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!


Nelson Beads said...

What a great article. Thank you. I'm not raw now, but someday. And I'll remember that it may happen that I'll be colder than normal for a couple years.

Debbie Took said...

Thanks, Joanne!

I had a quick look at your own site and read your excellent article on the Natural Hygiene approach. I expect you're aware of this, but if not (and for anyone who isn't) there is a lot of information on Natural Hygiene at

Mila said...

brill again!
wow. i always happen to chance upon your blog posts EXACTLY when i need them. it's definitely a sign, for me, that there is a divine order and spirit in this universe.
i think i have to stop putting ice in my smoothies to 'thicken' them up.
and, i work outside in the mornings...and boy, yeh...LAYERS.
also, i did the hydrotherapy up until about october...and then chickened out...maybe next year i will be able to work it thru the winter.
never thought about putting my fruit room temperature. i am only one, alot of time i have to refridgerate my fruits and it does not waste ... on a budget and have to have my fruits and veggies last.
and, for thickening up my smoothies...i bought some aloe leaves...that may help. never had a room-temp smoothie....
thanks so much for this!
continue this amazing blog! i am so grateful for your experiences, information, and insight.

Debbie Took said...

And thank YOU, Mila. When people say an article came at the right time I can feel my eyes start to shine - don't know if you know what I mean, but I just get very excited! I find fruit lasts quite a long time outside the fridge, but there again it's been a cool climate here for the past two years.

Mila said...

yeh, they would last longer if they kept outside of the fridge in the cooler environment..but, alas, i love the warmth in my home. i do keep my fruits and vegs out for the most part, it is just when they all start to go ripe at once and, again, being one person...i cannot eat all that at once, so i open the fruit, cut it up and whatnot, then store it in the fridge so i can use it as needed until the other fruit ripen.
that being said, i took out some of my fruit this morning from the fridge to 'thaw' for my lunchtime smoothie.
thanks again deb!! ^____^

One Hour Fun Ideas said...

Wow, this was a great post!

I've been high raw (70-90%) for years, but finally went 100% 2-3 months ago. The change was more profound than I expected -- and one huge thing I've noticed is the damn cold!!! I've never, ever felt this cold in my life! Last night, I sat in my living room with my feet on a hot water bottle.

But, reading your post has spun this in a new direction for me. I was honestly thinking something was wrong, but now I view it as continued healing!


Debbie Took said...

Hi Jim

I am SO glad to hear that.

I'm definitely not feeling the cold so much now as I used to, although think it could take a while before I reach Victoria Boutenko's standards!

bitt said...

Debbie, this post was prefect for me to read today. After being raw for 6 months, I was experimenting with eating cooked foods. One of the reasons was for wamth--it makes sense, I lost some of my fat layer!

Thanks to some other insights and this post, I am going back to 100% raw.

Debbie Took said...

Hi Aimee

This is so good to hear! Thanks for the feedback.

Michelle Pierson said...

What a great article with practical advice for new comers to eating raw. I've noticed as mentioned, the cold is more of a psychological thing and the longer I'm raw, the less cold I feel. Though I don't think I'm at the point where the Boutenko's are as far as jumping in ice cold water. ;-)

Debbie Took said...

Me neither - I'm still quite the wimp!

Wirbelwind said...

I'm just trying to transition into raw (for the second time) and I have to say - that is an awfully good and helpful article you wrote on being cold.
I'm always freezing and that worries me.

I wonder if you can give me some more tips about what happens with the adrenal glands/endocrine system. You quoted Butenko and Wolfe - is that were all the information about the adrenals came from?

I have had quite some issues with them in my life - so I'd love to prepare myself better. I only didn't even notice those parts while reading the Sun food diet.

Thanks so much for writing this!

Debbie Took said...

Hi Eva

I don't think I could top Victoria's excellent explanation of what happens to the adrenals when we ingest unnatural substances. However, in her book 'Green for Life' she explains how the process of homeostasis (which, amongst other things, regulates body temperature) is tightly connected to the endocrine system, and how important it is that the endocrine glands secrete the right amount of hormone. She believes that greens supply the nutrients needed for a healthy endocrine system and encourages the drinking of lots of 'green smoothies'. You're probably familiar with these already, but, if not, try mango-spinach, or banana-date-romaine lettuce - both very good!

Also, if this helps, I've just had my third winter raw, and...haven't felt quite as cold this winter as last winter, despite it being a cold winter in the UK. There again, perhaps I'm just getting used to it!

Anonymous said...

Debbie, I was searching for the quote by Victoria and found your article. Great read! I am going to post a copy and a link at Naked Food Cafe. People are starting to sweat the cold! lol!

Love & Sunshine!

Debbie Took said...

Thanks, Connie

I see myself contributing to various threads with a link to this article in the months to come...!

Warm and sunny in UK today - a real bonus for end-September!

Unknown said...

"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 focused on a long-term plan to move to somewhere warmer, that must be a good thing!"

This. Oh, this.

These days with the temperature dropping as low as -23 degrees Celsius, I've felt this more than ever. I cough if I inhale the chill air. Mucus forms in my nose. My fingers and toes can get cold to the point of numbness - surely this is not the natural habitat of man! I really want to have an extended stay in more southerly climes in the not too distant future. There's an idea for a goal for this decade.

What about you, Debbie? Why aren't we seeing Debbie Took reporting live from some tropical island yet? ;)

Or are we all just a bunch of toxic pansies who have never really gotten used to it? Most of us, I would surmise, spend most of the winter time indoors, after all. Poor body, getting mixed signals like that.

Debbie Took said...

Hi Jonas

When I wrote this blog post, I did want to move somewhere warmer. But I don't feel the same now. I did actually sort-of-report-live, from Koh Phangan last year, but although it was a lovely island, since then I've come to think that in some ways it's 'natural' for man to live in cool climates, as, after all, man is naturally a wanderer, wandering all over the globe (unlike animals - that wandering is unique to man!). And...heaven is where you make it. Heaven is within. Since I've had that change of philosophy I've come to appreciate the UK more and the hankerings to live elsewhere have stopped. Which is lucky, as we've been snow-bound in freezing and sub-zero temperatures for the last few weeks...not quite as low as minus 23 celsius, but it's gone down to minus 10 overnight, which is pretty nippy! Just hoping my young fig tree will hold out...

Unknown said...

Hi again,
I can't say I'm surprised by the development you've gone through on that issue - I can definitely sympathise with that. For me the issue is still up in the air.

I'm curious, however, how have your views on local food and sustainability vs imported foods been affected by this newfound philosophy? Forgive me if you've already written a post on the subject.

I'm asking because I recently watched a highly interesting lecture by Daniel Quinn about population and sustainability, give it a gander if you have the time (comes in two parts):

Debbie Took said...

Hi Jonas

I'll have a look at that video, but, in the meantime, I have no strong views re eating locally. If faced with the choice of locally-grown apples or from New Zealand, sure I'll go for the locally-grown. (And I grow a lot of my own food, in the summer).

But, throughout the year, and particularly so in the winter, the majority of my food is not locally-grown. I couldn't follow a high-fruit diet if I had to rely on locally-grown food as no fruit grows in the UK for six months of the year. I work on the basis that my life (this life?) has been plonked into the UK in 2010, where food to which I'm biologically-suited, ie fruit, is available all the year round, from other countries, and will (almost certainly) continue to be available thus for the rest of my life. If that ever looks like stopping being the case, I'll adjust as necessary.

Fruit from abroad may take 'air miles' but I probably balance that by making less demands on the environment in other ways. Also, by eating food from a wide variety of soils, I don't need to be concerned with the 'demineralised soil' issues, as a soil lacking in 'x' from one country should be compensated by a soil rich in 'x' from another country.

David Cohen said...

Hi Debbie,
Just came back to this again after you re-posted a reminder about in rawfooduk yahoo. Recently, and for the first time in many years, I consciously noticed / felt that eating food out of the fridge is c-o-l-d. So, I re-read your blog and this gave me more inspiration.

Debbie Took said...

Hi David

Good to hear the article's helping.

The desire for hot food is just psychological, and it does go. My son asked me recently whether I ever feel like something hot in bitterly cold weather. And the truth is I don't! I've been eating a little more fat recently though, and I find a date/sesame seed smoothie (unstrained) very comforting!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for the article, it's so helping. This is my first winter on going raw, and I've been feeling a bit miserable of this cold feeling, but your article explain a lot about it. Thank you so much