by John Kohler
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, "Is (fill in the product name) raw?" and "Is there a list of raw foods that I can eat? Well I do not know of any such lists, but this article will explain my answer to the above questions.
First, I think we need to take a step back, and ask yourself, "Why I am I eating raw?" For most, it is to improve or maximize health.
So the questions should be:
"Is it healthy or not healthy?"
"Is it raw (processed at under 118 degrees?"
"Has the food been processed?"
I can think of many things that would be considered "raw, but I would NEVER eat it. Such as raw meat and dairy. In my opinion Meat and Dairy are both not healthy to eat. While it is true they do some benefits, I believe the harm that comes to the body is much greater. With that aside, I will break it down into many three categories: foods to maximize, foods to include some, and foods to minimize or exclude. The information is based on my research and based on being raw for over half a decade. I always recommend eating organic whenever possible.
On a raw foods diet, you want to maximize your intake of the following raw food:
FRESH FRUITS and FRESH VEGETABLES. - Any fresh fruits or vegetables. The fresher the better. If you can pick the produce yourself, that's the best. The next best would be direct from a farmer or farmers market, next best from a health food store, and last from a "chain store". here is why- once the food is picked, the vitality starts to lessen. If the produce is refrigerated, the vitality is lessened even further.
FRESH SPROUTS - you can sprout your own seeds yourself, and eat these life-force rich foods while they are still living and growing!
Next as a raw foodist you may want to consume some of the following: (concentration should be on FRESH fruits and vegetables)
Nuts and Seeds - Many nuts are raw and go through no heat processing. Always purchase nuts in the shell whenever possible, since once nuts are out of the shell, they start to oxidize, and can go rancid. Some nuts are heat processed in the process of getting the nut out of the shell. There is an excellent article, "What every raw fooder should know about nuts" in the article section that I suggest you read. Most "raw" cashew nuts are not really raw.
Young Coconuts - Young coconuts are a excellent source of electrolytes, the best purified water and a good source of fat and calcium.
Dried Fruits- did you know that most dried fruits in the natural food store are COOKED? Yes!! They are. I have spoken with many manufacturers and distributors of dried fruits and even "dried tomatoes" and asked them the temperature at which their product is dried. Usually it is well over 200 degrees. They say this proudly, because its not too feasible to dry products at an acceptable temperature to a raw foodist (around 118 degrees or less) because there would be an inconsistent and "ugly" looking product. So cut down on the dried foods! Usually only "sun dried" foods would be considered "raw" since they are dried by the sun.
Dates - Dates are generally sun dried, if good organic dates are purchased. Many "conventional" dates can be dried and then steamed to make them look "plump" and moist. The Date People and Flying Disc Ranch are my two favorite sources of dates.
Sea Weeds - Sea weeds such as nori, dulse, Laver, sea lettuce, kombu purchased from a "family" business are usually sundried. Seaweeds from "asia or china" may or may not be sun dried. Sometimes they are roasted, and it may not be mentioned on the package. This should be eaten minimally
Dried vegetables, herbs and spices for flavoring - I have not checked to see if these are in fact considered "raw" or if they have been heat treated in the drying process. Whenever possible dry your own herbs and spices, and use as sparingly as possible.
Olives - You may want to consume some raw olives. Raw olives are hard to find. The best raw olives are sun dried raw olives, that have not been preserved with salt. Most olives are preserved with salt. Most canned olives are cooked in the canning process. Most olives are packed in a vinegar or lactic acid brine, which I do not recommend.
Green Powders - I believe a good green food powder can be helpful as long as it is not heat processed, considered "raw" and dried at a low temperature, and do not include toxic additives. Some examples would be dried wheatgrass, blue green algae, barleygreen, etc.
Raw Honey - I do agree that raw honey is probably the best concentrated sweetener to use, I still reccomend minimizing concentrated sweeteners such as honey. Get a honey that includes the pollen and propolis, a more "whole" food.
Frozen Fruits - From the manufacturers I have talked to, it seems that most frozen fruits are not blanched before freezing, so they could be considered "raw". Although its best to eat FRESH FRUITS instead, or freeze fruits yourself.
Things to minimize or cut out completely. The items listed below are many times included in a raw food diet. I believe they can be helpful while transitioning to a raw food diet, but have no place in a long term health building raw food diet.
Table salt and celtic sea salt- While table salt is much worse than celtic sea salt, many raw foodists believe that celtic salt is good for them. I believe it is not. This is primarily due to my research on the potassium/sodium balance. Each cell in our body needs to maintain a ratio of sodium to potassium and in the "standard American diet" has the sodium ratio way too high. I also have ill effects when I eat any salt. I believe we get enough sodium from fruits, vegetables and seaweed. (Use seaweed instead)
Nama Shoyu and Braggs Liquid Aminos - Once again these items show up often in raw food recipes, and many people think them "healthy". Try drinking a bottle of the stuff, and tell me how you feel. I bet you will feel sick to your stomach! These are highly processed foods that do not occur naturally in nature. (try using seaweed instead)
Maple Syrup - Maple syrup is another ingredient considered as "raw" by many. Based on my research all maple syrup is cooked, so it is not raw. I have not sucked on a maple tree to determine if FRESH maple syrup is a viable food source at this point. Use fresh barhi dates (which to me taste like maple syrup - there are many different varieties of dates to try!)
Agave Nectar - While this "concentrated sweetner" is very popular in raw cuisine, I believe it has no place in a truly "raw" diet. This is primarily due to the fact that it is a concentrated sweetner. The "nectar" is collected or "cooked" out of the agave plant, then must be "cooked" or dehydrated down, much like "boiling down" maple syrup. There is even some rumors about "corn syrup" and other sweeteners being added to "raw" agave nectar to give it the sweet taste. In any case, it is a processed, product, and not a raw, whole food in my opinion.
Wine - Wine can be raw, but while it may have some health benefits - I say drink FRESH made grape juice instead. Exclude wine from the raw food diet. Alcohol does kill brain cells.
Apple Cider Vinegar - Vinegar contains acetic acid. Acetic acid is a toxic chemical. If you drink a whole bottle of vinegar, I bet you wont feel too good. Did you know acetic acid is used as a pesticide?
Bottled oils - Many raw foodists include oils in their diet. I believe this should be minimized for a few reasons. Oil does not occur naturally in nature. Once oil is extracted, it generally goes bad (rancid) very quickly. It is super concentrated and hard for your body to break down. Try drinking a bottle of oil, and tell me how you feel. Probably like you want to sleep - its your body having to work overtime to digest the oil. Yes, even if its cold pressed an organic. Eat the food instead- i.e.: eat olives instead of olive oil. Eat coconuts instead of coconut oil. Eat ground flax seeds instead of flax oil.
Frozen Vegetables - I have confirmed with several major manufacturers of frozen vegetables, that they are blanched before they are quick frozen, so these would not qualify as raw.
John Kohler is the webmaster of www.living-foods.com
For more information about the raw food diet and what to eat on the raw food diet please check out my rawfood e-booklet and recipe booklets.