Is The Raw Foods Diet Healthy?


Organic Baby Kale Salad

Raw is good. Many people in America and the West, though not everyone, need some quality raw foods in their diet, certainly more than they are eating right now.

Raw foods give us essential nutrients that can be hard to get from cooked foods, especially the poor quality foods, including meat and dairy, available for the typical kosher-food consumer. Many raw foods also are packed with enzymes that help the body perform any number of processes, including digestion.

But there are caveats to keep in mind when eating raw foods (and dangers, but we’ll get to those later):

The raw foods must be fresh and preferably organic (and preferably non GMO). Eating pesticide-laden bagged salads, old, tired veggies, and too much fruit is definitely not the way to go raw.

Raw foods should not make up more than 20-40 percent of your diet over the long-term, except in certain cases, for example, when detoxing from Standard Kosher Urban Meal plan or if other drastic measures are called for. However, even over the short term, if you are weak, have blood sugar issues, have a serious illness, are underweight, have IBS or other digestive issues, or live in a cold climate (or if it’s winter or late fall or early spring in a temperate climate) then adding small amounts of raw food to your diet is better than going all raw. You may not be able to tolerate raw foods at all.

A goodly portion of these raw foods should be fermented or cultured (pickled). Real, homemade saurkraut or kimchi or cucumber pickles. Cultured lemons, chutneys, and cultured grain drinks.

Raw sprouts or lightly cooked or dehydrated sprouts are also good to include.

The raw foods should not be all plant-based. Raw dairy from pastured cows, goats or sheep as well as their butter and yogurt or other cultured dairy products is good. So are raw eggs from pastured chickens. Needless to say, they must be raised on small, not factory farmed, and allowed to graze and peck (that is what pastured, means), and their diets supplemented with non-soy, non-corn organic foods. Raw meat from healthy, pastured beef cattle can provide essential nutrients to the malnourished.

Even if you are going on a predominantly raw and living foods eating plan for a period of time to address a certain health issue, you still must add specific fats to your diet. You need fats for various bodily functions, especially the functioning of the brain and the immune system. Some good fats include: Organic, extra virgin olive oil. Organic virgin coconut oil (not the refined stuff) and/or shmaltz (chicken fat from pastured chickens, if possible). Fish oil, preferably directly from fish like sardines or mackerel, not from capsules (but those will have to do in a pinch). Real butter from pastured cows, preferably cultured (good luck finding it or even getting the milk to make it). Chia seeds. Almonds. Avocadoes.

A Closer Look

Ann Wigmore, 1909-1994) discovered the benefits of living (and raw) foods and began teaching others the benefits of sprouting grains, beans, and seeds, and juicing wheat grass.

I’ve been eating sprouts and cultured foods for as long as I can remember (except for the period of time where I was macrobiotic) but didn’t get into raw foods until the mid-1990s where I encountered it in a big way in Hawaii. Since I’ve also studied Traditional Chinese Medicine, which eschews all things raw, especially sprouted foods because they “cool and weaken the organs,” and because I was raised on Adele Davis’s dietary advice, I was hesitant to go all the way with raw foods, but finally did.

I shortly discovered that I could eat completely raw 6 days a week in hot tropical-like weather, but after a couple of months of this, I had to go back to cooked foods much of the time. I’d feel spacey, irritable, and weak and it just didn’t make sense to defy my common-sense.

Many years ago when I became kosher, I kind of abandoned raw foods, even in the summer, except as a normal part of most meals, with the occasional all-raw meal in the summers. I also started to eat meat again. At the time I was also seeing a wonderful TCM doctor from China who really pushed me to stop with the “crazy raw food” as she pushed others to stop with the “poison Macrobiotics”.

“Eat nice bowl chicken and rice,” she’d tell me. “You won’t get fat.”

I also began to realize that no matter how healthy one ate, and indeed, eating healthy is a mitzvah, it’s a religious requirement that we protect our health, G-d ultimately determines our lifespan and healthfulness.

Today, raw foods advocates are finally coming around. Even the hard-core ones. The Internet is flooded with videos of raw food restaurant owners, teachers, and others who, after damaging their health, especially their digestion and mental health, are beginning to admit: Perhaps eating raw all the time isn’t the way to go.

A few years ago my husband, who still ate the Standard Kosher Urban Meal plan (a relative of airplane food) in addition to the nice, healthy foods I was preparing for him, finally relented after being told by his doctor he was going to prescribe several medications (which he had the good sense to refuse). He sheepishly came home and said: Okay. I’ll only eat what you give me.

We started with a serious raw food plan, right away. With him, it was drastic. But he needed the jump start to help him detox from a lifetime of eating processed foods high in chemicalized table salt and sugars. His liver, blood sugar, blood pressure and LDL cholesterol returned to that of a many thirty years younger within weeks. (He also lost tons of weight.)

Coming soon: Raw and living foods, the Standard Kosher Urban Meal plan, fermented and cultured foods, how to eat bread and other grain-based foods and survive, the meat/chicken/fish challenge, where to buy eggs, why you should pretty much never eat soy (unless it’s fermented), the relief you’ll feel when you cook and eat like a mentsch, why we need a kosher-foods revolution, Ann Wigmore, Adele David, Michio Kushi, and other foodie-gurus, and more.

*Invalids, those in a weakened state, those living in cold climates, and others should not necessarily eat raw foods. It depends.

Previous Raw Food Posts (Spring 2011 to present, posts about raw foods, including recipes)

Raw Food Overview

This post was sponsored by Shevi bas Chava. Thank you!

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