Monday 29 December 2008

Why Do We Go Grey?

June 10 - I originally wrote this article in Dec 08, but have since come across some interesting (recent) research and I feel that 'Why Do We Go Grey?' is a better title for it than the old one 'Grey Hair - A Diet Connection?'. Even in the old article I did suggest that there could be non-diet reasons for grey hair, and this research (see later) does suggest a few avenues for speculation! I've also made other minor updates.

PLEASE NOTE - I've done the rewrite quite quickly, and I'm AWARE the article isn't brilliantly structured. But I wanted to include the research on hydroxen peroxide build-up for you, and haven't had time to do a major rewrite (it's on the job list!).

I know many people would like to know if there's any way that the onset of grey (or gray even...) hair can be prevented or at least delayed, and self-interest certainly provided the motivation for research! At nearly 52, I only have a few grey hairs and they don't really show (yet). The pic of me on the blog is recent and I don't dye my hair. Can I put my lack of grey down to the raw food diet? Well, much as I'd like to, no, I can't (yet).

Firstly, if my diet did have anything to do with it, a 'sample size of one' isn't statistically significant. Secondly, I've only been raw for three and a half years. At 48 I wasn't grey either, and that was after a lifetime of cooked food. True, I hadn't eaten meat for 22 out of the 23 years preceding, but there are plenty of grey-haired vegetarians, and plenty of meat-eaters retaining their dark locks until quite late in life. And of course there's the genetic factor. Many believe that how early, and how much our hair turns grey is at least partly determined by our genes. My father didn't turn grey until his late 50s, so perhaps I have 'his hair'. (I heard of someone who took advantage of the fact that people in his family had always kept their dark hair well into old age by marketing a 'miracle cure' for greyness...).


According to Wikipedia (which is we all know is not necessarily to be relied on!), 'two genes appear to be responsible for the process of graying'. But, note the word 'appear'. That means they're not sure. After all, various behaviours can be passed down through the generations that affect our health, and these could have an effect on our hair (eg diet, the things we put on our hair, etc). Also, if there are genes that predispose to grey hair (it has been known for people to be born grey), why is that? Is it possible that something that happened in an individual's environment several generations back caused the gene to mutate?

The fur/hair/feathers of animals in the wild does not turn grey as they get older. The 'silver' on a 'silverback' ape is characteristic of males only, and at maturity rather than old age. Greyness is sometimes observed around the muzzles of domesticated dogs.

So could it be that it is unnatural behaviour on the part of the human being that turns our hair grey? What do we do differently from all other animals on the planet? Well...DIET is the big one! We follow a far from natural diet, and of course most people eat cooked food.

We also cut and shampoo our hair and many of us subject it to various 'treatments'. I can't see that cutting hair could make a difference, as if it did we'd expect men to grey earlier than long-haired women, and that doesn't appear to be the case (or is it?!). On the other hand, I've looked at pictures of the 'world's-longest-hair' people and they don't look grey...and the Nazarenes (Samson in the Bible), and the Sikhs, all instruct(ed)their followers not to cut their hair. The average adult probably cuts their hair every six weeks or so; to my knowledge, even sheep aren't shorn as frequently as this. Problem is that man is also the only human being where, if he doesn't cut his hair at all, he could trip over it! (Unless wrapped in a turban).

Not having known anyone who has never used shampoo in their entire life can't comment on that one, but I do wonder if a build-up of residue from the continued use of shampoo could have an effect.

It certainly seems plausible to me that if we constantly put chemicals on our hair (eg perm lotion, dye, bleach, gel) these chemicals could get into the hair follicles and have a cumulative and negative effect over time (many researchers over the years have found links between hair dyes and cancer, eg here.) People have gone grey since recorded history, but, there again, people have rubbed various concoctions into their hair for hundreds, if not thousands or more years. It could be that the sooner we start putting chemicals on our hair, and the more we do it, the sooner the greys appear. (And, what do we then? The response of many to this is to pile on more chemicals! )

And here's a link to that research I mentioned at the beginning of the article. In brief, it's saying that going grey is caused by a massive build up of hydrogen peroxide due to wear and tear of our hair follicles. (My italics.)

Natural Hygiene will ask what the cause of the 'wear and tear' might be. I'd offer the hypothesis that general 'wear and tear' might be caused by the things we do to our hair that wild animals generall don't. As well as cutting, shampooing, applying various chemicals (dyes,gels) as listed above, we generally fiddle about with our hair. We brush, we comb. We dry with heat. Surely our hair follicles will be subjected to a huge amount of stress compared with that of animals. Why do most people go grey at the temples first and at the back of the head last? My guess is that it's the hair follicles there that will see the most action. (Any 'hundred brushes a day' 70 year-olds with dark heads going to blow my theory?)


We do know what happens when hair turns grey. Hair changes colour when melanin ceases to be produced in the hair root and new hairs grow in without pigment. The reason melanin ceases to be produced is that the stem cells at the base of the hair follicles have died.

But that doesn't tell us why we go grey. To know why we go grey we'd need to know what caused the stem cells at the base of the hair follicles to die. We can't just say 'old age' as white hairs have been known to appear in childhood, and for many people these stem cells start to die in their twenties, which isn't 'old age' at all.

So why do these cells die? Tonya Zavasta, a raw food writer with a special interest in raw food and physical beauty, believes that: 'They die for the same reasons other cells do. Poor assimilation (of nutrients), hormonal imbalances, and toxic waste build-up in the system are contributing factors.' Makes sense to me. As does my own theory offered earlier, re 'wear and tear' of hair follicles.


Can stress result in greying hair? Stress can envervate the body, making it less able to eliminate toxins, so stress could well be a factor. It also depletes the body of vitamins (see later).

'It's in our genes?'

My hunch is that putting it all down to genetics is a cop-out. Grey hair may be normal; it may have been normal since the start of recorded history, but...we humans get up to so many things, don't we, that affect our health (and subsequently our physical appearances)? I believe the natural world around us can provide examples, give us clues, and I can't see anything in the other creatures that we share the earth with that persuades me that going grey is natural, or...healthy.



Too much of the bad stuff

More than one source claims that excessive intake of tea, coffee, nicotine, alcohol, meat, fried food and spicy food can lead to premature greying. Why? Because these sorts of diets result in nutritional deficiencies and can also, it is claimed, prevent moisture from reaching the follicles.

(Darrick Antell, MD, a plastic surgeon, studied pairs of twins who were genetically identical but had followed very different lifestyles in terms of diet, stress levels etc. He noted that, amongst many differences in their appearances, 'Twins who smoked also had more grey hair.')

Tonya Zavaste believes that 'greying hair is caused by the consumption of saturated fat and protein, as well as salt.'

These arguments will make sense to most people with any interest in health. We know that over-indulgence in the diet/lifestyle 'baddies' generally shows in people's looks as they get older, so it doesn't seem unlikely that grey hair could be a manifestation of this.

Lack of minerals in general


I've heard it claimed on raw food forums from time to time that high-fruit diets will result in premature greying because sugars 'leach minerals from the blood'. Well, there is evidence to suggest that mineral deficiencies may result in premature greying, BUT fruit will not be a problem! This is why: the body will only need to 'leach minerals' from its reserves if there are minerals lacking in the food ingested, ie if something is eaten that has been stripped of the vitamins and minerals that were with it in its natural state then the body will need to draw on its own reserves to metabolise it.

The simple sugars in whole fruits are delivered to us in a marvellous package full of the vitamins and minerals necessary for their metabolism. So the body will not need to draw on its reserves.

Processed sugars on the other hand (eg white sugar, demerara, maple syrup etc) have been removed from the plants of which they were a part of. They're fractionated, ie incomplete foods and, yes, they may well deplete the body of precious minerals.

(I have been on a high-fruit diet for six months now and I believe my hair has changed colour. It seems a little darker, although I'm willing to admit two poor summers could have something to do with it. My diet also includes raw sprouted grains and/or pulses and green leaves most days.)

Lack of copper, specifically

A drop in melanin production may be caused by a lack of the mineral copper. And grey hair has been linked to iron deficiency. (But, before reaching for supplements (don't!), note that the Cancer Prevention Trust says low iron has been linked with protection from cancer, and it could in fact be that it's lack of copper that's the real culprit in cases of 'iron deficiency', as copper is necessary for the body to absorb and metabolise iron.

Best vegan sources of copper are: pulses and grains (both raw and sprouted), nuts and seeds, leafy vegetables. Sea vegetables are also good sources of minerals generally. And Victoria Boutenko in 'Green for Life' supplies figures to show that organic produce tends to be far higher in minerals than non-organic.

Lack of PABA (a component of Vitamin B9)

PABA is 'para-aminobenzoic acid'. It's a component of folic acid (also known as Vitamin B9). Several sources say that this can prevent premature greying. Studies have shown that animals develop grey hair in the absence of this vitamin (ie where their diets have been manipulated by scientists), whereas colour is restored as soon as the animal is reintroduced to PABA!

Also, in times of stress, the body draws heavily on B vitamins, which can result in a deficiency.
Vegan foods rich in Vitamin B9 are: pulses and grains (raw and sprouted), nuts and seeds, leafy vegetables. Well, what a coincidence...(see copper sources above). And, as the B vitamins tend to work together in a group, go for foods rich in B-vitamins generally.


Wouldn't that be wonderful? Logically, for it to be able to do that, the dead cells that can't produce melanin anymore would have to be replaced with living cells that can. Can dead cells be replaced with living cells? I think in other parts of our bodies they can! So why not on our heads? The animal studies just referred to suggest this could happen. And some do claim that the raw food diet can reverse greying.

Health educator Ann Wigmore, who pioneered the taking of wheatgrass juice, started taking it at age 52 when she had grey hair. It is claimed that 25 years later her whole hair had turned its natural brown again. The implication is that the wheatgrass did it, but of course, if it is true that her hair did regain its original colour, it could have been her diet in general rather than one part of it. Here's a pic of Ann in her later years with what appears to be at least a mainly brown mop. (Those raw fooders who are not keen on the taste of wheatgrass may prefer to stick with their grey hair...)

I heard raw food coach Karen Knowler say that someone she knows swears his grey hair turned back to its original colour after drinking 'green smoothies' (green leaves blended, generally with fruit) daily. Victoria Boutenko says there are numerous accounts of people's natural hair colour returning as a result of consuming blended greens on a regular basis. She says that regular consumption of 'green smoothies' increases hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which increases the ability to digest food; the natural level of hydrochloric acid decreases as we age, resulting in nutritional deficiencies, and Victoria links this with the greying of hair.


Whether or not we believe that a grey head can revert back to its original colour, is there anything we can do that might keep the grey at bay?

Well, the first suggestion is my own, and the others are backed up by many health writers:

Don't put chemicals on the hair, as surely these could get into the hair follicles and damage cells. I'd also suggest that we avoid any treatment that dries the hair, as the follicles need moisture. (And in fact my father, and his father, both of whom went grey relatively late in life, used to use a lot of Brylcreem! My own hair has always tended to be 'oily' rather than 'dry'.)

Stop 'fiddling' with your hair in general (as explained at the start of the article). Stop brushing it, combing it, styling it, gelling it, heat-drying it, straightening it, using lotions, sprays, shampoos, stop pulling it into tight ponytails, stop pulling it on rollers for perms, stop dying it. Stop doing things that animals in the wild, who don't go grey,don't do to their hair/fur. OK - I know that's a bit of a tall about doing them less?

Don't smoke. Don't eat refined sugars. Smoking has been linked with grey hair and refined sugars will strip the body of minerals.

The less alcohol, caffeine, meat, salt and processed food generally, the younger the appearance.

Ensure the diet is rich in a) minerals and b) B vitamins. And, conveniently, the same foods tend to be great sources of both: pulses and grains (raw and sprouted), nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables (and sea veg get a special mention for minerals). And buy organic. Fruit also contains B vitamins and minerals, so don't forget the fruit :-)

Sunday 21 December 2008

'Where do you get your...protein?'

'Where do you get your protein?' must be the question most commonly asked of those on a raw vegan/vegetarian diet (closely followed by 'Where do you get your calcium?' and 'Isn't it boring?').

I know many of you will know the answers to this one, but, for those new to raw, and equally, for those of you who have been raw for so long that you have little interest now in discussing where you get your protein because it's obvious you're getting it from somewhere but still find yourself having to field these questions occasionally, here's a reasonably potted explanation that might help with your Christmas visiting this year. The article finishes with some shorter answers for those of you who don't want to read the whole of the article and/or just want something that will (hopefully) deflect further enquiry and allow you to talk about something other than food when socialising!

Please note the discussion here is somewhat simplified, firstly because I'm not a boff, and secondly because it could be counter-productive to attempt to dazzle your friends with the names of the 22 amino-acids or the complexities of the chemistry. I know I tend to switch off when I see words like 'leucine, methionine and phenylalanine' - your friends probably will to. And, remember, they will be low on energy over the Christmas period from colds, coughs and the general taxing of their bodies from excesses of alcohol, high-fat foods, refined sugar, digestively incompatible foods etc, so...go easy on them.

Background info first:

What is protein?

Our bodies make it to

  • build
  • repair

(Protein will only be used for energy if carbohydrate intake is insufficient. So, as long as sufficient carbohydrates are consumed in the form of fruit, pulses, grains etc, protein is not needed for energy.)

What do we make protein from? From amino-acids, which are present within proteins in the foods we consume. But these cannot be absorbed directly because they're joined together in chains called 'peptide linkages'. A single protein will contain hundreds of such linkages. Our bodies use digestive enzymes to break down the proteins into peptides and amino-acids, and then rebuild them into proteins we can use.

Chains of plant proteins are shorter than those of animal proteins and some claim this means the body will use less energy in breaking them down. Also, certain plant foods, such as fruit, have a proportion of amino acids in 'free' form (these increase during ripening). And plant proteins are easier on the digestion than animal proteins - for example, the body needs to make less acid, and certainly raw plant proteins are a lot easier to break down into their aminos than cooked animal proteins (more on this later).

There are 22 amino acids (or, rather, 22 that scientists have discovered to date). 14 of these the body can (normally) make itself. Eight of them (or nine, or ten, depending on your source) we must ingest through our food, and these eight we call the 'essential amino-acids.' (Although, for a critique of the study that led to these conclusions, see here.)

In which foods can we find the amino-acids that our bodies use to make protein?

All foods contain amino-acids from which our bodies can make protein.

And we can obtain our amino-acids from the same places that strong animals such as the horse, elephant, ox and gorilla get them - from plant foods.

Which plant foods contain all eight 'essential' amino-acids'?

Lots! Examples: dates, bananas, carrots, greens, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes (to name but a few). And certain plant foods are particularly high in proteins that contain the eight essential amino-acids; these are known as 'concentrated protein' foods. Examples: nuts, seeds, pulses, grains.

However, we really don't need to worry whether a food contains the full set of eight, because of the way our bodies deal with the amino-acids.

When we eat a food, our bodies break down the protein it contains into its constituent amino-acids, however many there are. Amino-acids not needed immediately go into our amino-acid 'pool'. The body dips into this as required, the pool being fed both by the food we eat and also protein that the body has recycled (we recycle 75% of protein).

Harvey Diamond ('Fit for Life'): 'From the digestion of foods in the diet and from the recycling of proteinaceous waste, the body has all the different amino-acids circulating in the blood and lymph systems. When the body needs amino acids, they are appropriated from the blood or lymph. This continuous circulating available supply of amino acids is known as the amino acid pool. The amino acid pool is like a bank that is open 24 hours. The liver and cells are continually making deposits and withdrawals of amino-acids, depending upon the concentration of amino-acids in the blood.'

As long as we eat a variety of foods over time, we'll be fine. This is because foods vary in the amino-acids they contain, and the amount of them. And this happens even within one food group. Victoria Boutenko ('Green for Life'): 'I have looked at the nutritional content of dozens of green vegetables and was pleased to see that the aminos that were low in one plant were high in another. In other words, if we maintain a variety of greens in our diet we will get all the essential amino acids.'

And do we need to fuss about having 'a variety of foods' in a meal, within a day, or even in a week? No. If we eat different foods over a season, or even over a year, we should receive the amino-acids our bodies need.

BUT the full complement of those amino-acids will only be available to our bodies if the food is consumed RAW.

Cooking, even for just a few minutes at a relatively low temperature, damages amino-acids. They are 'denatured', and they 'fuse together', meaning that our bodies can't break them apart to make protein for our own needs.

Is meat the 'best' source of protein?

Certain cuts of meat may contain a set of essential amino-acids, in proportions closer to the proteins our bodies make than any single plant food, and that of course is because those mammals have constructed proteins for themselves from the plant foods they have eaten. BUT, our bodies will deconstruct that protein into its constituent amino-acids, so whether they were in a set in the first place is immaterial - the separate amino-acids will simply go into the pool as would those from plant foods. And, of course, as the meat will have been cooked, the body will have problems deconstructing the proteins and will therefore not be able to assimilate all the amino-acids anyway.

I'm not going to dwell on meat here, as not many of you will need me to list the hundreds of reasons why we shouldn't be eating meat, but suffice to say that raw plant sources are a far healthier and easier way for our bodies to obtain, and, most importantly, assimilate, amino-acids for making proteins.

How much protein do we need?

No one knows how much protein you, as an individual, need to consume at this precise point in your life. What scientists have come up with over the years is figures based on what they believe the average person needs.

And what's interesting is that the recommended daily protein figure has been revised downwards several times since it was first set.

'Learning materials' on protein were first distributed in the 1930s and were provided by...the meat, dairy and egg industries. Our grandparents were indoctrinated in the idea that we must eat animal products to obtain sufficient protein and at one stage the US Govt RDA was 118 grams!

In the 80s the RDA fell to 46-56g and many now feel 20-30g a day is adequate (or about 1 gram per five pounds of body weight). (In fact, even in the 60s some were recommending 20-30g, eg Hegsted DM Minimum Protein requirements of adults American Journal Clinical Nutrition May 68). In the UK, the figure is still around 50g and is much higher than the World Health Organisation recommendation of 30g.

So - what the 'experts' said 80 years ago regarding protein wasn't actually correct. Small comfort for those brought up to eat T-bone steaks for 'strength' suffering from bowel cancer now. Or for those with clogged arteries due to high intake of meat fat, dairy and eggs. In fact, more illnesses are due to an excess of (animal) protein in the form of meat and dairy than to any 'shortfall'.
So, from 118g a day, we're now down to...20-30g? And bear in mind these recommendations are for the average person.

Do athletes need high amounts of protein?

For strength? Not according to the Journal of American Medical Association's Dept of Foods and Nutrition (1978): 'The ingestion of protein supplements by athletes who eat an otherwise well-balanced diet is of no use in body-building programs. Athletes need the same amount of protein foods as non-athletes. Protein does not increase strength. Indeed, it often takes greater energy to digest and metabolise the excess of protein. In addition, excess protein in the athlete can induce dehydration, loss of appetite and diarrhoea.'

For energy? Not according to Harvey Diamond ('Fit for Life'): 'If more physical activity is anticipated, it is necessary only to increase your carbohydrate intake to ensure more fuel. Proteins are disastrous in fuel efficiency and do not aid directly or efficiently in muscular activity. Protein does not produce energy, it uses it! A lion, which eats exclusively flesh, sleeps 20 hours a day. An orangutan, which eats exclusively plants, sleeps six.'

(There are plenty of athletes who are living testimonies to the raw plant food diet. For example, visit to see photo's of the bodybuilder Storm, who has not eaten animal products of any kind in over 30 years and only consumes raw plant foods. Or visit the website of Dr Doug Graham (, who coaches athletes, and advocates a 100% raw diet comprising mostly fruit and leaves.)

And, for anyone reading (or anyone you know) who nevertheless still has a fear that they might become puny and weak on a raw plant foods diet, check out these videos:

Kung Fu Training here. (Raw vegetarian - mostly plant food).

Body Building here. (Chris Califano - Raw vegan)

Feats of Physical Fitness here. 'Richard Blackman - Raw vegan, fruit only).

Do raw fooders need as much protein as the average person?

Even if around 30g a day (or less) is now the fashionable figure for daily requirement, do those on a diet of raw plant foods need even that much?

Remember, protein is for building and repair. That 'average' person will be consuming all sorts of harmful things (eg alcohol, caffeine, other drugs), not to mention foods where amino-acids will be damaged by cooking, vitamins damaged/destroyed, toxins created etc. Someone who is poisoning their body daily will certainly need to make lots of protein for 'repair'.
Raw fooders are not average, generally ingesting far fewer harmful substances than the average (if any), which would logically mean less repair needed, thus less need for protein.

Also, a gram of protein from raw food will be more easily assimilated by the body than a gram of denatured protein from cooked food so, again, the actual requirement for a raw fooder should be less than that for a cooked-food eater.

And many raw foodists claim that raw food, with its enzymes intact, reduces demands on the body's own digestive enzymes, thus reducing the need for protein.

So, that 30g a day requirement should, logically, be significantly reduced for a healthy raw fooder, and if some nutritionists are saying '20-30g' a day then surely the raw fooder's needs must be at the lower end of that scale.

And when we consider that just one piece of fruit contains 1-2g of protein, just three walnuts contains 4g, a cup of greens 3-4g, just one quarter-cup of sunflower seeds 6g, let alone a cup of nuts at 15g, or a cup of (sprouted) pulses at 30g+, we can see that a day's food can easily supply protein requirements and that there is no need to concern ourselves with whether we're 'getting enough'.

Have raw fooders, or even cooked-food vegans, been found to be protein-deficient?

Have you ever heard of anyone in the well-fed Western world suffering from 'protein deficiency'? I haven't. And Harvey Diamond ('Fit for Life') hadn't in 15 years of practice either. Vegetarians, and vegans have not in general been found to be 'protein-deficient'.

As John Robbins asks in 'Diet for a New America', 'Could it be that the whole issue of 'getting enough protein' is actually just a figment of our collective imagination, with nothing behind it except for the propaganda of the meat, dairy and egg industries?'


Some raw fooders are told by their doctors that they are 'low' on protein. It's worth finding out exactly what the tests are measuring and then discussing them with other raw fooders and raw-vegan-friendly nutritionists.

For example, some tests measure albumin (a protein) in the urine. Now, those who consume a lot of protein (which is far too much protein) will have lots of albumin in their urine, as the body will desperately be trying to eliminate it. So we might expect someone who is having just the right amount of protein for their body's needs to have a much lower reading than the average for albumin. Similarly, urea is waste produced when the body metabolises protein. And, sure, raw vegans could be expected to have a lower reading than the average for this.

Natural Hygienist Nora Lenz: 'Wouldn't you expect people who eat according to doctors' recommendations [conventional cooked omnivorous diet] to have lots of indigestible substances, including perhaps the proteins your doctor says you're 'deficient' in, floating around in their blood? Do you really think the absence of these in your bloodstream is cause for alarm? If you do, then you'll have to eat steak for dinner tonight. If not, you'll have to face the fact that your doctor is incorrect in her assessments.'


'Where do you get your protein?' - A selection of short answers

So, with your salad, Alissa Cohen calzone, or pile of persimmons in front of you whilst the rest of the table tuck into the Christmas Dinner corpse, what do you say when asked that question? If you don't want to discuss the subject at length, you could try one of these replies:

'All the food I eat contains amino-acids which my body uses to make protein. Luckily, the amino-acids in my raw food haven't been damaged by heat, so my body can make use of them.'

'I eat plenty of foods that contain the eight essential amino-acids, such as tomatoes, bananas and green leaves. I also eat foods that contain particularly high concentrations of them, such as nuts, seeds and pulses. So I don't go short on protein!'

'I get my protein from the same places that the ox, the gorilla, the horse and the elephant get them from - plant foods.'

'Protein is for growth and repair. Although I do get plenty of protein, the great news is that, as a raw fooder living a healthy lifestyle, my body needs to repair less, so I need less protein than the average person.'

'Scientists now say we need a fraction of the protein that they were telling our grandparents they needed. When so much illness nowadays is caused by an excess of protein (namely animal protein) I'm happy to keep mine to to a safe level, and have it from plant foods.'

If all else fails, ask them if you look as if you're suffering from protein deficiency (and I'll leave you to cope with the answers to that one...).

Thursday 11 December 2008

One Thing You Didn't Know About Fruit

20+ things here actually. But hopefully there'll be one thing you didn't know before. If not, guess you're a bit of a smartypants!

I'm eating just as much fruit as I did in the summer, if not more. Current passions are persimmons and cherimoya, and, to think, if I hadn't become a raw fooder I'd know nothing of the delights of these (and people ask if the raw food diet's boring...!)


Voted raw fooders' favourite fruit in international poll

If using in a recipe, soak in lemon juice first and they won't brown.

According to David Wolfe, northern Europeans tend to like green apples and southern Europeans tend to like red apples.

Apple pips contain cyanide, but in such small amounts we'd be unlikely to experience any ill-effects. In fact, recent research suggests that the cyanide and Vitamin B17 present in pips can fight cancerous cells when coming into contact with them.


Why are bought 'fresh' apricots (usually) tasteless? Because they're picked too soon. Even when ripened at home they won't taste very 'apricotty'. Organic, sulphurless (dark brown), sun-dried apricots, soaked, are closer to 'the real thing'.


To ripen a hard avocado, place in a paper bag (or envelope) with an apple. The ethane gas that ripens the apple will result in a ready-to-eat avocado within 2-3 days.


Bananas should only be eaten ripe, after starches have turned to sugars (easier for the body to digest). I generally find a banana has a good flavour when it's a strong yellow with just a few brown speckles on it. As a banana changes from yellow to spotty, starch reduces from 25% to 5%. Some raw fooders like them very spotty, but I have generally found that bananas from UK supermarkets left to go very spotty do not taste good (and felt quite unwell after eating some once).

Bananas can be stored at room temperature for a few days and in the refrigerator for several weeks (the refrigeration may darken the skins, but they should be fine inside).


When are they ripe? When they 'give', a little, at at least one end and a sweet aroma emanates from the outside. Stores will often mark them 'ripe' before this stage, but if they don't 'give' at all, they will probably not be ripe. They may taste pleasant, but will be so much softer and sweeter when ripe. If they give just a tiny bit, in my experience sometimes they will be good and sometimes not.

Cantaloupe and honeydew (and probably Charentaise, but the USDA Nutrient Database doesn't list them) melons are one of the few fruits high in sodium.

Cantaloupes are known as rockmelons in Australia.

For more on cantaloupe-type melons, see my article 'Mellifluous Melons' here.


'Custard apple' is the generic term for this sort of fruit. Cherimoya is a variation/hybrid of the custard apple.

I haven't seen the 'bumpy skin' custard apples (as in the pic) in the UK, but supermarkets (eg Tesco and some branches of Waitrose) and ethnic markets often sell cherimoyas in the Autumn (which look a little like the ones in the pic but smoother on the outside).

They tend to be sold hard, to ripen at home, and are ready to eat when they give a little on pressure (and are so delicious - if you haven't tried one, please do!)

To eat, halve, removing the stalk that extends into the fruit. Scoop out flesh-and-pips using spoon, discarding pips. Sounds fiddly, but it IS worth the trouble.

(The 'bumpy skin' custard apples - I last had them in Thailand - have firmer flesh, so can be broken apart with hands, and there's a brown 'pith' that tastes a little like cooked crumble!)


When soaking, rather than immersing in water, rest in just a little water and cover for a few hours. This will preserve sweetness, flavour and nutrients.


Legend has it that if a tiger is faced with the choice of eating a man or a durian, he'll go for the durian (but I wouldn't put this to the test).

Test of ripeness: the durian should have a definite aroma - wonderful, awful... - reactions vary! If there's no aroma, it's very underripe. If the aroma is very strong, it may be overripe (the flesh inside may be slightly fermented).

Pick up the durian (carefully...) and shake. If there is no movement at all inside, it's underripe. I've eaten durians where there hasn't been movement, and they've been...OK, quite good, but not the amazing experience they can be when the flesh is very soft and very sweet. If there's a little movement, it's just right.

Durian is a climacteric fruit, that is, it ripens off the tree. If you're not sure whether the durian is quite ripe, might be worth leaving it a few days in the sun. If it gets to the points where it starts to split open a little of its own accord, it's definitely ripe. But, be careful. If the distinctive smell becomes a strong stench, then it could be over-ripe and the flesh may be a little brown and fermented.


Voted raw fooders' least favourite fruit in international poll Aaah....


Unlike canteloupe and charentaise, honeydew melons can be hard on the outside when ripe (although there are different types - some soften). Shake the melon. If you can hear a faint knock/rattle that means the seeds are loose and it's (probably...) ripe.

For more on honeydew melons, see my aricle 'Mellifluous Mellons', here.


Vary tremendously, in size and juiciness! Be careful with recipes that say 'juice of half a lemon' rather than giving the quantity in tablespoonsfuls. A small not-very-juicy lemon may yield 1-2 tablespoonfuls. But a large, juicy one can give six!


Ripe limes are yellow, not green, so buy the palest ones you can find, as they'll be the juiciest.

Limes need to be refrigerated, as kept at room temperature the outsides will go rock-hard after a day or two, due to the low oil content of the peel as compared with that of other citrus fruits.

MANGO sell a device for cutting mangos,'s actually rather good! It neatly bypasses the stone, cutting two 'cheeks' and a central section.

For mango cubes, make a 'mango porcupine'. Take a cheek and score through, criss-crossing. Then turn the cheek inside out and, voila...cubes!


Most of the calcium is in the white pith.


David Wolfe believes fiery papaya seeds are good to eat as they 'burn out parasites'. Natural Hygiene on the other hand tells us that the taste indicates 'not fit for human consumption' and that the seeds are in fact toxic. So take your pick.

Ripe papayas can be various colours, but the small ones generally sold in the UK are yellowy-orange when ripe. They may still be ripe with some green on but, if there's a lot of green, best to leave them a few days, by the window, until they soften and change colour. Most will ripen; be patient. I have had large papayas that have been ripe when green.

Some people dislike papayas, and, if you're one of them, please give them another chance. Strangely, the ripe papayas I had once in Thailand did not taste good at all - slightly unpleasant even. But all the ripe papayas I've had in the UK, of whatever size, have been delicious. There is a 'distinctive' smell that some find unpleasant. I've been informed by a grower of various type of papaya that this is nothing to do with freshness, as some claim, but simply to do with the type of papaya - some have the smell, some don't.


The persimmon family includes various fruit, including the 'chocolate sapodilla' that I have heard wonderful tales of but have never had the pleasure of trying.

Varieties available in the UK include: kaki (large persimmons), 'large persimmons' (that aren't kaki), and sharon fruit.

Some people think persimmons taste bitter. There is apparently one variety that doesn't taste good, but I've met more than one person who claimed not to like persimmons but was then converted on trying a ripe (sweet) one. They're often sold hard in the shops, but should soften and be ready to eat after a few days.

If your persimmons are stubbornly refusing to soften, try this: apply gentle pressure to the persimmon with the pad of your thumb until you feel it soften underneath. Work all round the persimmon, 'massaging' it until it feels like an over-ripe tomato. It's then ready to eat! (I discovered this by accident after waiting, it seemed, forever, for a batch of sharon fruit to ripen). My 'method' has worked very well to date with organic kaki and non-organic sharon fruit. It didn't work with some non-organic 'large persimmon' from Tesco. If the persimmon doesn't 'give' easily with massage, then leave it a few more days.


Pineapples are not (usually) ripe unless there is at least some gold/brown colouring, the base is fragrant, AND the centre leaves pull out easily. I found this out after purchasing a pineapple from Waitrose labelled 'perfectly ripe' and experiencing a burning sensation on the tongue. So, don't trust what the label says. Always apply the 'leaf' test. If in doubt, don't buy, and don't assume that it will ripen if left for a few days, as pineapples are 'non climacteric', meaning that they don't ripen once picked.

Pineapples were so named because the sailors who 'discovered' them thought they looked like pine cones.


The best watermelons have red (sometimes yellow) flesh, and black seeds. Avoid pale pink anemic-looking ones with few/no seeds - they're generally lacking in flavour. When is a watermelon ripe? When it can be tapped and gives a 'hollow' sound (although not easy to know what 'hollow' is when all the watermelons on the shelf sound the same.... )Also look for a large yellow patch which is said to show that the melon's been resting on the earth for a long time....

And you'll know it's ripe if it virtually falls apart on the first cut of the knife. If you have to cut right through to separate the halves, it's not ripe. It might taste 'OK', but nowhere near as amazing as it could taste.

For more on watermelons (and more tests of ripeness) see my article 'Mellifluous Melons', here.


Are you a fruit-lover? Fancy coming to an all-you-can-eat durian party, where you can listen to Dr Doug Graham and Prof Rozi Graham speak, and meet lots of other raw fooders (even me)?

Check out the 80/10/10 Winter Solstice Party Sat Dec 20th, Sussex, UK at

Saturday 29 November 2008

Yes, you can stay raw this winter!

I'm now in my fourth winter of raw in the UK. Whilst it's not the Arctic, it can be pretty cold here for many months of the year. Last year the snow started in October, and it's getting dark at 3 pm.

Many people are fine on raw in the summer, then waver as winter approaches. This article is for you. It's also for those who have had no problems staying raw in the winter but would like a little material on file that could help other raw newbies.

It's easy to think that we 'need' hot food when it's cold. But this isn't true. We simply associate cold weather with hot food, with feelings of comfort. It's mainly nostalgia, but it can certainly hook people back into eating cooked food. There may be a psychological yearning for cooked food, but there's no scientific argument that I've found that says eating hot (or cold) cooked food will have any positive effect on our bodies in the winter. People who still want to eat cooked food will try to tell you it's 'what your body needs'. It's not true. Your body doesn't need damaged food in the winter any more than it needs it in the summer.

I'll tackle this by addressing some of the things I've heard those new to raw say when winter draws in...


Have you noticed no animal in the world needs hot food in cold weather? We don't either.

When we are cold, our bodies need to work extra hard to keep ourselves warm. That takes energy. If we then eat hot, cooked food, not only do our bodies have to exert more energy than usual to cope with cooked food, but they need to work extra hard to cool the internal environment when that hot food goes down our gullets. That means they have less energy available for keeping us warm.

We may well feel a bit warmer shortly after eating cooked food, but Victoria Boutenko explains how exactly that cooked food 'warms' our body, and how the process works to our detriment rather than to our benefit:

'When any impure substances get into our blood through the walls of the intestines, they irritate our adrenals - the endocrine glands located above the kidneys. The adrenals immediately begin to produce ...a variety of hormones. These hormones stimulate our sympathetic nervous system, which is why we feel awake at first. They also force our heart to beat faster and to pump larger amounts of blood through our body, which makes us feel warm. This feeling doesn't last long and we pay a high price for it. After 10-15 minutes our body gets exhausted from performing extra work, the heart requires rest, the nervous system becomes inhibited, and we feel tired, sleepier and even colder than before. However, we remember only the feeling of getting warmer after eating cooked food and repeat such stimulation again and again. This harmful practice wears the body out and by the end of the winter many people feel exhausted and depleted.'


It's not in your imagination. You are very likely feeling colder than the average person now you're raw.

Firstly, remember that women feel the cold more than men, and slim people feel the cold more than fat people. Hence, if you are a woman who has lost weight on raw, you'll not only feel colder than the average, but you'll feel colder than you used to on a cooked diet.

But also, many people, whatever sex, whether they've lost weight or not, do feel colder after switching to raw. In my first summer - admittedly not a great summer weather-wise here in the UK - I was always feeling cold, particularly in my feet and fingertips. Second summer I didn't feel as cold, even though the average temperature was no higher than the year before. Now, I'd say I still feel the cold a little more than the average person,'s definitely getting easier, and my own experience in this respect is echoed by those who have been raw for longer.

Why might we feel cold in the short-term?

David Wolfe, Sunfood Diet Success System: 'The feeling of typically caused by a thickening of the blood during detoxification episodes; this decreases circulation. It is also caused by an increased blood flow to the internal organs - which are finally given a chance to heal - and a corresponding decreased blood flow to the extremities. Life change comes from the inside out. This is also true with the internal structure of the body. The most vital, central organs heal and transform first (the blood focuses there first). The musculature and the outer perimeter of the body are the last to heal.'

This is echoed by Susan Schenk in 'The Live Food Factor': 'This feeling of chill is believed to be part of the healing process, as the body is directing the blood, warmth, oxygen and nutrients inward to heal the most vital organs and tissues first, cleansing and rebuilding the body from the inside out.

Natural Hygienist Robert Rust: 'When a person who was formerly eating haphazardly of cooked and processed foods begins to eat healthfully by eating correct raw foods, they enter into a transition stage in which their body undergoes 'house cleaning' and healing from the damages incurred by the former diet.

One of the symptoms that may be experienced is a cold feeling, due to the lowered blood and lymph circulation that occurs when the body is not excessively stimulated by cooked food...
Even a person who is in a warm, tropical climate will experience cold feelings when transitioning to a raw food diet.'

So, feeling cold on raw isn't evidence that the raw diet 'isn't working'. It's a normal part of the early stages of switching to raw. Celebrate those cold feet and fingers!

The long-term?

Some feel that, in the long term, you'll feel less bothered by the cold than you did before raw.

David Wolfe: 'After you persist through the transition and detoxification - through the feeling of coldness - you will discover that your resistance to both cold and hot weather will increase by eating raw foods.'

Jan Dries ('Dries Cancer Diet' (high raw)): 'In the beginning, switching over to the diet can lead to chills, but only until the thermoregulation has adjusted itself.'

Victoria Boutenko 'During your first raw winter you may experience some cold due to the weakened adrenals, so put on an extra sweater, take a hot bath or do some push-ups. If you will continue staying raw, your adrenals will rest and recover, your capillary circulation will improve, your nervous system and your heart will naturally strengthen without any artificial stimulation.

She continues: 'My family is now going through our eleventh raw winter. We do not feel any discomfort from cold. We jump in icy-cold mountain rivers year round for enjoyment. In fact that is how we celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve. We always sleep outside under the rain or snow. Sergei, my son, goes snowboarding sometimes wearing only shorts. My daughter Valya rarely wears socks. Igor, my husband, loves to take snow baths. We strongly believe that staying on a raw food diet has helped us to feel comfortable in any weather and not to feel the cold.'

Susan Schenk: 'It [feeling of chill] disappears in time, the length of time depending on the individual's health going into raw.'

Robert Rust: 'As the body heals and purifies itself, which may take a few months or years depending on the habits of the person, healthier circulation returns and the person will handle the colder climate, if they are in one, better than they did previously on the cooked diet.'

Dr Gabriel Cousens writes that he felt colder on raw food until the second or third year, after which he would feel comfortably warm in cold weather and could even go out barefoot in frost. He also met some raw fooders in Alaska who reported feeling warmer in winter after being on the raw diet for some time.

So...hang on in there.

(EDIT JULY 09 - now three winters raw...)

Yes, I definitely felt the cold less in the third winter raw than in the first, and, this summer as well I haven't felt 'cold' in the way I did in the first summer. However, I still feel the cold a little more than the average person, and have a feeling this will be long-term. First reason - I am female, and am far slimmer than pre-raw. Second reason - new information for you! Studies of the healthiest raw fooders - athletes - show an average body temperature of 93 F only! A recent study of a group of 300 raw fooders showed an average body temperature of 96 F, at least two degrees lower than the 'norm'. The last time I took my temperature it was 96.2 F (35.7 C)So...raw fooders could be expected to feel the cold marginally more than the average person. It could actually be that the 'norm' of 98 isn't actually healthy. Perhaps those on a standard cooked, processed, omnivorous diet are in a constant state of mild fever as their bodies are trying to eliminate toxins. I'll just put that out there...!

The good news is that, in hot weather, which is nearer to the optimal climate for the human being - the one we all migrated from originally - raw fooders are going to feel far more comfortable than the average! And certainly in a recent spell of hot weather in the UK I was in bliss whilst others were grumbling. I'll not trade the health benefits I've experienced from being raw for feeling a little at odds with the climate on my cold little island.


What do animals do in the winter? Some don't appear to do anything different. They don't heat their food. They look and act much the same whether it's hot or cold, and appear to be able to accommodate temperature differences. Some migrate to warmer climes. Some hibernate. Others? They have, or grow, long shaggy, or furry, coats. So there's an answer if you're stuck in a cold climate in the winter. When it's cold, wear a lot more. Buy a long shaggy coat! We've got so used to centrally-heated houses and workplaces that many of us forgotten that when it's cold we should be piling on the layers!

Here's a suggestion for the toughest amongst you! For the last 30 seconds of a shower, turn off the hot water and switch on the cold. Closes the pores and retains body heat (apparently...never tried it myself...)

Also, here's a positive spin on feeling cold...we all know we should be outside more. Studies of longevity usually conclude that, as well as diet, outdoor living is a major factor contributing to a long and healthy life. For most of us living in UK-type climates, whether raw or not, that's a tall order. But, if switching to a raw diet and feeling colder makes us more aware that we may not be living in our natural habitat, and has us focussed on a long-term plan to move to somewhere warmer, that must be a good thing!


Many people say that hot-as-in-spicy foods such as chili and ginger can have a warming effect. Before you start adding chili to everything, consider the views for and against:


Ayurvedic medicine says spicy foods are 'energetically warm', pushing blood up to the surface of the body, thus raising the metabolic temperature.


The Natural Hygiene school of thought is in direct opposition to the Ayurvedic. Natural Hygiene says spices are at best irritants and at worse toxic.

Here's Mike Benton on cayenne (chili): 'All hot peppers contain a poisonous alkaloid called piperidin and a harmful crystalline substance known as piperin. Hot peppers also have acrid resins and volatile oils which irritate the digestive and urinary tracts. Cayenne pepper also contains an alkaloid called capsicin which irritates the body so severely that circulation is rapidly increased in order to remove it from the system.

That is why hot peppers make you feel 'warm' - the body drastically increases circulation to remove all the harmful pepper alkaloids as expeditiously as possible.'

(Incidentally, raw foodists should be wary of the Ayurvedic approach in general. I've seen ayurvedic medicine used as a justification for statements such as 'some people can't eat raw food' and 'raw food can be dangerous'! Just because something has been practised for thousands of years (as has cooking) doesn't make it right.


It's never necessary to eat freezing cold food. Neither is it good for the body to eat very cold food. It shocks the system and it will cause the body to have to work extra hard to adjust internal temperature just as it would for hot food. David Wolfe: 'cold refrigerated food will cool the body. Perhaps you can adjust your refrigerator to the warmest temperature it will allow.' Alternatively, take food out for half an hour before eating. And there are lots of foods of course that don't have to be refrigerated at all. I always keep fruit, and tomatoes, at room temperature.

Also, some people do find it helps to warm food in the winter; raw soups warmed can be very comforting. Warming food isn't cooking; it's only at around 105-115 F that nutrients start to become destroyed and/or damaged. See if you can get a thermometer, but, failing that, if you want to judge how warm you might allow a raw dish to get, think how warm a swimming pool heated to 105 - 115 F would be. Or...stick your finger under your armpit and bring your arm down quickly. That's a rough guide as to how warm your soup can get on touch.

Anyone with a dehydrator will know that food dehydrated to 110F feels very warm, and relatively stodgy dehydrated foods served warm, whilst not as optimal as non-dehydrated food, can again be a psychological comfort of great help to those in the early stages of raw.

So, do you need cooked food in winter? Sure - like a fish needs a bicycle. Can you stay raw this winter? Yes you can!

Monday 24 November 2008

The Breakfast Trap

(Caveat - as this article runs contrary to the conventional view that b reakfast is an essential part of any diet, please remember as usual that I'm just a raw foodist. The article represents my personal opinion, and the information/explanations I've used to back my arguments come from my reading of material available in literature and on the internet, my ruminating on the same, and personal experience)

The image shows what many people would describe as a 'healthy breakfast'.Let's say it's a mix of conventional breakfast cereals with cows' milk, and one strawberry. But is it a good way to start the day? Vegans might substitute soy, or nut milk for the cows' milk. Would that be a good way to start the day? Raw foodists might substitute the cooked grains with nuts, with sprouted buckwheat...would that be a good way to start the day? What if the grains and milk were replaced with lots of fruit? Would that be a good way to start the day?

Most of us have had it drummed into us by 'health experts' (and manufacturers of breakfast cereals) that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day.' We've been told it's essential for fuel, that it 'sets us up for the day ahead'.

Parents are told that if they don't ensure their children start the day with a 'good breakfast' school performance will suffer, the children's energy levels will dip mid-morning, etc - in other no words 'no breakfast, poor parent'.

My contention is that we don't need to eat in the morning for fuel, that children's energy levels may well dip mid-morning, but this will be more to do with the food eaten the previous day, ie the diet overall, than a lack of breakfast, and that eating in the morning is more detrimental to our bodies than beneficial.

This will not be news to those of you who have have been following a 'no-breakfast' policy for some time. However, others may feel unsure, and I hope this article will provide food (or no food) for thought for those who've ever been told 'you must have (or they must have) breakfast!'.

First, the 'religion bit'. Not to everyone's taste, I know, but hopefully of academic interest whatever one's persuasion.

Essene Gospel of Peace:
'Eat only when the sun is highest in the heavens, and again when it is set.'

Ecclesiastes, Old Testament (10:16)
'Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child and thy princes eat in the morning.'
(interestingly, the word is 'eat' in the King James Version, but some modern versions have changed 'eat' to 'feast' - could Kellogg's have had a hand in the editing?)

Now the 'science bit'.

Dr Georgie Z Pitskhelauri, a Russian gerontologist, researching longevity amongst the Abkhasians living around the Caucasus mountains, showed that centenarians, amongst other things, 'do not ordinarily eat before noon.'


(and I doubt it's because the Abkhasians got up late...)


Eating in the morning is eating too soon.

Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, drawing on Natural Hygiene principles in the classic health manual 'Fit for Life' describe three natural body cycles:

Noon to 8 pm: APPROPRIATION (eating and digestion)
8 pm to 4 am: ASSIMILATION (absorption of nutrients)
4 am to noon: ELIMINATION (of body wastes and food debris)

So, when we wake, our bodies are in the middle of the elimination process. This is a crucial phase, as will be explained in the next section. In fact, bodies that have ingested hard-to-digest food such as meat or nuts the previous evening may still be digesting and absorbing. If we then eat shortly after rising, we are placing a digestive burden on the body that it does not need or want yet, thus depleting energy rather than increasing it.

Essential 'housecleaning' is interrupted.

At some point in the early hours (the Diamonds suggest 4 am)the body will have completed its absorption activities, and will be looking to eliminate toxins and unwanted bulk. This is precious time for the body. It needs to concentrate on eliminating things it doesn't want. If it is not allowed to do this, then those things will accumulate in our bodies. And if we don't give our bodies enough time to clean themselves they will have to divert energy from cleaning to coping with the new digestive onslaught.

I'll explain further by describing what may happen to various types of eater when a hold is put on eating in the morning. As most of you won't fall into a neat little group, do take from this what you feel relevant.

The very poor diet

OK - RawforLife readers are unlikely to be following the worst diets, but...if there are elements of any of these in your diet, to some extent this will apply to you...

People whose diets include any or all of the following - meat, white sugar, processed food, pasteurised cows' dairy, coffee, alcohol, tobacco - may find it quite difficult to get up in the morning. They may feel 'groggy', find it difficult to 'get going', have crusty eyes etc, need an alarm to wake themselves (and when the alarm isn't set, they sleep for a long time. )This is because their bodies need a lot longer to (attempt to) digest, absorb and then eliminate. In other words, when they wake, their bodies have hardly got to grips with house-cleaning.

As the morning proceeds, as well as the general grogginess resulting from interruption of the long period of rest needed to get rid of toxins, withdrawal symptoms may occur as the body's energy is depleted after the excessive house-cleaning needed, just as our energy would dip if we'd spent a long time cleaning a particularly dirty house. Lethargy and dullness result.

So, those on a poor diet may find no eating in the morning very hard. Unless, of course, more drugs, eg coffee or tobacco, are ingested. In these cases there will be a feeling of energy. What this 'energy' actually is is the body going on 'red alert' to cope with the invading toxins again. It's false energy. And the body having desperately tried to eliminate the toxins previously accumulated will then have them topped up.

Those who haven't topped up their bodies with overt drugs may well be feeling 'ravenous' by mid-morning. (See 'gnawing' described in the next section.) And in fact this was how I used to feel on a cooked diet without breakfast. The morning after my typical evening meal of baked, cheesey food, with alcohol, by mid-morning I'd feel 'ill' if I'd eaten nothing. Surprise surprise...

In these circumstances, not eating in the mornings may be more than some can bear, and it's probably best to improve the diet radically overall before first, and initially replace the worst breakfasts, eg fried, toast and coffee, sugary cereal and pasteurised cows' milk, with something better such as muesli and nut/seed milk.

The high-raw diet

I'm talking here of a diet that may be 75-80% raw, but nevertheless cooked food is still eaten regularly, perhaps in the evening.

Just as with the highly toxic diet, the body will have quite a lot of work to do here in the eliminative phase. There may well have been toxins created by, for example, the baking, roasting or grilling of food. The body may have had problems with pasteurised dairy, salt, etc. So, once again, it needs time to do its work.

Those including a little cooked food in their diets may experience a 'gnawing' feeling when the stomach is empty. I did, all my cooked-food life, and continued to do so, occasionally, when 75%raw. Until giving up cooked meals completely, I'd always understood that the 'gnawing' feeling (sometimes accompanied by a little light-headedness/nausea) in my stomach was hunger. I now know it wasn't. There are various theories as to what the 'gnawing' is, and here's one from William Hay, MD: 'every gnawing feeling is evidence that the stomach contains a very uncomfortable amount of acid, the acid debris that follows the previous meal'. This fits in with my own experience as, when 75% raw, I used to feel the gnawing occasionally, and particularly in the morning if I tried to go without breakfast. After moving to 100% raw I never experienced the gnawing again, even when fasting!

My suggestion is that if those who are still eating a little cooked food find going without anything in the morning uncomfortable, make the morning meal fruit - as much of it as satisfies. Fruit is relatively easy to digest. (And someone close to me finds green juice helps keep those gnawings at bay!)

The 100% (or pretty close to!) raw food diet

The 100% raw eater will rise early with no need for an alarm, as the body has long finished digestion and absorption and will not beg for more hours of sleep in which to do so.

The only feeling 100% raw fooders are likely to experience not eating in the morning is an empty feeling in the stomach. If you've had a little juice (which is eating), the empty feeling might be accompanied by a little burbling - think of the noise a basin makes sometimes as it drains. Again, we've been conditioned to think of an empty stomach, especially a burbling one, as hunger. It's not. Very few people reading this, if any, will ever have experienced true hunger. If any gurgling, it will soon stop. If only our stomachs could speak we might hear this: 'Mind' says: my stomach's gurgling - I must be hungry! 'Stomach' says: 'no, I'm not. I've only just got rid of the last lot -give us a break!'If the stomach simply feels empty, celebrate that - it's a stomach at rest.


Now, having said all this, have I implemented a no-breakfast policy myself? Answer is 'almost', from time to time. My no-breakfast days have actually included juice, so it would be truthful to say only that I've experimented with 'no solid breakfast'. I've always felt good on those 'no solids' days, but have always reverted back to my 'old ways' after a while. Why? Various reasons, eg greed and/or lack of self-discipline and/or following someone else's 'rules'.

But recently I've been trying 'no solid breakfast' again, and have been feeling so good on it that I want to make it a permanent part of my life.

Here's a diary of my eating yesterday:

6.30 am Juice (carrot and orange)

About two hours after the juice, I had the 'empty stomach' sensation and a bit of gurgling. Ignored it, and after 15 minutes it was gone. Felt a wonderful mixture of energy and calm all morning, and felt fine without food.

12 noon 2 kaki (large persimmon - equivalent to 5-6 'sharon fruit')
1 pm (Lots of) wraps (romaine lettuce, tahini, tomatoes, sprouted pulses).

In the afternoon my tummy felt very calm. Also, although I had looked forward to, and enjoyed my lunch, I didn't fall upon it ravenously. The no-eating in the morning had set up a feeling of self-discipline, that I wasn't going to be at the mercy of those 58+ reasons why we eat when we're not actually hungry!

5 pm 1 kaki
6 pm Sprouted wheat bread, avocado, tomato

In the evening, tummy was still lovely and flat, and I had no desire to continue nibbling. I slept very well.

To some people this might not seem like a lot of food. Good nutritionally, but not a lot in terms of quantity. But I'd felt satisfied all day. The interesting thing is that when I do eat in the morning, it seems to make me want to eat a lot more in the afternoon, and evening as well! It seems to set up a habit, to feed that little demon that tells me to eat, eat, eat, food when the body really doesn't need it.

We've been told that breakfast is essential for'fuel'. Herbert Shelton, Natural Hygienist, says that we really don't need fuel for the day ahead, as we've already got it in the form of stored glycogen from the previous day's eating, added to which the body has just had several hours of rest.

Do we need a blood sugar top-up in the morning for immediate energy needs? During my 'no solids' morning I didn't feel tired at all. The 'drop in blood sugar' that the cereal manufacturers warn us about did not seeem to have occurred. If the previous evening's meal had been a burden for my body it may well have drawn significantly on any sugar in the bloodstream for the energy needed to cope with it. But my meal the previous evening had been light, and raw.

In general, for all the reasons described above, I suggest the lighter we can keep things in the morning, the more our bodies will thank us for it, and, in direct opposition to what most of us have been told all our lives, and what the cereal manufacturers would have us believe, we don't 'need' breakfast and our bodies will feel a lot better without it. Those on unhealthy diets will certainly have a craving for breakfast in the morning, but all that's doing is perpetuating a vicious circle. As with all things, the higher the percentage of raw plant foods in our diets the easier it is to do the right things. It's the virtuous circle.

So...does 'a good breakfast set us up for the day ahead?'

Well, we all know what it means to be 'set up'...



I'm a big fan of Dr Doug Graham, and looking forward to meeting him again at this event. Dr Doug, and his wife Prof. Rozi Graham will both be speaking, there will be lunch, and...all-you-can-eat durian! Please note it's not just for those following the 80/10/10 diet (I don't myself, currently, although do love my fruit!). It would be very exciting to meet some of you there, and you can find out more about it here.


Monday 20 October 2008

Sweet Onion & Thyme Bread

Here's a very tasty (and easy - no sprouting) onion bread for you.

  • 2 small-to-medium red onions (you can use white, but I like red for colour)

  • 1 cup flax seeds (then grind)*

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds (then grind)

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • 1 soaked Medjool date, finely chopped**

  • Small handful fresh thyme (then chopped)

  • 1/4 cup cold-pressed olive oil

  • 1 cup water

    *I used a Vitamix 'dry' jug, but a Cuisinart mini food processor or coffee/seed mill would also do the job. **If you are using the sweet variety of white onion, omit the date.

    Process all ingredients except the onions.

    Cut onions in half. Then slice - really finely. Then slice across slices once (ie the pieces should be large enough to give texture, but not so long as to make the bread slices difficult to pull apart).

    Put the processed mix into a large bowl. Mix in the onions thoroughly (I find the easiest way is to get in there with hands and...knead!)

    Press out onto a teflex sheet covering one dehydrator tray. You may find it easier to smooth it out using the back of an old-fashioned tablespoon; wet it if it sticks.

    Score into 4x4.

    Dehydrate at 105 F for 12 hours. Flip, peel off teflex sheet, then dehydrate for a further 9 hours. This should result in a moist bread, but dehydrate for a few hours longer if a dryer longer-lasting crisper bread is required.

    The bread has such a delicious flavour that I generally eat it alone, and as it's quite rich and sweet, a mayo/'cheese' could be too much. If you were to top it, I'd suggest sliced avo and tomato.

Thursday 16 October 2008


As anyone who has been part of the raw food world for a while will know, it does seem that, for just about everything that passes our lips there's Raw Food Expert X who tells us it's an essential part of our diets, and Raw Food Expert Y who tells us what harm it will do us, or, at the least, that it's not an 'optimal' food.

And here we all were (or many of us) wedded to our smoothies - banana smoothies, green smoothies, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink smoothies, then along comes Raw Food Expert B who makes our little mouths turn down with his comment that smoothies should be regarded as 'recreational' rather than 'nutritional' drinks and that over 80% of nutrients are lost through blending. Can't be true, or can it...:-(

So, every so often at RawforLife, I look at a food/class of foods and present a range of arguments for and against. My objective is to provide information for Raw Food Independents - those who prefer not to follow everything one human being says, and like to make their own decisions. And yes, this time it's smoothies, or, let's say, blending in general.

Before I start, for those who aren't sure (and not everyone is), when we say blending we mean liquidising food in a blender(also known as a liquidiser).

So here are the blending pro's and cons - I think I've got them all...


All the fibre is retained, and, if you like, the peel and/or seeds. So that should mean that more nutrients are retained in blending than juicing. And the presence of the fibre helps the food move through our bodies easily.


Good in some ways...

During digestion our bodies turn food into a liquid so that nutrients may be easily absorbed and assimilated. The first stage of this process is chewing, and the second is when water and gastric juices mix with the food. The blender does at least some of this work for us, saving us energy.

Also, to release nutrients from cell walls of green leaves we need to chew to a creamy consistency (although in reality most people probably don't chew long enough to do this). Some claim that a blender can break down these cell walls, making nutrients such as lycopene (in tomatoes) and betacarotene (from carrots) more available to us.

Blenders are also useful for people with poor teeth who find chewing difficult.

So, by 'chewing' our food for us, blending can make things easier for our bodies. David Wolfe, 'Sunfood Diet Success System': 'Juicing and blending foods saves the body digestive energy channelling more energy for healing and detoxification.'

And anything that reduces the digestive burden must be good news. Victoria Boutenko in her book 'Green for Life' describes how many people over 40 have insufficient stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) necessary to rupture the tough cellulose structure of some raw fruits and vegetables and that low stomach acid in general means impaired absorption of nutrients. Not only does a smoothie help by liquidising tough leaves in the first place, but Victoria describes how in The Roseburg Experiment it was found that regular consumption of green smoothies was raised hydrochloric acid levels.

But not so good in others...

Although the blender can do the mechanical work of chewing for us, it can't do the chemical work. When we chew, enzymes in our saliva start to digest the food. And chewing makes our food more alkaline. Also, the very act of chewing sends signals for the release of digestive juices suited to the food eaten, and for enzymes to be released by the pancreas. The saliva itself helps relax the pylorus, a muscle at the lower end of the stomach that allows food to pass into the small intestine.

George Malkmus ('Hallelujah Diet') says that because the blended pulp and juice of a fruit in liquid form moves quickly to the stomach without the benefit of being pre-digested by the salivary enzymes, it 'becomes a difficult substance for the body to deal with' and that 'because of this, very few of the nutrients find their way to the cellular level of the body.' (bit of a downer!)

In an effort to compensate for the disadvantages of the blender bypassing chewing, some will tell you to 'chew' your smoothie. The word 'chew' is used simply to attract attention to the issue; it's not possible to chew a smoothie, as chewing is grinding solid matter between the teeth. But what we can do is swill it around the mouth, so that it's mixed with saliva before swallowing. This should help a little, although as David Wolfe believes we should chew our food 'around 50-100 chews per mouthful' (!), we're going to have to do a lot of swilling to match optimal chewing!

And there are other disadvantages of bypassing chewing. Some believe that many of our dental problems are due to eating soft, mushy food and that our jaws need grinding exercise to stay healthy just as the rest of our bodies need exercise. I've even heard that chewing helps strengthen our facial muscles and prevent jowls - how about that, 40-plusses?! But, OK - having said all this, most raw fooders will be doing a lot more chewing in their diets in general than cooked-food eaters, so this would only be a concern if smoothies formed a large part of our diets.


Once the food is in a liquid form it's much easier for us to ingest a lot of it.

Good in some ways

Victoria Boutenko advocates the eating of 1-2 lbs (500g-1kg) of green leaves per day. As not everyone enjoys eating this many leaves in leaf form, she recommends putting them into green smoothies (in which the leaves are often mixed with fruit).

But not so good in others

Some argue that, once raw for a while and more in touch with our bodies' needs, if we don't find eating 1-2 lbs (for supermarket shoppers that's 3-4 bags) of spinach leaves in one sitting appetitising in their natural state, then that's because our bodies don't (and shouldn't) need to eat that much.

Also, even if it's a food that we may be happy to eat a lot of in its natural state, turning it into a drink can still result in our ingesting too much too quickly. For example, I make around three glasses' worth of banana-date smoothie each morning, and, certainly before collating the material for this article, at times would gulp the whole lot down quickly and my stomach would hurt. Not good! Of course, this greedy style of eating also maximises the chances of our swallowing air, which can cause discomfort later.


Good in some ways

Depends on one's point of view...Some people like to blend the white part of a watermelon; others will blend carrot tops, or bitter leaves. The arguments for this are usually made from the nutritional standpoint, ie that these foods have been found to contain high levels of certain nutrients. There is also an economic argument in that parts of foods usually discarded are being used.

But not so good in others

What we're doing here is masking unpleasant tastes by combining the foods with more strongly-flavoured and/or sweet foods. We're effectively duping our tastebuds and in so doing bypassing the body's warning system, which is that if something doesn't taste good to us we shouldn't be eating it.

This is certainly one of my own reservations re the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sort of smoothie - my policy is only to put into a smoothie something that I'd be happy to eat in its natural state. I don't find the white of a watermelon desirable, so would not put in my smoothie. Similarly, carrot tops don't taste good to me. To give an extreme example, an analysis of deadly nightshade might reveal very high levels of certain vitamins and minerals, but that doesn't mean we should be putting it into a smoothie.


I've been amazed at the number of ingredients some people use in their smoothies. Not only must it be impossible to taste some of the foods, but it would be all too easy to include digestively incompatible ingredients.

Slow-to-digest foods like nuts and seeds don't mix well with fruit. This is because the fruit wants to pass through quickly, and if its exit's blocked by heavier food, it will ferment as it hangs around, causing acidity and gas. I've had no problems with fruits mixed with almond milk, but perhaps that's because the almonds have been well-soaked first. But do be aware that fruit+fat is usually a no-no and be wary of tipping dry nuts/seeds into the jug along with fruit.

'Acidic' fruits such as orange and grapefruit (pineapple is also included in this category) should not be mixed with sweet fruits such as papaya, banana or mango. Although all fruits are alkaline after being metabolised, acid fruits need to undergo some change in the body before reaching this state. This involves some delay in the stomach, which holds up the passage of any accompanying sweet fruit. Again, fermentation is the result, and many raw fooders experience pain after such combinations.


Oxidases (oxidising enzymes) are released on the presence of oxygen and rapidly bring about a change in the colour of food (eg when apples are cut they go brown). Blending, as it pulverises the food and fills it with air, produces oxidisation - the amount of fizz and froth on top being an indication as to how much.

Dr Brian Clements (Hippocrates Institute) says that 85-92% of nutrients are lost through the heat and oxidisation of blending!

I'm puzzled by the reference to heat. It's true that the faster the blades and the longer the blending the more heat is produced. Indeed it's possible to bring a blend to boiling point after five minutes in a Vitamix blender. But most people don't blend smoothies for more than 20-30 seconds. I've touched the blades of mine after blending, and they've never been hot. Slightly warm maybe, but I'd say no warmer than body temperature.

Dr B's claim generated much discussion on international raw food forums. The research back-up for the statement did not appear to have been made available. And it would be interesting to see this, as surely level of nutrient loss would vary by the food being blended, and also by nutrient, and by how long after blending the smoothie was drunk. Many raw fooders (including some with scientific backgrounds) were unconvinced by this statement, but if anyone does have any of the scientific evidence for this (eg readings of various nutrients in x and y food prior and post blending) please let me know and I'll edit this article.

Victoria Boutenko, in her talk at The Raw Spirit Festival, reminded us that, if potatoes (you remember, in that 'past life'!) are submerged in water they don't go brown, and that consequently we can reduce oxidisation losses by using water in our smoothies. Although of course in blending we are introducing air into the mixture after it has has been mixed with water, I have heard from other sources that the water could still protect the food to some extent; in fact, this has been used as an argument to add water to thick mixtures to get blades moving rather than use the 'tamper' stick supplied with expensive blenders.

This could help: if you have a multi-speed blender, start blending at the lowest speed, thus minimising oxidisation and only blend at highest speed if necessary, and then only for a few seconds.

Also, I would have thought that, as sprinkling lemon or lime juice on food lessens discolouration, adding the same to our smoothies could make sense.

And of course drink your smoothie immediately to avoid further oxidisation from contact with air. As you know, a banana smoothie will change colour quite quickly if left undrunk. However, my feeling is that storing undrunk smoothie in the fridge, or taking it to work, is fine. I'll go out on a limb and say that, although Dr B is a biochemist, and OK I'm definitely not, I'm not convinced by his figures, and still reckon that, although drinking a smoothie immediately is optimal, there'll still be plenty of goodness left if you finish it later on.


Unless you're like my husband, who won't drink smoothies because he doesn't like the consistency, you probably enjoy smoothies, as I do. They taste so good, and are so easy to make! And in that respect, if those two things alone help people stay raw, smoothies are good news! In fact, I know a raw fooder who pretty much came to raw through smoothies.

For me...daily smoothie? Yes, definitely.

Nothing but smoothies for days/weeks? 'Smoothie Feast?' No. (What do you think?)

If, like me, you're going to continue to make and enjoy smoothies, here's a list of things I suggest we can do to maximise the benefits and minimise any disadvantages.
  • Don't mix acidic fruit with sweet fruit.

  • Include water.

  • Use blender on lowest speed first, and minimise time at high speed.

  • Ideally, drink the smoothie just after makingit.

  • Sip it slowly, and swill around the mouth.

And if you've never tried a 'green smoothie', I recommend Victoria Boutenko's book 'Green for Life' for the rationale. And you might like to try one of these combinations:

spinach and mango, kale and pineapple, lettuce and banana

In each case, blend the fruit component first. Then add leaves to taste (pushing them down into the blended fruit), along with water.

The 'spinach and mango' in particular is a great one to make when non-raw people are around. After perhaps an initial 'what on earth is that?', if they can be persuaded to try it chances are they'll be pleasantly surprised!



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