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Raw Food

by June Butlin, MBANT, M.Sc., Ph.D

"Feeling good", "energising", "vitality", "longevity", "aliveness", "dynamic state of mind", "anti ageing" and "calmness of spirit" are all descriptive words and expressions used by those recommending a raw food diet. The benefits advocated from eating such a diet seem endless, ranging from lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, eliminating cravings, preventing overeating, purging the body of accumulated toxins, balancing hormones, maintaining blood glucose levels to reversing degenerative diseases.

There is much evidence to back up these claims from observations of primitive cultures, doctors and nutritionists curing degenerative diseases, and health researchers. Examples can be seen in the way the Hunzas, Equadorans, Georgians and Yucatan Indians ate low calorie diets of fresh, uncooked foods such as dairy, vegetables, fruits and sprouted seeds, and lived very long, healthy and energetic lives. Dr. Bircher Brenner, a pioneer of nutrition cured himself of jaundice by eating raw apples, and then established his famous clinic in Zurich in 1897 based on a diet of uncooked foods and regular exercise. Dr. Max Gerson, a contemporary of Bircher Brenner, cured his severe migraine headaches by avoiding pickled and smoked foods, salt and fats, and by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. In 1929 this same diet was published as a cure for skin tuberculosis, and later for lung tuberculosis, cancer, heart and kidney problems. In 1920 a French researcher, Edmond Szekely, discovered the writings of the Essenes, a monastic sect at the time of Christ, which gave instructions about fasting and raw foods to achieve mental, physical and spiritual health. More recent examples are Dr. Norman Walker's raw juice fasting for numerous health problems, the Linus Pauling Institute's work on cancer with wheat grass and raw foods and Leslie Kenton's Biogenic diet for health and longevity that emphasises 70% raw foods.

Let's explore the reasons why a raw food diet is so effective.

First, foods grown on healthy soil and eaten raw and fresh contain the finest complement of essential nutrients. These nutrients can be used to enhance the biological functioning of the body, both to achieve optimum health, and to regenerate healthy cells to overcome degenerative diseases.

Second, Dr. Edward Howell's research proves that raw foods supply their own digestive enzymes that help to partially digest the foods in the mouth and the stomach. This reduces the quantity of digestive enzymes produced within the body and minimises any strain on the digestive processes. Dr. Howell also established that the body has a limited capacity to produce enzymes for all the metabolic functions in the body. So, sparing the productivity of the body's digestive enzymes by eating raw foods will also allow the body a greater capacity to produce enzymes for metabolic processes such as the elimination of toxins, energy production and nerve and hormone functioning.

Third, nutrients, which occur in optimal proportions and quantities in fresh, uncooked vegetables, boost lymphocyte production. Lymphocytes are white blood cells, which are rich in enzymes and have the ability to aid digestion. They also have a role to play in the immune system increasing the body's resistance to illness.

Fourth, organic raw foods contain high potassium to sodium ratio, which help correct cellular functioning. This increases the ability of the cells to absorb nutrients, excrete toxins, produce energy, convert glucose into glycogen and regulate muscle actions and nerve transmission. It also helps to maintain the correct acid-alkali environment in the body aiding all metabolic functions.

Fifth, raw foods are abundant in plant fibres such as bran, lignins, pectins, gums, and mucilages. These have a number of functions in the body. They increase the peristaltic action of the gut increasing the efficiency of the digestive tract and preventing foods from putrefying and poisoning the body. They allow a steady rate of nutrient absorption, maintain a steady blood glucose level, and reduce the amount of fat absorbed into the systemic system. They also chelate heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, and help to balance the gut flora and aid its ability to synthesise vitamins B and K.

Sixth, raw foods also contain other important substances, some of which are: essential oils, natural antimicrobials, plant hormones, bioflavanoids, and chlorophyll. These have beneficial effects in the body and an example and usage of each can be seen below:

Essential oils: Ginger from the rhizomes of the plant - Stimulates gastric juices and facilitates digestion.
Natural Antibiotics: The seeds extracted from Grapefruit- Inactivates viruses, yeasts, fungi, parasites, worms and bacteria
Plant hormones: Diosgenin from Wild Yam - Lowers cholesterol, reduces pain, inflammation and menopausal hot flushes
Bioflavanoids: Rutin from Buckwheat - Lifts depression, heals bruises and broken blood vessels in the skin
Chlorophyll: Young cereal plants such as Barley and Wheat - Contains blood building properties and stimulates cell growth

Undoubtedly there are many advantages to eating a raw food diet full of the vital nutrients for health. But, the question is " Will raw foods benefit you?" There is no definitive answer as raw food is not a magic bullet for health for everyone, as we all have our own biochemical individuality. Certainly, there are other schools of thought. For example Zen, Macrobiotic and Ayurvedic traditions allow cooked foods and achieve great success in many cases of severe illness. Perhaps the Raw Food approach is most useful in terms of health maintenance, prevention and the promotion of health, because it enables the body to use less energy and to keep internally clean.

The best way to decide if this way of eating will enhance your health is to try it for at least ten days and judge for yourself. For those totally dedicated a 100% balanced, raw food diet should be followed, and for the less adventurous a 70% raw food to 30% cooked food should provide health gains. Below is a menu for a 100% raw food day for you to try.

Breakfast

Raw Mueseli made from rice, oats, rye and wheat flakes soaked overnight in fruit juice with grapes, grated apple and chopped nuts. Add nut cream and either cinammon or ginger.

Lunch and Evening Meal

Raw soup or Vegetable juices. Salad made with vegetables, fruits, beansprouts, nuts and seeds with a salad dressing.

Evening Dessert

Raspberry Fruit Freeze Pie. Mix finely ground dates almonds, oatflakes, with honey and water and press into a pie dish. Fill with a blend of bananas, raspberries and honey.

First Published in Positive Health magazine