Humans are the only creatures on Earth that cook their food, and apparently they got along quite well before the invention of heating food with fire began approximately 250,000 years ago. Before agricultural societies were established, our ancestors ate what they could find in nature, foraging for plants, and with the invention of tools, hunting for game. Even after the discovery of creating fire, a majority of their food was eaten in its raw natural state. Though they may have succumbed to the stress of the elements and predators, they did not experience the degenerative diseases that modern humans have come to identify as a normal part of life and aging. Early diets were also primarily vegetarian with some sources stating that early humans sought animals for food only when plants were scarce. It wasn’t until the invention of the stone hearth oven in 5000 BC that cooking food became easier and more prevalent.
In recent years raw food diets have become more popular as a way of regaining and sustaining health, and the revival of this more natural way of eating is supported by decades of research. In the 1930s (shortly after mandatory pasteurization of milk), Canadian dentist Dr. Weston Price sought to find answers as to why his patients’ children were being born with crowded and decaying crooked teeth which he suspected were due to changes in nutrition. He embarked on a journey to study the diets of 14 primitive populations who enjoyed superior health and perfect teeth. He found that all of them ate a diet of primarily raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds as well as some raw meat or fish, and dairy foods from grass-fed animals. They ate smaller quantities of legumes and grains which were fermented to make them more digestible. Some raw meats and plant foods were fermented as a way to preserve them. History has shown that when previously healthy indigenous tribes are acclimated into modern society and eat the “modern diet” of cooked and processed foods, they develop diseases of modern man.
Also in the 1930s, physician Francis Pottenger, Jr. conducted a 10 year study on the effects of raw food versus a cooked food diet on multi-generations of over 900 cats. Some cats were fed raw milk and raw meat and others were fed cooked milk and cooked meat. All cats were given cod liver oil. The cats fed an exclusively cooked diet did not survive beyond the third generation as they could not reproduce. It is interesting to note, that in 1987, tests done at several universities found that nearly 25% of college students were sterile. Currently 1 in 6 couples are infertile.
Research has shown that raw living foods are quite different in their composition and effect on the body than cooked foods. Raw foods are filled with life force energy called biophotons. Biophotons are the smallest units of light which are stored in and utilized by all biological organisms. Plants absorb the sun’s vital energy in the form of biophotons which they impart to us when we eat them. When we eat raw foods we ingest the biophotons and store them in our cells. Biophotons contain important bio-information that controls and regulates essential biological processes. They provide the creative energy necessary to birth new life as when a seed sprouts and grows into a mature plant. All living things emit biophotons which can be seen in Kirlian photography as a colorful luminous aura of bioelectric energy. The higher the level of light energy a cell emits, the higher the vitality of the organism. The more light a food is able to store, the more nutrition it holds. Sun ripened fruits and naturally grown vegetables are rich in biophotons that elevate our energy field and contribute to our health and well-being. In contrast, cooked foods have weak lifeless auras and cannot give us adequate nutrition and life-giving energy. Nutritionist and raw food advocate David Wolfe portrays this with kirlian photos of raw and cooked foods in his book “The Sunfood Diet Success Plan”.
Hybridized plants designed by man to bear seedless fruits lack the nutrition and energy to reproduce and therefore are inferior food sources. Plants grown organically in mineral-rich soil from heirloom seeds offer the highest form of nutrition and energy. Foods grown conventionally in mineral-depleted, chemically enhanced soil laced with pesticides and herbicides lack a full spectrum of nutrients and are toxic to the body. Genetically modified plants infused with genes from animals and synthetic chemicals for the purpose of resisting herbicides and natural predators should be avoided at all cost, as these frankenfoods are toxic and dangerous to our genetic structure and the environment. They not only damage our health and the health of future generations; through cross-pollination with organically grown plants and their effect on wildlife, GMO foods threaten the very survival of the planet.
Heating food above 105° F destroys many of the vital enzymes which enable us to digest our food, with total destruction of enzymes occurring at 118° F. Cooking, canning, high temperature smoking, pasteurization and irradiation all destroy enzymes. Freezing depletes from 30% to 66% of the enzyme content in food. Fresh picked ripe organic produce eaten immediately provides the most abundant enzyme content and nutrition, while foods shipped from distant locations or eaten long after harvesting have lost up to 50% of their enzymes. Genetically modified produce designed to look perfect weeks after picking are deficient in enzymes and nutrients. The same enzymes that provide us nourishment cause foods to bruise when injured, to rot when past their prime, and with the help of microorganisms, return to the Earth in nature’s magnificent recycling system.
Proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and hormones are useless to us without enzymes. Enzymes are protein carriers of the biotic energy necessary for every chemical reaction in our body. Rudolph Steiner called enzymes “the bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds”. In the 1930s Dr. Edward Howell’s pioneering research on enzymes revealed that there are three types of enzymes: enzymes that are naturally present in raw living foods, enzymes produced in the mouth, stomach and intestines to digest food, and metabolic enzymes that catalyze all metabolic processes in the body including breathing, thinking, reproducing, healing, detoxification, immune response, and hormonal balance. We are born with an enzyme reserve to draw upon as needed. Our ability to produce our own enzymes declines dramatically with age, especially on a cooked food diet. Enzyme deficiencies contribute to disease and rapidly accelerate aging.
Ingesting enzyme-depleted cooked food puts tremendous stress on the body, forcing our pancreas to produce additional enzymes to digest our food and drawing upon metabolic enzyme reserves which depletes enzyme resources needed for other bodily functions. It takes 10 metabolic enzymes to produce just 1 digestive enzyme. The additional burden on the pancreas causes it to become enlarged. Dr. Howell noted that wild animals and indigenous people who subsisted on natural raw diets had noticeably smaller salivary glands and pancreases than those on cooked food diets. Pancreatitis is an inflamed pancreas caused by a cooked food diet high in refined carbohydrates and possibly alcohol. Due to a lack of enzymes a cooked meal takes longer to digest and contributes to digestive disorders. The stress of creating our own enzymes to digest cooked food can make us sleepy after a meal. Raw food passes through the system in half to a third of the time it takes for cooked food to do so and gives us a feeling of lightness and energy. Taking a digestive enzyme supplement with all cooked meals can greatly aid digestion.
Raw foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients which are beneficial substances in the pigments of plants that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-enhancing and anti-aging properties. The loss of nutrients is evident as cooked food loses its vivid color and flavor.
Research has shown that when a food is cooked its biochemical structure is altered, molecules are deranged and degraded, and free radicals and new harmful chemical compounds are created. For example, 90 new toxic substances are created when a potato is cooked. Many of these substances are mutagenic and carcinogenic, impair brain function and metabolism, and are associated with increased inflammation, disease and accelerated aging. Cooked and processed foods are addictive, especially in the form of refined carbohydrates such as breads, pastas, and foods made with refined sugar. Food cravings result as these foods lack essential nutrients needed to fulfill metabolic needs and satiate us. Overeating and obesity are common on cooked food diets, though rare with raw foods. In fact, eating a nutrient rich raw food diet eliminates food cravings and aids in healthy weight loss.
Up to 50% of the proteins in both plant and animal foods are coagulated when cooked, as vital amino acids are lost or altered making them difficult to digest. This is what happens to raw egg whites when cooked. Heated proteins become cross-linked in a process called glycation which causes disease and accelerated aging as in wrinkled skin. Undigested proteins putrefy in the intestines creating a buildup of toxic waste and mucus. These “foreign” proteins enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation, allergies, skin disorders, and other diseases including cancer. Putrefactive bacteria, particularly from cooked meat, dominate beneficial intestinal bacteria and compromise our immune system.
Essential fatty acids transform into harmful trans fatty acids when heated which create damaging free radicals. Olive oil is nutritious and beneficial when eaten raw, however, it becomes a toxic substance when heated. Cooked fats and starches create a buildup of mucoid plaque on the intestinal wall causing constipation, bowel obstructions, and leaky gut, allowing toxic waste to enter the bloodstream.
In 1930 Swiss scientist Dr. Paul Kouchakoff, discovered digestive leukocytosis, where each time a cooked meal is eaten it triggers an immediate response by the immune system to increase the production of white blood cells (leukocytes) in the bloodstream to protect the body from the highly altered food. This response does not occur when raw foods are ingested, as the body recognizes them as “friendly” and nourishing. Leukocytosis also occurs when the body is invaded by harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and other toxins. Over time, digestive leukocytosis weakens the immune system so that it cannot perform at its best when needed to fight infection and detoxify the body. Dr. Kouchakoff found that digestive leukocytosis was minimized when at least 50% of the meal was raw.
The benefits of a raw food diet are enormous, giving us essential nutrition, abundant energy and vibrant health. The bioelectric energy in raw foods charges our cells’ batteries. We efficiently digest our food and eliminate waste. Ours cells regenerate, our skin glows, and we look and feel younger. Our body does not have to work as hard to maintain health and we require less sleep. We heal quicker and live longer.
Raw foodists eat at least of 75% of their diet raw and choose to eat only organic whenever possible. Vegan raw foodists eat only plant foods, while lacto-ovo vegetarian raw foodists also eat raw eggs and dairy products. Fresh fruits, alkaline vegetables and green smoothies are an integral part of the diet for superior nutrition and to balance the body’s pH. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and yogurt provide the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) essential to a strong immune system and add enzymes to aid digestion. Seaweeds are also incorporated to enhance mineral intake. All grains, nuts, seeds and legumes are soaked in water for several hours to release the phytins (enzyme inhibitors) in them that impede digestion. They can then be sprouted for added nutrition and life force energy. Vegetarians are advised to take a methylcobalamin vitamin B12 supplement since there are no good plant sources of B12. Animals get their B12 from the soil when they graze plant foods or eat herbivore prey.
Raw foodists who follow the Primal Diet and Raw Paleolithic Diet include raw meat and fish in their diet as well as fruits and vegetables, though many choose not to eat grains, legumes or dairy. They eat only meats that are organically pasture-raised and avoid farm-raised fish. Raw animal diets are a bit riskier, as meat and fish can harbor harmful parasites and bacteria such as E. coli. Raw plant foods can sometimes be contaminated with pathogens as well, though this is rarer with organic produce.
There are several wonderful books available and numerous websites with information on how to prepare tasty, nourishing, gourmet raw food meals. Some good books are “Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People” by Jennifer Cornbleet, “Hooked on Raw” by Rhio, and “The Complete Book of Raw Food” by Julie Rodwell. Going raw can be an exciting adventure of new culinary experiences and radiant health.