Why are people talking about eating more raw food, or even “going totally raw”? What’s up with that?
Raw food enthusiasts claim that raw food will do just about everything for you, healthwise, from reversing such illnesses as asthma, heart disease, arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, and even cancer, to helping you lose weight.
The concept behind raw food is that, when fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds have not been heated beyond 115 degrees Fahrenheit, they retain all of their enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Heating beyond 115 degrees Fahrenheit is believed to cause the enzymes to break down, and so, the food loses valuable nutrients.
Most serious raw foodists are vegan, i.e. , they eschew all animal products of any sort, although there are those, such as former model Carol Alt, who allow raw meat, as well. (Needless to say, the raw vegans are disturbed by the suggestion that raw meat may be included in a raw diet. Raw vegans hold that any kind of animal products are difficult for humans to digest. (Indeed, it has been shown that milk products can cause excess mucus in the human system, and this may lead to a number of ill health conditions.)
What’s up with the weight benefits? That is actually the easiest part to understand. If you eat only natural raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, it is going to be quite difficult to eat too many calories. There also going to be no “bad” fats (such as trans-fats) in your diet. Any fats in your diet will only be those naturally found in the raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds you eat, only natural, unprocessed essential fatty acids. Your diet will naturally be low in starches and sugars, as well, because there will be no processed wheat products (bread, pasta, cakes, cookies, etc.), and no added sugars. Any way you figure it, whether your diet style is low-calorie, low-fat, or low carbohydrate, a raw food approach will fit in and make it much easier to achieve your target weight without feeling deprived.
What else do raw food enthusiasts eat besides salads? With the increased popularity of the raw food diet, a plethora of raw food “cook” books have come out in the last ten years. Recipe options range from the quick and simple to complex gourmet productions which closely mimic cooked dishes. Many books open with the dessert section, to assure those new to raw food that there are many sweet options available to raw foodists. There are numerous recipes for cakes, cookies, candy, “ice cream”, and more, available in raw food books or on raw food websites on the Internet. Everything is guilt-free, made only from raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds You can even have raw food tacos and pizza, if you so choose. Burgers, tuna salad, “pasta”, you name it, someone has figured out a way to produce a dish made only with raw food to satisfy a longing.
Raw foodism is not a new concept. In the early 1900s, Arnold Ehret cured himself of a number of ills by following what he called a mucusless diet. He later traveled around the world teaching people the benefit of his diet healing system. In the 1920s, Dr. Herbert Shelton began publishing books on healing through natural hygiene, or proper food combining, and encouraging people to eat more raw food to improve their health and well-being. Around the same time, Dr. Norman W. Walker began promoting the value of drinking raw food juices and eating a live food diet. Dr. Walker, too, published numerous books to bring his concepts to the public. In the 1960s, Dr. Ann Wigmore founded the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston, MA, where she promoted eating raw food and drinking raw juices as a way for people to recover their health and remain disease-free. Many of the current raw food “gurus” have taken cues from Wigmore’s teachings.
Today, there are numerous raw food “experts” or “gurus”, and a number of different raw food diet theories. All agree on one point: it is best to include as much raw food in one’s diet as possible. Many natural, alternative, or holistic therapies recommend following a diet composed of at least 75% raw food, to enhance the benefits of the treatment and hasten a return to full health.
A superb book to start with, if you are interesting in learning more about raw food theory and the health benefits of raw foodism, and would like to get some raw food recipes in the bargain, is Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine, by Gabriel Cousens, MD., a classically trained physician who practices alternative medicine and runs a holistic retreat center and raw food restaurant in Arizona.
Raw food restaurants are not exactly on every street corner in New York City, but we do have a few very good ones. In order of expense and atmosphere, from the most affordable: Raw Soul, $, a small, friendly, cafe-atmosphere spot with short but delicious menu, 745 St. Nicholas Ave. (between 147 & 148th Streets.), 212-875-7112. (They also give raw food lifestyle classes) Quintessence, $$, a tiny, charming, mellow East Village spot with a delicious menu of surprising variety. 263 E. 10th St. (between 1st Ave. & Ave. A), 646-654-1823. Pure Food & Wine, $$$$$, an elegant restaurant with a lovely outdoor garden. The pricey menu has the most amazing and wonderful dishes. 54 Irving Pl. 212-477-1010.