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The Raw Food Diet and lifestyle
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 selection 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 person is. Raw foodists typically believe that the greater the percentage of raw food in the diet, the greater the health benefits.Some believe raw food highly encourages weight loss and prevents and/or heals many forms of sickness and many chronic diseases that are seen as incurable by the medical community.



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 vegetarianism. 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.citation neededArtturi 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. American celebrities who have been known to follow a raw food diet, including Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson, provide additional exposure.


Those who follow this way of eating may believe:

Raw foods contain enzymes which greatly aid in their own digestion, freeing the body's own enzymes to do the work unimpeded of regulating all the body's many metabolic processes. Heating food degrades or destroys these enzymes in food, putting the onus on the body's own enzyme production.

Eating food without enzymes makes digestion more difficult, deprives the body of enzymes, and leads to toxicity in the body, to excess consumption of food, and therefore to obesity and to chronic disease.

Raw foods contain bacteria and other micro-organisms that stimulate the immune system and enhance digestion by populating the digestive tract with beneficial flora.

Raw foods have higher nutrient values than foods which have been cooked.

Wild foods, particularly edible wild plants are particularly nutritious raw foods.

Freezing food is acceptable; some raw foodists choose to preserve nuts and seeds in a freezer. Although freezing decreases enzyme activity, the food is still raw.

The benefits of a raw food diet are said to include: a stable body mass index, clear skin, more energy, and minimising a range of common illnesses, from the flu to obesity-related illnesses.

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 bones—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. The book was based largely on ideas from his previous book, and ideas derived from early enzyme research from the 1930s before it was established that enzymes were proteins.

Recent research

A new study by Doctors recommends substituting raw food for cooked food as much as possible in the treatment of Autism.

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. While eating muscle meat raw may be the only way to avoid HCA's fully, the National Cancer Institute states that cooking meat below 212ºF (100ºC) 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.

Food preparation

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.

Avoiding poisoning

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. Heating to high temperatures destroys most bacteria and parasites.

Raw food movement

Early proponents include Johnny Love-Wisdom, Ann Wigmore and Viktoras Kulvinskas (co-founders of the Hippocrates Health Institute), Arnold Ehret (author and authority on fasting), A Hovannessian and Norman W. Walker (who advocated the consumption of juices, living up to the age of 99 yearscitation needed).

The principles of Natural hygiene promote a mainly raw vegan diet. Famous natural hygienists have included Herbert Shelton and Anthony Robbins.


Advocates argue that nonhumans (that eat uncooked food) exhibit lower instances of degenerative diseases and therefore, if humans refrained from cooking their food, they wouldn't contract these diseases at current rates either.citation needed However, animals in the wild have been shown to suffer from arthritis,18 cancer, liver and kidney diseases,20and degenerative brain diseases, and it is not known if the rate of instances is lower than that in humans, nor if there is any correlation between these ailments and pollutants created by human presence. Although research that provides a correlation between the health of an animal and the diet's proximity to vegan and raw food is essentially what is needed in order to show evidence of it's impact, although a large portion of the revenue brought it by a nation like the U.S. is from dairy and meat products, so the funding for this type of research may not meet the interests of todays money makers.

Food enzymes in the stomach

Some raw foodists claim that ingesting enzymes aids digestion in the mouth, stomach, and intestines.citation needed The claim about stomach digestion, however, goes against well established knowledge regarding the biochemistry of enzymes. Enzymes are very sensitive to pH and their activity will be nullified outside a specific pH range. The digestive enzymes produced by the stomach are active in the low pH (2-4) of the stomach, whereas enzymes found in most foods will be most active at cellular pH (approximately 7).

However, some dietary enzymes such as bromelain and a protected form of SOD have been shown to be absorbed through the intestines and into the bloodstream.citation needed Also, enzymes found in acidic plant foods, including many fruits, are active at low pH similar to that of the human stomach.citation needed

Dental malocclusion and cooked food

The earliest indisputable fossil evidence for the use of fire to prepare food dates to approximately 350,000 years ago. Other evidence traces cooking to more than 1.5 million years ago, well before the emergence of modern humans.Evolutionary evidence indicates that the musculature and bone structure of the jaw evolved away from forms most suited for eating tough raw foods.

Some critics believe that based on this evidence humans have evolved to eat cooked foods. Advocates counter that this is repudiated by the incidence of malocclusion found in cooked-food-eating populations. However, this claim is disputed by dentists who state that malocclusion tends to be an inherited trait. Research contradicts common opinion amongst dental practitioners and shows that malocclusion is essentially an acquired, and therefore avoidable, trait.

However, other research indicates that consumption of softened foods is a major factor in severity of malocclusion, and that the occlusal transition found in one Kentucky community "could not be genetic in origin." Other research indicates that Taiwanese aborigines with nearly ideal occlusion "have adequate jaw growth since the muscular stimulation from mastication is quite sufficient," and that "raw, dry sweet potato chips and vegetables are the major diet items."

Potential damage

A 2005 study has shown that a raw food vegetarian diet is associated with a lower bone density. This may not be a problem however, as new research appears to indicate that high bone density early in life is associated with osteoporosis, regardless of genetic variation.

Douglas N. Graham warns that most raw diets obtain a high percentage of daily calories from fats, by including significant amounts of avocado, nuts and seeds. According to him, these diets tend to be unsustainable since too much fat, even raw fat, causes health problems and results in the underconsumption of carbohydrates. He promotes a low-fat raw vegan diet which draws the great bulk of its daily calories from fruits, along with liberal amounts of vegetables and small amounts of nuts and seeds.

One study of raw veganism shows amenorrhea and underweightness in women, another one increased risk of dental erosion.

Some advocates of raw foodism claim that amenorrhea may be a normal condition of fertile women, and that indeed menstruation as most women experience is neither natural nor healthy, but a consequence of intoxication due to unnatural cooked diets.

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