Risks and Benefits of a Raw Food Diet

By Andreas Moritz

Hi, this is a question that I am getting a lot. It’s related to raw food diets.

I have previously, in my book “Timeless Secrets of Health and Rejuvenation”, spoken out against a raw food diet for everyone. There are some exceptions where a raw food diet, or mostly raw food diet, is actually pretty good and to say basically that a raw food diet should be eaten by everyone, I am very, very careful saying that because some people can absolutely not digest a lot of raw food, otherwise they develop constipation, or they develop dry skin, severe gastrointestinal bloating, gas and irritable bowel syndrome. So one has to be very careful about who we suggest to go on a raw food diet.

The basic idea is that when you eat foods that are raw, you will get a lot of enzymes and vitamins that are not destroyed through the cooking process and therefore you would benefit far more from eating raw foods, than you would eat from eating cooked foods.

But the equation is not quite as clear as it looks like. Eating raw food, more nutrients, it can mean the exact opposite. For example, raw foods are requiring a lot more breaking down of fiber that may be broken down through the cooking process, but if you have too much of undigested fiber coming through the system and ending up in your large intestine, much of it may be fermented by bacteria that reside there and when they are broken down, this can produce a lot of gas, methane gas and other toxic gases that can be absorbed into the blood and enter the brain, and it can cause brain fog and many other undesirable side effects.

The other problem is that bacteria that decompose those fibrous masses can produce a lot of toxins and these toxins can irritate the gastrointestinal lining and create more problems than you can benefit from by eating those kinds of foods.

The other thing is that cellulose, which is the principle fibrous component that is comprising the cell membranes, the cell wall of vegetables and other grain foods that are raw, in raw form when you cook these foods, this fibrous compound, the cellulose, starts softening up and releases some of the nutrients that are in the cellulose that are embedded there. So you may actually have more access to the nutrients in cooked food than you would have in raw food because it is virtually impossible for the human body to crush these very, very sturdy membranes or cell membranes that are composed of cellulose and therefore the nutrients may, in fact, be trapped inside the cells, because the cell walls cannot be broken down. So as a result you may actually develop a nutritional deficiency if you are purely on a raw food diet, particularly if the raw foods include foods that are very hard to sort of break down, that are easily broken down through heat, but cannot be broken down through mastication.

And if you then say “well, let’s juice these foods, they are just… let’s take them through a juicer and drink the juice…” The problem with that approach is that there are certain substances in the fiber that is actually slowing down the digestive process which in this case, is very good, because if the food passes through the gastrointestinal tract too fast because there is no fiber to slow it down, then the nutrients will not be absorbed properly, they will just rush right down into your large intestine, so that’s one setback with eating too much raw food or drinking the juices.

The other thing is that when you juice your food instead of eating it whole, then you are most likely going to drink the juices rather than keeping it in the mouth and swishing it around for about 20 – 30 times in order to combine it with salivary enzymes. Now, we need salivary enzymes to predigest the carbohydrates contained in these foods, these juices, and if that is not combined with the juices, then these foods may not be digested at all. Instead there will be other bacteria that are known to ferment food such as candida bacteria coming in large quantities and try to digest them, so to get rid of also some of the toxic elements that may be included in raw food.

When people say raw foods cannot be toxic, but that is not entirely true, in fact they can be very toxic, for example eat a potato in raw form, you can be poisoned by it, if you eat beans in large quantities, you can also get poisoned, you can actually die from that. So raw food is not necessarily safe in that form, that’s why countries like India and China and many South American countries have traditionally prepared their food to a point that it loses, almost strips the food of almost all the nutrients, and like when Peruvians used to treat potatoes, they would put them out in the sun, they crushed them, they put them in a solution that would draw acids out of the potatoes, then turn it into a fine powder exposing it to the sun again, adding perhaps some substances, minerals, that would help to reduce the toxicity to actually make the potatoes useful for them, but it would have been a potato that will have very little nutrients left, still the Peruvians were known to be extremely healthy.

So it’s not always related to the nutrients, but also to having foods that are less toxic, because when lot of the antibodies in plants remain in the plants when you eat them, then your body’s immune system may react very strongly against them, seeing them as antigens, and once you have an immune response, it can cause inflammation in the intestine or elsewhere in the body, typically know as an allergic reaction.

So the importance here is to understand that plants contain poisons, these are antibodies, everybody has an immune system and immune system has many different ways of defending the plant from being eaten by predators, or insects, from being damaged, and having these repair and protective mechanisms in place allows the plant to survive, and to thrive, and to spread their species. So these are plant antibodies or enzyme inhibitors or other kinds of toxic substances are ingested by us if we eat raw foods, raw vegetables, in larger quantities, if it’s in smaller quantities there is no problem.

If the vegetables are soft, if they are like lettuce, or avocado, cucumber, and things like that have lesser fibrous compounds in them, that are very juicy and soft, these are fine to eat in raw form as a salad, ideally eaten before lunch meal and that will allow these foods to be digested properly before you eat the cooked food, so always eat the salad first, before the cooked food, because that will prepare the digestive system, and allow the enzymes to be produced, for raw food that may be necessary to take advantage of the nutrients in these softer vegetables.

Harder vegetables should be cooked, not overly cooked. There should still be resistance when you put your fork in it, so that the nutrients are preserved. I personally use waterless cookware, which you can find now everywhere. Do a search on Google, ‘waterless cookware’, you will find many cookware brands out there that help you cook your food in a way that the nutrients, the enzymes, the vitamins, are preserved and not destroyed through high heat procedures like cooking, baking, frying and so on.

The advantage for a so-called Pitta body type eating more raw food in their diet is that raw food has a cooling effect, which for this body type who tends to be hot, tends to have a reddish skin, reddish hair or red hair, tends to have blue eyes, very sensitive to heat, so they need to be in a cooler environment, and also have more cooling foods. So their portion of eating raw foods should be higher than a person that Ayurveda calls the Kapha type or the Vata type, which are the cool types, they both have cool surface temperature of the skin and the Pitta type has hot surface temperature of the skin. The Pitta body type also has the most bile available to digest food and that is very useful for digesting raw foods. The Vata body type and Kapha body types have the least amount of bile and therefore they should not overly indulge in raw foods but choose more of the cooked food variety and there is more information about all that in my book “Timeless Secrets of Health and Rejuvenation” where you can see a detailed comparison between raw food diets and cooked food diets and I personally eat a mixed diet.

I do eat raw food, perhaps sometimes I eat like… cucumber and avocado, and some olives with some lemon juice and olive oil in the morning, with some rice cakes or some bread and butter on it, and that makes me happy, or oatmeal which is cooked, or at lunch time I always start with a salad, a mixed salad, and then have my cooked vegetables and some grain foods, and perhaps some lentils and beans or nuts and seeds with my lunch, and in the evening I eat vegetable soup with a little piece of bread with it, and that’s cooked obviously as well.

So having said that, I hope this information will shed a little light on why raw food diets are not good for every person, good for some, not for everyone, and that if you do feel great with a raw food diet go for it, if you don’t, be careful, the signs that you are not digesting raw food is typically bloating, gas, discomfort, feeling sluggish, losing energy and having brain fog, getting headaches, and things like that.

So I hope this will clarify the issue.

Thank you.

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