Depending on the exact philosophy or type of lifestyle and results desired, raw food diets may include a selection of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, meat and dairy products. It may also include simply processed foods such as various types of sprouted seeds, cheese, and fermented foods such as yogurts, kefir, kombucha or sauerkraut, but generally not foods that have been pasteurized, homogenized, or produced with the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, industrial solvents or chemical food additives.
- 1 Varieties
- 2 History
- 3 Beliefs
- 4 Research
- 5 Potential harmful effects of cooking
- 6 Nutritional deficiencies in raw vegan diets
- 7 Food poisoning
- 8 Controversies
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
Raw food diets are diets composed entirely of food that is uncooked or which is cooked at low temperatures.
A raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed, raw plant foods that have not been heated above 40–49 °C (104–120 °F). Raw vegans such as Dr. Brian Clement, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Thierry Browers a.k.a. "Superlight", and Douglas Graham believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost much of their nutritional value and are less healthful or even harmful to the body. Advocates argue that raw or living foods have natural enzymes, which are critical in building proteins and rebuilding the body, and that heating these foods destroys the natural enzymes and can leave toxic materials behind. However, critics point out that enzymes, as with other proteins consumed in the diet, are denatured and eventually lysed by the digestive process, rendering them non-functional. Typical foods included in raw food diets are fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains and legumes.
Among raw vegans there are some subgroups such as fruitarians, juicearians, or sproutarians. Fruitarians eat primarily or exclusively fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts. Juicearians process their raw plant foods into juice. Sproutarians adhere to a diet consisting mainly of sprouted seeds.
Vegetarianism is a diet that excludes meat (including game and byproducts like gelatin), fish (including shellfish and other sea animals) and poultry, but allows dairy and/or eggs. Common foods include fruit, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, dairy, eggs and honey. There are several variants of this diet.
Raw animal food diets
|Main ingredients||Raw beef|
|Cookbook: Steak tartare Media: Steak tartare|
Included in raw animal food diets are any food that can be eaten raw, such as uncooked, unprocessed raw muscle-meats/organ-meats/eggs, raw dairy, and aged, raw animal foods such as century eggs, fermented meat/fish/shellfish/kefir, as well as vegetables/fruits/nuts/sprouts/honey, but in general not raw grains, raw beans, and raw soy. Raw foods included on such diets have not been heated above 40 °C (104 °F). Raw animal foodists believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost a lot of their nutritional value and are less bioavailable. Many believe that raw meats should come from sources such as grassfed meats or wild game rather than grainfed or factory-farmed meats.
Examples of raw animal food diets include the Primal Diet, Anopsology (otherwise known as "Instinctive Eating" or "Instincto"), and the Raw Paleolithic diet (otherwise known as the "Raw Meat Diet").
The Primal Diet consists of fatty meats, organ meats, dairy, honey, minimal fruit and vegetable juices, and coconut products, all raw.
The "Raw Meat Diet", otherwise known as the "Raw, Paleolithic Diet", is a raw version of the (cooked) Paleolithic Diet, incorporating large amounts of raw animal foods such as meats/organ-meats, seafood, eggs, and some raw plant-foods, but usually avoiding non-Paleo foods such as raw dairy, grains, and legumes.
A number of traditional aboriginal diets consisted of large quantities of raw meats, organ meats, and berries, including the traditional diet of the Nenets tribe of Siberia and the Inuit people.
In the 1830s, Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham promoted dietary principles similar to the raw food diet as a cure for the current cholera epidemic threatening to strike the United States. Graham, most noted for the famous graham cracker, described chronic disease in general and cholera in particular could be prevented by drinking pure water and eating simple fresh food not complicated or compounded by culinary practices.
Raw food as a dietary health treatment was first developed in Switzerland by medical doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner, inventor of muesli. After recovering from jaundice while eating raw apples, he conducted experiments into the effects on human health of raw vegetables. In November 1897, he opened a sanatorium in Zurich called "Vital Force," named after a "key term from the German lifestyle reform movement, which states that people should pattern their lives after the logic determined by nature". It is still treating patients today.
Weston A. Price, in a 1939 work titled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, observed dental degeneration in the first generation abandoning traditional nutrient-dense foods, which included unprocessed raw milk. 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 diet insufficient in nutrients. Price also noted, in his book, that the healthiest tribes he visited all incorporated some raw animal foods in their diets.
Other notable proponents from the early part of this century include Ann Wigmore, Norman W. Walker (inventor of the Norwalk Juicing Press), and Herbert Shelton. Shelton was arrested, jailed, and fined numerous times for practicing medicine without a license during his career as an advocate of rawism and other alternative health and diet philosophies. Shelton's legacy, as popularized by books like Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, has been deemed "pseudonutrition" by the National Council Against Health Fraud.
Leslie Kenton's book Raw Energy - Eat Your Way to Radiant Health, published in 1984, popularized food such as sprouts, seeds, and fresh vegetable juices. The book brought together research into raw foodism and its support of health. It cites examples such as the sprouted-seed-enriched diets of the long-lived Hunza people and Max Gerson's use of a raw juice-based diet in conjunction with detoxification methods to cure cancer. The book advocates a diet of 75% raw food to prevent degenerative diseases, slow the effects of aging, provide enhanced energy, and boost emotional balance.
Beliefs held by raw foodists may include:
- That heating food above 104-118 °Fahrenheit (40-49 °C) starts to degrade and destroy the enzymes in raw food that aid digestion. A few raw foodists such as Douglas Graham dispute the importance of enzymes in foods.
- That raw foods include bacteria and other micro-organisms that affect the immune system and digestion by populating the digestive tract with beneficial gut flora. In addition, many raw-foodists, particularly primal-dieters, are believers in the hygiene hypothesis, a concept that promotes the health benefits of exposure to natural, symbiotic bacteria like those found in unpasteurized fermented foods.
- That raw foods have higher nutrient values than foods that have been cooked.
- That processed food and convenience food often contain excitotoxins (such as flavor enhancers) that can cause excitotoxicity. Foods with added chemicals, preservatives, additives, colouring agents/dyes of any kind are frowned upon by most raw-foodists.
- That raw foods are the ideal food for human consumption, and the basis of a raw food lifestyle. Irritants or stimulants like coffee, alcohol, and tobacco are not recommended. Also heated fats and proteins like fried oils and roasted nuts are to be avoided, as they are deemed by many raw foodists to be carcinogenic.
- That wild foods followed by organic whole foods are more nutritious than conventionally domesticated foods or industrially produced foods.
- That cooked foods contain harmful toxins, which can cause chronic disease and other problems, Heating oils and fats can produce trace amounts of trans fats. Cooking foods produces advanced glycation end products ("glycotoxins", see also Maillard reaction).
- That raw foods such as fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, which raw-foodists believe can help to stifle signs of aging. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of "Eat To Live", says that uncooked cruciferous vegetables have the most powerful anti-cancer effects of all foods. He also says that most of the phytonutrients function as antioxidants in the body, meaning they neutralize free radicals, rendering them harmless and reducing cancer risk. Raw foodists believe that this property found in alkaline living foods or raw food, which neutralizes free radicals, makes green smoothies a powerful antioxidant drink.
- Because raw seeds and nuts are vulnerable to moldiness and rancidity, raw products made from these ingredients should stay refrigerated to maintain optimum nutritional value and flavor, as well as to minimize oxidation caused by the nut and seed oils' becoming rancid.
- That air-pollution and smoking are extremely harmful to health. They also believe that recycled tapwater is harmful, especially fluoridated or chlorinated tapwater.
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 and seeds before eating them, to activate their enzymes, and deactivate enzyme inhibitors. The amount of soak time varies for all nuts and seeds.
According to some cookbook authors, preparation of gourmet raw food recipes usually calls 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.
Freezing food is acceptable, even though freezing lowers enzyme activity. This view is only held by some raw-foodists, with many raw-foodists actually viewing freezing as harmful, though not as unhealthy as cooking.
Raw food movement
Early proponents include St. Louis Estes, Edmund Bordeaux Szekely, Johnny Lovewisdom, Ann Wigmore and Viktoras Kulvinskas (co-founders of the Hippocrates Health Institute), Arnold Ehret (author and advocate of fasting), Aris Latham (of Sunfired Foods, Inc., known as the godfather of raw food), Arshavir Ter Hovannessian and Norman W. Walker (who advocated the consumption of vegetable juices).
Notable contemporary proponents include several chefs, published authors and lecturers, such as Karyn Calabrese, Tonya Zavasta, Matthew Kenney, Aajonus Vonderplanitz, Sarma Melngailis, and Elijah Joy.
Celebrity proponents include Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, Jason Mraz, Ben Vereen, and Carol Alt. Woody Harrelson has published books on raw food, starred in a raw food film, created a raw food website and also opened O2, a raw food restaurant and bar. Model and actress Carol Alt includes raw animal products in her diet; she has written several books on her version of the raw diet and lifestyle. Her last one, The Raw 50, includes many chefs like Melissa Mango, celebrity Chef Be*Live and more.
Interest in the "Raw Foods Movement" continues to grow  and is especially prevalent in Australia and the western United States, like California. In Europe, it has remained a novelty, although a few restaurants have opened in the UK, Germany, and other large cities.
To date, scientific literature describing health and nutrition aspects of raw foods or living foods diets is limited, and most studies are of vegetarian diets; most of these exclude all animal products and derive the majority of calories from uncooked plant matter. A meta-analysis of scientific studies from 1994 to 2004 concluded there to be an inverse correlation between the risk of developing certain types of cancer and eating both raw and cooked vegetables. Consumption of raw vegetables tended to be associated with decreased cancer risks somewhat more often than consumption of cooked vegetables. The majority of studies included show an inverse association between both raw and cooked vegetables and cancer. On the other hand, certain studies have indicated detrimental health effects stemming from raw vegan diets. A 2005 study has shown that a raw vegan diet is associated with a lower bone density. One study of raw vegan diets shows amenorrhea and underweightness in women. Another one indicates an increased risk of dental erosion with a raw vegan diet.
Small clinical studies have shown long term raw food adherents to be more efficient at ridding the body of various toxic compounds. An upregulation in certain detoxification pathways and a decrease in bacterial enzymes of certain toxic products found in stools of long term raw food adherents suggest this health benefit.
Other medical studies on raw food diets have shown some positive and negative health outcomes. According to one medical trial, "long-term consumption of a 70% raw-plant-food diet is associated with favorable serum LDL cholesterol and triglycerides but also with elevated plasma homocysteine and low serum HDL cholesterol" as well as vitamin B12 deficiency. Another study from Germany found that a "long-term strict raw food diet is associated with favourable plasma beta-carotene and low plasma lycopene concentrations". A study mentioned benefits of a raw vegan diet for lowering obesity and hypertension A study has also shown reduced fibromyalgia symptoms for those on a raw vegan diet as well as reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, according to another study.
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.
One study comparing pasteurized and unpasteurized breast milk, showed that pasteurizing breast milk for hospital use and milk banks is unnecessary. Another study showed a link between consumption of unpasteurized milk and a lowered prevalence of allergies.
Artturi Virtanen showed that enzymes in uncooked foods are released in the mouth when vegetables are chewed. Raw foodists extrapolate from such research the supposition that the enzymes found in living foods interact with other substances, notable ones being the enzymes produced by the body itself, to aid in digestion. Promoters of raw foods, such as the Weston-Price Foundation, support the idea that, since no digestive juices are secreted in the upper stomach, the enzymes in the raw foods last for about 30 minutes in the upper stomach before being destroyed in the lower stomach, thus giving them enough time to break down the raw foods, to some extent.
Columbia University research in 2008 showed significant improving of mental and emotional quality of life for participants using raw vegan diet in raw vegan institute. Another American research in 2001 showed Fibromyalgia syndrome improved in observational study using a mostly raw vegetarian diet
One of the problems in researching microorganisms in the digestive system is that many of them cannot live outside the digestive system and can be analysed only by their genetic material. Steven R. Gill did some of this analysis and showed that in the "collective genome" of the human intestinal flora there is a high percentage of genes connected with synthesis of some vitamins and essential amino acids.
Compounds created by cooking
Several studies published since 1990 indicate that cooking muscle meat creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs). High rates of HCA can cause cancer in animals; whether such an exposure causes cancer in humans remains unclear. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that human subjects having eaten beef rare or medium-rare had less than one-third the risk of stomach cancer as those having eaten beef medium-well or well-done. While eating muscle meat raw may be the only way to avoid HCAs fully, the National Cancer Institute states that cooking meat below 212 °F (100 °C) creates "negligible amounts" of HCAs. Also, microwaving meat before cooking may substantially reduce HCAs.
Although microwave cooking may lead to reduced HCA levels in cooked meat products, Raw Foodists do not consider it any more favorable than other forms of cooking. Microwaving has been shown to cause a great decrease in all studied antioxidants in broccoli, compared to other cooking methods. Microwaving has also been shown to reduce vitamin B12 levels in beef, pork, and milk by 30-40%. Breast milk is commonly stored cold, and reheated before use. Using the microwave for this purpose has been shown to significantly reduce the anti-infective factors in human milk.
Cooking also creates certain heat-created toxic compounds, advanced glycation end products, otherwise known as AGEs. This reaction occurs both within the body and external to the body. Many cells in the body (for example endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, and cells of the immune system) from tissue such as lung, liver, kidney, and peripheral blood bear the receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) that, when binding AGEs, contributes to age- and diabetes-related chronic inflammatory diseases, such as atherosclerosis, renal failure, arthritis, myocardial infarction, macular degeneration, cardiovascular disease, nephropathy, retinopathy, or neuropathy. Excretion of dietary AGEs is reduced in diabetics and lowering AGE intake may greatly reduce the impact of AGEs in diabetic patients and possibly improve prognosis.
Acrylamide in a substance found at high levels in certain cooked foods, such as potato chips (crisps) and bread when heated higher than 120 °C (248 °F)., and in black olives, prunes, dried pears, and coffee. According to the American Cancer Society it is not clear, as of 2013[update], whether acrylamide consumption affects people's risk of getting cancer.[relevant? ] Acrylamide has known toxic effects on the nervous system and on fertility; however, the World Health Organization concluded in 2002 that the intake level required to observe neuropathy (0.5 mg/kg body weight/day) was 500 times higher than the average dietary intake, and 2,000 times higher for effects on fertility. The FDA has measured it in many foods. As of 2015[update], however, the UK Food Standards Agency has warned against acrylamide in cooked foods
Effect of cooking on digestibility and allergy
Contrary to a belief frequently held by raw foodists (that "heating food above 104-120 °Fahrenheit (40-49 °C) degrades or destroys the enzymes in raw food that aid digestion) many enzymes central to digestion actually work optimally at temperatures exceeding this range (e.g. alpha amylase works best at 161-169 °F, beta amylase at 140-149 °F, and protease at 113 °F-122 °F)
Another study has shown that meat heated for 10 minutes at 130 °C (266 °F), showed a 1.5% decrease in protein digestibility. Similar heating of hake meat in the presence of potato starch, soy oil, and salt caused a 6% decrease in amino acid content.
Frying chickpeas, oven-heating winged beans, or roasting cereals at 200–280 °C (392–536 °F) reduces protein digestibility.
One study, comparing the effects of consuming either pasteurized, or homogenized/pasteurized, or unpasteurized milk, showed that pasteurized and homogenized/pasteurized milk might increase allergic reactions in patients allergic to milk.
Potential harmful effects of cooking
It has also been pointed out that cooking food, directly or indirectly, requires energy and may thus release gases associated with global warming. Raw diets mitigate the use of non-renewable resources, which results in raw diets being less environmentally deleterious than cooked food diets in this respect.
Nutritional deficiencies in raw vegan diets
Care is required in planning a raw vegan diet, especially for children. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Disease-Proof Your Child, says there may not be enough vitamin B12, enough vitamin D, and enough calories for a growing child on a totally raw vegan diet. Fuhrman fed his own four children raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, beans, and occasionally eggs. However, this nutritionist has made it clear in his books that he advocates 80 percent of our food should be raw, vegetable based, and that more than ten percent based on animal produce increases the risk of disease.
A study surveying people practicing raw vegan diets of varying intensities found that 30% of the women under age 45 had partial to complete amenorrhoea and that "subjects eating high amounts of raw food (> 90%) were affected more frequently than moderate raw food dieters". The study concluded that since many raw food dieters were underweight and exhibited amenorrhoea "a very strict raw vegan diet cannot be recommended on a long-term basis".
Food poisoning is a health risk for all people eating raw foods, and increased demand for raw foods is associated with greater incidence of foodborne illness, especially for raw meat, fish, and shellfish. Outbreaks of gastroenteritis among consumers of raw and undercooked animal products (including smoked, pickled or dried animal products) are well-documented, and include raw meat, raw organ meat, raw fish (whether ocean-going or freshwater), shellfish, raw milk and products made from raw milk, and raw eggs.
Many raw plant foods have been contaminated by dangerous and even deadly microorganisms, including jalapeño and serrano peppers, alfalfa sprouts and other sprouted seeds, green onions, spinach, lettuce, orange juice, apple juice and other unpasteurized fruit juices.
Demand for unpasteurized, or raw, milk is growing among consumers concerned about chemicals, hormones, and drugs in milk. Some oppose pasteurization on the grounds that - in their view - it impairs the quality of milk by denaturing enzymes and proteins, and killing beneficial bacteria. According to the FDA, some of the health benefits claimed by some raw milk advocates do not exist.
Raw dairy advocates have claimed that government agencies are heavily biased against raw dairy, providing incomplete facts or erroneous statistics.
Richard Wrangham, a primate researcher and professor of anthropology, has suggested that eating cooked food is more "natural" for the human digestive system, because the human digestive system may have evolved to deal with cooked foods. Wrangham thinks that cooking explains the increase in hominid brain sizes, smaller digestive tract, smaller teeth and jaws and decrease in sexual dimorphism that occurred roughly 1.8 million years ago. Most other anthropologists oppose Wrangham, stating that archaeological evidence suggests that cooking fires began in earnest only c.250,000 years ago, when ancient hearths, earth ovens, burnt animal bones, and flint appear across Europe and the Middle East. Two million years ago, the only sign of fire is burnt earth with human remains, which most other anthropologists consider to be mere coincidence rather than evidence of intentional fire. The mainstream view among anthropologists  is that the increases in human brain-size occurred well before the advent of cooking, due to a shift away from the consumption of nuts and berries to the consumption of raw meat.
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Several raw food preparation books have been published including:
- Raw Star Recipes by Bryan Au (Fast Pencil Premiere, 2011)
- Raw by Charlie Trotter, Roxanne Klein, Jason Smith, and Tim Turner (Ten Speed Press, 2003)
- The Complete Book of Raw Food Lori Baird, Ed., and Julie Rodwell, Con. Ed., (Healthy Living Books, 2004)
- Raw Food/Real World: 100 Recipes to Get the Glow by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis (William Morrow, 2005)
- RAWvolution: Gourmet Living Cuisine by Matt Amsden (William Morrow, 2006)
- Ani's Raw Food Kitchen: Easy, Delectable Living Foods Recipes by Ani Phyo (Da Capo Press, 2007)
- Transitioning to Living Cuisine by René Oswald (2008)
- Ani's Raw Food Desserts: 85 Easy, Delectable Sweets and Treats by Ani Phyo (Da Capo Press, 2009)
- Live Recipe Books: Entrees, Desserts, and Drinks & Brunch by Jennifer Italiano (liverecipebooks.com, 2009)
- Everyday Raw and Entertaining in the Raw by Matthew Kenney (Gibbs Smith, 2009)
- Everyday Raw Desserts by Matthew Kenney (Gibbs Smith, 2010)
- Everyday Raw Express by Matthew Kenney (Gibbs Smith, 2011)
- Ani's Raw Food Asia: Easy East-West Fusion Recipes the Raw Food Way by Ani Phyo (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2011)
- Practically Raw: Flexible Raw Recipes Anyone Can Make by Amber Shea Crawley (Vegan Heritage Press, 2012)
- Going Going Gone Raw by Chef Be*Live, Douglas van Duyne and Cintia van Duyne (G. Normous, 2012)
- RAW by Josefine Andrén, Anne-Lise Marø Høiback and Jenni Mylly (Funky Fresh Foods, 2012)
- Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw by Aaron Ash (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012)
- Ani's Raw Food Essentials: Recipes and Techniques for Mastering the Art of Live Food by Ani Phyo (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2012)
- The RAWvolution Continues: The Living Foods Movement in 150 Natural and Delicious Recipes by Matt and Janabai Amsden (Atria, 2013)
- Practically Raw Desserts: Flexible Recipes for All-Natural Sweets and Treats by Amber Shea Crawley (Vegan Heritage Press, 2013)
- Raw and Simple: Eat Well and Live Radiantly with 100 Truly Quick and Easy Recipes for the Raw Food Lifestyle by Judita Wignall (Quarry Books, 2013)
- Soak Your Nuts: Karyn's Conscious Comfort Foods- Recipes for Everyday Life by Karyn Calabrese (Green Press Initiative, 2013)