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Raw food diet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Living foods diet)

A raw food diet consists of uncooked and unprocessed, and often organic foods.

Some information in this article or section has not been verified and may not be reliable.
Please check for inaccuracies, and modify and cite sources as needed.


A raw food diet consists fully of foods which have not been heated above a certain temperature. The maximum temperature varies among the different forms of the diet, from 92ºF to 118ºF (33°C to 48°C). Raw food diets may include raw fruits, raw vegetables, raw nuts, raw seeds, raw unpasteurized dairy products (e.g. milk, cream, butter), raw meat, raw eggs, and raw honey.

A raw foodist is a person who consumes primarily raw food. Raw foodists typically believe that the greater the percentage of raw food in the diet, the greater the health benefits. They generally believe raw food prevents and heals many forms of sickness and many chronic diseases.

Freezing food is considered acceptable by most raw foodists. In fact, many raw foodists keep nuts and seeds in the freezer to preserve their freshness.


Proponents of a raw food diet cite that raw food dates to prehistoric eras, before humans discovered fire. Some believe that prehistoric humans were largely non-carnivorous vegetarians, and thus that the human digestive system is configured for a raw vegetarian diet. Others believe their primitive ancestors were chiefly hunters who ate raw meat. There is historical evidence for both; hunter gatherer activities ranging from a low intake of animal product, such as some tribes of Australian Aborigines, to an almost exclusively meat and fish diet, such as the Inuit peoples of the Arctic coasts.

Artturi Virtanen (1895 d. 1973), a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist, is often quoted as supporting a Living Foods diet. He showed that enzymes in uncooked foods are released in the mouth when vegetables are chewed. These enzymes interact with other substances, notably the enzymes produced by the body itself, to produce maximum benefit from the digestion process.[citation needed] This research was unrelated to his Nobel Prize.

Raw foods gained more prominence throughout the 1900s, as proponents such as Ann Wigmore and Herbert Shelton claimed that a diet of raw fruits and vegetables is the ideal diet for humans. In 1975, computer programmer-turned-nutritionist Viktoras Kulvinskas published Survival Into the 21st Century, the first modern publication dealing with a raw food diet.

Leslie Kenton's book The New Raw Energy in 1984 popularised food such as sprouts, seeds, and fresh vegetable juices, which are now moving into the mainstream. The book brought together research into raw foodism and its support of health, citing examples such as the sprouted seed enriched diets of the long lived Himalayan Hunza people and Max Gerson's claim of a raw juice-based cancer cure. The book advocates a diet of 75% raw food in order to prevent degenerative diseases, retard ageing, provide enhanced energy, and boost emotional balance.

The raw food lifestyle has gained acceptance, though not all nutrition experts condone it. Restaurants catering to this diet have opened, especially in large cities, and numerous all-raw cookbooks have been published. Celebrities including Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson, who have been known to follow a raw food diet, provide additional exposure.

Invididuals such as Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Gillian McKeith and Professor Colin Campbell (see the China project) advocate diets high in raw, unprocessed foods. They claim that social trends over the past several centuries have diverged from this diet, together with less active lifestyles, contributing to the increase of noncommunicable diseases and obesity-related illnesses in developed countries. These include cardiovascular illnesses, some cancers, diabetes and some auto-immune diseases.

Proponents of raw animal foods, such as Dr. Aajonus Vonderplanitz, advocate the consumption of fatty meats, suet, and unpasteurized whole milk, cream, and butter. Others, such as Guy Claude-Burger, promote "instinctive nutrition" which explicitly excludes dairy and allows only raw meats, fruits, and vegetables.

Food preparation

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 before eating them, in order to activate their enzymes. Fermenting raw foods such as pickles, yogurt, and kim chee are often time-consuming and require long fermentation periods.

Preparation of gourmet raw food recipes usually call 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. Some adherents of the diet dispense with these foods, feeling that there is no need to emulate the non-raw diet.

Care may be required in planning a raw food diet, especially for children. There is little research on how to plan a nutritionally adequate raw food diet, especially for children; however, nutritionists and raw M.D.'s are usually willing to provide professional advice, especially for children.[citation needed]

The Tree of Life Foundation in Arizona, which advocates a vegan raw food diet, is currently conducting a survey of babies and children on a diet of 75% raw food or more[citation needed]. Raw foodists claim that with sufficient food energy, essential fatty acids, variety and density, people of all ages can be successful at eating raw foods, although whether the diet works for any one person depends on their unique metabolism.

Beliefs and research

Those who follow this way of eating generally believe that:

  • Raw foods contain enzymes which greatly aid in their own digestion, freeing the body's own enzymes to do the work unimpeded of regulating all the body's many metabolic processes. Heating food degrades or destroys these enzymes in food, putting the onus on the body's own enzyme production.
  • Eating food without enzymes makes digestion more difficult; deprives the body of enzymes; and leads to toxicity in the body, to excess consumption of food, and therefore to obesity and chronic disease.
  • Raw foods contain bacteria and other micro-organisms that stimulate the immune system and enhance digestion by populating the digestive tract with beneficial flora.
  • Living and raw foods have higher nutrient values than foods which have been cooked.

Some raw food advocates believe cooked food is toxic because cooking the food converts some particles into harmful chemicals. They also often believe cooked food is less digestible than raw food because cooking destroys the enzymes contained in food. One source for this belief is the work of Artturi Virtanen, a biochemist.

Another source sometimes mentioned is Dr. Edward Howell, an Illinois physician born in 1898, who was interested in how enzymes played a role in a person's diet. He concluded that eating cooked food leads to health problems. In 1985, at the age of 87, Howell published a book called "Enzyme Nutrition," which claims that the pancreas is forced to work harder on a diet of cooked foods, and that food enzymes are just as essential to digestion as the body's self-generated enzymes.

Research was conducted by Dr. Francis Pottenger in 1932, who conducted an experiment to determine the effect of cooked foods in cats. For 10 years, Pottenger fed half of the cats a diet of raw meat, the other half a diet of cooked meat. At the conclusion of his study, he reported that the cats who were fed raw meat appeared to be in better health. In addition, the exclusively cooked diet led to congenital problems including birth defects and deformities, after several generations.[1]

Pottenger's study was conducted in a time before the nutritional needs of cats were understood - especially the role of taurine in the diet. Since cats cannot synthesize adequate amounts of taurine, they must get taurine from food. Heat renders taurine inactive; cooked food without taurine supplements can cause health problems in cats. However, this finding does not apply to humans - since humans, like most other animals, synthesize their own taurine.[2]

In 1930, under the direction of Dr. Paul Kouchakoff, research was conducted at the Institute of Clinical Chemistry in Lausanne, Switzerland. The effect of food (cooked and processed versus raw and natural) on the immune system was tested and documented. It was found that after a person eats cooked food, his/her blood responds immediately by increasing the number of white blood cells.[citation needed] This is a well-known phenomena called 'digestive leukocytosis', in which there is a rise in the number of leukocytes (white blood cells) after eating. Since digestive leukocytosis was always observed after a meal, it was considered to be a normal physiological response to eating.[citation needed] No one knew why the number of white cells rises after eating, since this appeared to be a stress response, as if the body was somehow reacting to something harmful such as infection, exposure to toxic chemicals or trauma.[citation needed]

Around the same time Swiss researchers at the Institute of Clinical Chemistry found that eating raw, unaltered food did not cause a reaction in the blood.[citation needed] In addition, they found that if a food had been heated beyond a certain temperature (unique to each food), or if the food was processed (refined, chemicals added, etc.), this always caused a rise in the number of white cells in the blood.[citation needed] The researchers renamed this reaction 'pathological leukocytosis', since the body was reacting to highly altered food.[citation needed] They tested many different types of foods and found that if the foods were not refined or overheated, they caused no reaction.[citation needed] The body saw them as 'friendly foods'.[citation needed] However, these same foods, if heated at too high a temperature, caused a negative reaction in the blood, a reaction found only when the body is invaded by a dangerous pathogen or trauma.

Anthropologist Peter Lucas of George Washington University in Washington, DC, US, was reported in New Scientist magazine on 19/2/2005 as having the theory that man being the only mammal with chronic poor dentition, and the only mammal to significantly process and cook his food, are causally linked. He believes that the adoption of food processing and cooking reduced the size of our jaw through evolutionary processes, but not the size of our teeth. Hence the expanding science of orthodontics. Conversely, the research suggests that a diet of unprocessed and uncooked food is more likely to promote health.[citation needed]

Lucas is not the first anthropologist to observe physical degeneration with increasing use of food processing technology. In a 1936 work entitled Nutrition And Physical Degeneration, dentist Weston A. Price observed dental degeneration in the first generation who adopt diets high in processed and cooked foods. 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.

A paper by E. B. Forbes The Ohio Journal of Science. Vol. 33, No.5 (September, 1933), 389-406 says that " renders food pasty, so that it sticks to the teeth, and undergoes acid fermentation. Furthermore, the cooking of food greatly diminishes the need for use of the teeth; and thus tends to diminish the circulation of blood to the jaws and teeth, and to produce under-development of the maxillary and contiguous bones—thus leading to contracted dental arches, and to malocclusion and impaction of the teeth, with complications of great seriousness." A 1977 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, formerly HEW, showed orthodontic problems to some degree affected 89% of American children 12 or 17 years of age.

Raw food proponents claim that a raw food diet consisting of enzyme-rich raw foods will prevent many health problems, promote health and strengthen the immune system. The benefits of the diet are said to include: a stable body mass index; clear skin; more energy; and minimising a range of common illnesses, from the flu to obesity-related illnesses.[citation needed]

Foods cooked at high heat and/or for long periods of time contain toxins not found in raw or boiled foods, such as acrylamide, benzopyrene, and methylcholanthrene.[citation needed] The government has not been willing to say whether these toxins introduced by high-heat cooking methods are cause for alarm.[citation needed] The World Health Organisation is sponsoring continued research.

German research Nutr Cancer. 2003;46(2):131-7 on the effects of raw food on cancer incidence, has shown 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.

Raw food movement

Leading proponents of the raw food movement currently include (in alphabetical order) Matt Amsden, Victoria Boutenko, Brian Clement, Alissa Cohen, Gabriel Cousens, Doug Graham, Jackie & Gideon Graff, Roxanne Klein, Nora Lenz, Alex Malinsky, Rev. George Maulkmus, Rhio, Shazzie, Jinjee and Storm Talifero, Jeremy Safron, Renee Loux Underkoffler, Aajonus Vonderplanitz, and David Wolfe. They have led thousands of people to become more aware of raw foodism through their lectures, books and web sites. The leading magazine in the raw food movement is LivingNutrition magazine, which was established in 1998. The online RawFoodsNews magazine has been providing breaking news, authoritative information and fun features on the lifestyle since 2001.

Early proponents include Ann Wigmore (founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute), Viktoras Kulvinskas (co-founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute), Arnold Ehret (author and authority on fasting), A Hovannessian and Norman W. Walker (who advocated the consumption of juices, living up to the age of 99 years[citation needed]).

The principles of Natural Hygiene promote a mainly raw vegan diet. Famous Natural Hygienists have included TC Fry, Herbert Shelton, Harvey Diamond and Anthony Robbins.


Raw food diets have been criticized in the mainstream medical community as being too harsh and restrictive. Critics of the raw vegan diet argue that it requires special care to include the recommended amounts of several important vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin B-12 and protein. They say that any restrictive diet can lead to nutritional deficiency, if adopted for an extended period of time without special attention to essential nutrients.

Much of the research advocating raw food diets has been criticized as not meeting scientific standards. Many raw foodists argue that the cooking process changes the enzyme profile of foods in such a way as to render them less nutritious or even actively toxic. However, mainstream research has suggested that food proteins are rarely utilized in their natural form since they are broken down into base amino acids during the digestion process. The body then synthesizes required proteins from these amino acids. Additionally, the structure of some foods makes it more difficult to utilize available nutrients without cooking. This would include the lycopene in tomatoes, beta carotene in carrots, and much of the caloric content of starchy foods such as corn, potato, manioc, palm, and casava.[3]

The earliest indisputable fossil evidence for the use of fire to prepare food stuff dates to approximately 350,000 years ago [4] Other evidence traces cooking to more than 1.5 million years ago, well before the emergence of modern humans.[5] Evolutionary evidence indicates that the musculature and bone structure of the jaw evolved away from forms most suited for eating very tough raw foods.[6].

Some critics believe, based on this evidence, that humans have evolved to eat cooked foods. Advocates counter that this is repudiated by the incidence of malocclusion found in cooked food eating populations. However, this claim is disputed by dental practitioners who state that malocclusion tends to be an inherited trait.[7] Since accquired traits cannot be inherited the majority of maloclusions do not seem to be immediately related to the indviduals diet.

However, researchers Robert S. Corruccini and L. Darrell Whitely argue in a paper called "Occlusal variation in a rural Kentucky community" that consumption of softened foods was the major factor in determining severity of malocclusion, and that the occlusal transition found in the Kentucky community "could not be genetic in origin." In another paper by Khang-Lee Liu, "Dental Condition of Two Tribes of Taiwan Aborigines-Ami and Atayal," the authors describe Taiwan aborigines with nearly ideal occlusion. "They have adequate jaw growth since the muscular stimulation from mastication is quite sufficient," they say, and that "raw, dry sweet potato chips and vegetables are the major diet items."

Advocates also assert that since no other species cooks its food, it is impossible to estimate how long it would take to adjust to such a diet, or even to know whether it is possible. Unfortunately, this ignores the large amount of fossil evidence which clearly shows the change in human dentition and its relation to the controlled use of fire.

Advocates also argue that since animals do not cook their food and they don't get degenerative diseases, if humans didn't cook their food humans wouldn't get these diseases either. However, the assumption that animals do not suffer from degenerative diseases is demonstratively untrue. Animals in the wild do suffer from arthritis and arthritis like disease[8] , cancer[9], liver and kidney diseases[10], and degenerative brain diseases[11].

A recent study has shown that a raw food vegetarian diet is associated with a lower bone density. [12] One study shows amenorrhea and underweight in women, [13] another one increased risk of dental erosion. [14] These studies do not indicate that everyone following a raw food diet will encounter these problems. However, the studies do indicate a causal relationship extending beyond mere correlation.


As the consumption of raw foods gains popularity, some unsafe foods have entered human diets. The following should be consumed with caution:[15]

  • Buckwheat greens, particularly if juiced or eaten in large quantities by fair skinned individuals. The chemical component fagopyrum is known to cause photosensitivity of the skin in animals and some serious human side effects have been reported anecdotally.
  • Kidney beans, including sprouts: toxic when raw.
  • Rhubarb: When eaten in sufficient quantity leaves can be toxic when raw, stalks are completely safe to eat when harvested early.
  • Potatoes, a member of the nightshade family, contain the toxic alkaloid solanine. Most of the solanine is neutralized by cooking.[16]
  • Raw animal products contain bacteria and may contain parasites, which may cause foodborne illnesses. Heating to high temperatures destroys most bacteria and parasites.

Related diets

  • Fruitarianism
  • Raw veganism
  • Paleolithic diet


  1. ^ Pottenger's Cats - A Study in Nutrition
  2. ^ Lesson of the Pottenger's Cats Experiment--Cats are Not Humans
  3. ^ Cheryl L. Rock*, , Jennifer L. Lovalvo, Curt Emenhiser**, Mack T. Ruffin, Shirley W. Flatt*, and Steven J. Schwartz, Bioavailability of Beta-Carotene Is Lower in Raw than in Processed Carrots and Spinach in Women The Journal of Nutrition Vol. 128 No. 5 May 1998, pp. 913-916
  4. ^ "Early Human Culture"
  5. ^ Rincon, Paul, "Early human fire mastery revealed"
  6. '^ Wrangham R, Conklin-Brittain N. Cooking as a biological trait'. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2003 Sep;136(1):35-46. PMID 14527628
  7. ^ "Malocclusion of Teeth" viewed August 5, 2006
  8. ^ J Zoo Wildl Med. 2001 Mar;32(1):58-64. Inflammatory arthritis in canids: spondyloarthropathy. PMID: 12790395 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
  9. ^ J Vet Diagn Invest. 2003 Mar;15(2):162-5. A poorly differentiated pulmonary squamous cell carcinoma in a free-ranging Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). PMID: 12661727 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
  10. ^ Types of renal disease in avian species. Vet Clin North Am Exot Anim Pract. 2006 Jan;9(1):97-106. PMID: 16407081 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
  11. ^ Chronic Wasting Disease, USDA Publications, viewed August, 8 2006
  12. ^ Fontana L, Shew JL, Holloszy JO, Villareal DT. Low bone mass in subjects on a long-term raw vegetarian diet. Arch Intern Med. 2005 Mar 28;165(6):684-9. PMID 15795346
  13. ^ Koebnick C, Strassner C, Hoffmann I, Leitzmann C. Consequences of a long-term raw food diet on body weight and menstruation: results of a questionnaire survey. Ann Nutr Metab. 1999;43(2):69-79. PMID 10436305
  14. ^ Ganss C, Schlechtriemen M, Klimek J. Dental erosions in subjects living on a raw food diet. Caries Res. 1999;33(1):74-80. PMID 9831783
  15. ^ Tu,Jean-Louis,"Is Cooked Food Poison? Looking at the Science on Raw vs. Cooked Foods" viewed August 8, 2006
  16. ^ The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, “The Potato Education Guide: Greening”

Further reading

  • Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine by Gabriel Cousens (North Atlantic Books, 2003) ISBN 1-55643-465-0
  • "Living Cuisine" by Renée Loux Underkoffler (Penguin-Avery, 2003) ISBN 1-58333-171-9
  • 12 Steps to Raw Food: How to end your addiction to Cooked Food by Victoria Boutenko ISBN 0-9704819-3-4
  • Raw-Pleasure:Loving Living Foods by Piers & Sheryl Duruz (Pleasure Publishing, 2004) ISBN 0-9736539-0-6
  • The Raw Truth by Jeremy A Safron, (Celestial Arts, Toronto, 2003) ISBN 1-58761-172-4 (pbk.)
  • On the synergistic effects of enzymes in food with enzymes in the human body. A literature survey and analytical report Prochaska LJ and Piekutowski WV, Medical Hypotheses 42: 355-62 (1994).
  • Rebuilding the Food Pyramid by Walter C. Willett and Meir J. Stampfer, Scientific American January 2003.
  • Detox Your World by Shazzie, (Rawcreation Ltd, Cambridge, UK, 2003) ISBN 0-9543977-0-3 (pbk, 382pp)
  • The effects of heat-processed food... on the dento-facial structure of animals by E.M.Pottenger, American Journal of Orthodontics and Oral Surgery August 1946, p467
  • Living Food for Health, Dr G. McKeith 2000, Piatkus Books ISBN 0-7499-2540-X
  • Eat More Raw, A Guide to Health and Sustainability by Steve Charter, Permanent Publications, 2004
  • Human 'dental chaos' linked to evolution of cooking, John Pickrell New Scientist 29 April 2005
  • "Angel Foods: Healthy Recipes for Heavenly Bodies" by Cherie Soria
  • "We Want to Live" by Aajonus Vonderplanitz (Carnelian Bay Castle Press, US, 2005) ISBN 1-889356-10-7
  • The Sunfood Diet Success System by David Wolfe ISBN 0-9653533-6-2
  • Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe and Shazzie ISBN 0-9543977-1-1
  • "Hooked on Raw" by Rhio ISBN 0-9671683-3-3 (Beso Entertainment, US 2000) 358 pp

External links

  • Raw-vegan articles, recipes, forum, and raw vegan ezine.
  • Raw Community Forums
  • Raw food diet recipes, interviews, and articles)
  • Resources in support of living, raw food diet including information, reading, and recipes.
  • We Like It Raw (US)


  • BeyondVeg - reports from veterans of vegetarian and raw-food diets
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