fruit

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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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…)

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.)

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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 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…)