Holistic Health and Nutrition:
Raw Food 101

A number of years ago, when I was still in a major struggle with my former health challenges, I attended a lecture on raw foods at a nearby natural foods store. The presentation was by a couple who were both on a 100% raw food diet. The husband was one of the most vibrantly healthy people I had ever seen. His wife wasn’t.

When I first arrived for the lecture, I walked in the front door at the same time as a young woman, also there for the raw food lecture. She struck me as one of the most vibrantly healthy people I had ever seen. I learned that she had been an avid raw foodie for years. Just a few days later, I happened to run into her in a restaurant. I learned that she wasn’t on a 100% raw food diet; she tried to keep it at about 75%.

First lesson: Raw food is great, but not exclusively, at least not for most people.

Before we go on, what, exactly, do I mean by “raw?” Food is considered raw if it has not been heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it’s heated to that point, the heat begins to destroy important enzymes.

Cooking destroys enzymes, vitamins and proteins in foods, and can eliminate most of the most important nutrient.

Cooking rearranges the chemical structure of foods and can create toxic byproducts, transforming the food from something that nourishes you into a foreign substance that your body must “deal with.”

Raw foods, on the other hand, come to you in the perfect form in which Nature designed them. Raw foods still have all of their nutrients intact.

A diet high in raw foods can slow the aging process and help you maintain a higher energy level. Some studies have shown that raw foods can help reduce or even eliminate numerous diseases including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammatory arthritis and others.

”Ok, Dr. Mark, why then, would anyone want to eat cooked food at all?”

Well, 100% raw is extreme. Extremes don’t fit in a holistic health lifestyle. They work for very few people.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda both see the value of including some cooked foods in a holistic health diet. Both consider a strictly raw diet as "unbalancing."

Cooking makes foods easier to digest, and actually makes minerals and other nutrients more bioavailable in some foods.

If you read a lot about raw foods, it can get pretty complex in a hurry. So lets keep it simple.

Eat mostly raw foods, but some cooked foods.

OK, that may be just a tad oversimplified, but it’s a solid starting point. If you get nothing else from this post, that alone can help you make great strides in living a holistic health lifestyle.

But let’s go a bit deeper…

Tips for incorporating raw foods into your diet:

1. Strive to eat a diet comprised of 50% to 75% raw foods. Listen to your body! No specific percentage is perfect for everyone. The ideal percentage for you is the percentage that helps you feel great and perform at your best. And, realize that your ideal percentage will fluctuate. Roll with it. (Did I already mention, “Listen to your body?”)

2. If you presently eat few raw foods, incorporate new ones gradually into your diet.

3. Only eat those raw foods that you enjoy raw. If you don’t like them, you won’t stick with them. I understand that a lot of people have been eating overprocessed food for so long that raw food may be foreign. If you don’t happen to like any raw foods, you’ll have to start expanding your horizons. But the fact you’re reading this right now tells me that you’re ready to do that. Start exploring. Find some that you like.

Find raw food recipes that intrigue you. Try some raw sauces and dips. For example, you may discover that you love raw broccoli or zucchini sticks dipped in your own, homemade raw guacamole.

4. Eat organic. It’s less toxic. You already know that.

5. As much as possible, buy your foods from local farms. Local foods are not only healthier for you; they’re safer. Find your nearest farmer’s market and get to know the vendors there. When you know the people who grow your food, and know how they farm, you can be confident in the safety of your food supply.

6. Include some raw meat and dairy.

(Gasp! Isn’t that dangerous!?)

Actually, it’s safe, and healthy…IF…you do it right. (More on that in next week’s post…)

Tips for cooking food:

1. DON’T nuke it. Microwaves heat food much more invasively than conventional cooking, and cause well documented negative health effects.

2. Don’t overcook your veggies. Lightly sauté or steam them, making sure that there is still a pleasant crispness to them.

3. Fry or grill rarely.

If you haven’t already, make sure you watch the accompanying video. At the end, I offer some ideas for how to easily add more tasty raw foods to your holistic health lifestyle.

I’d love to hear your views and ideas on raw foods. Please take a moment to leave a comment below. Your thoughts are valued by everyone reading this.


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