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Issue 35: Ready for Raw?

There seems to be a growing interest in eating raw food. In fact, according to a USA Today report (2001) and a The San Diego Union-Tribune article (2005), since the mid-1990s, those in health-food circles and beyond have increasingly embraced a raw diet.

But what is a raw diet? It is generally defined as a diet which incorporates only raw, organic, vegan (no fish, meat, eggs, or dairy products) ingredients which are not heated or cooked at all or are heated no more than between 105 and 118 degrees Fahrenheit—although there are variations even among this definition. We will take a look at those variations in future editions.

The reasoning behind eating raw is, for the most part, that eating raw—especially raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes—is a healthier choice than eating the standard fare of cooked foods. Why? Raw food eaters believe that heating food greatly diminishes or “leaves for dead” the nutrient and enzyme content of food, and, therefore, can diminish nutrient intake level for the person eating that food. That’s why they will choose the raw “living food” over and above the “dead” cooked food any day.

There, of course, are those who disagree with this stance and we will discuss this in later editions as well. In the meantime, the health-food enthusiasts are not the only ones who are climbing aboard the proverbial raw food lifestyle train. Raw food is appearing in gourmet restaurants, on airline menu options, at raw food consortiums, and in cookbooks.

Some celebrities, too, have gone raw. Among those are: Demi Moore, Robin Williams, David Bowie, Lisa Bonet, Alicia Silverstone, Woody Harrelson, Carol Alt, Ben Vereen, and Danny Glover—just to mention a few. Even celebrity chef Charlie Trotter offers raw dishes at his Chicago-based restaurant and has developed a raw food cookbook.

And, yes, there is even a documentary out on raw foods, called Supercharge Me! 30 Days Raw (2007)—a title inspired by Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me documentary in which he ate nothing but fast food for a month. In contrast, independent filmmaker Jenna Norwood eats nothing but raw food for 30 days to document the effects it has on her health.

Paul Nison, one of the world’s leading experts in raw foods as well as an author of a half-dozen books, contends that raw is the healthiest way we can eat our foods, and that raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds contain all the nutrients and enzymes that we would ever need.

Another leader of the raw food pack is author and spokesperson David Wolfe, who estimates that there are about one million Americans who embrace at least some aspect of the raw food diet, based on web site traffic and book sales.

Wolfe believes that the raw food movement is “just opening up, just beginning” and “is for people who are on the cutting edge.” “It's no longer some niche, weird thing that some kind of crazy hippie is doing out in the desert somewhere," Wolfe says. "This is a mainstream, middle-class idea that is doable for anyone.”

So, are you ready for raw? Maybe or maybe not. One thing is for sure…ready or not, it’s here.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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