Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, licensed clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist, Boulder, Colorado, and author of Getting Through to the Man You Love: The No-Nonsense, No-Nagging Guide for Women. DivorceBusting.com
About 10 years ago one of my neighbors who had become a raw food devotee had the stove removed from his kitchen. We all thought this was quite peculiar at the time, but nowadays it’s not considered all that unusual to hear someone announce they have decided to stop cooking… altogether. The ranks of raw foodists are growing as people search for ways to “greenify” their lives.
Health is usually cited as the primary motivator for this lifestyle change based on the core belief that heating any food to a temperature higher than 116°F destroys its natural enzymes, thereby making it impossible for the body to fully absorb the nutrients. Raw foodists say that cooking destroys many nutrients and claim that cooking foods damages the molecular structure as well, rendering foods “toxic.” The purported rewards of eating a raw diet are improved energy and health, weight loss, detoxification of the body, better immune system, improved mental status, and more.
Natalia Rose, CN (clinical nutritionist), author of The Raw Food Detox Diet, helps people “cleanse their bodies” to improve health and metabolism through a careful eating program that includes many raw foods. (Actually, few raw foodists go completely raw — most eat anywhere from 75% to 90% raw.) Interestingly, when we spoke about the trend, she said she thinks many fanatical raw foodists have vilified cooked vegetables while eating too many non-cleansing raw foods such as nuts, dried foods, coconut oil and other fats that they call “healthful” in place of fruits and vegetables. A popular piece of equipment among raw foodists is a food dehydrator because it mimics the taste, texture and fullness of cooked foods. However, says Rose, foods processed this way are very dense and hard on the digestive system, causing constipation, food fermentation and the breeding of yeast and bacteria. The point is not to set a goal of eating only raw foods, but rather to eat a diet with a high percentage of fruits and vegetables, healthy in part because they contain lots of water that cleanses the cells.
In her view, the goal should be to eat in a way that supports superb digestion and a clean system — not to focus on raw foods as a way of life. In fact, she says, cooked foods are not necessarily harmful or difficult to digest — they can actually help your body cleanse at a more natural pace. It also makes for a lifestyle that is easier socially, emotionally and psychologically.
According to Rose, the digestive system is prone to get bogged down by the residue of waste left over from processed and incompletely digested foods that may remain in the large intestine. To have a clean system, she says, you must rid the body of that waste, which is where raw fruits and vegetables come in. Raw produce alkalizes the body, helps remove built-up waste and provides plentiful enzymes necessary for healthy functioning. Building a diet around foods that clear the system appropriately promotes health so you feel “super good,” in her words.
Rose’s specialty is developing dietary detox programs to help people feel exactly that — super good. She is adamant that it takes time to transition from a diet of mostly cooked and processed foods to one that is fresh and mostly raw, however. This is why her program has five levels of plans.
Level five has plentiful amounts of raw fruits and vegetables, some cooked animal products and vegetables, but no processed foods or sugar, while level one comes close to 100% raw. But, she reiterates the importance of a gradual transition. Along the way, Rose says, many discover they don’t want to go all the way to level one, finding it extreme. Instead they find they are comfortable and feel good eating somewhere in the middle range.
If your goals are to lose weight, gain energy and clean out your digestive system, Rose has basic dietary advice that’s easy to implement immediately. She characterizes her approach as a transition plan, a convenient way to segue from a mainstream diet to a cleansing one.
Here’s how to get going:
Minimize snacking and try to stick mostly to raw vegetables (the quantities are unlimited). For a treat, you can enjoy several one-inch squares of dark chocolate a day (Green & Black’s Organic or others that are at least 70% cocoa) and one glass of wine — either red or white.