Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Raw Food – Is it really raw?

We all want our food to be as healthy and vital as possible. To this end many of us eat a lot of “raw” food. We do this to get all the enzymes and vitamins in our bodies that would otherwise be destroyed by cooking. The enzymes which are destroyed at low temperatures are necessary for our body to process and assimilate the food. Without them our body has trouble digesting the food and we can end up with a variety of chronic diseases. 

For some eating raw food is as simple as eating salads with meals, while for others it is eating all their food in raw form. However, is the “raw” food we buy really raw. A distributor can call their food raw even if it has been processed. Some of these so  called raw foods are being pasteurized with the use of heat or chemicals to kill unwanted bacteria and fungus that may be lurking on the foods. For instance, all almond growers in the United States were ordered to either pasteurize their almonds with propylene oxide or steam them to over 200 degrees before they can be sold to American consumers. If you want true organic raw almonds you need to grow them yourself or get them from outside of the United States. (They do allow non-treated almonds to be sold on the market if from other countries. Tell me how that is logical.)

Another example is oat groats. I tried to purchase raw, organic oat groats recently and found that most of them are heat treated to kill bacteria and fungus. The only place I could find unheated organic oat groats was from companies selling oat seed and a company selling animal feed. The distributors simply had too many of the oats “going bad” so the growers/distributors decided to heat treat the organic oats to make sure they had a longer shelf life. They will tell you this is necessary for safety. However, if a grain is grown and collected properly, dried properly and stored properly it will keep well. All grains must be handled carefully to keep them in vital shape. If they get moist, and warm they can grow bacteria or mold which may be lurking there due to bad farming/harvesting practices. Using good growing practices and keeping them as clean, dry and cool as is necessary is not something all growers and distributors want to deal with. Therefore it is easier for them to simply nuke them with chemicals or heat. Many distributors don't even know if their grains have been heated or not. In our community there are farmers growing grains and legumes on a smaller scale than the factory farms. They are being careful with their food and not using chemicals or heat on their raw grains.

The use of heat to kill hazardous organisms in our organic food will also destroy enzymes and vitamins in the food. If you want to find out if the grain you are eating has been treated and you can’t get the information from the company, try sprouting it. If it does not germinate well, it is most likely treated or it may just be old. If it is old it will often have a rancid smell also.

There are also foods that are called raw even though they have been processed. An example is agave nectar. It is being used a lot by people eating “raw” food. The core of the plant is processed by steaming it and pressing (or chopping it) so that juice emerges. The juice is collected and filtered through enzymes and then it is heated. This does not sound raw to me. Yet many people who eat only raw food use a lot of agave nectar in their food preparation.

Although I am not on a raw food diet, I do enjoy much of my food in the raw state or in a semi-raw state. Even my cooked food I want to be as healthy as possible.  I find myself on a farm growing my own nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy goats for milk and cheese as well as chickens/ducks for eggs. I do this as I like the lifestyle and it allows me to know exactly where my food is from. What I grow can not be purchased in a store. As time goes by more and more, it can be purchased at the farmers market, but not always. It is hard to purchase an egg that looks like my chickens eggs with their dark orange colored yolks. My chickens are really free range. They are not pretend free range like many of the indoor free range birds. All ten of my chickens roam a few acres. They could go farther but don’t wish to. They get plenty of bugs and vegetation in the three acres they roam. In the winter when they want to hide indoors and they eat more organic food that I supply to them, their eggs start to look like the “organic, free range” eggs sold in the store. It does not matter that they are eating the best organic food I can buy or grow for them. It is still not their usual free-range food they get spring through fall. The eggs seem a bit on the anemic side, but never looking as bad as the store eggs. I have been eating these eggs raw in a variety of ways for 12 years now. I cook them also but the raw ones are definitely more vibrant than a cooked egg. I would be scared to eat a raw egg from the store. Luckily there are people like me who are selling their eggs if you look around your community for them. Many cities allow hens in your back yard. If yours does not, start a movement to allow hens. Don't ask for roosters as they are too noisy for your neighbors. Look at laws in other cities that allow them and learn from how that law was created. Use it as a guide to create a law in your city.

We have to fight for our right to purchase raw food if we do not grow it and want to consume it. If we don’t all want to be gardeners or farmers, support your farmers who provide organic raw milk, organic free range chicken eggs, raw nuts etc. These farmers we depend on are fighting a battle with large factory farms that wish to pasteurized everything to make it easier to store the food long term. These factory farms band together and have a lot of money. They use that money to hire lobbyists and to persuade the government their way is the best way. Let your representative know you have a different point of view. Tell them what it is. Get your friends and family to contact your representative too.  Without your assistance, raw food could become a thing of the past as all foods become pasteurized through the whim of factory farms and government laws deciding that is how it should be done.  The only ones who will benefit from pasteurizing all the food in America is Big Pharma. The less organic, raw food eaten by Americans, the more chronic disease Americans will have and the more money Big Pharma will make on the drugs sold to these poor people. That is not the path I choose and I hope you will choose the healthy path along with me. Stand up for our rights to eat organic, raw milk, raw fruit, grains, nuts etc. Know where your food comes from. Know what has happened to it before you received it.  Financially support only those who are growing your food the way you want it to be grown. Tell your government representatives what laws you want them to support and which laws should be overturned. We must be active and participate in our health. Support representatives such as Ron Paul who are trying to get laws passed to allow raw milk to be sold across state lines.

Additionally, if you do want to garden or farm, and you do not have land, you can still do it. Many cities have community gardens with garden plots available to it's citizens for a small rental fee. If your city does not have such an offering, you can create a community garden. Go to this website to see how it is done in Eugene Oregon.
Another website you can check out to see how they do it in Portland Oregon is at
See how these communities set theirs up and it will give you the framework to create community gardens in your city.

If you live near an organic farm, check and see if the farmer would like to trade you for help. Perhaps you can go out and help in their gardens or farm one day a week in exchange for a weeks worth of groceries. (You will need some sort of skills usually to have them agree to this.) Some farmers or gardeners take on apprentices who want to learn how to farm or garden. There are many ways you can get healthy food  even if you do not have a garden. Just start coming up with ideas. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. 

If you have space to garden but don't know how to do it, look for classes on gardening. You will find them offered at extension offices or sometimes farms such as my own will offer classes on gardening. Perhaps a neighbor has space in their yard to garden and they are not using it. They may allow you to use the space in exchange for your keeping up their yard work. Get creative, have fun and feed your body well.