So what's all this talk about the "raw food diet", "live food diet", "vegan raw foodism"? If you haven't heard any of these terms or seen them tossed around in the news than congratulations on waking up from your coma, you have a bit of catching up to do. A quick Google search of "raw foodism" will return over 23 million results. Mind you "foodism" currently isn't even a word but wikipedia lists "Raw foodism (or rawism) is a lifestyle promoting the consumption of un-cooked, un-processed, and often organic foods as a large percentage of the diet. If 75-100% of a person's total food consumption is raw food, he/she is considered a raw foodist or living foodist." Notice the word "lifestyle" in the description of raw foodism. This is one of the things that make raw/live foods different than your average book of the month diet. Yes there are raw foodists out there that eat raw meat of all shapes, sizes and colors as well as insects. The raw/live food lifestyle I'm going to focus on is the vegan camp of raw/live foods. The un-cooked and un-processed foods that make up most of the raw/live food diet are fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sea vegetables and fermented foods. I can imagine many of you out there are thinking, "how can you live like that, where's the variety?" Well life gets pretty exciting when you find out that apples, oranges and bananas aren't the only fruits on the planet. There's a vast array of exotic foods to be discovered and experienced and the raw/live food lifestyle opens the door to this new frontier. There are also many creative and unique ways to prepare raw/living foods that make the dining experience very enjoyable. One of the first things I teach my students is how to prepare kale without cooking it. A number of students cringe at the thought of eating raw kale, but by the end class they've become intimately acquainted with a leafy green that has as much calcium as milk.
Not only do people exploring the live food lifestyle get reacquainted with food, they also get reacquainted with themselves. People often times describe their experience with raw/live foods as finding a new clarity in all aspects of their life. The term "holistic" comes to mind. That's another thing that separates raw/live foods from other diets in that it brings balance to the physical conditions associated with eating and it eventually brings balance to the entire mind, body and spirit complex. I can personally attest to this from my experience with raw/live foods starting back in February of 2005. For me it was like waking up from a 30 year nap. Waking up with a hang over! You can imagine that after sleeping that long your body would be sore, your muscles would atrophied and your eyes would take some time to adjust to the light of this new world. Sounds a little bit like Neo being unplugged from the Matrix. This isn't far from the truth of it. Maybe for simplicity sake raw/live foodism should be called the "red pill diet". The mantra of the sleeping masses is "everything in moderation". Dan Millman, the author of The Peaceful Warrior rang the bell of moderation when he wrote,
"Moderation? It's mediocrity, fear, and confusion in disguise. It's the devil's dilemma. It's neither doing nor not doing. It's the wobbling compromise that makes no one happy. Moderation is for the bland, the apologetic, for the fence-sitters of the world afraid to take a stand. It's for those afraid to laugh or cry, for those afraid to live or die. Moderation...is lukewarm tea, the devil's own brew."
I think it's safe to say that moderation is partially to blame for the chronic illness and poor health in the US.
Before I get lost down the rabbit hole or off on a philosophical tangent, let me share with you some of reported benefits of embarking on a journey into vegan raw/live foods: achieving optimal weight, allergy relief, clear skin, increased energy and stamina, improved digestion, increased mineralization and hydration and the prevention and reversal of chronic disease. This all may sound too good to be true and there is large credentialed population that is skeptical of these claims. Personally I've seen individuals lose weight at an amazing rate, reverse diabetes and over come drug addiction while transitioning into the live food lifestyle. Why has modern medicine with all of its technology and its army of hundred of thousand of ribbon wearing well intentioned people failed to achieve the same results? You can't find the answers you're looking for if you are looking in the wrong place.
What's so magical about this diet that it can achieve so much by doing so little? Just ask Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. "Let thy food be your medicine." It's no secret that the plant kingdom holds the cure for all diseases. The pharmaceutical companies are well aware of this and that is why they spend billions of dollars trying to reverse engineer what nature does with out effort. Uncooked, unprocessed, live foods eaten in their freshest state impart all of their healing properties on the consumer. Enzymes play a critical role in separating raw/live foods from cooked/dead foods. Enzymes have been described as the blue collar worker of the microscopic world. Enzymes are heat sensitive and a majority of them are destroyed at temperatures over 118 degrees F. Can you imagine what New York City would look and smell like if all the blue collar workers were microwaved one morning? This happens on a daily basis in the cooked food world. The enzymes in uncooked foods are there to help in the disassembly process, the digestive process. When they're cooked, they're gone. Good thing your body has its own supply of enzymes. Unfortunately that supply is limited, overworked and often time unacknowledged and unappreciated. With out enzymes the trash piles up, things don't get taken apart and things don't get assembled. That's what enzymes do; they are at the core of all the processes in the living world. In the body there are digestive enzymes and systemic enzymes. Digestive enzymes are like union workers. They only digest food. When they are overwhelmed then the systemic enzymes lend a hand. Systemic enzymes are responsible for the rest of the activities in the body. Tearing down, recycling and rebuilding cells. It is not to your benefit to have the systemic enzymes constantly bailing out the digestive enzymes. This creates stress in the body, repairs don't get made, things don't get rebuilt and trash piles up. This is a simple example of how disease evolves in the body. Enzymes aren't the only things lost through cooking. Fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are all affected by heating. If you can imagine these things as single legos, with their different colors representing a different type of protein, carbohydrate, etc. In their uncooked state these legos, which are in essence building blocks, can easily be taken apart during digestion and assimilation and reassembled as the body sees fit. Let's construct a bell pepper out of these legos according to its chemical make up. What happens if you take a blow torch to this bell pepper constructed of legos? First the individual legos representing all the macro and micro nutrients in that pepper get fused together. Next, some of specific nutrients like folic acid, vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K are dramatically reduced or even completely destroyed. How about protein? Proteins start becoming denatured at 161 F. Once proteins have been well cooked their bioavailability drops to 50%. So take half those protein legos and throw the out the window. Wait, you can't do that because they're all melted together. Now comes the fun part where proteins unnaturally fuse with sugar in process known as Malliard Effect. This also reduces protein availability and has been shown to damage DNA. Last but not least, the fats. When those fat legos get heated up they mutate into trans-fatty acids, bad for the heart, respiration and linked to cancer. If that weren't enough cooking your lego bell pepper creates a byproduct known as free radicals. Free radicals are responsible for cell degeneration in the body, in other words aging. At the end of this example you have a melted indistinguishable toxic blob of melted plastic. Initially all the parts of this pepper were intact and easily disassembled. Now a large portion of it is completely gone while the rest of has been transformed into something practically void of nutrients. This may explain a lot in regards to the over fed yet nutritionally starved population in the States. The calories are still there, yet the presence and bioavailability of nutrients is significantly diminished. Also the water inherent in the food is reduced or completely gone. Weight loss on the live food diet is almost assured according to the reverse of this equation. You eat half as much and get all the nutrients you were lacking. Attempting to over eat on fresh fruits and veggies is next impossible because of the high water content. Eventually you get to the point where you can't fit anymore into your body. At this point re-hydration, re-mineralization and a return to balance can begin.
Conditioning from society may lead you to consult your physician regarding raw/live foods to which you will most likely be told to disregard this new fad diet and be warned to be leery of its lofty claims. Now is a doctor an authority on health? Not really, they are authorities on sickness. Statistically sickness is the unifying majority in the United States and it is big business. Can you imagine what a healthy population would do to the economy? Some of the most common conditions are the most easily remedied. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Cooking foods is basically an extreme form of dehydration. By eating more organic uncooked fruits and veggies dehydration can be alleviated. 68% are magnesium deficient. Magnesium is critical for health bones, muscles and nerve function. 34% of Americans are considered overweight. As mentioned above, more hydrating and nutrient rich foods reduce cravings and facilitate weight loss. Now keep in mind these current numbers are averages created from and for a sick population. At the core of this sickness is nutrition. Do doctors typically have training in nutrition? It's not likely and if so very minimal training. It's no wonder why a doctor wouldn't recommend a diet and lifestyle that could potentially put them out of business.
Vegan raw/live foods is a new frontier in wellness and holistic health. It makes no sense to consult an old man sitting on a porch sipping a mint julep in regards to the "new frontier". If you're truly curious about the benefits of raw/live foods you would do best to connect with the people that have "been there and done that", people that radiate health, people who live the truth they wish to see in the world. Here's a short list of live food pioneers, keep in mind there are hundreds more out there: Dr. Fred Bisci, Gabriel Cousens M.D., Ann Wigmore, Viktoras Kulvinskas, Norman Walker, Dr. Doug Graham, Dr. Rick Dina, Dr. Brian Clemente and David Wolfe. In regards to dramatic success stories there is Phillip McCluskey, Angela Stokes and Paul Nison to name a few. How about vegan raw/live foods and athletics? You bet, check these people out: Brendan Brazier (Iron Man), Tim VanOrden (Skyscraper Marathons), Frank Giglio (Ultra Marathons), Tonya Kay (Professional Dancer), Bob Mionske (Cycling) and James Southwood (Martial Arts).
With each passing day the numbers of vegetarians, vegans and vegan live foodists grow. This is a good thing. The people choosing to embrace these positive lifestyle changes not only affect their own personal health they also influence the health of the planet. The easiest and most effective way to shrink your carbon foot print is by refining your diet. And the most refined diet is the vegan raw/live food diet. For your health and the health of the planet it just makes sense.
If you've read this far you may be considering trying out vegan raw/live foods or you're searching this article for my email address so you can tell me a thing or two about health and nutrition. Either way there is a pay off ahead. With the growing numbers of people adding more live foods to their diet, the demand for restaurants and raw/live food options is increasing as well. A quick search online will turn up a myriad of listings for combo vegan raw/cooked restaurants and strictly raw food restaurants. The price ranges and complexity in cuisine varies as well. At the moment there are around 200 listed restaurants worldwide that provide vegan live foods and we're not talking just a salad. Raw cuisine can be anything from pizza and burgers to ethnic fare like lasagna, pad thai, curry soups and the desserts are off the charts. A vegan live food dessert beats a processed cooked dessert hands down any day of the week. Where I live in Jacksonville, Florida there are two vegan live food restaurants with in an hour drive. The most recent addition to the North Florida live food restaurant scene, Shakti Life Kitchen is in Atlantic Beach, just minutes from my house. They feature a delicious array of culinary creations all made with fresh organic ingredients. Further south in the oldest city in the US, St. Augustine, is The Present Moment Cafe', another amazing live food dining experience with a wide range of magical menu options. Both restaurants can be found on the web where there menus and details are listed. Welcome to the new frontier of personal health and global wellness.