The Problem With The Problem With The Raw Food Diet

Raw Meat from Tofuya Korean Grill | Photo: MuyYum/Flickr/Creative Commons License

I am preconditioned to hate everything about the raw food diet.

First of all: I enjoy eating things that actually taste good, you see. And whether that's my being taught from a young age to eat foods that are cooked, or (more likely) that human taste buds simply react more favorably to things that are sautéed in butter or baked with lard, is kind of besides the point. For me, it's not so much about taste -- tastes evolve as a person gets older, and it shouldn't completely govern your state of being unless you're a complete dolt who's giving up on life -- as much as that I react unfavorably to all fad diets.

My problems with the Caveman Diet or the popular Atkins Diet -- at least, the latter was popular before Dr. Robert Atkins himself died prematurely at the age of 72, which is odd considering that Atkins died after slipping on an icy pavement and hitting his head; then again, who's to say a man stout with carbs wouldn't have had a softer cushion to land on? -- isn't that they taste bad, but that they're overly-obsessive and not balanced.

As with anything, moderation is the key.

So, when this article started being passed around the blogosphere using stats(!) and quotes from scientific people(!) to discount the validity of the all-raw food diet, I was giddy. Finally, something to forward along to my hippy friends to mock their way of life and, thusly, make me feel a little bit better about myself! You get a gift like that, you have won the day my friend.

Most of the piece deals with the fact that if early hominids didn't cook their food, they would have never made the important cranial transition to become humans like you and me. For instance:

[T]he control of fire allowed early hominids to not only cook their food, but obtain warmth, allowing them to shed body hair and in turn run faster without overheating; to develop calmer personalities, enabling social structures around the hearth; and even to form relationships among men and women--in short, to become human.

There's also the caloric question when it comes to raw food:

You have to get out more than you put in, and raw food takes a lot more work (meaning calories) for your muscles and organs to chew and digest, resulting in a net decrease in the amount of calories available for the rest of your cells. But you can only spend so many hours of the day eating--there must be time to sleep, forage and procreate, too. This limits the amount of calories you can get per day, and it turns out this is directly related to how many neurons you can grow..

And finally, this damning stat that should have everyone heading out to the nearest Home Depot to clean out the store's remaining propane tank stock:

If we ate an only-raw diet, to maintain the body size we humans possess, as well as the number of neurons our brains possess, people would have to eat for more than 9 hours per day, they found.

9 hours of eating a day. 9 hours. If that's happening, then something has to be wrong about your diet.

That said -- and this is a pretty big "that said," seeing as it's really the whole point of my post -- the article seems to do a disservice by never once mentioning the positives that come from eating raw foods. We are no longer hominids, we no longer have to evolve in order to get human-like brains, start relationships, and become involved in social structures. That's done and there's no taking it back. We are not our prehistoric ancestors.

(Side-note: This is the same thing that drives me nuts about people jogging around barefoot. Okay, our early ancestors didn't have shoes. But they also weren't running on concrete sidewalks and in danger of stepping on broken glass. They did, however, poop into holes in the ground. So if you're going that route, make sure to be at least be consistent and get rid of your toilet and whittle a makeshift shovel.)

Which is all a long way of saying: Eat raw foods. Please. Raw foods are good for you and your body. You should eat a ton of them every day. At least half of your diet should consist of raw foods. But also, you know, try to eat something cooked here and there too. Everything in moderation.


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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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