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by Tom Billings

While some people thrive on 100% raw diets, many others may find 100% raw to be too difficult for them. Some of the common problems one can experience on 100% raw are: body weight too low, lack of groundedness (i.e., inability to concentrate, apathy), and occasional physical weakness.

Before considering the topic of cooked food, it should be noted that there are (potential) raw solutions to the above problems:

* body weight too low - add or increase amount of dates and nuts in your diet. Some raw fooders report that fermented foods, such as raw seed cheeses and (fermented) almond cream help maintain weight. Others report vigorous physical exercise (weightlifting, Ashtanga yoga) is helpful in maintaining body weight. In an interview in "Eat it Raw" (posted long ago on veg-raw, the e-mail list for raw-fooders), Viktoras reported that a diet that is predominantly sprouted grains (mixed grains, eaten in combination - not alone) can allow you to maintain body weight. (Credit for the the weightlifting suggestion also goes to Viktoras.)

* lack of groundedness - often a sign that the diet has too much fruit in it. May be a symptom of zinc deficiency. Reduce fruit consumption, increase vegetable consumption, especially leafy green and root vegetables. Eating short sprouts in place of fruit may help also. Zinc supplements may be helpful here, if you are willing to use them.

* weakness - short term, may be a sign that the body is in a cleansing stage. You can usually reduce cleansing by eating more (raw) food. Deep breathing exercises may be helpful here. If weakness persists long term, you should consult a qualified health professional - may be a symptom of serious illness.

A number of raw food authors suggest a diet that is 70-90% raw, with the remainder lightly cooked foods, as an effective target/compromise diet. However, as raw foods promote physical cleansing, one must be careful in selecting the 10-25% of the diet that is cooked, to avoid causing undesirable cleansing reactions (cravings, unusual hunger, stomach pains, cramps, etc.)

If you have a mixed diet, the cooked part should be as follows (the comments below would also apply to someone phasing out cooked, enroute to 100% raw):

1) lightly cooked, no deep frying or microwaving; also avoid baked foods. Steaming, sauteeing (in fruit juice, not in oil), or boiling for a short time, are the preferred preparation methods. Some vegetarian foods that supposedly require long cooking times can be boiled for a few minutes, then set aside to finish cooking at lower temperatures.

2) relatively simple foods - not complex

3) unseasoned or very lightly seasoned. Avoid or minimize use of very strong spices like nutmeg, cloves, garlic, onions, hot peppers, as these have side effects, and may encourage gluttony and/or cravings.

4) No (or minimal) refined salt or sugar added as these chemicals are well known for causing cravings. Use unrefined salt/sugar with caution.

5) unprocessed or minimally processed. Instead of ordinary bread, eat sprout bread (Essene bread). Instead of junky cookies, make cookie substitutes - dehydrated sprout "cookies". Avoid manufactured junk foods such as potato chips, soda drinks, candy, etc.

6) no stimulants, depressants, or other poisons - coffee, alcohol, drugs. Needless to say, alcohol/drug use (including use of marijuana) is harmful and will counteract many of the benefits of a raw food diet.

7) leftovers should not be cooked again: cook once, but not twice. Leftovers can be warmed to room or body temperature if you prefer.

Also, note that it is much easier to overeat cooked foods, compared to raw foods. Be moderate in your consumption of all foods, whether cooked or raw.

Examples of undesirable cooked foods - anything fried, heavily seasoned or salted, or very complex, elaborate recipes with dozens of ingredients. Examples of cooked foods that are "clean", that usually don't cause side effects, include steamed vegetables (optionally, on rice), boiled potatoes, steamed sweet corn (corn is delicious raw, no cooking needed). Of course, whenever possible, it is best to eat raw food, because it contains the full life force (cooked foods have very little life force).

Eating the wrong cooked foods can neutralize some of the benefits one can receive from a raw foods diet, so discretion in consuming cooked foods is a good idea, when one has a mixed raw/cooked diet.

Personally, I consider diet to be a very individual thing: what is good for one, may be bad for another, due to differences in bodies and individual circumstances. Hence, I encourage others to find the mixture of raw and cooked that serves them best in the sense that it supports good health. I would not worry about dogma here; what counts is what is best for you, not dogma!

While on the subject of cooked foods and dogma, there are a few slogans that are popular in certain raw food circles; an examination of these slogans will shed some light on the present topics.

The first slogan is: "raw is law". This is a catchy slogan; however if it is trying to say that "eating an exclusively raw foods diet is a law of nature", then it is clearly false. Let us review two things that prove "raw is law" is false (there is more evidence against it, than is presented here). The first evidence is given in the Ward Nicholson interview in the excellent "Health & Beyond" newsletter (Dec. 96 issue). In a superbly researched and documented article, Ward makes the compelling case that consumption of some cooked food may be natural, in that humans have eaten cooked foods for a long time (more than 125,000 years), and we probably have genetically adapted to eating some cooked food. (Ward's case is technical, and I recommend reading the interview.) Ward uses a logically defensible definition of natural: "what is 'natural' is simply what we are adapted to by evolution".

The second evidence against "raw is law" is simply the fact that wild animals are often killed, and their remains cooked, by wildfires, as well as volcanos, geysers, and even lightning strikes. It is also a fact that the cooked remains of these animals are routinely eaten by wild carnivores and scavengers. Another obvious example of wild animals eating cooked (and processed!) foods, is given by the rats, seagulls, bears, and other animals that scavenge at landfills. So, when circumstances permit, certain wild animals will not hesitate to eat cooked food! The effect of this evidence is to show that "raw is law" is inaccurate and misleading. [The above may disturb some sensitive readers, but is included because I want to present the truth - nature as it really is - rather than dogma.]

Another slogan that is popular in certain circles is "cooked food is poison". There are a number of problems with this slogan. First, the slogan is arguably false: it is obvious that cooked food IS NOT poison, in the normal meaning of the word. So, claiming that cooked food is poison devalues the word poison, rendering it meaningless. Clearly, cooked food is not good for you, but it is not as bad for you as real poison (even a slow poison like nicotine). Also, the evidence above debunking "raw is law", applies to "cooked food is poison" as well.

Second, the slogan appears to advocate a raw foods diet, based on the fear and/or hatred, of cooked foods. Including fear/hatred in the philosophical basis for your diet is an incredibly bad idea, because then, when you eat, you are also (figuratively) mentally 'eating' fear and hatred. Further, as diet is such an important part of life, if your diet is based on fear/hatred, then you are placing fear/hatred at the very center of your life! We should have positive reasons for our diet, and a positive emphasis in our life.

I would summarize my reaction/opinion of this slogan, by correcting/restating it as follows:

"Cooked food IS NOT poison, but a diet high in cooked/processed food is not good either. Many individuals would benefit from a diet that is high in raw and unprocessed foods. Fear/hatred of cooked foods is not an appropriate basis or motivation for a diet. Fear/hatred ARE poison, and are more harmful than a diet of cooked food. So, eat raw foods, have positive reasons for your diet, and avoid the mental poisons of fear, hatred, and zealotry."

At this point, some readers will ask: if cooked food is not poison, why are you telling us which cooked foods are "clean"? This is a fair question. The answer is that some cooked foods are OK, e.g. boiled potatos are more easily digested than raw, while some cooked foods are not OK: meat fried in saturated fat, then heavily salted, is very bad for you. The point is that we should be accurate and honest. Raw kidney beans, raw rhubarb are known to be toxic; would it be fair then to claim that "raw food is poison"?

I hope you found the above interesting. Good luck in your diet and health efforts!  



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