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!



RawforLife Saturday Social 8th November £25

Try 12 delicious raw food dishes (and take home raw food recipes) in the company of like-minded people.


Monday 6 October 2008

How long do raw foodists live?

For many people part of the motivation to go raw is the thought that it might increase the chances of our living to a good age.

But do raw foodists live any longer than anyone else? Skeptics say they don't, and, yes, we hear every so often of centenarians who, according to media reports, have thrived on tobacco, booze and fried breakfasts.

However, we also know that the only reason these cases are reported is that they are the exceptions to the rule, and many studies have shown there to be an association between healthy eating and longevity.

So, as we as raw fooders believe raw-eating to be the epitome of the healthy diet, we'd expect raw eaters to be living particularly long and healthy lives.

There are no studies I know of comparing raw eaters' lifespans with those on other sorts of diet. So, in the absence of a large-scale longitudinal study, I have here had a quick look at the age stats for eight people known in the raw food world (or at least in the UK and US) for their advocacy of raw food eating. I haven't been 'selective' - there aren't that many to choose from! Whether or not all of them were 100% raw foodists, they did at least all follow diets that included significantly more raw food than the average and were vociferous promoters of raw food eating.

Our eight include raw vegetarians, vegans and fruitarians. And if anyone feels I've glossed over their lives somewhat, please bear in mind that the article would be very long if I did otherwise! If there are any significant inaccuracies, let me know and I'll edit if necessary.

First, what is the average life-span? Well, as you know, it varies enormously, by country, and area within any given country. But, the average for men in the UK is 75 (US - 76) and women 81 (US also 81).

Here they are...

T C Fry

T C Fry, a Natural Hygienist, advocated a fruitarian diet, and sources suggest he followed at the least a high-fruit, vegan diet. TC lived to 70 years only, dying from a coronorary embolism, and he'd been suffering from numerous health problems prior to his death. There have been many opinions as to what contributed to these. Inevitably, some have centred on his diet, but Dr Doug Graham, who knew TC very well, believes that his health problems were brought on by overwork, and points out that on a raw diet TC lived for far longer than had been his forecast life expectancy on a cooked diet: 'Fry...was told to prepare to die when he was 45. He was that ill. He changed his lifestyle and lived another 25 years, 24 of them most brilliantly, and vibrantly...His main problem was that he worked too many hours; often for day on end without ever sleeping.'

(Edit July 09 - since writing this article I've found out a little more about T C Fry's life - please see article 'Why T C Fry Died 'So Young' here.)

Hilton Hotema

Hilton, a vegan and fruitarian, who even claimed to be breatharian at one stage, lived to 92 - much longer than the average. He must have been quite fit in his latter years as he was still writing books at 90 (including 'How I Lived to be 90').

Youkta Kulvinskas

Youkta, a vegetarian, was the wife of Viktoras Kulvinskas, although was a raw food teacher in her own right. Youkta died recently at the age of 59 from 'stress-related' gastro-intestinal problems.

Johnny Lovewisdom

Johnny was initially vegetarian but later fruitarian, even to the extent of eating papayas only at one time. He lived to 81, a little longer than the average, although had not been healthy in the years leading up to his death, suffering from various problems; there are conflicting opinions as to the causes of these.

Herbert Shelton

Herbert Shelton was also a champion of Natural Hygiene ideas (preceding T C Fry). Herbert, although seeing a vegan diet as the 'ideal', was a vegetarian and lived to 89, significantly longer than the average. I don't have much information on his life, although do know that his health was adversely affected after being kicked by a horse! And for some years prior to his death he suffered from neuro-muscular problems. However, he continued to enjoy good mental health, as he was still dictating books shortly before his death.

Edmund Szekeley

Szekeley translated The Essene Gospel of Peace from manuscripts discovered at the Vatican earlier this century, founded the Biogenics Movement and wrote many books on diet. It is not clear whether he was vegetarian or vegan, although the Essene Gospel advocates a vegetarian diet. Szekeley died at 79, living a little longer than the average, particularly for a man of his generation; I have no information on his state of health in the years prior to his death.

Ann Wigmore

Ann, a vegetarian, is best-known for her live food program including sprouts, wheatgrass and raw fermented foods. Sadly, Ann died at 84 in a fire at her premises. She has always been described as being in excellent health in the years prior to her death.

Norman W Walker

Norman was vegetarian, and a great advocate of juicing and colonics. Norman lived to 99, a lot longer than the average, and by all accounts enjoyed excellent health in his latter years.


OK, so at first the 'results, don't look earth-shattering. None of the eight made the 'big one', and two died quite early.

BUT, of our eight raw foodists,

six out of eight lived longer than the average.

Although the sample size is small, this is an encouraging statistic. It's...GOOD!

Now let's compare their age of death with the average. There are only two women in the sample, so not much to go on there, but there are six men.

The average age of death of the six men was 85, which is 10 years longer than the current average male life-span (and will be even longer than the average life-span for men of their generation).

And that's VERY GOOD!

I think it's fair to say that, certainly on the basis of the information we have on prominent raw foodists that the raw food diet does extend life - in our sample, by about ten years. And, yes, sure, I'll grant that, as raw foodists, they were probably taking great care of themselves in other (non-food) ways too.

If you know people who say, as people so often do, 'well, I'm not sure I want to live to....(x)', yes, it's true that some in our sample were not in the best of health in the years prior to their deaths. But that's the case for many people who die in their 60s and 70s. What would you rather? Live to 75-80 with a few years of ill-health prior to that? Or live to 85-90 with a few years of ill-health prior to that? I believe we're here in this life to learn, and as it takes quite a long time to get things through my thick skull, I could do with another 10 years!

The raw food movement now is huge. It wasn't 50 years ago. And there are thousands (hundreds of thousands?) out there now making their life's work the promotion of raw food eating. I think that in 50 years' time there'll be a lot more than a sample size of eight on which to base conclusions. And probably by then there will have been a longitudinal study done of ordinary, 'quiet' raw foodists, ie those who haven't been in the limelight (and if you know any quiet raw nonagenarians, let me know!).

Finally, are there any lessons we can learn from the relatively early demise of T C Fry? Firstly, many of the followers of his health writings were hugely disappointed by his death at 70 - a salutary reminder that our idols have feet of clay, and that if we put all our faith in one person, it can end in tears...

Secondly, if Dr Doug Graham is correct as to what made TC ill, then his story (and Youkta's) does help us remember that whilst diet is a big factor influencing our health, it's not the only thing we should be attending to. (July 09 edit - Doug is correct! See earlier reference to my June 09 article on TC.)

And TC himself listed many non-diet requisites for health. Here are some of them (and in case anyone thinks I'm lecturing, note that I fail on most of these to some extent - regularly!)

Sleep, rest, relaxation (are you getting enough?)

Sunshine (to UK/cool climate readers - are there ever occasions when the sun's shining, and you could quite easily be out there for ten minutes,'re not?)

Exercise (running is easy, costs nothing and needs no kit bar trainers)

Fresh air (are at least the little windows in your house open?)

Pure water (research distillers, ionisers; if you can't afford one of those, a jug filter is one step up from tap water)

Aesthetic environment (have you plants near you right now?)

Creative useful work (if your job is no longer right for you, but it's too much to change it right now, start something different part-time).

Self-mastery/self-control (as a big procrastinator, I'm trying to follow Norman W Walker (99 years!): 'We cannot very well discipline ourselves in the great things of life unless, and until, we have learned that discipline must begin with the small things.')

Motivation, having purpose/cause to serve (You have that, as you are raw. Therefore one of your purposes, amongst many others specific to your own talents, is to be a living testimony to the power of raw food.)

Gregariousness (book a raw event now - preferably one of mine!)

Emotional and mental well-being (too huge an area for comment, except - oh, can't resist it...don't stress over this list!)

(Oh, and some healthy eaters have died in accidents. We may be raw, but we still have to look where we're going when we cross the road.)

Not many of us could show a clean pair of heels on everything in the list above. But let's see raw food as ONE (BIG) step in the right direction towards getting our houses in order.

The raw food biographies here give hope. It doesn't appear to be the case that 'raw fooders don't live any longer than anyone else.' This small sample suggests that, on average, yes they do. And those who were still working in their 80s and 90s, writing books, transforming the lives of others (and continuing to do so, posthumously) are a beacon for us.

And as more people follow a raw food diet, perhaps one day we'll see research that confirms what is obvious to raw fooders, that the more the fuel we put into our bodies is whole, and undamaged by cooking, the better and longer our bodies will function.

And if we can take steps to address those non-diet factors, then...let's go for 150! (with apologies to Rob Hull of Funky Raw, who's aiming for 500-600 years; I know my expectations are far too low.)

Finally, a cautionary note: many people come to raw relatively late in life and/or because of illness. So our bodies will already be damaged to some extent by our 'past lives'. Did you know for example that 30-40% of men aged 30-50 have prostate cancer, but 'silent', ie it hasn't grown sufficiently large yet to be noticeable (and we may guess that it will already be present in men in their 20s as well...)? We know this from autopsies of men dying early accidental deaths (source). I've read elsewhere that half of people aged 50+ have some sort of tumour, but don't know it. Now, there are many reports of disease being reversed on the raw food diet, and, certainly logically, if we remove the causes of illness (as you know, there have been countless reports on the link between diet and cancer), then even if tumours present when we change our diet do not actually go, they should not grow further to cause problems. However, I have read of several cases where people known to be 'healthy eaters' have died relatively young, but on probing, I find they did 'backslide' in their diets in later years, eg included meat, which of course, could have disastrous results. Recently I have read of a well-known person suffering from stomach cancer who has been described as 'fruitarian'. An anti-raw health blog leapt on this, but in fact this person was fruitarian at one stage in his life only...20 years ago. I wonder if stomach problems at that time had prompted him to change his diet, and wonder why he then left it - perhaps because he felt better and thought it was 'safe' to return to his old diet? (I have always been alarmed by those 'health experts' who tell people to switch to a raw diet (which of course results in radical improvements in their health), then, as soon as they appear to be better, tell them they can 'reintroduce' a little cooked food again (!)).

So, if you know you were ill before you went raw (or suspect you were), or came to raw relatively late in life, stay with it!

If we turn to a raw food diet, at any point in our lives, and stay raw, then I think we can confidently expect to live longer than the average and be in a better state of health for longer too, as long as we see raw food as the first step towards getting the rest of our houses in order.



Many people have found this article through googling 'raw food longevity', so I thought I'd share with you some information I've gleaned from John Robbins' new book 'Healthy at 100'. Now, remembering that diet-is-not-the-only-factor-that-affects-our-health :-), and the cultures I'm about to mention certainly do live a lifestyle that is in general far healthier than that of the average UK/US person, here are a few facts about the diets of the fabled Abkhasians, Vilcabambians and Hunza, who are famed for not only living longer than we do but also staying remarkably healthy in old age - not suffering at all, or at least far less, from the diseases common in our societies.

(For ease, I'll call them the A's, the V's and the H's!)

All follow relatively high raw diets, rising to around 80% in the summer. All follow high-carbohydrate, rather than what some describe as 'high protein', diets. Carbohydrates average 70%.

The A's are 90% vegan.
The V's and H's are 99% vegan.

All eat significant quantities of fruit (the Hunzas well-known for their apricot production).

A's: 'virtually every meal contains nuts in one form or another'.
V's: 'their fat comes mostly from avocados, seeds and nuts.'

Percentage of calories from fat:

A's: 20%
V's: 15%
H's: 17%

(whilst not as low as the 10% limit favoured by, eg, followers of the 80/10/10 diet, this is still far less fat than the average person in our culture consumes).

Overall daily calories (adult males):

A's: 1900
V's: 1800
H's: 1900

All three cultures eat substantial amounts of whole grains. The H's, in the winter, soak pulses 'which are eaten raw when they begin to sprout.'

And, as a postscript, would I attach any credence to a 'sample-size-of-one' when it comes to longevity? You bet -when it suits me!

January 09:

'The world's oldest living person celebrated her 120th birthday on Saturday in Leshan, Sichuan Province, according to local newspaper West China Metropolis News report.

Du Pinhua, listed in the Guinness World Records as the oldest living person, celebrated her birthday with dozens of relatives and locals.

Du said she has been vegetarian for her whole life. Locals describe Du as a tolerant and happy lady, who never argues with others.'

Sure, as it doesn't say so, we can presume she's not raw but 1) lots of points for vegetarianism (and several studies have linked vegetarianism to health and longevity) and 2) as she's vegetarian, likely to have eaten more raw fruit and veg than the average. Perhaps if we're vegetarian/vegan, and raw, and have a happy disposition, our great-great-great-great grandchildren can bring us mangoes when they come to visit!