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