dish as a warmed breakfast pudding on chilly mornings, and as a desert in the summer months. Also, I can take that same nut -- a pecan -- and make a creamy pate by blending more vegetables into the "batter," or a crunchy patty, by adding finely minced vegetables.
In the morning, using my blender, juicer and sprouting jars, a whole new world of breakfast foods has replaced my former diet. Now, my choices include a wide array of fresh fruits blended to perfection with sprouted nuts and flax, sesame, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds. And my desire for grains is satisfied with sprouted, blended (smooth or crunchy) kamut, wheat, oats, barley, millet, or quinoa.
Even though my diet sometimes reaches over 95 percent raw, I still lead a life that allows me to eat out with non-raw friends without putting them on the defensive about their eating habits. When I was starting to eat raw, one of my friends who also ate raw was adamant that eating cooked foods meant going straight to hell -- what a delightful thought. He would lecture others about what they were eating, and it really put people off. In contrast, I believe that enjoying the differences among people is an important challenge in life, and that loving ourselves, learning to listen, and transitioning ourselves from a possibly unhealthy diet to one that better agrees with us, is more important than the foods that enter our bodies. Eating a meal with someone who makes food choices completely unlike mine is fine with me. As the saying goes, "it's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, but what comes out of it."
When I eat at restaurants, I enjoy a wide variety of both cooked and raw foods. I prefer vegan cuisine, and most restaurants will at least make a salad and pasta primavera with pesto and very lightly steamed vegetables. At Mexican restaurants, I usually order a tostada with mainly raw ingredients -- salsa, guacamole and romaine lettuce -- and then a bit of cooked beans or rice on the bottom.
Joy is simplicity, and eating can simply be fun when it's uncomplicated. So whether or not all raw is the issue, more raw can be included with ease and delight -- and the fuss and bother of cooking can be eliminated when you want to enjoy it as nature's gift to us all.