Man is the only animal on Earth that alters the food we eat by using heat. It isn't uncommon for animals to alter their foods, spiders and snakes inject poisons, alligators drown their prey then tuck the bodies away to begin to breakdown and become easier to ingest. Humans cook their food. As far back as half a million years. Well, depending on who you read, maybe as far back as 1.6 million years. (1) It really matters little the time frame, what is in general consensus, is that cooking foods is what allowed proto hominids to develop from their ape-like ancestors into the more modern humans. (2) The fact is that cooked foods, of both meat and vegetable origins, are more easily digested with greater nutrient absorption than raw foods. And the big one, they are much much easier to eat. This fact itself led to huge changes in the structure of human teeth. (3) Allowing for fewer, smaller and less molar like front teeth. Granted this is all conjecture, but the knife and fork were thousands of years away and so sharper front teeth made it easier to bite off hunks of meat, as well as cooked tubers and whatever else caveboys threw onto the fire that they all just learned to control.
Now then, contrary to what so many people want the world to believe, those caveboys and girls did not exist primarily on meat. It didn't happen. Consuming too much meat is not a good thing. (4) Archaelogical evidence points to a diet rich in tubers, nuts, seeds (including grains) and fruits. And in all probability, whatever green plants were growing around. That one is pretty hard to find remains of, but indigenous tribes everywhere on earth pretty much eat whatever greens are growing locally. All of them. Everywhere. And for those Paleo people thinking that the Inuit only eat meat, the fact is that they eat the digestive organs of the animals they kill and that includes reindeer stomachs filled with lichens and moss. Now contrary to what many profiteers (internet Paleo sales gurus) want the world to believe, modern humans did not evolve larger brains, smaller digestive systems and sharper teeth because of the varied diet of cooked foods, primarily of meat. It all began when early hominids moved off the savanahs in Africa and went toward the seashore and began to eat seafood. (5) Omega 3 rich foods sourced from the shallows of coastal waters set the stage for increases in brain size. It was the combination of a variety of nutritious plant based diet providing carbohydrates for energy, meats (both scavenged and hunted) for greater protein needs for muscular development, and Omega 3 rich seafoods for brain development that led to the evolutionary growth of humans. And all, or mostly all, cooked for greater release of nutrients.
So, with all the basics out of the way, let's talk about going raw. The Raw Diet Plan. There are two versions, one is Vegan, the other includes stuff like raw meat and dairy. (not my thing at all) Both however, specifically promote the inclusion in your diet of raw, uncooked foods. And also to include stuff like fermented vegetables, soaked or sprouted seeds, nuts and even grains. And lots and lots and lots of green plants, seaweed and supplements. Yeah, that last one is necessary if you go with an all plant based raw diet. Sorry, but the human body can't exist on JUST raw plants. It doesn't work that way. The entire premise behind the Raw Food Movement is that cooking destroys the enzymes within the plants (and meat and dairy as well) that the human body needs to actually digest completely in order to remove the necessary nutrients. You know, it's sort of correct. For a lot of foods, that's the way it is. But a lot, not so much. Carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and a bunch of others, need to be cooked in order to free up the nutrients. Yeah, the thing is, none of those things were around when humans were doing that evolution thing and eating the indigenous flora where they lived. They're all from other locales. So we need to be mindful of what we can digest, and what we can't. And here it's extremely important to understand that humans have never, ever, been able to digest and survive on meat from the grocery store, processed foods (pretty much anything white) and sugar. Modern meat has been discussed here on my blog and throughout the internet (yes, even the Paleo People say it is not good for you) and it is more detrimental than you can imagine. (6)(7)
Eating raw plant based diet causes a large number of changes within the body. Many are good. Some, not so good. The good changes mean that your digestive system begins to heal from whatever foods you consumed in the past. Any processed foods, foods containing processed sugars, foods containing large amounts of toxic additives and agricultural toxins such as the big one, glyphosate. It is now a suspected carcinogen as declared by the World Health Organization and it is pervasive, invasive and pretty much EVERYWHERE in small amounts. It destroys the Schumate Pathway in plants and bacteria. And as we all know, bacteria live in our digestive systems and we absolutely depend on their beneficial actions for our existence and our good health. The newest research that has pretty much unanimous agreement in the scientific world, is that our gut bacteria are an integral part of our Immune Systems. (8) Destroy the gut bacteria, humans get sick, are stricken with multiple long term chronic conditions and may in fact be part of the reason for increases in childhood problems such as autism, ADHD and might be part of the causality whereby environmental triggers such as modern preservative and neurotoxin laden vaccines are causing increases in SIDS and other specific childhood problems. Eating unprocessed and uncooked foods will heal the intestinal tract of damages, bring in good bacteria and in general help to promote the natural immune response within our bodies.
Conversely, a lack of specific Omega 3 fatty acids in our diet can cause a series of adverse reactions. Our bodies require Omega 3 (specifically docosahexaenoic acid DHA) which is the one essential fatty acid needed for brain development and for normal functioning of the Central Nervous System. (9) If you don't have enough DHA, and if you are older, like me, your body loses the ability to synthesize DHA from other Omega 3 fatty acids that are readily available from pure plant sources. (10, 11, 12) And then things go downhill rapidly. Vision, heart regulation (meaning arrythmia can occur) lupus, arthritis, brain functions (cognition and the brain's ability to communicate with every other organ and system) Whew, that's a lot for one small fat molecule. The scary thing is, we can get by without meat protein just by eating various plant based amino acid groups. We can get by without carbohydrates by the body catabolizing fat stores and then muscle tissue. (although there is a limit to that)((however remember pictures of American POWs held by the Japanese and Jews in concentration camps)) But forgo that one essential fatty acid, DHA, and things go bad pretty fast. Certainly a lot depends on individual physical responses to everything (individuals act and react differently and with statistical certainty we can predict patterns for entire populations based on that) That's why so many in those camps died pretty quickly and others hung on for a long time with their bodies wasting away as they catabolize their own muscle, brain material and bones in order to keep living. Sad, but that's how it all works. We need these things, and when we don't get them, we have problems.
Back earlier this year I started to go strictly Raw. Well, I was having a lot of health and happiness issues, women, the cancer scare, the FEDS just ignoring me, my van, criminy, so many problems. So I ate raw, drank beer and smoked a few cigars. My ability to concentrate meandered off into the bushes somewhere and I couldn't think straight enough to go find it. My vision was blurry and I felt like crap after just one month. One month. Sheesh. And I dropped about twenty pounds.
That might have been part of the problem. But one of the benefits of eating a Raw Diet is that big big weight loss thing. If all you eat is raw stuff, the digestive system can't retrieve enough nutrients to maintain your body the way it is. Therefore there is that catabolizing function the body does that strips away the essential fats from the stored fats and burns what's needed to fuel the brain. Okay, the Paleo people reading this, it puts one into Ketosis. You burn your stored fats along with whatever carbs you eat as the body processes stores to release DHA. Not always the preferred method of obtaining nutrients if done too rapidly.
This then leads me into my diet. I call it the Modified Raw Diet. I eat a lot of raw foods. I eat a lot of fermented foods. I eat raw crackers. (13) And I eat wild caught salmon, pasture raised eggs and some sardines from time to time. For the DHA my body needs. I also eat brown rice. I believe it to contain more nutrients than just about any other food source. And it keeps your skin soft.
Now I'm not going to say that it isn't possible to live a long healthy life by only eating raw foods. If you're young, the body has those enzymes needed to convert ALA and EPA fatty acids into DHA. If you eat lots of nuts, avocados, beet tops and lots and lots of flax seed stuff, it can be done. It's just not for me. It's up to the individual as to how much we want to go through to exist. For many, that means stuff out of a box. For some, it means a total commitment to eating totally Raw. For me, it's somewhere to one side, the healthy side.
1. Scientific American
2. Chef Roy on Evolution
3. Dentition changes
4. Too much meat
5. Omega 3 diet in Paleo hominids
6. Modern Meat
7. the Meat of the Matter
8. NCBI study on Gut Flora (one of thousands)
9. Omega 3 Fats
10, Linus Pauling Institute
11. Harvard Med
12. Pub Med
13. Raw crackers