Just returned from my weekly trip to the local farmers market. A deep love and appreciation for vegetables is in no way unique to raw foodists, but as I grow more accustomed to eating them in their most unaltered state, I find that I'm appreciating them in a whole new way. Whereas once I dreamed of dousing them in spices and simmering them into curries, now I'm thoughtfully considering how I can pair them with fruits and sprouts to bring out the best tastes and textures.
More than a week into my raw food diet, I must admit that I'm beginning to enjoy it.
Though I haven't yet been able to identify any tangible health benefits resulting from the raw food lifestyle (it's only been just over a week), my body is certainly starting to adapt. I feel less hungry throughout the day and my digestive system seems healthier than it has been in the past. But the simplicity of it is what I've really enjoyed. Perhaps that simplicity is where the mental and spiritual clarity so often cited by raw foodists arises from.
In my last post,
I discussed many of the basic elements of the raw food lifestyle. To go slightly deeper into this discussion, rawists often claim a more holistic understanding of human health. Awareness of the body's alkalinity (pH level) and how different types of food affect that is an important part of rawism, as is greater attention to digestive health. Highly acidic diets — those with large proportions of meat, dairy, caffeine and sugars — are damaging to the kidneys, which process toxins and balance our blood's ability to absorb oxygen. Vegetables, fruits, sprouts and legumes are all alkalizing foods, which allow our bodies to retain minerals like calcium and absorb more oxygen, thus making it more resistant to disease.
Though definitive scientific studies on both sides of the raw food debate are lacking, several studies of raw foodists in Europe
found high levels of vitamins and nutrients that protect against chronic disease. On the other hand, a B12 deficiency — affecting nerve and red blood cell development — has been cited in several studies, as well.
Concerns that raw food or vegan diets don't contain enough protein have consistently been shown to be unfounded. The conventional wisdom that meat is necessary to receive enough protein and energy is not only inaccurate, but dangerous. The typical American diet actually contains far too much protein, an excess of which is impossible to process and ends up stripping the body of calcium as it's converted to waste. Many vegetables, nuts and grains are in fact more concentrated sources of protein than meat.
But what about the intrinsic enjoyment of cooking? Eating is, after all, more than just a matter of taste — it is a sensory experience relying on sight, smell and texture, as well. I definitely miss the aromas of sauteed vegetables and the chewy crunch of a toasted bagel. But you won't live forever eating French fries and potato chips!
What has been the most difficult, though, is being surrounded by all sorts of delicious cooked foods. Of course as soon as I begin this challenge, I get invited to all manner of potluck, birthday party and cookout events. Though these social situations have afforded an interesting opportunity to discuss the raw diet and our dietary choices more generally, I've several times succumbed to a piece of birthday cake or a cold locally-brewed beer. Eat, drink and be merry; 100 percent raw I definitely am not.