Raw foodism

Raw foodism

Raw foodism (or rawism) is a lifestyle promoting the consumption of un-cooked, un-processed, and often organic foods as a large percentage of the diet. If 60-100% of a person's total food consumption is raw food, he/she is considered a raw foodist or living foodist. Raw foodists typically believe that the greater the percentage of raw food in the diet, the greater the health benefits. Raw foodism or a raw food diet is usually equated with raw veganism in which only raw plant foods are eaten, but other raw foodists emphasize raw meat and other raw animal products. Depending on the type of lifestyle and results desired, raw food diets may include a selectıon of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds (including sprouted whole grains such as gaba rice), eggs, fish (such as sashimi), meat (such as carpaccio), and non-pasteurized/non-homogenized dairy products (such as raw milk, raw cheese and raw yogurt). Raw foodists can be divided between those that advocate raw vegetarianism or raw veganism, those that advocate a raw omnivorous diet, and those that advocate a diet of only raw animal foods (carnivorous).

Adherents of raw foodism believe that consumption of uncooked foods encourages weight loss and prevents and/or heals many forms of sickness and chronic diseases. Some medical studies have indicated that different forms of raw food diets may lead to various health problems, while other studies have shown positive health outcomes with such diets.


Raw foodism can include any diet that eats primarily unheated food, or food warmed to a temperature less than to . The most popular raw food diet is a raw vegan diet, but other forms include animal products and/or meat.

Raw veganism

A Raw veganism diet consists of unprocessed, raw plant foods that have not been heated above . “Raw foodists” believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost much of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body. Typical foods include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains and legumes.

Some raw vegans can be subdivided into fruitarians, juicearians, or sproutarians. Fruitarians eat primarily or exclusively fruits. Juicearians process their raw plant foods into juice. Sproutarians eat primarily or exclusively sprouted food, such as bean sprouts.

Personal claims are that there are many benefits from following a raw vegan diet, including weight loss, more energy, clear skin and improved overall health. David Wolfe and Tonya Kay are notable adherents of raw veganism.

Raw vegetarianism

Vegetarianism is a diet that excludes meat, (including game and slaughter by-products), fish (including shellfish and other sea animals) and poultry, but allows dairy and eggs. Common foods include fruit, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, dairy, eggs and honey. There are several variants of this diet. This diet is less common than raw veganism.

Raw animal food diets

Foods included in raw animal food diets include any food that can be eaten raw, so including raw, unprocessed meats/organ-meats/raw eggs, raw dairy, and aged, raw animal foods such as century eggs, rotting (fermenting) meat/fish/shellfish/kefir, as well as, to a much lesser extent, nuts/sprouts/plants/fruits, but generally not raw grains, raw beans, raw soy etc., because of digestibility and toxicity issues and also because paleolists tend to reject neolithic or domesticated foods. Raw foods on such diets have not been heated at temperatures above . “Raw Animal Foodists” believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost much of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body Smoked meats are frowned upon by many Raw-Omnivores. Some make a distinction between hot-smoked and cold-smoked.

Those who eat a raw omnivorous diet usually choose to obtain their meats from free-range and grass-fed sources. This greatly diminishes the risk of harmful bacteria. A study by Cornell Universityhas determined that grass-fed animals have far fewer E. coli (approx. 300 times less) than their grain fed counterparts. Also in the same study, the amount of E. coli they do have is much less likely to survive our first line defense against infection, gastric acid. Grass-fed meat also has more nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids, than grain-finished meat Other studies show that E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and other dangerous pathogens have been repeatedly isolated from both grass and grain fed livestock and there are conflicting results regarding whether the levels of pathogens are higher, lower, or the same when animals are fed grass- or grain-based diets.

Examples of raw animal food diets include the Primal Diet, Anopsology (otherwise known as "Instinctive Eating" or "Instincto"), and the Raw, Palaeolithic diet("otherwise known as the "Raw Meat Diet".

The Primal Diet, is a diet consisting of fatty meats, organ meats, dairy, honey, minimal fruit and vegetable juices and coconut cream, all raw. The founder of the Primal Diet is Aajonus Vonderplanitz, a resident of Malibu, California.It's been estimated by Aajonus Vonderplanitz that there are 20,000 followers of his raw-meat-heavy Primal Diet in North America, alone..Books by Aajonus Vonderplanitz, the Primal Diet author, include Aajonus Vonderplanitz "The Recipe for Living Without Disease". Carnelian Bay Castle Press, LLC. ISBN 1-889356-84-0, and his book "We Want To Live - 2005." Carnelian Bay Castle Press, LLC. ISBN 978-1889356105.

There are also those who follow the "Raw Meat Diet", otherwise known as the "Raw, Paleolithic Diet", which is a raw version of the (cooked)Paleolithic Diet, incorporating large amounts of raw animal foods such as raw meats/organ-meats, raw seafood, raw eggs, and some raw plant-foods, but usually avoiding non-Paleo foods such as raw dairy, grains and legumes .

The Nenet tribe of Siberia eat a traditional diet consisting of mostly raw meats/organ-meats and raw berries.

Those Inuit people that still follow their traditional diet eat a partially raw diet, including large amounts of raw meats/organ-meats and aged raw foods in the form of caribou and fish, among other foods.

Pemmican is the traditional North American travel food, prepared from dried meat, fat, and berries.

Gravlax (not smoked salmon) is a traditional (without sugar) Scandinavian way of preserving salmon.

Food preparation

Many foods in raw food diets are simple to prepare, such as fruits, salads, meat, and dairy. Other foods can require considerable advanced planning to prepare for eating. Rice and some other grains, for example, require sprouting or overnight soaking to become digestible. Many raw foodists believe it is best to soak nuts before eating them, in order to activate their enzymes, and deactivate enzyme inhibitors.

Preparation of gourmet raw food recipes usually call for a blender, food processor, juicer, and dehydrator. Depending on the recipe, some food (such as crackers, breads and cookies) may need to be dehydrated. These processes, which produce foods with the taste and texture of cooked food, are lengthy. Some raw foodists dispense with these foods, feeling that there is no need to emulate the other non-raw diets.

Freezing food is acceptable, even though freezing lowers enzyme activity. This view is only held by some raw-foodists, with many raw-foodists actually viewing freezing as harmful, though not as unhealthy as cooking.

Avoiding poisoning

As the consumption of raw foods gains popularity, some unsafe foods have re-entered the diets of humans. The following should be consumed with caution:



Raw foods gained prominence in the West throughout the 1900s, as proponents such as Ann Wigmore and Herbert Shelton stated that a diet of raw fruits and vegetables is the ideal diet for humans. Artturi Virtanen (1895-1973), showed that enzymes in uncooked foods are released in the mouth when vegetables are chewed. Raw foodists extrapolate from such research the supposition that these enzymes interact with other substances, notably the enzymes produced by the body itself, to aid in the digestion process. Research does not support the idea that enzymes in foods somehow survive the stomach - (pepsin in the stomach quickly breaks down nearly all proteins, including enzymes). However, promoters of raw foods, such as the Weston-Price Foundation, support the idea that, since no digestive juices are secreted in the upper stomach, the enzymes in the raw foods last for about 30 minutes in the upper-stomach before being destroyed in the lower stomach, thus giving them enough time to break down the raw foods, to some extent.

Leslie Kenton's book, Raw Energy-Eat Your Way to Radiant Health, in 1984 popularized food such as sprouts, seeds, and fresh vegetable juices.The book brought together research into raw foodism and its support of health, citing examples such as the sprouted seed enriched diets of the long lived Hunza people, as well as Max Gerson's claim of a raw juice-based cancer cure. The book advocates a diet of 75% raw food in order to prevent Degenerative diseases, slow the effects of aging, provide enhanced energy, and boost emotional balance.


Common beliefs held by raw foodists:

Raw food movement

Early proponents include Johnny Love-Wisdom, Ann Wigmore and Viktoras Kulvinskas (co-founders of the Hippocrates Health Institute), Arnold Ehret (author and advocate of fasting), A Hovannessian and Norman W. Walker (who advocated the consumption of juices, living up to the age of 99 years).

Notable contemporary proponents include several published authors and lecturers such as Aajonus Vonderplanitz , David Wolfe, Shazzie, Kate Magic Wood, Joseph Mercola,Kim Cohen, and Carol Alt.

Celebrities following Raw-Animal-Food diets include Mel Gibson (who follows the "Tiger Diet"), and Uma Thurman. Other raw-foodist celebrities include Kathy Lenon, Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson James Brolin, Frankie Laine and Laura Dern.

The principles of Natural hygiene promote a mainly raw vegan diet. Famous natural hygienists have included Herbert Shelton and Anthony Robbins.

Currently, there exist many proponents of the Raw Foods lifestyle, that have resources available on proper nutrition and transitional lifestyle diet changes, including Carol Alt, Doug Graham, Joseph Mercola, Aajonus Vonderplanitz ,Shazzie, Kate Magic Wood, Norman W. Walker, Kim Cohen and David Wolfe. Vast resources, including forums, recipes, personal testimony, nutritional guides, medical information, and products, exist online as well and are available for anyone interested in researching Raw Foods.

Interest in the "Raw Foods Movement" continues to grow today and is especially prevalent in the UK, Germany, Australia and the western United States,like California where many resources are available for interested people to learn more about and practice a raw foods lifestyle. Restaurants catering to a raw food diet have opened in large cities, and numerous all-raw cookbooks have been published.

Supercharge Me is a feature length documentary film about the raw foods diet, made by Jenna Norwood, an independent filmmaker. In the film, inspired by Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, Jenna ate only raw foods - i.e. uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds - for thirty days, to document the effect it would have on her health.


Early 20th century

A 1933 paper by E. B. Forbes says, "Cooking renders food pasty, so that it sticks to the teeth, and undergoes acid fermentation. Furthermore, the cooking of food greatly diminishes the need for use of the teeth; and thus tends to diminish the circulation of blood to the jaws and teeth, and to produce under-development of the maxillary and contiguous bones—thus leading to contracted dental arches, and to malocclusion and impaction of the teeth, with complications of great seriousness.

In a 1936 work entitled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, dentist Weston A. Price, noted that the healthiest native-tribes he saw all incorporated some form of raw animal food in their diet, Being a dentist, Weston-Price focused to some extent on the excellent dental health of the native-tribes he cited. Because of the consumption of fermented and raw foods (including raw animal products), Price also noted that these native diets were rich in enzymes. As a direct result, he became an enthusiastic promoter of raw dairy, which forms a significant part of the Weston-Price Diet.

Dr. Edward Howell, an Illinois physician, wrote Food Enzymes for Health & Longevity in 1941. Forty years later he published Enzyme Nutrition And "Eat Me Raw", Two books in which he argued that the pancreas is forced to work harder on a diet of cooked foods, and that food enzymes are just as essential to digestion as the body's self-generated enzymes, statements which have not been verified. The book was based largely on ideas from his previous book, and ideas derived from flawed enzyme research from the 1930s before it was established that enzymes were proteins. Although this book presents his theory of diet, Howell does not provide any original scientific research to support his conjectures.

Recent research

To date, scientific literature describing health and nutrition aspects of raw foods or living foods diets is limited and most studies focus on vegetarian diets, most of which excluded all animal products and derived the majority of calories from uncooked plant matter. Certain studies have indicated detrimental health effects stemming from raw vegetarian and raw omnivorous diets. A 2005 study has shown that a raw vegetarian diet is associated with a lower bone density. One study of raw omnivorous diets shows amenorrhea and underweightness in women. Another one indicates an increased risk of dental erosion with a raw food diet.

Other medical studies on raw food diets have shown some positive and negative health outcomes. According to one medical trial, "long-term consumption of a 70% raw-plant-food diet is associated with favorable serum LDL cholesterol and triglycerides but also with elevated plasma homocysteine and low serum HDL cholesterol" as well as vitamin B-12 deficiency. Another study from Germany found that a "long-term strict raw food diet is associated with favourable plasma beta-carotene and low plasma lycopene concentrations." A study mentioned benefits of a Raw Vegan diet for lowering obesity and hypertension A study has also shown reduced fibromyalgia symptoms for those on a Raw Vegan Diet as well as reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, according to another study

One study on raw human milk showed that human infants absorbed human raw milk much better than heated(pasteurised) human milk. Another study showed a link between consumption of unpasteurised milk and a lowered prevalence of allergies.

Increasing numbers of long-term raw vegans believe that to sustain the diet daily inclusion of superfoods and/or supplements are necessary, particularly for children and mothers.

Potential harmful effects of cooked foods

Raw food dieters claim that cooking food produces harmful chemical toxins. Some of these concerns are accepted by science but some are speculative. Registered dietician, Karen Schroeder says, "Neither the American Cancer Society (ACS) nor the National Cancer Institute (NCI) goes so far as to recommend a raw food diet to reduce the risk of cancer from these chemicals. Instead, they stress that following a healthful diet—one rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, both raw and cooked—is still the best known way to reduce cancer risk.

Several studies published since 1990 indicate that cooking muscle meat creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are thought to increase cancer risk in humans. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that human subjects who ate beef rare or medium-rare had less than one third the risk of stomach cancer than those who ate beef medium-well or well-done. While eating muscle meat raw may be the only way to avoid HCAs fully, the National Cancer Institute states that cooking meat below creates "negligible amounts" of HCAs. Also, microwaving meat before cooking may reduce HCAs by 90%.

Microwaving at high temperatures have been shown to significantly reduce the anti-infective factors in human milk..Microwaving has also been shown to be the worst type of cooking for cooking vegetables, as it virtually eliminates the antioxidants present in vegetables.Microwaving has also been shown to reduce vitamin B12 levels in foods to a much greater extent than any other form of cooking.

Nitrosamines, present in processed and cooked foods, have been noted as being carcinogenic, being linked to colon cancer and stomach-cancer.

There are also concerns regards advanced glycation end products , otherwise known as AGEs, toxins which are present in cooked-foods in sizeable amounts and which contribute to age- and diabetes-related chronic inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis, asthma, arthritis, myocardial infarction,macular degeneration,nephropathy, retinopathy or neuropathy.

Acrylamide , a toxin found in baked/fried/grilled starchy foods, but not in boiled or raw foods, has been linked to endometrial, ovarian but not breast cancers. Ingested acrylamide is metabolised to a chemically reactive epoxide, glycidamide . The HEATOX(Heat Generated Food Toxins) project published a report identifying toxins in cooked-foods, such as acrylamide, and identifying ways to reduce the levels of these toxins. The report can be found here

Also, toxic compounds called PAHs, or Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, present in cooked and processed foods as well as being a byproduct of fuel-burning, are known to be carcinogenic.

German research in 2003 showed significant benefits in reducing breast cancer risk when large amounts of raw vegetable matter are included in the diet. The authors attribute some of this effect to heat-labile phytonutrients.

One study, comparing the effects of consuming either pasteurized, or homogenized/pasteurized, or unpasteurized milk, showed that pasteurized and homogenized/pasteurized milk might have an increased ability to evoke allergic reactions in patients allergic to milk.

A study has indicated that cooking heating (above 100°C, or 212°F) decreases meat protein digestibility. Frying chickpeas, oven-heating winged beans, or roasting cereals at 200-280°C (392-536°F) reduces protein digestibility.

Another study has shown that fish meat heated for 10 minutes at 130°C (266°F), showed a 1.5% decrease in protein digestibility. Similar heating of hake meat in the presence of potato starch, soy oil, and salt caused a 6% decrease in amino acid content.

A scientific report by the Nutrition Society describes in detail the loss of nutrients caused by cooking. Here is a table showing typical losses of nutrients as a result of cooking.

Criticism and controversies

Food poisoning

Food poisoning is a health risk for all people eating raw foods, and increased demand for raw foods is associated with greater incidence of foodborne illness, especially for raw meat, fish, and shellfish. Outbreaks of gastroenteritis among consumers of raw and undercooked animal products (including smoked, pickled or dried animal products) are well-documented, and include raw meat, raw organ meat, raw fish (whether ocean-going or freshwater), shellfish, raw milk and products made from raw milk, and raw eggs.

Food poisoning attributed to contaminated raw produce has risen ten-fold since the 1970s. Salad, lettuce, juice, melon, sprouts, and berries were most frequently implicated in outbreaks.

Many raw plant foods have been contaminated by dangerous and even deadly microorganisms, including jalapeño and serrano peppers, alfalfa sprouts and other sprouted seeds, green onions, spinach, lettuce, orange juice, apple juice and other unpasteurized fruit juices.

Demand for unpasteurized, or raw, milk is growing among consumers concerned about chemicals, hormones and drugs. Some believe that pasteurization "kills" enzymes, proteins and beneficial bacteria. According to the FDA, health benefits claimed by raw milk advocates do not exist. "The small quantities of antibodies in milk are not absorbed in the human intestinal tract," says Barbara Ingham, Ph.D., associate professor and extension food scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "There is no scientific evidence that raw milk contains an anti-arthritis factor or that it enhances resistance to other diseases."

It has been claimed by many pro-raw-dairy advocates that government agencies are heavily biased against raw dairy, providing incomplete facts or erroneous statistics. There are also several scientific studies on the benefits of raw dairy.

Nutritional deficiencies

A raw vegan diet may be deficient in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, zinc and protein. These nutrients are much easier to get in foods from animal sources.

Some nutrients in cooked foods, are more available to the body than in raw foods. Heating foods normally makes their nutrients more easily digestible by breaking down the husks and skin in the food, bursting open the cells so that the contents are more available, modifying the molecules, breaking down large indigestible molecules into smaller digestible molecules, and finally, breaking down toxins or chemicals in the food.

Care may be required in planning a raw food diet, especially for children. There is little research on how to plan a nutritionally adequate raw food. Raw foodists believe that with sufficient food energy, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, variety and density, people of all ages can be successful at eating raw foods. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Disease-Proof your Child, says there may not be enough vitamin B12, enough vitamin D and enough calories for a growing child on a totally raw vegan diet. Fuhrman fed his own four children raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, beans and occasionally eggs.

A study surveying people practicing raw food diets of varying intensities found that 30% of the women under age 45 had partial to complete amenorrhoea and that "subjects eating high amounts of raw food (> 90%) were affected more frequently than moderate raw food dieters." The study concluded that since many raw food dieters were underweight and exhibited amenorrhoea "a very strict raw food diet cannot be recommended on a long-term basis.

Human evolution

Richard Wrangham, a primate researcher and professor of anthropology has argued that cooking is obligatory for humans as a result of biological adaptations to cooked foods. Wrangham believes that cooking explains the increase in hominid brain sizes, smaller teeth and jaws and decrease in sexual dimorphism that occurred roughly 1.8 million years ago. Wrangham further states that "no human foragers have been recorded as living without cooking [...] The possibility that cooking is obligatory is supported by calculations suggesting that a diet of raw food could not supply sufficient calories for a normal hunter–gatherer lifestyle. In particular, many plant foods are too fiber-rich when raw, while most raw meat appears too tough to allow easy chewing." Most other anthropologists oppose Wrangham, contending that archeological evidence suggests that cooking fires began in earnest only 250,000 years ago, when ancient hearths, earth ovens, burnt animal bones, and flint appear across Europe and the middle East. The particular stance of Wrangham's, re cooking leading to bigger human brains and adaptability to cooked-foods, has been contrasted with several studies showing that average human brain-size has actually decreased in the last 35,000 years by 11%.


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