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(Looking at the Science on Raw vs. Cooked Foods--continued, Part 3K)

Anecdotal evidence of raw vs. cooked diets
in the raw-food community

Does Natural Hygiene require 100% raw?

One longstanding controversy within the Natural Hygiene movement is whether being a Natural Hygienist and eating cooked food are compatible. The common argument from those interpreting the question most strictly is that "no other animal on the planet cooks its food," and thus eating cooked food is an unnatural practice.

How to define "natural" with respect to humans? First of all, we would remark that there is no good definition of "natural" for humans, since they have been doing "unnatural" things since--well, since they appeared, since humans ARE tool-users. (It's part of what defines us as a species, and marked the inception of our genus, Homo, beginning 2 to 2.5 million years ago.) And cooking has been used for a sufficient length of time so that at least some discussion concerning its naturalness is justified.

Weighing naturalism and pragmatism in the balance. Secondly, more important than trying to be more natural, the concept of Natural Hygiene should be a practical, not absolute, guide for our actions, instead of encouraging us to be slaves of a doctrine. Some unnatural practices may be useful (wearing clothes in northern Canada, surfing on the Web and exploring sites related to health), while others may well not be. (An example would be taking antibiotics except in any but the most serious circumstances, as even traditional doctors now acknowledge the vast majority of acute illnesses are self-limiting and the body's own immune system can handle most infections fine anyway. It's also well-acknowledged now that anything more than minimal use of antibiotics breeds eventual resistance to them by quickly-evolving bacteria. So we are not saying all Hygienic advice about "naturalness" does not make sense. It is blanket pronouncements that are problematic.)

What do real-world results among practicing Natural Hygienists and raw-fooders tell us? Eating a significant amount of fresh or raw food is important, but 100% raw is not necessarily better (based on attempting to assess the experience of many Natural Hygienists and other raw-fooders, given the lack of any official studies). In fact, given that it often significantly restricts the diet, it actually can be worse than eating some cooked food.

The best we can do here is to quote a couple of paragraphs from a recent article published in the ANHS (American Natural Hygiene Society) publication Health Science. From the article on p. 12 of the March/April 1998 issue, "Much Ado about Raw Food," by James Michael Lennon, the society's executive director:

ANHS does not recommend a totally raw-food diet [i.e., 100% raw]. Experience has shown that people typically fare poorly over a long period of time on such a diet, and as a practical matter, it is extremely hard to implement.

No one claims that eating a totally raw-food diet is absolutely impossible. But there is no credible evidence to show that a whole-food, plant-based diet that is entirely uncooked is more healthy than one that includes conservatively cooked vegetables and starches. By contrast, the diet that is recommended by most raw-food advocates is excessively high in fat and sugar, two factors that have been associated with a variety of health problems.

In the article quoted from just above, Lennon also cites Dr. Alan Goldhamer of the Center for Conservative Therapy, a fasting facility. Goldhamer's comments echo the message of the site article, The Calorie Paradox of Raw Veganism, i.e., that diets based on low-calorie-density raw vegetables require the consumption of large amounts of foods (a bulk problem), and diets based on sweet fruit imply the ingestion of large amounts of sugar on a daily basis. Lennon's article also cites Dr. Ralph Cinque, a prominent natural hygiene health professional, who reminds us that Herbert Shelton (the founder of natural hygiene in modern times) did not advocate 100% raw, but instead served both cooked and raw vegan foods to the people at his retreat center (more accurately: the people who were not fasting).

And what about Living Foods?

Looking back, pioneers in the movement report frequent backsliding.

Some proponents of the "Living Foods" diet advocate eating a 100% raw diet. (Living foods is a raw vegan diet that emphasizes raw sprouted seeds, fermented foods, dehydrated foods, blended foods (raw soups), and wheatgrass juice or other high-chlorophyll foods.) However, it appears that following a living foods diet in a strict manner is not easy--extensive anecdotal evidence indicates that backsliding is frequent among those who attempt the diet long-term.

Results on the Ann Wigmore program in retrospect. The following comments come from the article "Contributions to the Evolution of Live Food Trend," by Elliot Rosen (L.O.V.E. publications), part of a mailing circular packet that Viktoras Kulvsinkas, a prominent and pioneering figure in the Live Foods movement (and involved in the management of Ann Wigmore's program in its earlier years), distributed widely in early 1998 as a promotional mailing.

Very few folks stuck to the cleansing program [at the Rising Sun Christianity of Rev. Ann Wigmore], with poor consequence, usually return of the disease. Those who stuck to it, ran into problems, eventually low energy with underweight. Some who went excessively on the buckwheat and sunflower greens developed the "tingles"--which was associated with supersensitivity to heat as well as a low red blood cell count. There were others, who, due to poor knowledge of food preparation, ended up eating foods that were more suitable for compost, many developed over-acidity due to excess consumption of the "rejuvilac" and other live sour foods. They were pioneers and exploring a new potential.

Recent changes to Hippocrates program implicitly acknowledge past problems. In another article from the above circular, Kulvinskas discussed changes that have been made to the regimen followed at Hippocrates Health Institute, one of the most well-known Live Food health retreats. By implication, his observations acknowledged the difficulties people had had with the program. From the article "Anecdotal healing experience with Super Blue Green Algae":

Hippocrates Institute has initiated the use of the Super Blue Green Enzymes and the Algae (...) about three years ago, and the healing speed improved on their live food program. Also, when HHI clients and folks had dietary backslides, they were not wiped out for days because of the radical change; hence, they stuck to the good diet at least 80% of the time, and made consistent progress in their healing. Eventually, they also lost all the cravings for low vibrational foods, and never felt deprived on the Hippocrates meal plan.

Report from Viktoras Kulvinskas about his own problematic history. Viktoras Kulvinskas himself had a long history of eating disorders (bulimia), due, he says, to a dysfunctional childhood. Regardless of how the eating disorder may have originally begun, however, it was only after he relinquished his all-live-food regime and reintroduced some cooked foods that his eating-disorder behavior ceased. From Kulvinskas and Lahiri [1997, pp. 116-117]:

Even when I was eating only live food, I would eat huge meals that would leave me feeling bloated and fatigued. I found from experience that if all this food stayed in my stomach, it would ferment and bring on headaches and sciatic pain. So, for relief, I made myself vomit.

Eventually, vomiting became a daily practice. I fell into eating more and more cooked and junk food. The problem became more disabling, both physically and psychologically, for I was living a dual life. In public, I would give health talks and lifestyle consultations. In private, I was a junk food eater and bulimic. The hypocrisy of it all was destroying me from the inside out.

Viktoras reports that the Super Blue Green Algae helped him overcome his eating disorder. His diet is currently at least 90+% raw, but he notes [Kulvinskas and Lahiri 1997, pp. 119-120]:

However, I do not have an addictive relationship with food in order to maintain this diet nor do I feel deprived on this very functional nutritional program. I feel comfortable, as I see fit, to enjoy cooked sweet potatoes and sprouted bread. I occasionally eat beans, rice or millet and take extra enzymes when I eat these cooked foods.


(Transcending Magical Thinking about the Properties of Raw Food)

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GO TO PART 1 - Is Cooked Food "Toxic"?

GO TO PART 2 - Does Cooked Food Contain Less Nutrition?

GO TO PART 3 - Discussion: 100% Raw vs. Predominantly Raw

Back to Research-Based Appraisals of Alternative Diet Lore

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