I gave raw food a try a while back for somewhere around forty five days. I bought a dehydrator, made a lot of my own foods, and bought the rest from the Whole Foods raw bar. In the end, I didn't stick with it. Here's why:
- It's monumentally inconvenient. It's really easy to eat apples, bananas, or almonds, but they feel like snacks. Making real meals takes a really long time. I once waited five days (changing the water daily) to properly soak oatmeal. It didn't even taste good.
- I didn't notice any changes. Maybe a month and a half isn't enough time, or maybe I'm just not sensitive to these things. I'll tell you this, though: the claims of needing less sleep, having more energy, or looking more radiant were all false in my case. I think I know why. The raw diet is the only "named" diet that cuts out junk people shouldn't be eating: white flour, sugar, dairy, and meat. So when people get off that stuff they feel better and attribute it to the raw food. When most people go vegan they eat crap like tofu corn dogs. The raw diet doesn't have any "bad" foods on it.
- I lost weight. I was eating as much of the stuff as I could, but I was still losing weight. I'm already a really skinny guy, so I couldn't take it. If you want to lose weight in a healthy way, raw food may be a good idea until you hit your goal.
Despite all of those reasons, I always had it in the back of my head that I would become raw later. The dogma just sounds so good, and it's hard to argue against eating anything as raw and unprocessed as possible. Once I could afford to hire a chef or eat every meal out, I'd do it, I thought. But recently I learned something that changed my opinion. Barring any overturning evidence, I will never be primarily raw.
As it turns out, we've been eating cooked food for TWO MILLION YEARS. Two million! While we haven't had time to evolve to a refined grain diet, we have certainly evolved to eat cooked foods.
Just because we've evolved to eat something, of course, does not mean that it's good for us. But cooked food may be more than good, it may be why we are human in the first place. According to Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire, the reason we evolved big brains is because cooking enabled us to get more nutrients from the same amount of food.
Raw foodists like to talk about enzymes being killed when you heat food over a certain temperature (116, if I remember correctly). That's true, I'm sure. What they don't like to talk about are the nutrients that are made available by cooking.
All that said, my objections are only to the lifestyle, not to the meals. Besides eating a lot of raw nuts and fruits, I like eating at raw restaurants from time to time. I visit Pure Food and Wine in New York every time I get to the city. In particular, raw desserts are the best healthy desserts out there (except, possibly, for the cookies my sister makes).
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