Month: February 2010

Raw Food Leaders No Longer Raw or Vegan: What’s Up With That?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (or a durian shell), you’ve probably heard the news that some raw leaders—including Paul Nison and Victoria Boutenko—are no longer 100% raw vegan. And if you’re like many raw foodists, this information is shocking, alarming, troubling, angering, saddening, confusing, and a bunch of other adjectives I’d list if I had a thesaurus handy.

The impact of this news on the raw food movement has been both fascinating and diverse. Some folks have reacted like this:

How dare they abandon raw! They’ve betrayed the community, they’ve broken their pledge of raw-ness, and they’ve crossed over to the dark side! Off with their heads!

Others have reacted like this:

Does this mean a 100% raw vegan diet isn’t possible to sustain? Should I go back to cooked food? Should I go back to meat? McDonalds, are you calling my name, my sweet former lover?

And still others have reacted like this:

What a relief to know I’m not the only one who can’t make 100% raw work! Phew. Now I can eat this steamed spinach leaf in peace.

So what’s really going on here? Why are raw food leaders not only coming clean about their divergences from raw, but actually promoting those divergences as okay (and maybe even healthy)? How should the raw community be responding? And how can we use this news to expose—and improve—some of the problems in the raw food movement? (more…)

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The Great Protein Debate (Part 2)

Ah'll be bahck... with my whey protein shake.

(Some common raw protein myths and issues, continued from part 1 of The Great Protein Debate)

There’s no medical term for “protein deficiency,” and you can only be protein deficient if you’re starvingright?

This is quite a popular argument lately, but it’s also a misleading one. The claim is that protein-deficiency diseases like kwashiorkor and marasmas only happen with a very low calorie intake—and therefore you don’t have to worry unless you’re severely undereating.

That’s only partly true, though. In developing countries and other areas where starvation is rampant, local cuisines yield a higher percentage of protein than raw vegan diets because they contain proteinaceous foods like legumes and animal products (albeit in smaller amounts than Americans see). Even grains are typically twice as high in protein as fruit. It’s impossible to get kwashiorkor if your diet is based on those types of food sources and you’re eating enough calories—hence why protein-deficiency diseases are widespread only where calorie intake is extremely low. (more…)

The Great Protein Debate (Part 1)

If you’re like most raw foodists, you’re no stranger to the controversy surrounding the notorious “P” word: protein. Whether you came to raw from a vegetarian cuisine, a low-carb regimen, or even the good ol’ Standard American Diet, one of your earliest concerns was most likely: where will I get my protein?

And again, if you’re like most raw foodists, you probably had your fears placated early on. Maybe you were told that most people on cooked diets eat far more protein than they need (which is true) and that all raw plant foods contain protein (which is also true). Maybe you were told that cooked protein isn’t digestible, so you get more protein from raw sources anyway (which is not quite true). And maybe you were told my favorite whopper: that broccoli contains more protein than chicken (yikes!).

Raw food literature is woefully short on science. And although the cooked world is swirling with protein myths (often perpetuated by meat and dairy industries), the raw world is guilty of its own dietary delusions.
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Raw Gone Wrong: When the Honeymoon is Over

Paradise no more

It starts like a good relationship.

You meet someone new. Sparks are flying. You both like Hitchcock films and that obscure reggae band from Norway; clearly, it’s meant to be. After a string of perfect dates, all-night phone calls, and butterfly-inducing smooches, you’re sure that they’re “the one.”

Then a month later, you wake up and realize the other person has some pretty freaky nose hairs. And they burp without apologizing. And they snore. Oh, do they snore!

So it is with raw. Almost without fail, the beginning of the diet yields a brilliant honeymoon phase—filled with surging energy, renewed vigor, and zest for your lively cuisine.

But somewhere down the line—months for some people, years for others—the wonder starts to wane. Maybe you start feeling like something is inexplicably missing. Maybe your energy takes a dive and noontime naps become the norm. Maybe your weight loss plateaus. Maybe your last dentist visit wasn’t so pretty. Maybe those niggly health problems you had prior to raw—aches and pains, lethargy, allergies, arthritis, skin conditions—start resurfacing out of nowhere. Whatever the reason, raw just doesn’t seem to be working as well as it did in the beginning. Your enthusiasm diminishes, and in its place comes doubt, discontentment, and a plethora of questions.

In other words, you start seeing raw foods’ freaky nose hairs and you begin to wonder: what did I get myself into? (more…)