You’ve Heard About Raw-Food Diets and Cooked-Food Diets, Now Find Out Which is Right

[Part 1, Part 2]
Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The following second part of a two-part article on the very important topic of raw versus cooked foods in your diet is by Nancy Lee Bentley. Nancy is the co-author of my new book, Dr. Mercola's Total Health Program, who created the more than 150 brand-new delicious and nutritious grain-free recipes (including raw foods!) that you'll find there.

On the other side of the debate, live foods contain essential nutrition. Whole, live foods not only contain whole nutrition, but are also a source of the metabolic, digestive, food enzymes and other factors needed to digest and use our foods. Enzymes are delicate proteins, catalysts responsible not only for breaking down food, but for a host of other day-to-day processes, including transforming minerals into alkaline detoxifiers that neutralize the acid of our highly acidic diet. Enzymes are critically necessary for achieving our balanced pH, as well as our balanced diet.

Enzymes are deactivated or destroyed by heat, mechanical and chemical reactions--not only the high heat of cooking, but the high temperatures involved in food processing and manufacture, handling and storage of food.

Unfortunately, in our predominantly processed, synthesized, cooked, microwaved, convenience food selection today, too many enzymes, as well as other vital nutrients have either been destroyed or rendered unavailable. All too unfortunately, we are also not consuming enough of the traditionally lacto-fermented foods such as the healthy kefir that can easily help our body replenish its supply of valuable enzymes.

Enzymes in raw foods are destabilized at temperatures as low as 72 degrees, not the 115 degrees reported in some case studies, according to Dr. Gustavo Bounous and Dr. Allan Somersall in Breakthrough in Cell-Defense. Dr. Brice E. Vickery tested over 2,300 clients, discovering that over 90 percent of them eating a Standard American Diet (S.A.D) were not digesting proteins properly. Nutritional researcher R. Neil Voss and associates also confirmed this.

Up until recently, science had identified 22 known amino acids. Recently two more were discovered. In addition to the 10 essential amino acids that must be acquired from food, the human body is known to be able to produce six amino acids itself.

However, these new findings, according to Voss, indicate that these amino acids are produced to make sure that proteins are utilized as proteins instead of being changed into fat or carbs only when the body is functioning normally. That is, not when the body is under stress. But who isn’t under stress in this modern world? This is a definite reason for consuming more raw, enzyme-active food every day, a live insurance policy to compensate and support proper digestion.

Today, however, with over 90 percent of our foods cooked and/or processed, about the closest many people get to eating raw food is a small iceberg lettuce salad with a slice of hothouse tomato.

Cooked food increases white blood cell count. Swiss researchers in the 1930s found that eating unaltered raw food or food heated at low temperatures did not cause a reaction in the blood, whereas food heated beyond a certain temperature, or refined, chemicalized or processed food always caused a rise in the white blood cell counts. This phenomenon was named pathological leukocytosis. The worst offenders, not surprisingly, were the high heat processed foods, including beer, refined carbohydrates such as white flour and rice, and homogenized, pasteurized or preserved foods.

Benefits of Raw Plant Foods

Raw plant foods are rich in oxidizing, alkalinizing chlorophyll. They also just naturally have more vitality, more of the "life force" energy that researchers are discovering responsible for "recharging" our cellular batteries, as well as enabling an acceleration of individual frequencies to allow more access to higher spiritual energies and information. This also provides insight, moving us closer toward a scientific understanding of the meaning of the term "the spiritualization of matter."

Taking supplements of isolated nutrients combined in a pill or capsule is not the same as getting nutrition from whole, natural, live foods. Even if the essential nutrients are included, nutritional supplements are almost always acidic, whereas live foods, especially greens, are alkalinizing.

Live foods contain a specific balance of natural forces that are programmed to affect the body in a particular way. That is, plant foods like vegetables have a wholeness and integrity that is more than just a collection of proteins, minerals, and vitamins found within them. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

There are many health-promoting compounds and factors in whole, unbroken raw foods that we do not exactly or fully understand, even given all our scientific and technical advances. Dr. Price demonstrated this when he showed that butter from cows grazing on fast-growing grasses during a specific time period in the spring of the year contained a compound, not present at other times, that improved health, bone density and healing, much more effectively than cod liver oil alone. The compound, labeled Activator X, has still not been isolated.

Of course, with few exceptions, most raw food enthusiasts exclusively promote the virtues of a 100 percent totally raw, vegetarian or vegan diet. However, many fast oxidizers or "Protein" nutritional types, as discussed in Dr. Mercola’s Total Health Program, really do not do well on exclusively vegan diets.

They require the extra energy, purines and saturated fats in high-quality animal products, including meats, eggs, and dairy products. Furthermore, consumption of some animal products is another one of the 11 Characteristics of Traditional Diets discussed by Dr. Weston Price in his study of dietary practices throughout the world. You might be surprised to learn, however, that it is the animal products, more than the vegetable foods, that are traditionally consumed in a raw or fermented state--another reason to consider that our contemporary food habits may be literally upside down from what supports balanced health.

Benefits of Raw Animal Foods

Getting enough raw foods can be a bit challenging.

While the government has made landmark victories out of its successes in abolishing the sale of raw milk products in many states on the grounds of "safety," it ignores the fact that pasteurization literally destroys the enzymes in dairy products needed for their use. At the same time, it has permitted the routine feeding of animal wastes and dead animal parts to feedlot cattle, now shown to contribute to wide-scale problems with contaminated meats. Salmonella in eggs, another issue, may have become an exaggerated concern, according to John R. Roth, a professor of biology at the University of Utah, who has been studying Salmonella for 40 years. According to him, "Probably it exists in very many organisms at a low level where it’s not a pathogen but living as part of the gut flora. The idea of banishing it is absurd."

While it is more challenging to acquire raw dairy foods, it is still possible. One option is to participate in cow-share programs and support campaigns like, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation, that are working for a solution to make raw milk and other raw foods available to people who want them.

Ironically, the staunchly prohibitive U.S. stance against raw dairy products is a modern development--nearly every other country in the world has traditionally allowed those citizens interested in using raw milk a way to obtain it.

There’s no question about it, the body does better on whole, live, natural foods, from animal and vegetable sources, especially if they are organically grown. One study at Rutgers found that organic produce had an average of 83 percent more nutrients. Besides having higher nutrient density, being more sustainable and more harmonious to the earth and our bodies, this food tastes better--and helps us keep in balance more easily.

Live Foods for Healing

Live foods have also been used as a powerful healing treatment. Even as far back as 500 B.C., the wise teacher Pythagoras used raw foods to heal people with poor digestion. Throughout Europe and also here in the United States, completely live food and juice diets have been used to heal a variety of ailments, from arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, ulcers, heart and circulatory diseases to cancer and other degenerative diseases.

Dr. Edmond Szekely, for example, saw over 123,600 patients, 17 percent of who were diagnosed medical "incurables" over a 33-year period from 1937 to 1970 at his clinic at Rancho La Puerta, Mexico. Over 90 percent regained full health on a live-food diet.

The Climate Connection

This type of regimen is unquestionably effective as a cleansing, detoxification program for a short period of time, especially in the tropics or in warm weather. But it is impractical and unnatural--possibly even unwise--as a prolonged dietary program in the dead of winter in frigid northern climates. For most people it certainly is not warming or satisfying enough. Even raw food proponent Gabriel Cousens reported feeling chronically "cold" during the first several winters after he adopted a 100 percent raw food intake. It just doesn’t feel right.

If you think about it, your body just naturally leans toward more cooling, fresh, raw, live food like salads in the summer. Do you honestly feel like cranking up the heat to cook dinner when the temperature outside is a sweltering 90 degrees F? In the winter, however, when your body is trying to marshal its forces to stay warm and keep you alive, would a plate of fresh sprouts and lettuces satisfy you, or would you just naturally gravitate toward a nice, hot steaming bowl of soup or stew to warm you up after weathering a cold, snowy trip home?

Listening to your body is a key. This is one of the cornerstone principles in our new book, Dr. Mercola’s Total Health Program. Everyone is unique and what you eat should be a reflection of your own personal needs, lifestyle, health, location, season and spiritual evolution.

Raw Food Negatives

Of course, raw foods are not without their negatives. Raw foods have a higher percentage of bacteria and parasites. Canavanine, an amino acid in raw alfalfa sprouts not present in the mature plants, is an antinutrient factor that has been shown to inhibit the immune system and contribute to inflammatory arthritis and lupus, according to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, a reason why traditional cultures have avoided eating alfalfa in the sprout stage. Many vegetables, unless juiced, are harder to digest when raw. The phytates or anti-factors in grains also bind up minerals, making them unavailable to the human body, a probable reason why most grain has traditionally been fermented or sprouted rather than eaten raw or simply ground into flour.

Many beans and legumes, especially raw soybeans, lentils, black-eyed peas, peanuts and mung beans, also contain trypsin inhibitors, which block key digestive enzymes. Therefore, even raw foodist Dr. Gabriel Cousens does not recommend more than occasional use of raw sprouted beans or peas.

Many raw food vegetarians are not as healthy as they might appear to be. Two Midwest naturopathic practitioners interviewed testified to the number of vegan patients whose health they have had to "rescue" after prolonged adherence to raw vegetarian programs. One anonymous practitioner, a veteran vegan, raw food athlete who apprenticed in several well-known live food clinics, detailed her continual lack of energy and inability to put on muscle, despite hard discipline. Eventually this culminated in collapse with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Also described was the presence of a peculiar "rotting flesh" smell noted among staff members and other professional raw foodists who restricted their intake to an exclusively vegan, raw vegetable regimen for an extended period of time.

This is characteristic of people suffering from kwashiokor and other forms of starvation where the body is getting inadequate protein.

When Eating Raw Food Becomes an Obsession

Unfortunately, it’s not always just about the nutrition. All too often raw food converts (just as some advocates of other radical dietary protocols) possess a near frenzied religious fervor, attaching spiritual, puritanical, even moralistic significance to the virtues of their "superior" 100 percent raw, vegan or vegetable-food diet. Coined "Orthorexia Nervosa" in Health Food Junkies by Dr. Steven Bratman and David Knight, this phenomena has been personally observed within numerous healthy food communities. Unfortunately, it ends up being dysfunctional and unsustainable, reflecting obsessive need to control and to be right, with a bottom line that essentially makes the enjoyment of eating into a guilty vice.

It’s highly counterproductive, dissociative and unhealthy (especially for the greater conscious community of people who are waking up about the truth in food and agriculture) for various food and dietary philosophies to be in a constant game of superiority and one-upmanship. Even worse is exclusionism--continuing to maintain a "WE HAVE THE ONLY WAY" type of attitude. This is just as bad as religious wars.

No Single Diet is Right for Everyone

Those of us who are working toward healthier food and lifestyles need to recognize that no single diet is right for everyone all the time and start looking for areas of common agreement. Instead of competing within ourselves, we need to communicate and cooperate to create more unifying action, to put our energy and focus into asserting and proactively fighting for our rights for good, clean healthy food and environment.

The fact is: No ONE food plan is right for everyone all the time--except that it is becoming painfully obvious that contemporary "One-Size-Fits-All" Diets are out. They just do not work for everyone.

Each of us is unique. Each person has a distinct biochemical individuality, a unique nutritional type and profile that is ours alone. If we listen, our body and our self will communicate what we need to stay in balance.

Given the Proper Nutrients, The Body Will Heal Itself

Everything in nature strives toward balance. The body is constructed so that if it is given the right nutrients, its systems will put them where they are needed and the body will heal itself, affirms Dr. William B. Ferril, M.D. The body possesses an innate healing mechanism that is always trying to nudge us back to a state of equilibrium, a state of health. We are not machines that need repairmen. We can heal ourselves, if we pay attention and become aware; if we give ourselves the chance’ if we listen to our bodies and that deeper part of ourselves.

Hippocrates’ ‘HEAL THYSELF’ doesn’t apply just to physicians. Each of us has a healer within. Thy food shall be thy medicine and thy medicine shall be thy food.

Or a more contemporary version from Gabriel Cousens: "With the proper diet, no doctor is necessary. With the improper diet, no doctor can help."

Instead of thinking "raw foods versus cooked foods," this diet or that philosophy is better, it’s probably closer to the truth to focus on getting a BALANCE of raw and cooked foods, depending upon the season, climate, your health, level of spiritual evolution, etc. So, in the final analysis, the truth in the "raw versus cooked" debate probably lies somewhere in the balance.

Dr. Mercola’s Total Health Program represents this kind of a balanced approach to eating, finely tailored to each individual’s biochemical needs. On this program you will eat a balanced intake of food in the proportions geared to your taste and your body’s unique needs. You will enjoy satisfying portions of meats, fish, dairy products and, course plenty of fresh, healthy low-glycemic vegetables, with a minimum of 30 percent to 50 percent fresh, raw whole foods.

But the key is that you will use your own body as the barometer for what you should eat. Listening to your body is one of the key principles in this wise compendium of information, recipes and simple lifestyle changes that can quickly and simply help you get on the road to balanced health and well-being ... yourself.

A Balanced Life Starts With a Balanced Diet

We’re not talking here, about some arbitrary random selection of foods or a cafeteria tray of food that will stay stable without tipping over when held underneath with one hand. Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food. And enjoy it.

Dr. Mercola's Total Health Program

Read more about the book, including the Limited Time Special Offer, now!

If you are eating according to your metabolic type, cutting out the sugars and starches, especially high-glycemic foods, vegetables and grains, eating some cooked foods and consuming a minimum of from 30 percent to 50 percent of your diet as raw foods, your body will automatically start to detoxify itself and get healthier without a radical change in your diet. You cannot only maintain this for a short period of time--you can live with this type of eating plan for the long haul. This is undoubtedly much closer to the balanced way we were intended to eat.

[Part 1, Part 2]


  1. Conscious Eating, by Gabriel Cousens, M.D. 2000, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA.
  2. Educational Nutritional Research Seminar by R. Neil Voss, 2004, American Fork, UT
  3. Food and Healing, by Annemarie Colbin, 1986, Ballantine Books, div. of Random House, New York, N.Y.
  4. HEALTH FOOD JUNKIES, Orthorexia Nervosa: Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating, By Dr. Steven Bratman and David Knight, 2000, Broadway Books, a division of Random House.
  5. Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon with Mary Enig, 1999, 2000, NewTrends Publishing, Inc., Washington, D.C.
  6. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Weston A. Price, DDS, Keats Publishing, Los Angeles, CA, available from The Weston A. Price Foundation,
  7. Raw Food--One of Your Keys to Outstanding Health by Wes Peterson,
  8. The Untold Story of Milk, Green Pastures, Contented Cows and Raw Dairy Foods, by Ron Schmid, ND, 2003, NewTrends Publishing, Inc., Washington, D.C.
  9. Traditional Foods are Your Best Medicine, by Ronald F. Schmid, ND, 1997, Healing Arts Press, div. of Inner Traditions International, Rochester, VT.
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