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
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
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.