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by Tom Billings

I'm curious about the experiences other raw fooders have in using oils. I find extracted oils to be difficult to digest, so normally don't eat them directly. Instead of eating oils directly, I find it best (for me) to eat oily foods such as avocados, coconuts, soaked nuts, sprouted sesame and sunflower seeds. However, some raw oils are excellent for the skin and hair when used for massage, and some oils have specific medicinal uses. Refined/cooked oils, other than castor oil or medicinal oil/herb blends, should be avoided.

Some raw fooders refuse to eat oils on the grounds that they are incomplete or processed foods. Others recommend consuming certain oils - flax, sometimes hemp; for example, both N.D. Santillo and Gabriel Cousens recommend eating flax oil.

One of the problems with oils today is that most of them are cooked and/or refined. Genuine extra-virgin olive oil is usually raw and it is an unrefined oil. However, the term "extra-virgin" has a legal definition (specifying the oil pH) that allows some unscrupulous producers to take "pure" olive oil, adjust the pH with lye, and sell it as extra-virgin. So, be careful when buying extra virgin olive oil. Jaffe Bros., a well known mail order company, carries an excellent raw, unrefined sesame oil. Crude flax oil is available in health food stores, but it spoils quickly and is very expensive. Hemp oil is available but if made in the U.S., is made from heat-sterilized (cooked) seeds, and is very expensive. Crude sunflower oil is available in some areas. Crude safflower oil is available but its use is not recommended, as it is very drying to the skin.

Try using olive oil as hair conditioner for a week - apply some to head and hair about an hour before shampooing. You might not want to use commercial conditioners again, as the oil is very soothing and makes your hair beautiful. (Caution: dripping oil can stain clothing, carpets, furniture.) The one oil that is usually available only as refined oil is castor oil (some castor oil has minimal processing). Crude castor oil is available in India, and is highly purgative. Almond oil is often refined as it is usually made from tropical, bitter almonds (rather than the sweet almonds grown in temperate zones), and the skin of tropical almonds is very high in tannins and other alkaloids - hence refining is appropriate.

** Reader comment: flaxseed oil turns rancid in a few hours, other oils take ** only a little while longer to turn rancid. All oils are rancid!

Paavo Airola claims that flaxseed oil goes rancid in only 4 hours. I recall seeing a comment by Udo Erasmus, author of "Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill", that flaxseed oil is nutritionally worthless (fatty acids degrade) only 15 minutes after extraction! This suggests that the best way to get essential fatty acids from flaxseed is to soak the seeds overnight in water (in refrigerator) and add them to sprout milk (in blender). As flaxseed oil is very expensive, using soaked flaxseed is a much cheaper alternative.

Some raw fooders are very negative on oils and claim that all oils are rancid. Certainly, your nose and taste buds can readily detect rancid oils and nuts/ seeds. The truth is that most extracted oils are stable for months; it takes several months for most oils to actually turn rancid. Here, I mean specifically that the oil does not go rancid, as detected by your nose and/or taste buds, very quickly (assuming good storage conditions). There are some oils that go rancid quickly - e.g., flax as mentioned above.

Further I would note the use of oils in Ayurveda. Oils are heavily used there for medicinal purposes. One use that stands out is the cleansing therapy called Pancha Karma. In Pancha Karma, large amounts of vegetable oils are eaten for days (usually sesame oil), which is then followed by several days of oil massage (during which time no oils are eaten). Pancha Karma includes many other components, such as herbs, diet, enemas, purgation, etc. Anyway the point here is that oils are used in of all things, a cleansing program, one that works extremely well (I know several people who have done Pancha Karma and it helped them greatly). So I think the fear of oils and belief that all oils are rancid and bad is misplaced and inaccurate.

Gabriel Cousens wrote an article in "New Frontiers" magazine a few years ago defending raw "fats" (oils, oily foods), saying basically that raw fats are OK and some are good, cooked fats are not so good (and of course hydrogenated fats are, in effect, plastic and are very bad for you).

Further, Your brain tissue and the myelin sheath that coats the nervous system are both predominantly fatty tissue. (However, one does not need to eat fat to produce fatty tissues.) The point here is that you actually need some fat in your body!

In closing I would repeat that although eating extracted oils is bad for many (very hard to digest), they can be very good for your skin and hair. If you have dry skin, a sesame oil massage once a week might reduce that problem. It can also increase your flexibility (in yoga and other exercises).


A. Problems in Storing Sesame Seeds: Insect Larvae

In the past I have stored sesame seeds for sprouting at room temperature in airtight glass or plastic containers. I have never had any go rancid, and no insect problems - until recently. A few months ago I purchased some black sesame seeds at an Indian store; they sprout nicely and have good flavor.

However it appears that they have a minor insect infestation. Fortunately, it's not weevils but small worms which spin webs in the seeds, forming clumps. This makes it easy to remove them - just sift out the clumps. I have refrigerated them (they are in glass jars) and will sift them to remove any larvae. Will keep them refrigerated from here on, to prevent or discourage further infestation.

The moral of the story is to refrigerate seeds that pose a significant risk of infestation. Also keep them in glass or plastic jars to prevent bugs from eating through bags and getting into other seeds. It is desirable to refrigerate any oily seeds - sesame, sunflower, nuts, to prevent rancidity. However, one has only so much refrigerator space, and many raw foods need refrigeration at some time or other before they are eaten.

B. Recovering from Weevil Infestation

Weevils can be persistent, and may be difficult to eradicate. I have experienced weevil infestations in the past, and was able to get rid of them without chemicals. I don't guarantee this will work for you, but you might want to try it.

When weevils (or any other serious infestation occurs, e.g., beetles) are found:

1) Check all unprotected foods for infestation. Unprotected foods are those in paper bags, plastic bags, or foods in containers that are not bug-proof. (If the infestation occurred in a bug-proof container, you should check other bug proof containers as well). Discard all infested foods: take them directly to the garbage can; do not let them sit in your kitchen! (The latter is to prevent weevils from migrating and infesting other foods.)

2) Store all remaining foods in bug-proof containers: glass or plastic jars. Alternately, refrigerate or freeze foods that are susceptible to infestation.

3) Check the foods again in a few weeks for signs of (new) infestation; discard any that are infested.

The above steps basically isolate the weevils from their food, or, if the grain is already infested, prevent the infestation from spreading further.

If you must resort to chemicals, there are sprays based on pyrethrins, a natural insecticide found in chrysanthemums and daisies. Other local control agents to consider: spreading diatomaceous earth (messy) in cabinets (note: not a good idea if you have respiratory problems: dust), and/or using neem leaves (dried) in storage cabinets to repel insects.


The following is a response to the question, "what kinds of foods can one grow indoors during the winter?".

Generally speaking, indoor gardening is limited by space and light (and sometimes temperature, if your place is not heated sufficiently). If you have the space and enough light you can readily grow the "staples" of living foods diets: sunflower greens, buckwheat greens, wheatgrass.

Ann Wigmore suggests growing the above greens, using hard plastic cafeteria trays with a little bit of soil in them - say 1/2 inch or 1.25 cm. Many of the local members of the San Francisco Living Foods Support Group (now SF-LiFE) report serious mold problems using this approach. An alternate method that may avoid or reduce the mold problem is to use the thin seed flat trays designed for seedlings - as used by plant nurseries and available from them or via mail order garden suppliers.

Besides the "staples", you can use the seed flat trays to grow a variety of other indoor greens: baby lettuce, baby mustard, baby bok choy, baby herbs (fennel, dill, etc.), turnip greens. Most fast growing plants can be easily grown in trays. All it takes is time, effort, and the right equipment.

If you have larger containers, such as medium to large pots, you can even grow things like peppers or tomatoes indoor. Getting enough light will probably be a major limiting factor for such sun-loving plants; you may need to use full spectrum grow lights for your indoor garden.


The following was originally posted to veg-raw, an e-mail list, back in 1995. It is a response to an inquiry regarding cold storage apples.

One poster asked for further information on cold storage apples. Like most other fruits, apples have a definite season and ripen generally in Fall in the Northern hemisphere. The fruit is picked, processed, and packed, then stored in cold storage until it is eventually shipped to market.

Processing for apples includes waxing (some produce waxes are animal based; most are synthetic or petroleum based) and fumigation. The apples are then kept under cold storage: carefully regulated temperature and humidity. The fruit may be held for months; in rare cases it may even be held in storage for nearly a year! If apples were sold only in season, they would be available for a few months of the year, then be unavailable (except for opposite season imports from Southern hemisphere producers) until next season. Instead, they are available year round, the result of cold storage practices.

Once shipped to market, cold storage apples have a short shelf life and may spoil rapidly if not refrigerated. The long term storage also removes most of their flavor and reduces the nutrient content. Some people refer to cold storage apples as apple-flavored cardboard, a negative but fairly accurate view.

The best apples are fresh apples: what is referred to as new crop (to distinguish them from the stale cold-storage apples) and current crop that was picked recently. Because much of the apple crop from Washington state is cold- storage, this writer avoids purchasing Washington apples, except for new crop. Instead I purchase California apples, and buy them only if they are in season. Even an organic apple, if it is out of season, has almost surely been held in cold storage.



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