Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Teeth and the high-fruit raw food diet

Time and time again we hear dire warnings of the perils of the high-fruit diet - usually from those selling supplements, powdered 'food' and cacao products (and who are usually on high raw rather than raw food diets anyway). I've debunked most of these in previous articles (see Archives Feb/Mar 2009 'Fool for Fruit' trilogy), but one topic I've held back on until now is teeth. Partly because I wanted to give myself a little longer on the high-fruit diet, just to see if any of these awful things we're told will happen - cavities, disappearing enamel etc - happen to me.

Well, they haven't. And, if they had done I would have run from the high-fruit diet very fast I can assure you!

So, let's start with a pic (taken today) of my own gnashers, after three years of raw, and the last eighteen months of them on a high-fruit diet. Sorry it's not bigger - I can't see how on my basic version of 'blogger' how to enlarge this cropped pic, but I'm sure some of you will be able to look more closely (IF you desire...!).

As I hope you can see, they're not perfect. I have a little gum recession, but my dentist and hygienist will testify that this occurred before raw. In fact, the reason for the recession above my front canines is that, when cooked, I used to suffer from hayfever and I'd found over the years that pressing my nail on my gum would stop me sneezing. Unfortunately, that had a bad effect on my gums over time but the upside is that, since raw - no hayfever! In my first couple of months of raw, I did notice a little recession on other teeth, but Jill (my dentist) suggested that this had been previously masked by swelling caused by inflammation (on my cooked diet). So when my diet improved, the swelling went down, exposing the recession. But from that point on my gum health improved - amazingly! When cooked, my gums would bleed almost daily - perhaps 200+ times a year? On raw, I think I've seen spots of blood three times in three years.

You'll see a little grey in the corners, from amalgam (mercury) fillings remaining from a childhood of sweet (candy) eating. The lower (visible) halves of my teeth are not completely opaque, but they've always been like that.

I've had no caps/crowns and my teeth are not bleached. The only dental work I've had done since going raw is the replacement of amalgam fillings (that my dentist said were 'raggedy')with white fillings.

I brush my teeth twice a day, morning and evening, brush additionally 30-60 minutes after eating any sticky food, such as dates, and floss each morning. At my check-up a few weeks ago, I was told I had a little plaque build-up on the inner surfaces of my top front teeth, where I've been remiss in brushing.

I follow a raw vegan, high-fruit, unsupplemented diet. 60-70% is fruit, 15-20% fat (eg nuts and seeds) and the rest vegetables including lots of greens. Key thing is that, since raw, my teeth, and gums, have improved, and there has been no deterioration on a high-fruit diet.

At the check-up I asked Jill the dentist, and the hygienist (also called Jill) these questions:

1. How would you describe the state of my teeth and gums now as compared with a few years ago? (Before raw.)

Both Jills said there had been a big improvement ('much better!').

2. How would you rate the state of my teeth and gums compared with that of the average 51-year-old?

Both Jills - 'good!'

So what's going on? According to some 'experts' who say the high-fruit diet is a recipe for disaster for teeth, I should have had cavities, erosion of enamel, 'transparent' teeth even! (Heard this one recently from someone influential in the raw food world talking of 'someone they knew' who had experienced this!)

It does seem to me that those warning that the high fruit diet is bad for teeth are basing these warnings on the most unscientific of evidence, on claims from 'someone I know' or 'I've heard that...' rather than considering that the vast majority of those on a high fruit diet are not having such problems. In fact, those with the longest experience and, to my mind, greatest knowledge of raw food nutrition, such as Dr Doug Graham, say that tooth problems should no more be a feature of the high-fruit diet than any other kind of raw food diet.

I certainly meet, at raw events, raw fooders (on all sorts of raw food diet) with grotty teeth. I suspect their teeth looked that way before raw, but don't like to ask... However, it's true that some on raw food diets (all sorts of raw food diet) do experience teeth problems after going raw. These are a minority, but it's clear that some raw fooders do have 'teeth issues' on raw.

In this article, I'm going to suggest reasons why some raw fooders do develop problems with their teeth, and what steps we can take to minimise the chances of these occurring and instead see our teeth improving on the raw food diet.

It's a collation/summary of material I've collected over the last three years, filtered by my unique bias, ie I prefer the high-fruit brand of raw food diet. But do bear in mind that those who put so much effort into giving raw fooders the heebie-jeebies about fruit have their own biases...

There are three sorts of raw food diet that will raise the chances of tooth problems occurring:


This is often high in:

Processed sugar (eg agave syrup). There's lots of disagreement amongst dentists as to what causes cavities, but there is consensus on one thing: refined sugar consumption.

Dried fruit (eg mixed with nuts in crusts). Dried fruit sticks to the teeth.

Nuts and seeds. Regular readers will know I do like my nuts and seeds! However, rawgourmet food (burgers, cakes, crackers etc) is generally a little too high in these foods, which stick to our teeth and get wedged between them.

Apple cider vinegar. This is concentrated acid, just like any other vinegar, so will attack enamel.

In my first few months of raw, when I had lots of fun making 'rawgourmet' concoctions I found myself eating far more 'sticky' foods than I ever had when cooked. Although this period doesn't appear to have harmed my teeth, I think if I'd continued eating this sort of food regularly it might have done, and can imagine it would be quite likely to cause problems in those predisposed to tooth problems (as some believe 'genetic inheritance' has a role to play).


Jill the hygienist is fine with my high-fruit diet, but warns that teeth will be happy with fruit as long as it's eaten as 'meals', that is in a relatively large quantity at one sitting, rather than nibbling constantly. Her words were, 'if you're going to eat fruit, eat the fruit bowl.' I think we know what she means, and her advice is right in line with that of high-fruit advocates who also generally advise eating fruit 'as a meal', and, most importantly, eating sufficient so that we don't need to eat again for a few hours, thereby giving our digestive systems and teeth a well-needed rest, giving them time to cope with the food, to do what they need to do to restore the physiological status quo and not beleaguer them with another onslaught too soon.


Citrus fruit is great occasionally, and here's where 'instinctive eating' can help us decide just how much citrus is right and how much is too much. If we are very attracted to oranges, then we should eat them. I remember in Spring 2008 oranges tasted the most delicious fruit to me, and, as I can take them or leave them now, have concluded that, at that time, my body very much needed what oranges gave it. But unfortunately it's more often the case that a raw fooder eating lots of oranges isn't desiring them particularly, but eating them dutifully because someone else has told him 'they're good for us', or because he has a glut of oranges, or because they're cheap, or has been persuaded by someone that he should go on an 'orange juice diet' for cleansing.

Citrus is very hard on enamel and I have seen sufficient reports of those on high-citrus diets running into tooth problems to persuade me that high citrus is in general not the way to go. I remember using lemon juice daily in salads in my first few months of raw, and my teeth were sensitive and ached a little. I can't be sure that the one resulted in the other, as I have seen a plausible suggestion that when gum inflammation reduces, teeth can shift position a little and ache. However, I did reduce my consumption of lemon juice and the problems stopped.



A diet of simple, whole, fresh foods. Lots of fruit fine (but not too much citrus). Vegetables, particularly high-alkaline veg such as celery and spinach for neutralising acids in the mouth. A small amount of nuts and/or seeds if desired. Food to be taken in two or three meals a day, and tooth care assiduous, as below.


Do animals clean their teeth?

Well, not in the way we do, but animals have been observed using a variety of methods to keep their teeth clean. Mongooses use their sharp claws as toothpicks. Rabbits, horses and elephants chew tough grasses and leaves. Some animals have other tiny animals to clean their teeth for them. And recently Thai monkeys were observed using human hair to floss, and apparently teaching their young to do the same. So tooth care is certainly natural. Also, animals' teeth are often effectively 'flossed' by the action of tearing their food and/or chewing (which would also generate lots of alkalising saliva). Another reason to chew our food well, and to include in our diets crunchy whole foods such as apples, carrots and celery which will stimulate saliva production as well as help remove food particles.


Toothbrush type? There's lots of debate on whether a small, large, soft, hard, manual or electric toothbrush is best. Personally, I don't trust electric toothbrushes, but I have no scientific basis for this, and my dentist and hygienist tell me they're the very best (but I'm still not going to use one - sorry Jills!). The most important thing is certainly, when brushing, not to miss bits, and (oh the number of times I've been told this, and do I listen?) to angle the brush so that it goes underneath the gums a little.

When to brush? Brushing should take place two or three times a day. I'd been brought up to be a good little girl in this respect (pity about the sweets...) and always did this, and was later surprised to meet people who only brushed once a day, with their teeth and gums bearing witness to that! Don't brush directly after a meal. Wait 30-60 minutes. Two reasons: firstly, the enamel is softer just after eating and therefore more vulnerable to damage. Secondly, it allows time for your saliva to neutralise acids. Brush enough, but don't brush too much. Brushing to extremes, eg brushing hard many times a day every day has been known to wear away enamel and cause gum recession.

Paste or not? I use a little toothpaste out of habit more than anything else, but see myself moving to using nothing in the future, as certainly on a natural hygiene diet I can't see any reason to use toothpaste. Some swear by baking soda. I'd never use it myself as I see it as unnatural and far too abrasive. 'Tooth soap' has a big fan base in the raw food world, although personally I find the taste unpleasant.


Ever removed floss from between your teeth and smelt, well, the worse sort of poo-smell (OK, not a raw fooder's poo of course!)? That happens far less on the raw food than cooked food diet, but will occasionally if you've let stuff rot on your teeth. That smell is simply the 'poos' of the bacteria that have 'eaten' (decomposed) dead matter on your teeth. (Please don't be like a cooked omnivore friend of mine who was so disturbed by the smell that he never flossed his teeth again...!) Even if you don't eat dried fruit or nuts, fibres of fruit and vegetables can get trapped between teeth, as can their seeds. (I've heard it suggested that unnatural diet over hundreds (thousands?) of years has affected our jaw development, resulting in teeth too close together - evidenced by the growing numbers of children needing orthodontic treatment.) The by-products of the bacteria 'poo' is acidic, and this erodes enamel. Flossing can be done with string, tape, and the same effect can be achieved with toothpicks/brush picks.


After eating nuts and seeds or anything I can feel has stuck to/inbetween my teeth, I use my tongue, saliva and fingers to remove bits from my teeth as far as I can. It's only since starting to put this article together that I've become conscious that I do this quite a lot, and I'm thinking it must be good! So, if you don't, consider getting into the habit.

Vitamin D supplementation?

Some think this is the answer. I don't supplement, and am wary of supplementation (see blog archives Aug 08 for why.) Lots of people will advocate that you do supplement, but here's a dissenting view, taken from my recent article on Vitamin D, here.

'Charlette R Gallagher ('Taking the fear out of eating') explains that the effect of too much D on bones is similar to that of too little and that calcium may be removed from bone and too much deposited in soft tissue, resulting in arthritis-like pain and kidney damage. This is confirmed by the American Dietetic Association: 'excess amounts of vitamin D can cause...reduced bone density.' Some people have found, in taking supplemental vitamin D, that their problems have worsened rather than improved. I remember reading an account by a well-known raw fooder in the UK who noted that the condition of her children's teeth worsened while supplementing for Vitamin D rather than improving.'


It would be good if, next time on the raw food forums a 'high fruit diet is bad for teeth' thread pops up, or a new raw fooder posts with tooth concerns, this article could reassure. And I do think these 'I know someone who...' anecdotes need to be subjected to just a little more scrutiny before being used to alarm others, and, sadly, to dissuade raw fooders from eating all the fruit their bodies desire. Unless we know everything these unfortunate people ingested in the period in question, and have key information about other aspects of their health and lifestyle that could have contributed to their problems, even the most tentative conclusions cannot be drawn.

Provided we follow a diet in accordance with the principles of natural hygiene, we should not run into teeth problems - in fact the reverse should be true.

A happy and fruity New Year to you all!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Nuts - Eat Fresh, Eat Raw

In the last post ('Are You A Nutter?') I explained that nuts are an excellent food for us, as long as they're:


RAW and

NOT EATEN IN UNNATURAL QUANTITIES (ie in amounts greater than we'd eat if we had to shell them all ourselves - in-shell nuts obviously the ideal here.)

So, for example, our new raw fooder will make the 'mock turkey roast', the 'raw carrot cake', or whatever, with a cup of almonds here, a cup of brazils there, perhaps washed down with a glass of cashew milk, and very likely suffer from bowel-freeze, football tummy and considerable discomfort the next day.


Perhaps because... the almonds were stale, and some were rancid. If she'd tried a handful before eating, and chewed them well, she might have found that they didn't taste good. If she'd eaten them singly, she might have found the odd rancid one and been able to spit it out. But how could she tell either of these things by just pouring them out of the bag and chucking them into the food processor?.

And/or perhaps because...the brazils and cashews weren't raw at all - they were cooked. She'd used a raw food teacher's recipe and not realised that, outside the months around Christmas, raw brazils can't be purchased in the UK, and, contrary to what the nice man in Julian Graves had told her (and the packet did say 'raw cashews'), raw cashews can only be purchased online.

And because she'd eaten WAY too many nuts! As our ideal is to eat nuts fresh, raw, and in natural quantities, her recipe failed on all counts.

Our raw fooder is then convinced she 'can't digest' nuts, and shares her experiences with other anti-nutters on raw food forums, who of course all agree with her. But her problems with nuts aren't the fault of the nuts!

In this article I'm mainly going to tackle 'fresh and raw', as the last post pretty much covered quantities and digestion.

I do believe the ideal is to eat lots of nuts in the Autumn, fresh off the tree, and fewer (if any) nuts during the rest of the year. However, we are fortunate in the UK that people in warmer climes in Europe (and farther away) will share their nuts with us so that we can enjoy them at other times of the year if we choose to. As these nuts will not be as fresh as they could be, it's up to each one of us to make a decision as to whether we will consume them, and, if so, in what quantity.

And, as knowledge is power, I hope to impart a little information here that could assist readers in making that decision.

So let's start with a nut-eating 'league table':

1st place:
Nuts from the tree. So, in the UK and many similar climates, this means hazels/cobnuts and walnuts in the Autumn. (Almonds are not generally hardy here.)

2nd place:
Nuts grown locally, picked recently.

3rd place:
Nuts in shell that haven't been in storage for too long. The shell helps keep the nut fresh and protects it from contaminants.

4th place:
Shelled, dried nuts. Unfortunately it's not always possible to know how long they've been stored, so try to buy from somewhere with a frequent turnover. Store in airtight containers in the fridge, but bear in mind that, even storing them this way, Vitamin E can reduce by around 30%.

The $64K question...are shelled dried nuts raw? All shelled nuts on sale will have been dried to minimise chances of mould. Some will have been dried at temperatures to 150-160 F or higher, which is above the consensual 'raw' cut-off point (around 115 F). But, for raw fooders without nut trees or easy access to one, they may be all that can be obtained. Drying at a relatively high temperature may well have adversely affected enzymes and vitamins, which means the nuts will not contain these in precisely the quantities they were designed to give. Mineral content (the big plus for nuts) is unlikely to have changed.

One test of the 'rawness' (or 'aliveness') of a nut is if it sprouts. Sadly, most attempts to truly sprout dried nuts I have heard of have come to naught (an almond 'splitting' at one tip is not sprouting.) However, Helen Armfield of the Raw Food UK forum found a 'tiny tree growing in the corner of the compost bin' from organic Italian-grown almonds bought at Holland & Barrett. Consequently, I don't feel we can 'write off' shelled nuts altogether!

No place:
Shelled, cooked nuts.

In the UK, shelled nuts on sale in supermarkets, health food/wholefood shops/markets, that might even say 'raw' on the label, but are actually cooked are: brazils, cashews, macadamias and pecans. They have all been cooked (boiled, steamed, roasted etc) to facilitate shell removal. When you eat cooked nuts, not only are you eating fat heated to high temperatures, vitamins will have been significantly damaged or destroyed, and minerals will be less bioavailable.

(One thing I found strange in my early days as a raw fooder is how so many raw food teachers would fill their recipes with brazils and macadamias, which are very difficult to find raw in the UK, and, when this was queried, would chide others for being pedantic. One (no names - but s/he is no longer active in the raw food world...) went so far as to suggest that those who cared whether their nuts were raw or not had some sort of mental health problem, when she was quite happy to tell people why they shouldn't boil, steam, etc...



In the UK, our almonds have (so far) escaped pasteurisation. US almonds are generally pasteurised, although I understand it is possible to obtain them unpasteurised from some sources (US readers - if you know of any, please post a Comment to help your fellow nutters.)

Almonds can easily be bought in shell in the UK, but...I must confess I haven't cracked (sorry) the method of shelling them efficiently, so I normally buy mine shelled. Keep a note of which suppliers like to include rancid ones (these taste vile - you'll know.) and give them a wide berth in future. I had been buying from a local wholefoods market (Infinity brand), but quality hadn't been 100% consistent. Recently I've been buying from haverawcakeandeatit, have delved into the pack several times and haven't found a bad one yet. Very good almonds - far less dry and dusty than other brands.

To test the freshness of your almonds, chew them for a very long time. If they continue to taste milky, becoming sweeter, trust your tastebuds - that means they're good!


Shelled brazils on sale in shops will have been boiled (or sometimes roasted) for several minutes for shell removal, which will certainly kill the nut and affect nutrients. Brazils are a good source of selenium, and although I'm not a biochemist, my understanding from my reading on this is that, whether or not the selenium is actually damaged, it will be changed by cooking and therefore rendered less bioavailable to us.

So brazils should be purchased in-shell. They're generally available October-January in the UK, ie around Christmas. However...I'm rather suspicious of the in-shell nuts currently being sold in supermarkets. They seem too 'yellow' in colour to be raw, don't taste as I remember brazil nuts tasting years ago and, after eating them at various points over the last few weeks, I've made an association with some rather yukky 'symptoms' following my eating of them, eg mild headaches, feeling 'sinusy' (mild deafness - build-up of pus in middle ear?), and not-nice poo (sorry!). They weren't organic (I currently have no local source of organic brazils), and I'm wondering if these in-shell brazils have in fact been cooked and/or 'treated' in some way. (Edit - I've 'tested' these yet again, and same symptoms - please avoid! Note to body - I'm sorry to have inflicted this on you, but I did it for my readers!) Perhaps someone can throw some light on this.

It is also possible that over a period of several days I overdid it on the selenium that brazil nuts are so high in; selenium is toxic in large quantities, and the quantities talked of in the articles I've found would certainly correspond to a 'handful' a day (esp. if you have large hands :-)). And the shells themselves contain toxins; most of the time when I crack brazils they don't emerge from their shells whole, and therefore it's quite possible to accidentally consume tiny pieces of shell with our broken nuts. So, if you are going to have brazils, best to stick to one or two a day, and, if, like me, you don't have the will-power to keep consumption that low, probably safest not to buy them at all.

Organic raw brazils can be purchased from, although have to say that even these didn't taste like brazils-as-I-remember-them!

So jury's out on in-shell brazils...

(BTW if you are fortunate enough to be able to obtain some good, organic, truly raw, not-mucked-about-with brazils, try chewing them for a long time, and see if they taste of mushroom to you. My theory is that that's the selenium!)


Technically not a nut, but the seed of the cashew apple, the raw cashew is encased in a tough shell that contains caustic, toxic substances. So that these are not consumed, the cashews are steamed and/or immersed in a hot oil bath so that the shells and toxins can be removed.

Truly raw cashews (hand-cracked by workers wearing gloves) can be purchased from online stores such as


Try green coconuts (on sale at Tesco and ethnic shops/stalls in the summer) for their delicious water and soft flesh. IF you can get into them. I stick to enjoying them when someone else has gone to the hard work of opening them! Don't write off the less fashionable, brown-hairy, hard-fleshed, mature coconuts - they can be very good as well, although level of freshness is highly variable.


These grow easily in the UK and similar climates - we have a large cob-nut (filberts - a sort of hazelnut) tree in the garden. In-shell is of course best. If you don't have your own tree, find someone who does, and start your own for the future. Some supermarkets sell in-shell filberts in the Autumn and hazelnus around Christmastime. research has suggested that these are likely to be raw (they are after all very easy to crack, so shouldn't need to be cooked for shell removal) and also that they may be dried at lower temperatures than other nuts. However, I've found (perhaps because they are dried at a lower temperature) that they do go off quickly. (I remember a US friend not knowing the phrase 'go off' - I'm talking 'go stale/rancid'.) So I don't tend to buy shelled hazelnuts very often, having my fill of in-shell ones in the Autumn.


Shelled macs in the UK are very much cooked, and often rancid. I say 'often', because I remember what shelled macs tasted like when I first went raw (and didn't realise they weren't raw) and compared that with the taste of some in-shell macs that I obtained from a tropical birdfeed shop and cracked with a heavy stone. Macs just cracked from the shell are creamy and quite different from the 'smoky' (heated fat?) taste of shelled macs. Even 'truly raw' macs (as available from don't taste anything like as good as the freshly-cracked - the flavour of macs deteriorates very quickly once out of the shell. I see that are now stocking raw macs, and could be worth trying but the price - £17 for 500g - would rule them out for me.

As far as macadamias go, I just accept the fact that, living here, I...just can't have 'em! I've heard raw fooders stamp their foots and say things like 'well, if I can't get raw x/y I'll still have the non-raw - I'm not going to deprive myself.' Which I've always found strange, as there are thousands of other delicious raw things we can eat!


Pecans are soaked in hot, or nearly-boiling, water for shell removal. I have heard of people here selling products claimed to be made with raw pecans, but I'd love to know how they're shelling them in large quantities without heat treatment, as I've tried, and even getting the nut out in little pieces is an ordeal. US nutters - I know pecans are popular over there - do you have truly raw pecans?


As available in the UK, they come within my 'fourth place' category - dried - and my attempts to sprout them have been unsuccessful. Pity, as, being a Grecophile, I have many happy memories of pistachios...I have had the privilege of eating pistachios guaranteed as truly raw, via a friend who had imported from Nora Lenz in the US, and they were certainly very good.


Walnuts for in-shell sale are fumigated or heat-treated to kill insects in storage. So, as organic producers will not have fumigated, they may well have heat-treated...and I haven't managed to sprout any organic walnuts I've purchased.

Ideally, save your walnut-eating till the Autumn, and find a walnut tree. If you don't have one, put a card up at a Post Office/newsagent; someone in your vicinity may well have a walnut tree and appreciate you clearing their lawn. And, of course, plant a baby tree for harvest in a few years' time, as I have. My source of fresh, moist, delicious walnuts this Autumn - so fresh they've still had their black skins, and without a hint of the bitterness sometimes found in dried walnuts - has been a lady with a walnut tree selling them at a local 'car boot' sale!

To summarise, for UK nutters, and those in similar climates, it's best to go for:

Fresh in-shell hazelnuts September - December, from local trees, or shops.
Fresh in-shell walnuts October, from local trees.
In-shell brazils, possibly...if organic, and consumption limited to one or two a day.
Almonds from Europe (in-shell or shelled) from a reliable source.
Truly raw cashews from online stores.

If you're outside the UK, make us green by letting us know what truly raw nuts you are fortunate enough to be able to obtain. (And, if you know of a source of organic, in-shell brazils, where the nuts taste good, please let me know!)

Monday, 16 November 2009

Are You A Nutter?

I am!

After weeks of feasting first on cob-nuts (like hazelnuts) from the garden, then on delicious locally-grown walnuts, and then reading in John Robbins' 'Healthy at 100' of the long-lived, healthy Abkhasians who include nuts at 'almost every meal', I thought it was about time I blogged about nuts, especially, as, for reasons I shall examine, nuts are a tad unfashionable in some raw food circles.

Some raw fooders say they can't eat them as they give rise to digestive problems. I do sympathise with that and will suggest reasons why these might be occurring. I do however take issue with those who claim that the reason they can't digest nuts is because their body is that much cleaner/digestion more efficient than that of the rest of us (always a goodie for 'raw oneupmanship') and that, consequently, nuts should not be eaten - by anyone. The last straw for me - the motivation for writing this article - was hearing someone recently describe nuts as 'dirty fuel'!

I love nuts, and they're an integral part of my raw food diet. They're a wonderful food for human beings, and I'm not the only one to think so. Regular readers will know I often refer to the writings of the Natural Hygienists, so let's kick off with some excerpts (paraphrased) from 'Nuts' by the 'father' of Natural Hygiene - Herbert Shelton (my comments bracketed):

'Botanically, nuts are fruits [so in this way are technically part of a 'fruitarian' diet], as they develop from pollinated flowers. Paleontologists tell us that primitive man was a nut eater. Nuts are rich in food values, delightfully-flavored and keep for extended periods so that man, as well as the squirrel, may store them for future use.

The nut tree, like the fruit tree, strikes its roots deep into the earth, where they take up the precious minerals...[so nut trees should not be affected by 'demineralisation' of soil, as that tends to apply to the topsoil only].

The nut is a veritable storehouse of minerals and high-grade protein, emulsified oil and health-imparting vitamins. Nuts are rich in minerals, particularly iron and lime [calcium]. In the chewing of nuts a fine emulsion is produced so that the nuts enter the stomach in a form adapted for prompt digestion.'

Dr Virginia Vetrano, writing in 'Errors in Hygiene?!!?' on nuts: 'they are packed full of bone-building minerals and proteins, and, like other fruits, are truly Nature's demonstration of love to humans.' She has observed that 'the addition of nuts to the all-fruit diet has often brought about a quick return of energy and strength, a happier disposition, faster wound healing and better growth of the hair and nails.'

The Teacher in The Essene Gospel of Peace - a wonderful litttle book of dietary instruction (and other things...) - instructed the Israelites to eat dried figs and 'the meat of almonds in all the months when the trees bear no fruits.'


As Shelton tells us, there is evidence to suggest that early man was a fruit and nut gatherer.

Man is unique in that, unlike every other creature on earth, he has been equipped with the brains and motor skills to be able to utilise all sorts of food sources. That's natural for man.

He watches the squirrel and observes that the hard capsules hanging from trees contain edible nuts. He sees that, after the squirrel has had its fill, there are hundreds of these capsules left on the ground (are in my garden anyway!), that 99% will return to the ground if uneaten, and 1% will grow into new trees. He is resourceful enough to see that here could be a food source for himself. He observes that the squirrel uses his sharp teeth to get into the capsules. So man either uses his own sharp teeth, or if these aren't up to the job, uses a stone, or invents implements to remove the nut from the shell. He also observes that the squirrel stores the nuts, and, after experimentation, finds that he can also store the nuts, provided they're kept dry. In this way, he can benefit from a tasty, concentrated-protein food source in the months ahead when there may be a relatively low amount of food (if any) growing. In this way, it benefits the man, who, through wanderlust (also natural to man) has migrated to climates cooler than those in which (we are told) he originated.

In this way, the gathering, storing and eating of nuts is entirely natural, for man. And the nuts taste good to him. They don't need to be seasoned. They don't need to be 'disguised' by mixing with other foods. It's natural for man to be attracted to, and to eat nuts.


Oh the number of nut 'downers' I've seen on raw food forums. Let's take these one by one...

'Nuts are acidic'. Are they?

Well, yes, in general...a bit. They tend to be high in phosphorus so will leave an 'acid ash' when metabolised. Although some say the almond is alkalising, and Shelton believes the pistachio to be alkalising, but...controversial views, and consensus is that nut pH is neutral at best and probably slightly acidic. But that's no good reason to leave nuts out of the diet. After all, if most of the diet is alkalising, eg fruit, greens (many raw food teachers, for various reasons, recommend pairing nuts with greens) there really isn't going to be a problem, and the net effect of eating nuts in moderation, ie of obtaining all the nutrients they give us, is going to be good.

'Nuts are constipating.' Are they?

I have never been constipated (well, bar the occasional day, eg when travelling across the world) since going raw three years ago; I 'go' at least twice a day. So, as a regular nut eater, I have to conclude that nuts are not 'constipating'.

'Nuts are difficult to digest. Are they?'

Some people do have difficulties digesting nuts, it's true. But some of those people seem to assume that everyone does. The fact is, those of us who eat nuts regularly don't have problems digesting them. (Else we wouldn't be eating them, I can assure you.)

Some tips:

1. Don't eat nuts in the industrial, and unnatural, quantities required by some raw food recipes. My rule of thumb is not to eat more shelled nuts than we'd eat if we had to hand-crack them all ourself.

2. Nuts bought from shops will have been dried. Nuts are low on water in the first place, so when dried are very dry! That can cause discomfort when eating. It can help to soak dried nuts for a few hours to rehydrate them, so they're a little nearer to the state they were when they fell from the tree.

3. The longer we chew them (masticate!), the more hydrated they will be, the more ready for digestion they will be, and the less likely they are to sit in our stomachs like bricks.

4. Eat them slowly. This is where buying in-shell nuts scores - hand-cracking each nut and making sure we finish eating one nut before the next goes in (take your own advice please, Debbie) will slow us down a bit!

5. Don't eat nuts with fruit, and, ideally, don't eat fruit until at least a few hours after your nut-eating. This is because...fruit digests very quickly, and, sure, nuts take a little longer. If we eat fruit with or on top of nuts, the fruit will want to exit quickly, but its exit will be blocked by the nuts. While the fruit's hanging round, it will ferment...gas, football tummy, maybe pain...

(The classic raw food restaurant fruit & nut pie, where large quantities of nuts (sometimes not even soaked, and sometimes not even raw) are mixed with fruit, may well, as per 1, 2 and 5 above, cause 'digestive problems', and if we're not attending to our chewing and bolting our food because we're busy yakking with other raw fooders, 3 and 4 will apply as well and...we'll feel very uncomfortable a few hours later and maybe the next day too...but - it's really not the fault of the nuts per se!)

Some raw fooders claim that the reason their bodies have problems with nuts is because their digestive systems are particularly 'clean'/'responsive'.

Here's a different spin on that. It's a bit controversial, and I know some people are going to hate it, but it's interesting and I feel worth considering.

Virginia Vetrano: 'Nuts are digestible. Only those with impaired digestive systems have trouble with nuts.' (Oo-er!!)

This is the gist of it: to digest dense protein foods such as nuts, the stomach needs to produce hydrochloric acid (HCl). Now, in people with digestive problems, HCl may well be lacking, hence they will find nuts difficult to digest. Vetrano believes that Natural Hygienist T C Fry made this error. He had digestive troubles prior to embarking on a Hygienic diet, and, when he then encountered problems with nuts, blamed the nuts. He therefore ate no nuts, and, in Vetrano's opinion, his health would have been better if he'd included this extra protein in his diet to meet the extraordinary health challenges he faced from a past life of digestive abuse coupled with a very stressful lifestyle.

And therefore is it not possible that those raw fooders who are healthy but then remove nuts and seeds from their diet may then, on the rare occasions they do have them, encounter problems digesting nuts because they rarely eat them? The stomach generates enough HCl to meet the body's needs, and it may well be that, over time, if nuts are never eaten, it will produce less HCl, therefore reducing its ability to digest them efficiently. Just my tentative hypothesis.
But Vetrano's advice to health seekers having problems with nuts seems to support this. She recommends building up gradually, by having very small portions, eating nuts twice a day instead of all at once, and chewing so well 'that the mixture of nuts and saliva is almost as thin as water. That way you will be sure that lingual lipase, the fat-digesting enzyme secreted by the glands of the tongue, is extra plentiful.'

'Nuts encourage 'binge-eating'. Do they?

Most of us, even when raw for some time, eat for emotional reasons at times. We may feel stressed one day and our psyches pull us back to days when we 'comforted' ourselves by shovelling in a bag of (cooked) peanuts, cashews, whatever - fast - so we overeat on nuts, our minds overriding our bodies, ignoring the 'I've had sufficient' signals. This is where only eating in-shell nuts can help. Shelling nuts takes time and effort, and we're far less likely to overeat if we have to shell them ourselves.

Although, I would suggest that depriving ourselves of nuts (and fat in general) can actually lead to 'binge-eating'! I've found that eating all the raw fat I fancy (usually at least 15% of my diet by calories) means that I don't binge-eat on nuts. When last year I tried limiting my fat to less than 10% I had significant cravings that did lead to binge-eating on occasions. Some people I know do very well on 10% fat or less. Me, I'm happy and healthy on a little more.

'Most of the nuts sold in the UK are rancid. Are they?'

If they haven't just fallen from the tree, perhaps, technically, they could be classed as 'rancid', but only in the same way that any food that hasn't just been pulled up from the soil or picked from a tree isn't as fresh as it could be.

Rancidity is caused by hydrolysis (exposure to water) or oxidation (exposure to air). In-shell nuts are protected to some extent by their shells. Shelled nuts are dried before sale (see Pt 2 for more details on this) to reduce water content and are then specially packed to reduce oxygen (eg vacuum/nitrogen packing).

Now, cooked people can be duped into eating all sorts of things that aren't good, especially when they're highly seasoned and/or covered in sauce, but, when we've been raw for a while, and only eating whole raw foods, I am sure that we can trust our tastebuds and sense of smell to tell us when something shouldn't be eaten.

If ever in your life, cooked or raw, you've smelt oil that's been in the cupboard too long, you'll know 'rancid'! The only shelled nuts that I remember regularly detecting rancidity in were shelled macadamias at the start of my raw life (when I didn't realise they were actually cooked.) Nowadays I do occasionally find a rancid nut amongst various nuts that I eat, but - no problem - I just stop chewing and remove it from my mouth.


Nuts are a concentrated source of protein. True, everything we eat contains amino-acids, from which our bodies build protein, but nuts are particularly high in the essential amino-acids.

They score highly on vitamins and minerals as well. Try inputting a few days' eating, without nuts and seeds (seeds are similar to nuts nutritionally), into a nutritional program such as Cron-o-Meter. Then repeat, adding 2-4 oz of nuts a day. Watch your Vitamin E, calcium, iron, zinc and selenium levels shoot up!

Just picking out three of my favourite nuts: almonds are particularly high in Vitamin E, calcium, copper, magnesium and zinc. Hazels are high in calcium. Walnuts are high in magnesium. All nuts are a good source of raw fats, and walnuts are particularly good for omega-3s, so are the raw vegan's very good friend!


The standard recommendation of Natural Hygienists and raw food teachers in general is to eat nuts in small quantities - how small varying by raw food dietary 'school of thought'. They do taste delicious, and I know that sometimes it's hard not to wolf them down. As well as buying in-shell, do eat fruit and vegetables in sufficient quantity so you're not tempted to 'fill up' with nuts.

For me, nuts are an integral part of my diet, but not a major part (that starring role goes to fruit). And, if 'instinctive eating' is operating correctly, we're not going to be drawn to eating nuts all the time (not even squirrels do that). But, sometimes minds overrule bodies...I remember raw food promoter Karen Knowler telling the tale of a truck driver who, on going raw, decided to eat 'nothing but nuts', and ended up with kidney problems. Karen on quantities: 'in nature they grow in shells and it takes a long time and a lot of manual effort to shell them one by one (which we would do naturally). I don't think it's a coincidence that nature is set up this way. It knows that these 'little treasures' are PACKED with nutrition and potential and we just don't need many to be healthy.' Beautifully put.

Nuts - delicious. Nuts - are digestible. Nuts - a good food for human beings. So, if you've been told that nuts aren't invited to the raw food party, please put that out the window, and crack open some hazelnuts, or some brazils? BUT do make sure they're raw.

And that I will be discussing in Pt 2.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The 'danger' of not supplementing for vitamin D

DISCLAIMER: Not a doctor, not a dietician. Etc.

Now the days are getting shorter, and greyer, do you in the UK and similar climates feel scared? Do you feel scared when you hear supplement manufacturers tell you it's essential to supplement for vitamin D in the UK, at least in the winter, else your health will suffer?

Dr Doug Graham ('80/10/10 Diet'): 'Whenever somebody's trying to scare us, the question is, 'Are they benefiting from it, and in what way? If they're selling us a product...we should ask how big is the danger, really?'

In the UK, the supplement sellers' trump card is that, no matter how much we good little health seekers get out in the sun in the summertime, we're stuffed in the winter because we have...the wrong kind of sun.

In this article I'm going to try to assess how big (or small) the danger is for vegans in the UK (from this point on please read for UK, 'UK and similar climates!') if they don't supplement for vitamin D in the winter.


As usual, sources vary, and figures are usually ranges, but a ballpark figure is around 400 IU a day (on average) for an adult.


People on all types of diet, that is, including cooked omnivorous, get the vast majority of their vitamin D from sunlight on the skin, not food. To give you an idea... John Cannell, Vitamin D Council: '10-15 minutes in noontime summer sun is enough and leads to the production of 10,000 IU of vitamin D'. (This compares with 300 IU from a portion of oily fish, 98 IU from a cup of (vitamin D-fortified) milk, and 20IU from an egg.)

To all intents and purposes, there's little difference between the vegetarian and vegan diet when it comes to vitamin D. Unless a vegetarian glugs down vast quantities of fortified milk (very little D in raw milk), which would bring its own attendant health problems, D food sources for the vegetarian are insignificant.

What did vegetarians/vegans in the UK do in the past, before supplements (or indeed fortified milk and other veg foods) were invented? We don't have much information on vegans (as we're a rare sort!), but I haven't found anything that suggests that UK vegetarians in history have, as a group, suffered from health problems - in fact, the reverse has tended to be the case. I wonder how they managed.

Some basics:


Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which acts like a hormone, regulating the formation of bone and the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the intestine. It's created during a chemical reaction that starts when the skin is exposed to the sun's 'ultraviolet B' (UVB) rays. Substances within sebum (a fatty substance on the skin's surface) then work with the sun exposure to synthesise vitamin D, or, to be more precise, D3. The D3 is then absorbed (we hope, see later) from the surface of the skin into the bloodstream.

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the D made by mammals, ie including humans, via the process described above.
(Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is the D derived from fungal and plant sources.)

And note that UVB rays enable us to make vitamin D, but UVA rays destroy vitamin D.


It's most important role is in increasing absorption of calcium, and reducing urinary calcium loss. However, as it's also a regulator, in certain circumstances, D will take calcium from the bones if it's needed in the blood.

If there's not enough vitamin D, calcium deficiency will lead to bone softening, and fractures may result. Bones may form abnormally ('rickets'). Also, current research suggests D is involved in growth of lymphocytes, part of the body's defence system.


From the sun of course, and there's a lot of it about, even in the UK (some experts say that even on a cloudy summer day some vitamin D will form.)

Taking the summer sunshine, as no controversy there, most of us could get far more of it than we do.

Indoor living

It's my guess that many of those tapping away at their keyboards worrying about vitamin D and/or warning others to supplement for D have done so indoors with the sun shining outside. Although most of us enjoy being out in the sun once we're there, it can take self-discipline and effort to drag ourselves away from the computer. But so much better than popping a pill.

Remembering the massive amount of vitamin D that can be made by just 10-15 minutes in the sun, those working in offices, shops etc can get out at lunchtime, and spend any weekend time they do have working, or just lying in, the garden (or park if there's no garden.)

We should not wear sunscreen, as that blocks UVB rays. Caveat - if the sun is so strong that we feel uncomfortable in it we should, as an animal would do, seek a shady spot.


Wear fewer. From March at least, whenever it's sunny, we should push up our sleeves, get the shorts out!


It doesn't seem to me that this is much of a concern (re vitamin D at least!) in the UK,'s a good opportunity to discuss 'rickets'. Rickets in children was common in the Victorian era and the first half of the 20th century, when industrialisation led to smog (eg from burning coal), which blocked out much of the sun's UVB rays. My parents have often told of the 'peasoupers' of the Fifties. Also, certainly earlier in the 20th century, children were often working in factories in daylight hours anyway (before the start of compulsory schooling) so what little UVB rays were around they weren't getting. As the deprivation of sunlight = less vitamin D = less calcium absorption, then drinking gallons of milk would of course increase calcium and 'cure' rickets (as it did) but the cause of the rickets was lack of sunshine.

Prior to Victorian times, my googling finds no evidence to suggest that rickets was widespread. The rickets came with unnatural lifestyle.

In modern times, studies carried out in Delhi have linked atmospheric pollution with the development of vitamin D deficiency.

But even the London air is relatively clean compared with that of the Fifties, and London isn't amongst the most polluted cities in the world (16 out of 20 of them are in China, and in some the air is dark with coal dust!).


This is where the supplement sellers say 'nerr -gotcha!' to those of us who have the misfortune not to live in California.

As, a scientific study has shown that, in countries above 42 degrees north latitude, the sunlight November through February is insufficient for vitamin D synthesis, and that, in far northern latitudes, it's insufficient for up to six months. Hard luck us. UK is at 54 north - not exactly 'far northern', but, yes, perhaps our 'insufficient' period might extend a little way either side of November through February.

One reader became annoyed with me when I called this a 'theory' and said it was a 'scientifically proven fact'. I wish I had a penny (OK - a pound) for every scientific study that claimed such-and-such, only to be contradicted by a study a year or so later, where things had been done in a slightly different way, and different conclusions drawn. And haven't we been told all sorts of things about nutrition about scientists over the last 50 years, many of which have turned out to be...wrong?

(EDIT Nov 09 - It's mid-November and, amidst some cold blustery days, we have had a fair bit of sunshine, and this morning's been glorious! I've been in the garden, happily weeding, dead-heading...bulbs are coming up already, some are even budding! But, according to the scientists, this sunshine won't nourish me. You know what? I Don't Believe It. )

But, OK, for now, as I know many of you do believe it, let's go with the 'wrong kind of sun' for, say, late October to early March?


Yes, we can store the D. Sources conflict as to where. I've seen 'the liver' and 'in body fat'. Perhaps both are correct. Either way, the D can be stored and released into the bloodstream as needed.

However, supplement manufacturers tell us that the D we make in the summer will simply not last us the whole of the winter, and that at some point in the winter we are likely to be significantly 'deficient'.

But not everyone agrees.

Dr Colin Paterson (consultant physician, NHS health site): 'Most people in the UK get most of their vitamin D from exposure of the skin to sunlight. The average person has enough vitamin D stored in their body to last for two or three years.'

Oliver Gillie, former Sunday Times medical correspodnent, reviewing the literature on vitamin D: 'Active exposure of the skin to the sun by removing clothes and sunbathing is necessary to provide healthy levels of vitamin D that will provide a reserve for the autumn, winter and early spring (October to March or later) when the sun is not strong enough to induce synthesis of vitamin D. Vitamin D has a half-life in the body of about six weeks and so high levels must be achieved in summer to provide levels in the body which remain sufficient at the end of winter.'

So Gillie is saying that provided we get enough in the summer, it will last the winter. A 'half-life' is the time taken for something to fall to half its initial value. We could only establish how much D was left after, eg, twelve weeks if we knew the rate of decline after the six-week point, and, of course, exactly how much D we might be using from our stores in that period! Suffice to say that, sure, stores must be getting low by late winter.

But, just because stores are low at one time of the year, does that necessarily mean our bodies are going to have problems? Can a healthy body not 'make it through' until levels are topped up again in the spring? How necessary is it for us to have 'high' stores every single month of the year? At worst, perhaps our bones are a little lower in mineral density towards the end of the winter, but I don't notice them crumbling en masse around February.

Pale skin absorbs more vitamin D

Now here's some good news for the pasty-faced!

Dark skin absorbs less sunlight than pale skin. Although science says we all came out of Africa originally, scientists at the Oslo University say that the skin of those who moved to colder countries lightened over thousands of years to give an evolutionary advantage. In other words, the skin lightened as a response to the different climate. Meaning that...for those who get less sunlight, nature compensates by ensuring that they absorb more. Neat, that!

So, our bodies are so clever that the skins of those who have migrated to cooler climates lighten specifically so they can make that much more vitamin D from the little sunlight they do get in the summer. Who knows, perhaps that's to help them through the winter! But then, that would be suggesting that our bodies know what they're doing, and are perfectly capable of making necessary adjustments for different climates...


Most people who take D supplements take it not because they have noticed any particular symptoms but because they have been persuaded by others that it's a good idea to take them.

But some raw vegans take supplements because they have had health issues and attribute these to D deficiency.

Now, it could be that symptoms are due to D deficiency, and the obvious answer is to get more sunshine. But some maintain that, despite getting lots more sunshine than the average, they are still experiencing symptoms of 'deficiency'

But it is possible that these symptoms could be down to something else entirely. Illness can be caused by a thousand lifestyle factors, including many unconnected with food or sunshine. Bone/teeth problems could be due to acid-forming elements in the diet (some on high-raw diets have alcohol, coffee etc), resulting in the body leeching calcium from the bones to maintain optimal pH, or...could be due to eating too much dried fruit combined with poor dental care.

But what if our raw vegan has a blood test and vitamin D is undeniably 'low'? Well, firstly of course it could well be 'low' if it's taken in late winter. But then surely the D of the population as a whole might be lower then than in mid-summer anyway, and, as explained earlier, I question whether this is necessarily a concern.

Secondly, it could be that the illness itself has depleted the vitamin D. I'm on shaky ground here, as I don't have a source, but have seen this suggested in the past. I've googled pretty exhaustively to find anything more than anecdotal corroboration, but if any of you can supply anything more on this let me know. It makes sense if we consider that the body, when healing itself, might draw on stores of various nutrients, and if D is one of those (as research indicates it has a role to play in the defence system), then it would not be surprising if a person who is ill finds, on testing, that they are indeed 'low' on D, but as a result rather than a cause of the illness. Bear with me on my musings?

But it could also be the case that, although his/her body has been doing its darndest to make plenty of vitamin D in the summer, various lifestyle practices could be combining to...destroy it!


Wash it off!

Thanks to Joseph Mercola MD for reporting results of research that shows that it takes up to 48 hours before the majority of the D formed on our skin when exposed to sunlight is absorbed, and that, according to Mercola, if in that 48 hours we shower or bathe with soap (or, we might presume, any sort of 'bodywash' that contains detergent), we'll wash away much of the D! As, the soap washes off the sebum, which is critical in vitamin D formation. It could be the modern preoccupation with daily showering that is responsible for low D levels. So, I'd suggest showering with water only, or just using soap/detergent on the bits of the body that, er, don't normally see sunlight anyway?

Get our sunshine through glass...

Whereas the UVB rays enable our bodies to make vitamin D, UVA rays break down the D we've just formed. Glass blocks UVB, so if we come out of the summer sun, then spend time in a room (or in a car) where the sun's shining through a window rather than directly on us, we're getting lots of UVA, but not UVB. Net effect - reduction of vitamin D. So best to make sure windows are all open wide, to get the sunlight directly onto our skin, or better still - get out there!

Modern humans do get up to all sorts of things that can deplete vitamin levels. We also have ways of preventing the D we have made from being absorbed. For example:

Obese people are less than half as able to utilise vitamin D made through the skin as lean persons. Consequently, the average raw vegan is much more able than the average to absorb vitamin D.

Alcohol - interferes with the conversion of vitamin D to its biologically active form.


Dissenting points of view, basically, but I'm happy to provide them here!

(BTW as a side issue, there's a bit of a 'tricky' here for vegans anyway, in that the most effective form of vitamin D is D3 - that produced by mammals, eg us - and the least effective form is D2, derived from plants exposed to UVB. And 'least effective' is being rather kind, when one considers what some say about D2, eg Dr John Cannell: 'a vitamin D-like patent drug whose patent has expired. It does not normally occur in the human body and is probably a weak antagonist at the receptor site, meaning it may actually partially block vitamin D actions.' So the raw vegan who wants to supplement has to choose between D2 as described above, or D3, which is made from animal products, eg from lanolin - a skin secretion of sheep extracted in the processing of wool - so not vegan.)

Possible health problems from supplemental vitamin D:

Nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD: 'Vitamin D toxicity usually results from taking an excessive amount of vitamin D may be at greater risk if you have health problems, such as liver or kidney conditions...the main consequence of vitamin D toxicity is a build-up of calcium in your blood, causing symptoms such as: nausea, poor appetite, constipation, weakness, confusion, heart rhythm abnormalities, kidney stones...'

Charlette R Gallagher ('Taking the fear out of eating') explains that the effect of too much D on bones is similar to that of too little and that calcium may be removed from bone and too much deposited in soft tissue, resulting in arthritis-like pain and kidney damage. This is confirmed by the American Dietetic Association: 'excess amounts of vitamin D can cause...reduced bone density.' Some people have found, in taking supplemental vitamin D, that their problems have worsened rather than improved. I remember reading an account by a well-known raw fooder in the UK who noted that the condition of her children's teeth worsened while supplementing for Vitamin D rather than improving.

I'll bet some reading are thinking, 'maybe, but I don't have liver/kidney problems, and all that only applies to excessive doses!' You trust your supplement manufacturer, and are confident that the dose you are taking is not excessive. But who's deciding here how much you need? Your clever body? Does the supplement manufacturer by some magical process know exactly how much D your body made in the summer, how much it's using each day, and, therefore, the optimal dose (in supplement form) for you?

But, for those who are nevertheless convinced that the D they are taking is 'just right'...

J C Waterhouse, PhD, lead author of a study of vitamin D and chronic disease, says: 'We have found that vitamin D supplementation, even at levels many consider desirable, interferes with recovery...' [in patients].

Professor Trevor G Marshall (School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Murdoch University, Western Australia, Jan 2008): 'What we've shown is that all forms of vitamin D from outside the body are counterproductive to the body's own ability to regulate its own internal production.' Marshall showed that quite nominal doses of ingested vitamin D can suppress the proper operation of the immune system. He sums up by saying that 'The comprehensive studies are just not showing that supplementary vitamin D makes people healthier.'


The animal world is full of clues as to how to live healthfully. So, as looking at domesticated mammals (ingesting various unnatural substances in their feeds) would complicate things, let's consider wild mammals such as squirrels, deer, rabbits. They don't supplement (and neither do they eat oily fish or vitamin D-fortified milk). Sure, they'll get lots more sunlight each summer than we will (which gives us a clue as to lifestyle adjustments to be made). However, the supplement manufacturers like to make us feel that no matter how much sunshine we get in the UK summer our health is going to be compromised if we don't take D supplements in the winter. Yet these animals are doing just fine! (but note they don't sit behind windows, soap themselves down daily, drink alcohol or overeat either...)


As there is less sunlight in the winter (and, if the scientists are to be believed, in the UK and similar climates it's 'the wrong sort'), perhaps we should compensate by sleeping for far longer.

Essene Gospel of Peace: 'And God will send you each morning the angel of sunshine to wake you from your sleep...But when the sun is set and your Heavenly Father sends you his most precious angel, sleep, then take your rest, and be all the night with the angel of sleep...Wake not by night, neither sleep by day...'

Now, I've tended to disregard these instructions, as, after all, in the depths of the UK winter sunset is around 5 pm and sunrise around 7 am. Sleeping from 5 pm to 7 am would be a 'problem' for me, as firstly our modern lives are organised on the premise that it's 'normal' to be awake in the evenings and secondly I've persuaded myself that 14 hours sleep would be 'too much' for me (in fact many of you will have heard me show off about how few hours I do sleep).

But light finally started to dawn for me when I read that the Hunzas, one of the longest-living, healthiest cultures in the world, 'have no electric lighting, so in the long winters they sleep longer hours, thus conserving heir energy at a time when the sun's radiance is at its lowest ebb.' (John Robbins 'Healthy at 100').

Could it be that (as with so many things!) we have got it all wrong? With electric light keeping us awake when nature wants us to sleep? As there is less sunlight in the winter, and if even the amount we do get we can't make Vitamin D from, then the obvious thing would be to 'conserve energy', so that there are fewer demands on our bodies in the winter, meaning that we maximise energy stores to be able to eliminate any toxins that do come our way?

Yes, it certainly would be a tough call to go to our beds at sunset in winter, as we would no longer be able to take part in evening social engagements, and I certainly don't feel ready to 'go there' yet. But, this winter, on the nights I'm in, I'll be feeling less guilty at going to bed at 9, and, on waking in the morning (usually around 4.30 am!), will try closing my eyes again and getting a bit more sleep.


If you're dark-skinned, I can only suggest you research more thoroughly than I have, as there are indeed some question marks here for you.

However, as a paleface in the UK, I'm no longer scared by the supplement manufacturers. I've assessed the 'danger' for myself and certainly don't believe it's 'large', and feel that it probably doesn't exist at all.

I won't be taking a D supplement, but will do my best to protect my health by:

1. Spending more time in the garden - gardening, sunbathing, socialising, whatever.
2. Not wearing sunscreen. If the sun's that strong, I'll seek shade.
3. Endeavouring (this is a hard one for me!), when the sun's shining through the study window, to stop what I'm doing, and get out there! (Or at least open the window, very wide.)
4. Wearing fewer clothes in the summer. Jeans less, short skirts more.
5. Minimising the use of soap/detergent on my body.
6. Trying to sleep longer in the winter.

And you?

I'm sure it's not coincidence that at the time of writing this article I came across this quote from Buddha: 'Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.'

Thursday, 17 September 2009

SALT Pt 2 - Salt in the raw food diet (and what are those '84 minerals'?)

In this the second part of the article, we'll be hearing from raw food experts who believe unrefined sea salt is the opposite of healthful, and I'll be looking at what's in the salt, specifically those '84 minerals' we hear so much about. I'll then be looking at the amount of salt in raw food recipes and comparing this with the salt in cooked vegan recipes, and showing how raw fooders may be at risk of developing a salt addiction where there was none before! I'll then give some suggestions for those who would like to reduce (or cut out altogether) their consumption of sodium chloride, however 'unrefined'.


Many people who buy unrefined sea salt do so because they are convinced that the '84 minerals' in the salt are good for them. I will be showing you what these minerals are, to help you decide how 'essential' they are, and will also suggest that those minerals that are essential can all be found easily in raw foods.

Table salt is 99% sodium chloride, as other minerals present in the natural salt are removed through processing.

Unrefined sea salt is 84% sodium chloride, and at least 95% sodium chloride by dry weight (see Pt 1), but, yes, those additional minerals are still there. Therefore it's fair to say, as some do, that the sodium chloride is (a little) less concentrated. It's also fair for sellers to say that unrefined sea salt is 'not just sodium chloride'. But it's still mostly sodium chloride.

Many people buy unrefined sea salt for these additional minerals, as, it's kind of comforting to know there are 84 minerals present in our salt, and, for some, helps justify the high price. So, after two years of using the salt, I thought it was about time I found out what these 84 minerals were.

The 84 minerals are those present in sea water. They include:


This, as discussed in Pt 1, can easily be obtained from plant foods.


The body uses chloride to make hydrochloric acid (HCl), which is the stomach acid used to break up fats and proteins. This is why you will hear people say (often salt sellers) that 'salt is essential for digestion'. Well, yes that's true, insofar as chloride, like sodium, is a salt, and, yes, chloride is essential for digestion. But the compound 'sodium chloride', as in unrefined sea salt, is not essential for digestion. Before human beings started collecting for or mining for the residue from evaporated sea water and adding it to their food, their digestions worked fine. Chloride is naturally present in many foods, particularly tomatoes, lettuce, kale, celery, beets, olives and sea vegetables.

Some people are indeed 'low' on HCl. However, in cooked-food eaters, this can be due to the stresses of a standard cooked diet (eg meat digestion puts great demands on HCl). And, if they are low on HCl and do not change their diets, there will of course be digestion problems. In the raw vegan however, 'low' HCl is likely due to the fact that the more easy-to-digest plant foods we eat, the less HCl the body makes, as a healthy body on a healthy diet will (Dr Doug Graham, '80/10/10 Diet') 'make just the amount of HCl we actually need'.

Chloride deficiency is rare, including amongst those who add little or no salt to their food. Nutritionist Adam Greer: 'Chloride requirements are in direct proportion to sodium intake. So, if you're consuming low sodium, then you're pretty certain to require lower chloride. If you're eating enough calories, you are likely to be consuming enough chloride.'

The only other minerals that unrefined sea salt contains in any significant amount are magnesium and potassium. Let's look at these:


One serving (0.9g) of unprocessed sea salt contains 3 mg of magnesium. However, a cup of spinach contains 24 mg, and a banana 32 mg.


One serving of salt contains 1 mg of potassium. But a tomato contains 292 mg and a banana 422 mg.

So what are the other 80 minerals? Here they are:

hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur, calcium, bromine, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, fluorine, neon, aluminium, silicon, phosphorus, argon, scandium, titanium, vanadium, molybdenum, ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, argentum (silver), cadmium, indium, stannum, antimony, tellurium, iodine, xenon, cesium, barium, anthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dyprosium, holmium, chromium, manganese, ferrum, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, gallium, germanium, arsenic, selenium, krypton, rubidium, strontium, yttrium, zirconium, niobium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, hafnium, tantalum, tungsten, rhenium, osmium, iridium, platinum, aurum (gold), mercury, thallium, lead, bismuth, thorium, uranium, plutonium.

Have a look through. The list includes some that we might not normally associate with health.

Although, the manufacturer of one brand of unrefined sea salt tells us that 'Everyone is exposed to low levels of these and other elements every day, far more than is present in sea salt.' I understand that in sea salt some of these elements are at such low levels that some chemists' equipment can't detect them, or that they are within 'safe limits'. As set by Codex Alimentarius. So that's OK then.

Interestingly, some people working in the field of health (and particularly those selling unrefined sea salt) claim that all of the 80 named above are (according to one salt seller) 'essential for health'. A perusal of health sites tells me that unrefined sea salt contains '84 known human cell-replenishing minerals', that the 84 are 'all essential for your health and well-being' and that all 84 are 'nutritional elements'.

As I had not been aware that minerals such as arsenic, lead and mercury were 'cell-replenishing' or 'essential for health and well-being' I checked several sources for corroboration, from nutrition sites to biochemistry textbooks, and found that scientists are pretty united in saying that around 20 of the 84 only are 'essential' for health. Isn't it funny how people can disagree? And that list of 20 includes, for example, zinc, copper, selenium...names we're familiar with - and all 20 can be found in plant foods - I checked that as well.

But...sure, scientists don't know all there is to know, and some in the health world obviously believe there are certain minerals outside the 20 that can benefit us. However, if many of the 84 elements in salt, although known to be 'present', are there in such minute quantities (parts per million) that some chemists' equipment can't even detect them, then surely there's a likelihood they've made their way, in these low concentrations, into our food anyway.

In short, my delving has uncovered no mineral present in unrefined sea salt that a) is essential and b) cannot be found just as easily, if not more easily in our food.


Here are two of the world's leading experts on raw food nutrition, who are in complete agreement. On this issue.

Brian Clements (Hippocrates Health Institute) says that salt (as in unrefined sea salt) should not be part of the raw food diet. 'Organic sodium is essential to the body's lymphatic fluids to be effective in cleaning the overall system. This sodium can be easily found in foods such as celery, celeriac, sea vegetables that have the sodium chloride washed off the surface, etc. Table salt, sea salt, crystal salt, celtic salt etc are all the same sodium chloride with the variation of other elements attached to it. Sodium chloride dehydrates the body and precipitates high blood pressure due to the arterial and organ contraction that occurs after consumption internally.' (Note I commented on the definition of 'organic' as used in this context in Pt 1.)

Dr Doug Graham says that sodium chloride is: 'an irritant and toxic to the body'.'ve heard them all before, but here they come - the dangers of salt (from around a million sources):

High blood pressure - Excess sodium means the body retains fluid, which increases the amount of fluid pumped by the heart and circulating in the bloodstream. The heart has to work harder, which puts the muscles under strain. Sodium chloride dehydrates, shrinking the arteries. Result - high blood pressure and, again, a heart under strain.

Stomach cancer - The National Cancer Research Institute at Kashiwa confirmed in 2004 that salt elevates - even doubles - the incidence of stomach cancer. (Japan has a relatively high rate of stomach cancer and it is suggested this is due to the large amounts of salted foods consumed there.)

Calcium-related problems, eg osteoporosis - The World Health Organisation in 'Vitamin and Mineral Requirements in Human Nutrition' tells us that the more sodium, the less calcium is absorbed. Also, salt has an acidic effect. The body, in order to maintain an optimal acid-alkaline balance, will counter acidity by leaching calcium (alkaline) from the bones.

Weight gain - Fluid retention from excess sodium is due to dehydration from the sodium pulling water out of the cells, and also because water is retained to neutralise salt's causticity. Fluid retention looks like a layer of fat, increases weight and makes us feel 'heavy'.

Yum yum. Pass the salt. Or rather...I'll 'pass' on the salt.

Isn't it crazy that we know that if we drink salt water instead of fresh, the consequences will be dire, and we know how to 'treat' salt water to remove the salt, that, at the same time, some craziness has resulted in our removing the salt from the water then ingesting it? So we're still ingesting a poison, albeit a slower-acting one!

So why, knowing all this, do many raw fooders add salt to their meals? Could be those '84 minerals' (discussed). Could be simply because they prefer the taste of food salted than unsalted.


Because, through a lifetime of unnatural living, we've developed a taste for salt.

Babies don't naturally desire salty foods (they go for sweet). A taste for salt is something we acquire through the practice of continually consuming salted food. This perverts our tastebuds until, sadly, we cannot appreciate the flavour of pure, natural food.

We've been told that salt 'brings out the flavour of the food.' In fact, it does the opposite. It masks the real flavour - the only flavour that is 'brought out' is that of salt. Those on high-raw diets who habitually add salt to their raw food will find it harder to resist the lure of highly-seasoned and/or spiced cooked food, as raw food without salt will seem lacking in flavour in comparison.

And salt is addictive. Raw nutrition expert Prof Rozi Graham explains: 'When salt is consumed, it hits the tastebuds with a tremendous sensory impact resulting in disturbance to the nervous system. This leads to a craving for repeated jolts of intense sensory satisfaction...condiments excite the tastebuds and trigger false appetite, leading to overeating beyond the body's physical needs.'


To those of you who enjoy making 'rawgourmet' food (as I do sometimes), have a look at some of the recipes in your favourite raw food recipe book. In particular, look at the recipes where there are various components to each dish (eg pizzas, lasagnes). You'll likely find in the ingredients lists half a teaspoon of salt here, half a teaspoon of salt there, plus perhaps some 'nama shoyu', or 'miso' for good measure. Then open one of your old cooked vegan (or even non-vegan) recipe books. You'll likely see, for an entire dish, a pinch of salt.

If you'd like to tot up the total sodium in your favourite raw food recipe, here are some figures:

(Sodium, mg)
Unrefined sea salt, 1/2 tsp, 660
Nama shoyu, 1 tbsp, 720
Miso, 1 tbsp, 680

Then compare it with the sodium intake figures in Part 1 of this article. Then do similar with a cooked recipe.

I compared one serving of a raw-vegan two-course meal of leaf wraps with dipping sauce, followed by lasagne, with as close as I could find for a cooked vegan equivalent - leaf wraps with non-dairy yoghurt, followed by a Mediterranean pie.

Cooked vegan meal: 178 mg sodium.
Raw vegan meal: 1265 mg sodium.

As you can see, the raw vegan meal contained over seven times the amount of sodium than the cooked vegan meal.

In the US, FDA food labelling regulations require a disclosure statement if food exceeds 480 mg of sodium per serving...

(Note - having said that not all the sodium in sodium chloride is assimilated, sodium intake via sodium chloride will be an over-estimate in both cases. However, I've compensated for that by measuring sodium for the salt and shoyu elements only, ie not including the sodium in the plant food ingredients. I also assumed only half the dipping sauce was consumed. So I feel the sodium figures are fair estimates.)

Sure, a complex two-course meal isn't daily fare for the average raw fooder, but if we do eat this sort of meal in the evening, perhaps at a raw food restaurant, we will find ourselves not only over the 'ideal' maximum (1200 mg) on that meal alone, but, if we've had additional sodium chloride earlier in the day, perhaps in the form of flax crackers, nut pate, etc, we will be over the 'acceptable' maximum. Too much of this type of 'raw food lifestyle' and a salt addiction could be created where there had been none before, and we could be on a diet that is, overall, less healthful than our former!


A good first step for anyone who likes making raw food dishes, but finds the thought of cutting out all salt too much, is to at least halve the amount of salt in the recipe. And, if you are using nama shoyu or miso (neither are raw anyway), now could be a good time to stop. Doing those two things alone will make a big difference to your sodium chloride intake.

If you are missing the salty taste, refer to the high-sodium plant foods list. Include at least some of these foods in your raw food diet on a regular basis.

Sodium/potassium issues

If you do significantly reduce your salt intake (whether that's to 'a little' or 'nil') you will likely be amongst the majority of raw fooders who experience no problems at all. However, some do experience a strong craving for salt and/or physical symptoms.

I did. When last year I moved from what I now realise was a high-salt raw food diet to no salt at all 'overnight', I experienced occasional muscle cramps and saliva reduction. This didn't happen straight away, but after a couple of weeks or so. The saliva reduction was quite a problem, as it resulted in a very dry mouth, in spite of my being adequately hydrated, and it was disturbing my sleep. I've since learned that this was most likely due to my body's potassium/sodium electrolyte balance being temporarily thrown askew by the sudden, dramatic decrease in sodium (together with large quantities of potassium via fruit, eg bananas) before my body had made adjustments to the healthier intake. (This imbalance has been known to happen on long-term water fasts which is why any fasting practitioner worth his salt (ouch) will monitor fasters' blood pressure.)

What I did was reintroduce just a little salt into my diet (but nowhere near as much as before) and increase my consumption of sodium-rich plant foods. Interestingly, sea vegetables tasted wonderful to me - at that time. After a week or two, the dry mouth went, and sea vegetables My body had obviously made the adjustment to lower salt intake successfully, following a little 'softening' of the regime. Please don't misunderstand me - the re-introduction of a little salt was simply because 'cold turkey' had proved to be a bit more than I could take - the bottom line is that I am convinced that any salt is still too much. But, for me, and others I've spoken to, gradual weaning off rather than an abrupt stop seems to be the safest option. (Alternatively, or additionally, seek out plant foods high in sodium, as listed in Part 1 - cantaloupe melon, grated sweet potato...these sorts of foods should taste particularly good during weaning!)

Since I started working on this article, I've reduced my intake still further, and my target is to reduce it to nil eventually (or perhaps almost nil, as I do like to visit raw food restaurants occasionally!). I've reduced it in the 'transition food' recipes on, and it's absent in others.

Hopefully I've provided useful information, or at least review, for all readers (except of course for those who know the names of the '84 minerals' by heart) and assisted those who are currently adding salt to their raw food dishes in deciding whether to cut it out completely, reduce it, or make no changes in level of salt consumption.

And I do hope that it will encourage those who make, or invent those delicious rawgourmet meals (tell them - send them this article) to at least reduce the amount of sodium chloride in their recipes. Even more.)

Salt with your sodium? As with everything, we are given a choice.

(with thanks to David Zane Mason for pic)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

SALT Pt 1 - Sodium - a pinch (or ten) of salt with that?

A Raw Food UK Forum survey reported that 60% of raw fooders add salt to their food, with 40% choosing not to. Should we ingest our sodium from plant foods alone, or add sodium chloride (however Celtic, Himalayan etc...) to our raw food? What are the 84 elements in unrefined sea salt? How healthy is your raw food diet?

When I went raw, I soon found that the sea salt I'd been buying from the supermarket was just not the ticket. 'De rigeur' at raw food workshops was unrefined sea salt - first grey, then fashionable pink, then back to grey. I was told it had health benefits - 'all those trace minerals'!

Then I began to notice that some people didn't add any salt to their raw food, and, confused by the claims made for the various (expensive) brands, decided to research salt, the results of which I now share with you.

In this two-part article, I'll be discussing whether sodium in plant foods is sufficient to meet our bodies' needs, whether it is healthful to supplement this with sodium from sodium chloride via unrefined sea salt, and, in Part 2, whether raw fooders are in danger of ingesting too much sodium chloride, however 'unrefined' or 'raw' it is. And, for those who would like to reduce their intake of sodium chloride, some suggestions as to how to do so.

You'll hear it said that 'salt is essential for health'. Those trying to sell sea salt to us will often say this. Well, yes it is, but only in the sense that 'mineral salts' (of various kinds) are essential for health. Sodium is just one of these salts. Sodium is essential for health. But sodium chloride isn't essential for health (more later).

In a physiological context, sodium is an electrolyte, along with potassium and other minerals. Electrolytes become ions in solution and acquire the capacity to conduct electricity. Sodium, working with potassium, maintains fluid balance in our bodies and is involved in nervous system function.

Sodium is contained in all plant foods to some degree. It is also 40% of the mineral compound sodium chloride (NaCl), which is salt from sea or lakes. Even 'rock salt' is still sea salt - from seas millions of years ago.

If raw fooders can obtain sodium from plant foods, why do some then add sodium chloride to their food? Generally, for one or all of the following reasons:

They doubt their sodium needs can be met by plant foods alone.
They believe unrefined sea salt to be healthful.
They like the taste and feel food can taste bland without it.

I'll be examining each of the above in the two parts of this article, but first let's discuss to what extent it's 'natural' to ingest sodium chloride.

Salt has indeed been added to food for thousands of years. But of course we've been killing each other, eating meat our food for thousands of years. As raw fooders we should know the 'thousands of years' argument doesn't wash as a good reason for doing anything. And it looks as if we might have managed fine without sodium chloride before then, or at least ingested very little. As naturopathic doctor Tim Trader says: 'Anthropology has found no sodium-chloride deposits in early bones of human remains, though you can find it in most anyone of western civilization today.'

Is the adding of salt universal? There are many 'undeveloped' cultures who add either no, or virtually no, sodium chloride to their food, such as the Yanomamo Indians of South America. Not to mention thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, in the (mainly) Western 'raw food' culture.

Do animals add salt to their food? Some animals (mainly herbivores, it is claimed) have been observed going out of their way to lick salty mineral deposits exposed by harsh weather. As we know salt on roads melts ice, some could in fact be going for the water rather than the salt, due to their usual sources being frozen over, but it seems that this is not the case in all occurrences of this behaviour. But I've found no evidence to suggest 'salt-licking' is universal, even amongst herbivores. Also, we don't know whether they're going for sodium chloride rather than any other mineral salts in the deposit, and animals that do do this certainly don't do it every day.

Can our sodium needs be met by plant foods alone?

(Sources (official and unofficial) vary by country, so I've averaged out.)

'Acceptable maximum': 1600 mg (UK/US average consumption 4000 mg+ daily!)
'Ideal maximum': 1200 mg or less

As to what is a safe minimum, sources again vary. Several say 500 mg, some say lower. Raw food nutritionist Adam Greer recommends 350 mg as a safe minimum. DHSS 'Dietary Reference Values' (1991) reports some adults healthy on intakes as low as 69 mg, and when I asked on raw food forums for average daily sodium intakes, figures came in as low as 30 mg - and some of those individuals had high levels of physical activity. It appears many can be apparently healthy at relatively low levels of sodium, that is, without exhibiting signs of sodium deficiency. (Deficiency symptoms would include confusion, tiredness, nausea, muscle cramps, and a drop in blood pressure. However, note 'low' blood pressure is generally considered healthy - it's just a sudden drop that might cause concern.)

I do occasionally have sodium chloride (although I've cut down my consumption drastically since researching for this article). I totted up my own intake of sodium on a no-sodium-chloride day; my diet consisted of spinach/celery/apple juice, cantaloupe melon, papayas, pumpkin seeds, banana-date smoothie and lettuce/tomato/avocado wraps. Calories totalled 2100. At 360 mg of sodium I'd only just scraped past Adam's figure, although way higher than the intake of other healthy raw fooders I know. And at just 105 lbs, and feeling healthy, I'm happy with that intake. Heavier people eating eg 3000-calories' worth of food similar to mine would find themselves just above the more official 'safe minimum'. My hunch is that those 'safe minimum' figures are overestimates of what we actually need; it could be that even the minimums are influenced by the fact that so many people (including the scientists who set the figures) think it's fine (and even healthy) to ingest a little sodium chloride and that there are so few individuals for them to study who do not.

The fact that the many raw fooders who add no sodium chloride at all to their food are healthy, and exhibiting no signs of sodium deficiency suggests that there is no problem obtaining sufficient sodium from plant foods alone.

Some raw fooders, especially those on high-fruit diets, have wondered if on a relatively low sodium diet they can have 'too much potassium' (as potassium and sodium work together in the body and need to be present in certain proportions). Dr Doug Graham ('80/10/10 Diet') tells us that, although potassium excess is 'not impossible', cases of potassium overload amongst healthy raw fooders are unknown. The only group that does need to be careful is those who have kidney malfunction.

'Instinctive eating' theory (Schaeffer) suggests that we should be fine as long as we don't eat more of high-potassium foods than our bodies genuinely desire. IE theory says that if we are a little low on any nutrient our bodies will set up a search for foods rich in that nutrient, and those foods will consequently taste particularly good to us at those times. For example, I find spinach (a relatively high-sodium vegetable) tastes delicious some days, and ordinary on others. It could just be that some days my sodium needs a little topping up but other days my body has no need for it.

What if we really feel we need more sodium?

These plant foods are particularly good sources:

Sea vegetables (generally), 40g dry, 450 mg sodium
Coconut water, 1 cup, 252 mg
Honeydew melon, 1 medium, 205 mg
Celeriac, 1 cup, 156 mg
Swiss chard, 2 cups, 154 mg
Cantaloupe melon, 1 medium, 88 mg
Carrots, 2 medium, 84 mg
Sweet potato, 1 medium, 72 mg
Beet, 1 medium (2 in), 64 mg
Celery, 2 stalks, 64 mg
Beets, 1 medium, 64 mg
Kale, 2 cups, 58 mg
Spinach, 2 cups, 48 mg
(Source: USDA Nutrient Database)

(note that although tomatoes can taste 'salty', they are relatively low in sodium. The salty taste is likely to be due to high levels of glutamate and/or chloride.)

Is unrefined sea salt healthful?

Some Natural Hygienists writing in the 80s and earlier maintained that our bodies cannot utilise the sodium from sodium chloride. Well, researching this, it would seem that this is probably not the case; we can obtain sodium from sodium chloride. However, virtually all health experts agree that our bodies assimilate sodium much more easily from plant food than via sodium chloride, and I'll explain why they say that.

First let's be clear what 'unrefined' sea salt is. It's been drummed into the heads of many health seekers that table salt is the devil, but unrefined sea salt is OK and even good, and some of us (eg me in the past) have understood that that's because table salt is sodium chloride, as if unrefined sea salt isn't! My son educated me: 'Mum, it's still sodium chloride. It may be 'natural', but even if it's collected in little organic baskets by little organic people, it's still sodium chloride.'

Table salt is 99% sodium chloride, unprocessed sea salt is 84% sodium chloride - so, still mostly sodium chloride. And in fact, by dry weight, unprocessed sea salt is actually 95-99% sodium chloride; 'the only reason 'unprocessed' sea salts have a lower sodium content is because they still contain a lot of moisture.' (Frederic Patenaude)
Table salt is kiln-dried, whereas unrefined sea salt is sun and wind-dried.
Table salt is treated with chemicals such as bleach and anti-caking agents, and, sure, unrefined sea salt isn't - it's pretty much as it comes out of the sea.
Table salt has been stripped of virtually all the minerals additional to sodium and chloride. Sea salt still contains them. I'll tell you what they are in Part 2.

If you add a little salt (table or unrefined sea salt) to a glass of body-heat water you will find most of it dissolves. It's separating into sodium ions and chloride ions. But a little remains undissolved.

I've been discussing with people knowledgeable in chemistry what happens when sodium chloride enters our bodies. And, guess what - they don't all agree, and...they don't know for sure. One suggested that as our body fluids aren't pure water, it's possible that more of the sodium chloride could stay undissolved than when mixed with water. On the other hand, another suggested that, as electrolysis separates ions, electrical forces in our body might allow them to break down the sodium chloride more easily than when simply mixed with water. Consensus was that at least some of the sodium chloride will remain in the body as sodium chloride and we do know that bodies fail to break down at least some sodium chloride because it's found in bodily excretions. And bones. Our bodies can't do anything useful with sodium chloride that remains as sodium chloride - on the contrary, it gives them a problem.

Do our bodies find it easier to get sodium from unrefined sea salt than table salt? Yes. That's because table salt (and other processed sea salts sold simply as 'sea salt') has been heated to such a high temperature, with various chemicals added, that the resulting substance is unnatural, and therefore difficult for our bodies to cope with. Nutritionist Dr Ann Gittleman: 'refined salt is...treated with anti-caking agents which prevent salt absorbing water in salt cellars. Unfortunately, anti-caking agents perform the same process in the body, stopping the salt dissolving and combining with fluids in stomach and digestive system.'

But do our bodies find it easier to get sodium from unrefined sea salt than plant foods? Unequivocally no. Sodium from plant foods wins. It's more bioavailable, due to chelation (binding) to organic molecules. (Note that some raw fooders describe sodium from plant food as 'organic' sodium, as it is found within living plants. But, in chemical terms, sodium is inorganic, regardless of where it's found.)

If we obtain our sodium from plant food only, there is no risk of sodium chloride depositing in our bodies. Build-up of sodium chloride can lead to all sorts of problems. For example, those creaky joints that people put down to 'age'. Sodium chloride deposits will accumulate as we get older. Also, when salt can't be excreted, the deposits in the body cause the cells to contract and discharge fluid, resulting in dehydration and contraction of the arteries, causing high blood pressure.

So, taking these things into account, can unrefined sea salt be described as healthful? I can't see how. Although it's a source of sodium, the body finds it so much easier to get sodium from plant food. And, although the risk of build-up in the body of sodium chloride deposits from unrefined sea salt may be less than with table salt, there's still a risk.

PLEASE NOW TURN TO PART 2 of the article, in which we'll hear from raw food experts who believe unrefined sea salt is the opposite of healthful. I'll also be looking at what's in the salt, specifically those '84 minerals' we hear so much about. I'll then be looking at the amount of salt in raw food recipes and comparing this with cooked vegan recipes, and showing how raw fooders may be at risk of developing a salt addiction where there was none before! I'll then give some suggestions for those who would like to reduce (or cut out altogether) their consumption of salt, however 'unrefined'.