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Raw Food Diet

This may not be a strictly "chow" topic, but I am a chowhound married to a gent who is two weeks into a raw food detox diet and I have questions and concerns. The guy is eating basically fruits and vegetables, maybe a few raw nuts. There is little balance in the diet.

I have no idea what toxins raw food eliminates or how they are supposed to do that except to speed "elimination." In addition, I am concerned that there may be health issues regarding uncooked food. Is there a danger of salmonella or other microorganisms?

What about the enzymes that generations of humans who eat cooked food? Evolution has to have played a role here.

Also I don't see any evidence of protein. He says there is protein in bean sprouts and avocado, but that has to be trace protein. is that sufficient? I realize that he's only going to be on this for a month, and he'll survive the lack of protein, but they're pitching this diet as a way of life.

Finally, what happens when he goes off the diet. What will his body have to re-adjust to?

Mostly, I have to say I'm ticked off that we can't eat (dine) together.

If anyone has any experience in this, I would appreciate it.

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  1. Did a quick search & found this:
    I worked years in natural food stores. Many people who are on a raw foods diet experience digestive problems, dizziness & some difficulty concentrating (similar to the worst extreme in going cold turkey with coffee). The degree of the problems seemed to correlate with how drastic a change the raw diet is from their regular diet. Going back to a non-raw diet sometimes goes best with a slow reintroduction of foods, like you naturally lean towards after a bad bout of flu.
    Generally very difficult to have a discussion about pros/cons once they have committed to it in my experience...

    1. Poor you. That is the opposite problem from what so many people face with having a spouse who just eats junk or stodge. I was buying organic vegetables at the farmers’ market yesterday and there was a client expounding on raw food and detoxing. Oy. The only time I got food poisoning this past year, or perhaps simply couldn't digest the food, was a raw food meal I was invited to by clients. Of course there is protein in bean sprouts, but I’d think that to get enough on a (vegetarian) raw-food diet, one would have to eat quite a few nuts, which can be quite hard to digest.

      There are sound reasons humans invented cooking, fermentation and other processing methods countless thousands of years ago. Yes, I agree that fresh, healthy foods are essential, but that kind of faddism frightens me. Hope your husband gets sick of such a regimen.

      1. Sounds like another poor victim of the "Raw Food Hoax" (Always wondered why the people in health food stores look so unhealthy)

        1 Reply
        1. re: beevod

          on a side note: caught an episode of wife swap last week (guilty pleasure tv) and one of the families was hardcore about the raw food...they looked to be the unhealthiest people I have ever seen...I felt soooo sorry for the kids...they seemed totally brainwashed about cooked food...slugging down raw eggs as an answer to stress

          I just kept thinking COOK them some dinner!!

        2. You could tell him that some foods--tomatoes, for instance--become more nutritious when cooked.

          As for protein, will he eat nuts?

          This must be annoying--while going all raw is not actually sensible or healthy, it probably won't kill him if that makes you feel any better.

          1. It sounds annoying in the extreme, and the whole notion of "toxins" is dubious, but why worry about raw fruits and vegetables? I mean, don't you eat those anyway?

            3 Replies
            1. re: BostonCookieMonster

              Boston, sorry but toxins being dubious? You're kidding right? Do you have any idea how much crap is in the food the average person eats every day not to mention personal care products, environmental issues and the like? I'm no hippie tree hugger, I'm speaking from personal experience as a person who changed her diet from the SAD (standard american diet) to one that was 100% organic and I've seen so many positive changes in my health and appearance that I cringe thinking about the years I wasted and the damage I did eating/living otherwise.

              Now, as for a raw food detox...it's great. I like to do it once every few months and once a month I also do a 3 day juice fast. It's only temporary so don't worry too much about a lack of protein. He will get protien from his veggies. HOWEVER if you husband is not eating 100% organic raw food the detox will be for naught. Also, he should be eating the right veggies that are nutrient dense. Think leafy greens, fiber rich beans, etc. Also don't forget about raw corn! It's delicious, sweet and has a ton of vitamins...which get lost when cooked.

              You should try it with him!

              1. re: OrganicLife

                Also, when he does go back to eating meat make sure that it's healthy meat! Buy natural/organic local meats. Grass fed beef, free range chickens, and wild fish are not only more delicious but are SO much better for you. Extend it to eggs and milk as well.

                1. re: OrganicLife

                  I was being imprecise. I realize you can ingest toxins in the form of pesticides, mercury, etc. Potentially awful ones. I just fail to see how you can REMOVE those by fasting or not cooking your food. I didn't think those kinds of toxins were what the "detox" fans were usually talking about.

              2. Causes of salmonella food poisoning are attributed to the ingestion of contaminated meats, not vegetables. And, as long as the fruits and vegetables your husband is eating are thoroughly washed those should pose no problem. However, as you say, this diet needs to be balanced with some other form of protein. There are vegetables which have a higher protein content than others.... nut butters, raw broccoli, for example. Google for vegetable protein and see what you come up with. Then there's always the occasional raw egg.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Gio

                  Weren't peanuts and pistachios recently implicated in salmonella outbreaks?

                  1. re: Gio

                    Cantaloupe is one of many fruits that can host a very nasty form of salmonella. For more information click on the link: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/cont...

                    1. re: pegasus1

                      One doesn't usually cook cantaloupe -- at least I don't know of any cooked cantaloupe recipes. Does that mean that cantaloupe is a fruit to not eat?

                      1. re: chicgail

                        no, it just means that you should be careful with preparation. always buy it whole as opposed to pre-cut, and wash the *rind* thoroughly before cutting it so you don't end up contaminating the flesh by dragging bacteria from the exterior surface to the interior.

                  2. Raw foods do not contain any magical properties and our bodies are constructed as to detox themselves (thats what our liver does!!).

                    Additionally, fiber, vitamins and minerals are not significantly influenced when heated, and our bodies cope just fine with absorbing everything needed for a healthy functioning system from cooked food. Raw food recipes might be good to incorporate into an otherwise healthy diet- but you don't need to deprive yourself of well balanced diet in order to be healthy.

                    If your husband was eating a lot of processed and packaged foods or is overweight, he may just be rebelling at his lifestyle choices. I applaud him in trying to be healthy but I think there is a happy medium. I would urge him to do more research on the topic.

                    1. Thanks to all of your thoughtful responses.

                      For the record we do eat mostly organic/naturally grown/free range products as a general rule and we work out regularly. My husband is a long-distance cylist and is pretty trim.

                      The diet that he is currently on does not include any meats, dairy products, eggs or legumes --- raw or otherwise. He is eating raw and dried grass.

                      And raw vegetables can be the source of serious illness -- e.g. the (organic and conventional) spinach recall earlier this year. i believe the source of that contamination was e coli.

                      I've come to the conclusion that, like cookiemonster suggested, this is just one of those heath fad things perpetrated by people who read and understand half of the medical literature. And someone's making a fortune on this. He paid more for his month's worth of "food" and "classes" and herbs than we the two of us spend for real food in the same period of time.

                      Plus, I have no one to "chow" with. But thanks for all your thoughts and for leting me whine publicly.

                      1. Hello! I think if you do a little more research you will find that your husband can get a lot of protein from eating green leafy vegetables. They're actually 30% protein which is how cows and gorillas get so huge! But you have to eat a HECK of a lot of greens for this to work. Make sure he knows this. It is possible to do this in a balanced way. It's actually very healthy. I've read about it. It shouldn't be too expensive either. You could do it for $10-20 a day per person. You could also try a recipe book out. There are actually a lot of really amazing gourmet raw food. (I only know all this because I live in NYC and this is pretty popular. The restaurant Pure Food and Wine is possibly the best restaurant I've ever been to!) Don't close your mind off yet! Give your husband a chance! :)

                        1. I'm not a big fan of the raw food diet. In the Traditional Oriental Med view, this impairs digestion, which is probably why many people who do this long-term do end up getting digestion problems. They also start getting very Vata-like characteristics from an Auyrvedic perspective. I do know people who have done it for a while and have heard David Wolfe speak. A lot of the raw foodists seem a bit hyper and spacey to me.

                          That said, I do think that some people (generally those who tend to be overheated) can benefit from a short-term raw-food diet as it will balance them out. It seems that a lot of bikram yoga people do the raw-food thing. As they spend a lot of time in heated environments, it may keep them in balance. I've noticed that after a bikram yoga class, I'm feverish for about a day. Everybody is different and there is not one diet that is best for all. People need to experiment and find out what works for them. And the raw food diet does have its merits in that it eliminates all processed foods. However, I don't think it is wise for most people to do this on a long-term basis.

                          1. To say that the jury is still out on the general benefits of "detoxing" and any specific benefits of a raw food diet is an understatement. Carl Sagan had many things to say, two of which apply here:

                            1) "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof". A short term "detox" (at least the ones of which I am aware -- and there are many *very* different types) do not carry much in the way of risk, and many people claim they feel great. Good enough.

                            But to claim that they definitely actually get rid if toxins requires proof, and long term diets like a raw foods one carries some risk, so some good science -- IOW, well designed studies -- are a good idea.

                            2) "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". IOW, simply that something has not been shown to be true does not make it false -- true or false takes reseach. Just because a raw foods diet has not been proven to be helpful does not show that it isn't.

                            What are we left with? The standard health care decisions about risk vs. benefit. IMO these go beyond the physical -- it includes, for example, the relationship between you and your husband.

                            One aside: After I completed my chef training I ran our smaller seafood/health food (heavily macrobiotic) restaurant. People from a nearby Ann Wigmore (noted raw/whole foods advocate) center (no longer there) used to come to our restaurant to "cheat", often by eating brown rice!

                            1. Hopefully this isn't a completely ignorant question: Would he eat sashimi? That would give him protein. Ground up nuts in natural nut butters are also easier to digest than straight up nuts. And raw milk would help if you can find it.

                              1. I know this topic is a smidge dormant, but this is a great blog detailing Steve Pavlina's 30 day raw food diet.
                                I'm going raw for the month of July and was having a hard time finding unbiased resources for information. He details the good, the bad, and the ugly and gives a real picture of what to expect in the first month. Even for omnivores it is very interesting to read his day by day account.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ArikaDawn

                                  Yeah, I read that post a while ago. It was indeed a very balanced, neutral post. I really love his blog -- very no-nonsense and to-the-point.

                                2. Hi,
                                  Even though this is an old post I thought I should post since there seems to be few friends of rawness here :)
                                  I have some friends who are raw, and I eat 80% raw for some time.
                                  Basically my own experience was that it was the most healthy time of my life.
                                  I'm not currently doing it primarily because of will power issues.. as I'm just attracted to bad stuff.

                                  Furthermore, there are tons of scientific studies from real doctors that have suggested that the raw food diet is associated with a healthy weight (we is generally associated with better health), low heart disease and even cancer prevention.
                                  Oddly enough most of the studies I have read support that the raw food diet is basically healthy, but the scientists always have a need to add "but we don't recommend you restrict yourself to just raw food." Pretty odd reaction from a scientist - saying yes our studies show this is actually healthier, but please don't be too healthy! I mean it's like saying, yes changing the oil in your car is associated with a better engine, but we don't recommend you change your oil very often.. I guess people just feel the need to defend what they are used to, even if all evidence points to the opposite.

                                  There are some evidence that the diet reduces bone density, but a study showed it was not associated with higher risks of osteoporosis. The other known issue is dental decay - but it's generally thought this is because raw foods feel cleaner so raw foodist are not as inclined to brush teeth- so just tell your husband to brush often.

                                  Regarding protein - American society is obsessed with protein. We overall eat way too much - more than is healthy.
                                  It's a myth that you need a hunk of meat with every meal, or some substitute. A vegetarian diet with fruits and veggies, and nuts provides all the protein you need.

                                  Lastly, the reasons raw foodist give for being raw (IE that cooked food kills enzymes which you need to digest your food fully) doesn't seem to be founded in science. However, the fact that it is much healthier IS founded in science. So it seems it is a healthier diet, for reasons unknown.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: accorn

                                    Hey Accorn
                                    How long were you primarily raw? Did you have a hard time physically when you transitioned between the two? My husband and I are begining a month of raw eating this Sunday and I am bracing for a heinous transition.

                                    1. re: ArikaDawn

                                      Hi ArikaDawn...I just looked at your blog and am excited to see what you and your husband experience in your month as raw foodists/foodies. Can you provide any information, either here or on your blog, on how you've prepared for this diet (i.e. what you read, what you've been eating, etc)? Thanks in advance and good luck!

                                    2. re: accorn

                                      "So it seems it is a healthier diet, for reasons unknown."

                                      I have at least (3) friends who now have long term chronic illnesses due to, what they believe, is the raw diet they were on for years.
                                      They felt good while they were on it but it was when they began to introduce new foods into their diet (they began to crave other foods) that they began to have trouble.
                                      I think it's the 'long term' question, and possible consequences, that people need to think about.

                                    3. While green vegetables and nuts do contain protein, just protein isn't enough. One needs all ten essential amino acids in order for the body to function properly. Vegetable protein doesn't carry the full spectrum. When your body doesn't get enough of a certain amino acid from food, it looks to other sources, namely breaking down your muscle tissue for the nutrients it needs.

                                      I'm really quite baffled by vegan raw foodists. I mean, there must be some benefits, vitamins that oxidize in the presence of heat etc. But I agree with Boston about the toxins; once you ingest Mercury or DDT, it stays in your fatty tissue and there is no easy way to remove it, especially not with a simple change in diet. It just seems unnecessary to me to overexpose yourself to the risks of coliform bacteria by not heating. Why not eat raw food and cooked food?

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: lycheefloat

                                        If one eats a varied diet one gets the various aminos, don't need them all in the same meal.

                                        Re: toxins like mercury, removing it isn't easy, but is possible, and going as easy as possible on the digestive system helps the body heal more easily. The best bet with that is to identify and avoid/reduce/remove sources of exposure (fish, seafood, dental fillings, vaccines, coal-fired power plants, etc.) "Fateful Harvest" by Duf Wilson describes toxic metals allowed in fertilizers, etc. withOUT being required to be listed on the label or otherwise disclosed.

                                        1. re: lgss

                                          I lasted about 4 days on the raw foods diet. I saw it on WebMD and decided to give it a shot. I was starving all the time. By day two I was light headed and craving a steak. I wouldn't recommend this diet. On WebMD they recommended that you buy supplements because your body is not getting enough vitamins and minerals, in most cases you will suffer from malnutrition. On day 5, I went out to eat and ordered 3 appetizers and 2 entrees because I was so hungry!

                                          1. re: chinkymonkey

                                            Raw carbs are a challenge, that's probably why you were so hungry.

                                            1. re: chinkymonkey

                                              It's tough. I lasted two weeks 100% raw, and then transitioned to raw all day with cooked food at dinner. My month is over on July 20, but I don't imagine my eating habits will change too dramatically. The bad thing about being all raw for me was continual lightheadedness, moodiness, and I actually GAINED weight. It has been a wothwhile experiment.

                                              1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                Thanks for reporting back, ArikaDawn. I firmly believe that diet should be individualized. Raw may work for some people (at least for the time being) but not for others.

                                        2. I've found this thread very interesting - the different views.

                                          I've been 100% raw for over a year - but I'm not 100% sure about the whole thing. I do know that eating fresh raw fruits and veggies as the major part of your diet, feels amazing.

                                          I'm less sure that if you're having something more processed or gourmet - whether it matters if you heed the tenets of the raw food deal and use a dehydrator and special ordered raw nuts, etc. Or if 1-2 times a week at a thai restaurant is any different, from your body's health perspective.

                                          I'm still experimenting within the raw food perspective, but someday I will step out to see if occasional veggie stir fry with rice or veggie maki really makes that much of a difference in how I feel. Will come back here and report any findings...

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: t_bird

                                            Anytime you see food and detox mentioned in the same sentence, run the other way quickly. It is a scam preying on people who watch too much daytime TV. Your body does not need to be detoxed, or whatever these charlatens tell you it does.

                                            1. re: chipman

                                              Well, some people might need to eat less fat or sugar, or drink less beer or coffee, but that simply has to do with eating a healthier diet, not raw food or any other faddism.

                                              Actually chipman, the people I know who have adopted such diets don't watch TV at all.

                                              1. re: chipman

                                                How is it a scam if you can to the library, borrow books, talk to people, go to web sites, etc. - all for free? And with a little thought the food is cheap and the preparation easy.

                                                Of *course* there are scam artists out there. They range from individual book sales up to tobacco companies. There are fake olive oils, but not all of them are fake. Caveat Emptor. But to prejudge all of them is just plain, well, silly.

                                                1. re: Richard 16

                                                  I think tht chipman is saying that the concept that the body needs to be detoxified from eating natural, healthy food. The concept that it is necessary to consume some "product" or an odd combination of ingredients to detox the body is basically not true. The body is designed to eat real food and to detox itself.

                                                  Now, that being said, it is probably -- no it is certainly -- not a good idea to eat a lot of packaged and processed foods with ingredients that would not be recognized in nature -- they either don't grow anywhere or are so far from the form they were when they were grown (e.g. HFCS). The body would be much happier if you eliminated them from your diet.

                                                  But that is a far cry from buying some product that is supposed to detox your body from ordinary and natural food or going a month while consuming nothing but water, maple syrup, cayenne and lemon juice, for example.

                                                  1. re: chicgail


                                                    I think we should just eat more like traditional Japanese diet since Japanese have the longest life expectancy and looking at the traditional diet, it makes sense. A lot of vegetables, a lot of tofu, some fish, ....

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      Portion sizes are much smaller than a standard western diet, too, and calorie restriction is demonstrated to increase longevity.

                                                      I believe the Okinawans eating the traditional diet have the longest life spans.

                                                      1. re: mcf


                                                        No argument from you. You are absolutely correct about Okinawans.

                                                      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        And also a high rate of stomach cancer, which some have theorized to either the presence of pickled foods or smoked foods in their diets.

                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                            Thanks MCF! I initially read about the Okinawa longevity issue in the Blue Zones, which focused on population "islands" where there is an unusually high proportion of centenarians. The author muses on possible reasons. The graph you provided me shows hard numbers on several of their points; however, it does not separate the cancers out by type. For instance lung and breast cancers are much more prevalent in the USA than stomach cancer. Eliminate most of those risks and you could match the Okinawa numbers. Therefore it does not disprove the theory I cited.

                                              2. i did raw foods for awhile. biggest effect i noticed? gas. lots of it.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. Rush out and have your I.Q. tested if you actually believe that the body needs to "detox."