Eating a high raw food diet (80% or more of the calories coming from uncooked foods) is still one of the best health secrets on the planet. Since I wrote The Live Food Factor some years ago, which contains 66 studies showing the superiority of eating raw, recipe books in this field have been ever expanding. In fact, this may be the fastest growing dietary movement.
Why? It certainly isn’t easy to eat raw in a world where cooking and pasteurizing are the norm. But when people experiment, adding more and more raw meals to their diet, they discover a lightness and high energy.
When we heat food above 118 F, 100% of the enzymes die. Enzymes are the catalysts, the sparkplugs, of life. Perhaps this is why people who eat raw foods, full of enzymes, report feeling “switched on,” as if a key has turned on the light and energy. But when they backslide into cooked foods, it’s “power down.”
We use three kinds of enzymes: metabolic enzymes to run our bodies, digestive enzymes to digest food, and food enzymes in raw foods that enable the food to partially self-digest, thus conserving our bodies’ limited enzyme-producing capacities.
Food enzymes are active, or “alive,” in uncooked food. Once a food is heated, they chemically degrade, or “die.” By conservative estimates, enzymes may begin dying at temperatures as low as 105° F; within 30 minutes at 119°-129° F, all are dead.
Cooking alters an enzyme’s “lock and key” configuration so that it can no longer perform its intended function. For all practical purposes, the enzyme is “dead.” The protein molecule is still present, but its life force is gone, much like a battery that has lost its power or a spark plug that has worn out.
Dr. James B. Sumner, a Nobel Prize winner in 1946, claimed that the easily-fatigued feeling of being middle-aged or older is due to diminished enzymes as you add years to your life.
If we eat cooked food, we force our pancreases to crank out more digestive enzymes than they were designed to. By age 40, the average person has only 30% of his digestive enzyme production potential left. This is a major reason for increasing tiredness with age. According to Dr. Howell, “The length of life is inversely proportional to the rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential of an organism.”
In other words, the more cooked food you eat, the sooner you exhaust your limited digestive enzyme potential, and the sooner you begin to disintegrate and die.
Howell believed that there is no way to replenish this enzyme potential. Therefore, the best strategy is not to abuse it with cooked food but to eat solely of raw food and no more of it than necessary.
Declining enzyme reserves are directly associated with aging. People who are 25 have about 30 times more amylase in their saliva than people in their 80s for example. Each child is born with an inherited amount of enzyme potential. When it is used up, he will die of some degenerative disease that will correlate with his inherited predisposition and/or weak areas in his tissues and/or depleted and toxic condition. If he is a raw fooder, eating primarily or only raw, unheated food, he will more likely reach his optimal lifespan free of degenerative diseases. The more cooked food he eats, the shorter and/or more diseased will be his life.
In addition, heating food at high temperatures creates toxic byproducts. The body has to deal with these, and this depletes more energy reserves in the detoxification process. Cooked fats contain lipid peroxides; cooked carbs have acrylamides; and cooked proteins have heterocyclic amines—all of which are carcinogenic.
It’s not as hard as you think to begin adding more raw foods to your diet: think smoothies, fresh squeezed juices, raw meats such as ceviche or steak tartar, salads, raw soups like gazpacho, and more. Raw foods taste great, and are generally much easier to digest.
Susan Schenck, LAc, is a raw food coach, lecturer, and author of the 2-time award winning book, The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet, which has gained a reputation as the encyclopedia of the raw food diet—as well as Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work. Go to www.livefoodfactor.com to get the first chapter of her book by signing up for the newsletter.