Friday, November 16, 2012

Concerns of the Typical Raw Food Diet

Several years ago I started to become aware of the raw food diet when someone sent me a link about green smoothies and how they boost energy. A few months after getting that email, I bumped into Victoria Boutenko's book 12 Steps to Raw Food. I was kind of fascinated by eating raw so read a couple more of her books Green for Life and Green Smoothie Revolution. I didn't go raw but I became more aware of how I fixed my food and I did buy a VitaMix so I could make green smoothies sometimes.

About three years ago I started getting very interested in the raw food world. Because more and more people are getting sick off of food and environmental toxins, the number of raw food blogs has radically increased, so there's really a lot of recipes available online. In fact, I've found lots of food blogs that touch on raw food and experiment with the raw food diet (like I have been), and many food blogs dedicated to raw food (along with all sorts of promotionals -- which I don't like reading about) but I have picked through and identified a few favorites which I now follow. However, there's something a bit odd about the raw food recipe world (generally), and that is, when I look at the recipes, I have to question how people who consistently eat those kinds of raw foods over time can maintain their health. 

Broadly speaking, it appears that many raw foodists believe that because they are eating raw, they are eating healthily. I disagree but more on that below. Or that because their food is all natural plant food, they can create desserts out of the healthy whole raw food and not worry about gaining weight or perhaps getting diabetes or stressing their adrenals with the glucose and/or fructose spike. On the point of any kind of sugar, I know that it even in its most natural form can cause obvious problems for some people (me with my candida, and to a lesser degree, people with many autoimmune diseases to name a few), but with the high glucose and/or fructose that is consumed in the raw food diet, even people without health issues are taxing their adrenals and beating their pancreas, and that over time, there will be problems. From what I've seen on raw food blogs and in "cook"books, there's a disproportionate amount of desserts to salads, greens and vegetable preparations published.

Even sugar from natural food sources can cause problems. Dates, raisins, apples and other fruits are natural sweeteners, but before someone argues that they are totally natural and totally beneficial, let me also add that they have been grafted, cross-pollinated, and genetically manipulated to become sweeter, hardier and/or brighter, and so the modern-day fruits that we eat today really cannot be compared with the fruits of, say, a hundred years ago. Then there are the processed sweeteners used in raw food recipes -- honey (usually not raw), molasses (not raw), brown rice syrup (not raw), maple syrup (not raw), agave "nectar" (not raw although recipe books say "raw agave nectar/syrup"! and 90% fructose so much worse for the body than the the 50% fructose in corn syrup!). And then there are the sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol, and of course xylitol, which doctors recommend for diabetics because in the modern world, we CRAVE sugar, are addicted to it, and therefore need a sugar substitute that won't cause glucose spikes like those experienced by diabetics. But hmmm, what about fructose spikes??? For side effects of high fructose, most links connected with that is linked with corn syrup, but I predict some day soon that agave "nectar" will be included. At 90% fructose I can't understand why it isn't discussed yet. 

Anyway, I seriously question the amounts of sugar used in the typical raw food blogs, and I seriously question xylitol and agave, both which feature heavily in raw food recipes. Just a BTW. Sorbitol and mannitol are made from cornstarch that have been put through multiple processes; xylitol is made from corn cobs, sugar cane bagasse or stalk residue following extraction, or even birth wood waste and also is heavily processed. And a FYI. Brown rice syrup is comprised of three sugars (45% maltose, 3% glucose and 52% maltotriose) and all three sugar have higher glycemic counts than sucrose/table sugar.

Another reservation I have about the typical raw food blogs is the heavy use of mangoes, avocados and bananas. Some blogs list these three fruits to be consumed in a single day and sometimes in more than just one meal, or they ubiquitously appear in the blog. These three fruits are all high latex foods, and latex foods are highly allergenic. Here are some of the most noted foods related to latex reactions from a blogger who writes exclusively on allergies and sensitivities:
Latex cross reactive foods
Other possible cross reactive foods
Squash family, pumpkin
Legumes, beans
Spices, mint, cinnamon

A little aside on the latex reaction to foods. Foods that are grown organically have less of an effect on people than fruits raised, for example, in a green house, picked green and "ripened" with the gas ethylene, which creates an injury type latex protein. Fruits and vegies have latex which converts naturally to ethylene hormone at the peak of ripeness, provided it was plant ripened. Therefore, plant ripened, organic fruits and vegies are what raw foodists (generally) strive for.

There are several more reservations I have about the raw food diets I see posted online and in books, and one is too many nuts in recipes seems to be mainstream. As I heard via a friend who's madly pursuing healthful living, 40grams of nuts, that is, enough to only fill the cupped palm, is what the body can easily digest; otherwise, the hardness of nuts is abrasive to the kidneys. Also, I think there should be a higher percentage of green vegies in the diet, significantly higher than the fruits. Greens with their healing and enriching chlorophyll are natural toxin removers from the body. It is the chlorophyll that attracts toxins in the body and actually escorts them out. Without chlorophyll, a person will have a lot of toxic build-up, even if they are on an all raw diet.

And then one last comment on the diet drawbacks as I'm seeing typically depicted via various media ... I'm not seeing a lot of food variation. I read somewhere that people typically enjoy 20 main kinds of food, in different forms, but mainly only 20. For example, potatoes can be baked, fried, hash-browned, stuffed, tatter totted, and french fried, but all these recipes still use the potato. In any regard, I've noticed the same trend on raw food blogs (and on my own!). Most people do indeed stick pretty close to their personal 20 staples. However, this is a drawback especially for raw foodists who already have eliminated many kinds of foods from their diets. A lack of variety could cause deficiencies or even a build-up of the good nutrients. For example, because Brazil nuts are so high in selenium (a trace mineral), they can be classed as yet another "superfood". However, a person shouldn't eat more than 6 Brazil nuts at a time or he/she will get an overdose of selenium and become toxic to it. (related article).

Anyway, these have been some of my deepest concerns about the raw food diet. I've tried to go all raw for a couple of weeks on a couple of occasions, but I feel that when I do I'm just not feeding my body well, especially since it's very sensitive with this candida bacteria. However, I was sleuthing around the web about two months ago and landed on the Hippocrates Health Institute (HHI) home page. There was relatively nothing printed on their site about raw food, so I followed the link to Facebook and looked through the albums of pictures just to see what HHI was all about.

And I had an epiphany! There was the chef with his arms outspread in front of a magnificent display of raw food. Haha, I smiled when I considered how many people would be unimpressed by the chef's lack of recipe preparation (each food dish only contained one food item, no mixing on that buffet table!), but I was so impressed because when I saw that display, I knew that each of those dishes, each filled with sprouts at their most nutritious point between 3 and 10 or so days would be rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, and each tiny sprout would come packed with different trace elements too. When I saw that picture, I thought, "Wow! Now that's how people should really eat!"

Hippocrates Health Institute with Chef Ken

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