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June/July 2003
Setting Up a Raw Kitchen

By Lucas Rockwood



Vegetarianism is extremely common worldwide for health, moral, and environmental reasons, but recently, a new breed of vegetarians have rapidly grown in popularity—raw foodists. Raw foodists are strict vegans who eat only uncooked plant foods, meaning primarily fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Why such a limited diet? Raw foodists argue that uncooked plant foods are the most nutritious, healing foods due to their natural abundance in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and enzymes—which are mostly destroyed, denatured, or rendered unusable to the body when cooked.

Raw foods advocate and medical doctor Gabriel Cousens [see interview] claims that cooking food results in a 70 to 80 percent loss of its vitamins, minerals, and nutrients—and a 100 percent loss of all active enzymes, the powerful protein molecules in our bodies that are responsible for every metabolic function ranging from food digestion to tissue regeneration. It is believed that our body’s enzyme stores are finite, so in order to ensure optimal health and vitality, we need to constantly replenish our supplies through the foods we eat..

Many dismiss raw food veganism as just another health fad, but some new research in science and medicine agrees with the tenets of the raw food diet. The New York Times recently reported that cooking most starchy foods actually produces a highly carcinogenic chemical called acrylamide, an industrial compound regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency in public water supplies, but unregulated in foods. New research shows that common foods like potato chips and French fries can have acrylamide levels as much as 100 to 200 times the FDA’s regulated limits for drinking water.

Additionally, it was discovered that after eating a meal our body suffers from digestive leukocytosis, a condition marked by a rapid increase in white blood cells. In other words, our bodies treat food in a similar way that it treats foreign bacteria, viruses, or infections—it fights it. But further research revealed that eating cooked food is what provokes this reaction, and people eating raw foods do not suffer from this condition and thus conserve their body’s resources, leaving the body free to fend off true infections.

Cooked fats have also come under major scrutiny these days because at high temperatures, both free radicals and trans fatty acids (fat molecules that have been structurally altered, blocking cell respiration) can be formed—both of which are major carcinogens and can also cause accelerated aging, illness, and disease.

So we know that we are the only animal on the planet that cooks its food, and we know that cooking destroys some of its key nutrients and may actually create toxins and carcinogens—but is it really that bad?

If cooked foods were really a major source for disease and illness, wouldn’t someone have realized this a lot sooner? After all, humans began cooking over 125,000 years ago! Raw foodists argue that a 125,000 year-old mistake is still a mistake, and we are just now beginning to see the widespread effects of eating cooked foods because of their prevalence in our modern-day diet. Today, 90 percent of the foods in your average grocery store are cooked, pasteurized, preserved, or irradiated, so we are eating more “cooked” foods than at any time in our history.

From Pop Tarts and Power Bars, to microwave dinners and carbonated sodas, commercially processed foods dominate today’s Standard American Diet and raw foodists point out that we are now suffering from more obesity, cancer, heart diseases, and degenerative illnesses than ever before. Whether or not this means you should give up your favorite cooked dishes for celery sticks and raw almonds is up to you (though raw foodists are much more creative than that!), but adding some raw plant food to your life sure couldn’t hurt.


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