Although there are endless variations on the theme, Raw Foodists all share one common tenet: their meals are never heated above ~115º F. Servings may be whole, blended, juiced, sun dried, chopped, extracted, or dehydrated, but they must always remain ‘un-hot’. From this foundation springs multiple subsects, including Raw Vegans, Raw Vegetarians, Frugivores, Raw Probiotics, and Paleolists.
Raw Vegans eat only ‘living foods’, unheated and untreated, ideally organic plant matter including fruits and veggies – fresh and dried, nuts and seeds, sprouted legumes/beans/grains, fermented foods like miso, and cured foods like olives and olive oil.
Raw Vegetarians eat more than just ‘living’ foods, adding to their diet unpasteurized milk and cheese, raw eggs, and raw honey.
Frugivores stick to fruits and vegetables, while their cousins Juicearians consume nothing but – you guessed it – fresh fruit and vegetable juice.
The Raw Probiotic regime emphasizes the beneficial bacteria and yeasts found in sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and kvass (‘k’ is for probiotic, apparently).
The Paleolithic diet (also called the ‘Caveman Diet’) is omnivorous, and incorporates raw meats, organ meats, dairy, and eggs, while omitting raw grains, beans, and soy (foods of ‘agriculture’).
There are, of course, as many unique food philosophies as there are beautiful people on this planet. This list is only meant to offer a general overview of the core concepts. Which begs the question, ‘Why would one eat like this?’
Raw Foodists may make any number of health claims in support of their lifestyle. It is certainly true that the heating process starts to degrade nutrients and can kill valuable microorganisms (happy gut flora). As well, it is believed that at high temperatures the natural enzymes – important in aiding digestion and absorption – begin to denature. According to Raw enthusiasts, the act of cooking food will essentially destroy it. Therefore, Raw cuisine will contain the most vitamins and minerals, and will be most effortlessly metabolized by the body. These two qualities collaborate to maximize the nutritional impact of whatever is eaten, while requiring as little work as possible for the body. Raw advocates assert the lifestyle provides increased energy and mental clarity while combating obesity and many [most] chronic diseases. But the legitimacy of these claims is still up for debate.
Not everybody believes the health hype surrounding the Raw Food movement, even within the alternative/natural foods community. Instead of attempting to summarize the wide variety of opposing opinions, I’ll simply offer one perspective, picked from my very own backyard.
My father is an acupuncturist and herbalist, co-founder of the Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine and Shiatsu Rincon, and a decades-long healer. My Papa and I don’t always see eye-to-eye when it comes to health or habit, but I have the utmost respect for his undeniable wisdom regarding lifestyle, nutrition, and traditional remedy.
According to Chinese Medicine, high temperature is a necessary and natural catalyst in initiating digestion. The theory of acupuncture energetics hinges on the interplay between the nutrients in food and the ability of the body to withdraw them. This energetic process begins with heat – the heat of metabolism – and Raw ‘cold’ food disrupts this process. Especially vulnerable are the elderly, the sick, and the malnourished, who are unable to assimilate Raw nutrients. Asian medicine predicts that a sustained Raw lifestyle will have a depleting affect on metabolic processes. Essentially, it is believed that over time, ‘cold’ food damages the digestive power.
So, why piss off my Pops?
Why RAW For Me?
Firstly, I want to be clear about my own open mindedness towards this praxis. I do not necessarily believe in the superiority, or inferiority, of eating Raw. Also, I am not doing this in an attempt to cleanse, and my goal is not to lose weight.
It really comes down to one thing: Science
I studied science in college, and I remember spending a lot of my free time pondering the essence of biology. If you could reduce it down to its inherent nature, take it to its intrinsic core and define it as purely as possible, how would you describe the study of biology? My answer: ‘Poke It, And Watch How It Wiggles’
As biologists, that’s what we do. We poke. And then we watch the wiggle. And report back.
And I am a scientist to my marrow, not just by trade, but at the very heart of me. For almost 2 years now I have been a biologist without a lab, an ecologist out of the field, and I really think that I am just terribly desperate to poke at something, to watch that wiggle.
I guess you could say that I’ve become my own laboratory.
*Wiggle* . . . *waggle wiggle*