Month: January 2010

Cravings: What Do They Mean, and When Should You Listen?

 

Want some fries with that low-blood-sugar shake?

 

No raw food diet would be complete without some mind-boggling, head-spinning, drag-you-to-your-knees cooked food cravings. Especially in the beginning weeks and months. I don’t think I’ve met a single raw foodist who didn’t have to battle the Craving Monster at some point or another—so if you’re facing this challenge, you’re not alone.

Your body always tries to work in its own best interest—and for the most part, it does a good job. Wounds heal, hunger signals compel you to fuel up, fatigue ushers you towards sleep. It’s a diligent worker and an excellent communicator. But sometimes your poor body gets confused—such as with autoimmune disorders, when it attacks its own tissues, and addictions that create reliance on unhealthy substances. And as you may already know, certain cooked foods are loaded with chemical additives, refined sugar, opioid peptides (think opium and morphine), and other addictive ingredients that literally make you “need a fix.”

When it comes to food cravings, this poses a challenge: is your body asking for something it needs, or is it remembering something it’s addicted to? Should you ignore your cravings or indulge them?

The answer isn’t always clear. But as a guideline, here are some tips for deciphering what your body is asking for. (more…)

What You May Not Know About Avocados

There’s often a division in the raw food world (and other health spheres) when it comes to fat versus fruit. Cultivated fruit gets plenty of flack for being sweeter and less nutritious than its wild counterparts—changes attributed to human intervention and centuries of selective breeding. And the issue of ‘man-made’ modern fruit sometimes becomes an argument for limiting its consumption and eating low-sugar fruits instead, like avocados and tomatoes.

I’ll be writing about the wild/cultivated fruit issue in a later post. In the meantime, I find it interesting that avocados—one of the most popular fat sources on a raw food diet, and the staple of many low-sugar raw cuisines—have managed to dodge criticism about their humongous size. I guess it’s hard to picture avocados being anything other than the plump, fleshy fruits we see in common cultivars like the Hass. But what most people don’t realize (even fruit-and-vegetable-savvy raw foodists) is that commercial avocados are a far cry from what they were originally. In fact, without deliberate cultivation by humans, avocados are small, fibrous, large-pitted, and yield only a tiny layer of that creamy green flesh we all know and love. It’d easily take ten wild avocados to get the equivalent flesh of one Hass, if not more.

That isn’t to say we should avoid avocados or that they’re bad for you—certainly not! But for folks interested in eating foods that are close to their natural state, it’s helpful to understand that these so-called “alligator pears” have been bred specifically for their size, fat content, and copious edible flesh. They aren’t quite so luxuriant in the wild.

Curious what these uncultivated avos look like? Check out the pictures below, and click ’em for a larger view. (more…)

Dental Drama: Tooth Problems on the Raw Diet (Part 1)

 

Say almond cheez!

NOTE: Before reading the rest of this, please check out my more recent article at Frugivore magazine, which talks about the role of fat-soluble vitamins in dental health—particularly in the context of vegan diets. Although I still think the information below is important, I’m now convinced that an insufficiency of vitamins D, K2, and A are the main reason so many vegans and raw vegans experience declining dental health.

Ah, teeth. Everyone’s favorite subject. In the land of the raw, no topic springs up quite as often as dental woes do—everything from cavities to sensitivity to receding gums to eroding enamel. It’s a little scary. And considering raw foodists probably do more chewing than any other humans on the planet, keeping our chompers in good shape is vital.

Before raw, my own teeth were in tip-top condition: only one tiny cavity when I was 12, perfect dental checkups, never needed braces. Dentists loved me, and I loved them. All was well.

Alas, after my first year as a raw foodist, reality bit me (with its own perfectly-whittled incisors): 14 cavities in one dental visit. That’s not a typo, although I kind of wish it was. I’m still dealing with the aftermath, and will probably never have a bite that fits together perfectly due to the grinding and drilling all that dental work required.

And my experience is an unfortunately common one. Amidst a laundry list of health improvements, many raw foodists find a startling decline in their oral health when they amp up the fruits and veggies and nuts—a paradox, considering that good nutrition and avoidance of refined sugar should improve the state of your mouth, not degrade it.

So what’s going on here? (more…)

My Current Diet

Disclaimer: This post is in no way intended as a framework for others to follow; I only put this up because I get so many questions about what I eat. Although I’m wildly interested in science and the mechanics of nutrition, I also believe that—at the individual level—personal experience trumps theory. My diet is an ongoing n=1 experiment; not an eating plan I deem universally optimal. What works for me could easily send someone else straight to the 9th circle of blood-sugar hell.

So here’s the gist of my eating plan, which has been pretty similar for the past nine years. You can assume that whatever’s on this page is current, since I update it when anything changes. (Latest edit: February 2015; I eat less liver these days.)

(more…)

Raw Journey: Part 3

My reflections on raw dairy.

After a year of experimenting with varying amounts and types of raw dairy—including goat, sheep, cow, and buffalo—I finally accepted the fact that it was doing me more harm than good. I did feel physically stronger and my hair stopped shedding, but my face looked like an oil slick, I was breaking out nonstop, my digestion was crummy, I felt constantly bloated, and the congestion—oh, the congestion. I had to tote around wads of kleenex wherever I went.

I trimmed dairy out of my diet again; my complexion improved within days and any sign of congestion disappeared. Out of curiosity, I tested dairy one more time a few months later—a small amount of raw cheddar shredded on a salad—and wham, the congestion was back. I no longer buy any milk products, raw or otherwise.

I’ve spoken to a growing number of former raw vegans who now supplement their diets with dairy. And recently, it seems a few leaders in the raw community are doing the same—emerging from the woodwork amid the the boos and hisses of the crowd, asserting that raw dairy has bolstered their health. (more…)

Raw Journey: Part 2

Epic Failure #2: high-fat, raw-dairy-crazed, low-glycemic madness.

I think the bitter warring has died down in recent years, but back in time (2003-ish), fruit versus fat was the most vicious raw debate around. You were either in the fruit camp or the fat camp (sometimes called the “green camp”), never in any sort of grey zone between. For the sugar-avoiders, fruit was a hybrid, unnatural dietary monster; for the fat-avoiders, oils and other raw lipids were the culprits behind candida, deficiency, and every other health woe imaginable.

I jumped the fruit ship and landed in a sea of coconut butter.

(more…)

Raw Journey: Part 1

So there I was: 16, far from vibrantly healthy, and about to embark on the dietary quest of a lifetime.

In the beginning, I gleaned the bulk of my raw information from Doug Graham’s message board on Vegsource.com. I am a “lazy in the kitchen” type person, so the simplicity of the “811” eating style—lots of fruit, minimal fat, and no gourmet recipes or superfoods—seemed enormously appealing. I read briefly about other raw dietary approaches, but they all seem too complicated and supplement-heavy.

So, still living under my parents’ roof, I loaded up on fruit and started on my merry raw way. I was already accustomed to eating a large salad most nights for dinner and snacking on loads of fruit, so the transition was fairly painless—the toughest part was giving up salty, crunchy items like chips. Prior to going deliberately raw, I was probably averaging 60% raw per day, simply because I was allergic to nearly everything else.

About a week after eating 100% raw, I ate some rye bread with roasted almond butter for breakfast instead of my usual fruit. It sat in my stomach like a brick. The drop in energy was immediate and horrible. It was almost a full year before I touched any cooked food again.

Epic Failure #1: high-fruit undereating. (more…)