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Raw Food, Longevity and Weight Loss

by Suz Evasdaughter(more info)

listed in organic food, originally published in issue 144 - February 2008

It is now impossible to deny that our diet and lifestyles in the West, particularly in the UK and USA, are a major contributory factor to ill health and obesity. Raw eating concentrates on optimal nutrition through eating food in its natural, whole, synergistic state. Of the 58,000 higher animal species on the planet, we are the only ones to eat cooked food. It is no coincidence that we are also the only species to suffer from obesity and chronic degenerative diseases of all our major organs and systems. The exceptions to this are laboratory animals and domestic pets, in both of which chronic degenerative illnesses can be induced by feeding them a refined Western diet. Eating a raw food diet offers superb health and freedom from a wide range of diseases whilst savouring an abundance of wholesome delicious food. A raw food diet has been used successfully to banish allergies, arthritis, cardio-vascular problems, cancer, depression, type II diabetes and a panoply of other degenerative diseases. Problems associated with menstruation and the menopause disappear.[1] Excess weight also vanishes as if by magic.[2]

Our digestive system is designed to process organic, unrefined, unhybridised (and therefore, lower glycaemic index), high fibre, raw foods. In the affluent West, with our highly refined and processed diet, we take for granted the degenerative diseases suffered by the majority in the last 20 to 30 years of our lives. It is a testament to the superb design of our bodies that they can tolerate the abuse that we subject them to for as long as they do before succumbing to digestive disorders, cardiovascular disease (CVD), arthritis, osteoporosis and cancer. We might do well to stop and ask ourselves why we are so accepting of cancer that, for example, women are advised to check for it each month of their lives. Added to this, there are many who theorize that we do not live to anything like our potential lifespan.[3]

In contrast there are a number of modern day cultures that are singled out by their healthful longevity: the Hunzakuts of West Pakistan, the Okinawans of Japan, the Vilcabamban Indians of Equador, the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and the Abkhazianis of Russia. The Abkhazianis for example, were found to have seven times more centenarians per million than America or Britain.[4]

Most of these groups have been very well researched by modern Western scientists. It comes as no surprise that the diets of longevity cultures are naturally alkalizing, being dominated by raw organic fruit and vegetables. They are low in protein, high in natural carbohydrates and include ferments.[5] A typical longevity diet is therefore, low in fat and high in fibre and replete with nutrients and enzymes (from the raw food and ferments). Many of the longevity cultures also benefit from natural mountain spring water rich in minerals. All these cultures are principally vegetarian though some, like the Hunzas, eat a little flesh food on a monthly basis for celebrations.[6]  These diets include no refined or processed foods. All the longevity communities also have a strong community spirit and work ethic, positive attitude to life and are very active. Their diet, attitude and way of life makes them immune to nine of the top ten causes of death in the West:[7] heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease, pneumonia/ flu, diabetes, liver disease/cirrhosis, suicide and Alzheimer’s, though perhaps not to accidents which comes number five in the list for cause of death in the UK and US.

That these groups’ healthful longevity is not due to heredity is demonstrated by the Okinawans, for example, who grow up in other countries. When they abandon their protective diet and lifestyle patterns they suffer from higher death rates from all causes, especially CVD, than those who grow up in Okinawa.[8 ] Conversely when Okinawans move away but maintain their traditional lifestyle and dietary patterns, such as in Hawaii, they tend to live very long healthy lives.

At present, Japan tops the league tables for the country with the greatest life expectancy, and currently has 35,000 centenarians (86% of whom are women). The Japanese are noted for eating raw fish and seaweed, and they consume far fewer calories than we do in the West. They eat very little red meat and no refined flour. Again, this is not a matter of genetics for, after the Second World War, Japan had one of the lowest life expectancies.[9]

Dramatic improvements in health have been observed and reported on raw food diets since the turn of the century, but raw food has only recently come into vogue in the West. This most recent trend seems to have begun with Anne Wigmore in the USA with her research into, and use of, wheatgrass as a superfood and super-healer, and there is currently much interest in raw foods in the USA and UK. Nutritional experts such as Udo Erasmus, Paul Pitchford, Patrick Holford, Gillian McKeith and Dr Mercola emphasize the importance of eating food in its raw, natural, unprocessed state.

At the heart of a raw food diet is the concept of enzymes, both digestive and metabolic. We need enzymes for every reaction that takes place in our bodies, and as we age our store of enzymes is depleted. When food is heated above 118°F enzymes are destroyed.  By eating our food raw with enzymes intact we decrease the load we are putting on our digestive organs, like the pancreas and liver, and allowing a greater pool of enzymes to be used for repair, maintenance and detoxification.[10]

The staples of a raw food diet are fresh, organic, mostly vegan foods with the emphasis of leafy green vegetables and the strategic use of superfoods. All the 50 essential nutrients that our bodies need for survival including amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids (EFAs), are obtained through a balanced rotating diet made up of green leafy vegetables; other vegetables, fruits and fats from fatty fruits, nuts and seeds. Flax or hemp seeds are eaten frequently because of their high EFA content. Superfoods are foods of particularly high nutritional value in which vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and, often, protein is concentrated. Examples of superfood staples in a raw diet are algaes including spirulina, wheatgrass, seaweeds, goji berries and cocao. The first three of these foods are high in protein whereas goji berries and cocao are noted for their high antioxidant content. Examples of herbs and spices important to raw food practitioners are cinnamon for blood sugar regulation and turmeric and oregano for anti-oxidant properties. Wild foods like fat hen, nettles and wild garlic are highly prized because of their densely packed minerals and lack of hybridisation.

There are different views on the optimal raw food diet but this system of eating is not based on restriction. It is founded on abundance and meeting our nutritional needs for optimal health, vitality, energy and happiness and, weight optimization. 

Weight Loss on a Raw Food Diet

At the heart of excess weight is physiological toxicity, and before it is safe to lose weight the body needs to detoxify. Our body’s first priority is to preserve life; its next priority is biostasis or maintaining itself in as healthful a state as possible. To this end the liver, lymph and other systems of detoxification wage a continuous battle to protect the major organs from being poisoned by all the toxins we ingest or encounter.

The body, through the liver, mucous membranes, lymph and other systems, does a truly valiant job of neutralizing and expelling toxins (detoxifying). We abuse our body’s ability to do so by knowingly eating what we call junk food. When the volume of poisons is so great that our bodies can no longer keep up with processing and expelling them, it has to dump them somewhere. In order to protect the vital organs from this level of toxicity the body encases the toxins in fat,  its most stable storage molecules, and deposits this around the body, a bit like the way that nuclear waste is encased in concrete for long term storage.

Obesity is also a result of nutrient deficiency. This link between the toxic junk food has been demonstrated by feeding it to rats. When they are fed the sort of food preferred by the typical Western teenager, 60-70% become overweight. Rats fed in this way become addicted to the endorphins released in response to junk food and can eat six times as much as those fed their natural raw diet.[11] Such research indicates that obesity is a matter of malnourishment and addiction rather than a lack of will power.

Excess body fat is not a simple matter of an excess of calorie intake over output. As well as being highly toxic, the standard western diet also directly contributes to sluggish metabolism. Food without its enzymes (cooked) is more difficult to digest.[10] When food is whole and enzyme rich it can be better utilized by the body creating fewer toxins, free radicals and partially digested proteins.  Also, if digestive and food enzymes are present in the food, the pancreas, the first organ which has to respond to the demands of ingested material, is not over taxed. It can concentrate on meeting the full spectrum of its role in digestion: providing bicarbonate, digestive enzymes and insulin. If we digest food more effectively we improve the nutrition that arrives at our cells and the process produces fewer toxins and improves our metabolism.

In summary, when eating a healthy raw diet, it is difficult not to become healthier and acquire an optimal weight as the body, divested of toxic overload, is free to perform its biostatic functions which include optimal weight maintenance. Calorie controlled diets do not address the twin essentials of nutrition and toxicity. These diets usually encourage the dieter to continue to eat the same food but less of it (Points System diets), and to include highly toxic foods like sugar and trans fat containing cakes, chocolate and puddings in the form of treats. They make the dieter feel deprived. On a raw food diet we can eat as much as we want of optimally nutritious, delicious, organic vegan food, including puddings and pies and still lose weight, often by the stone.

A Raw Food Diet Seeks to Avoid Toxicity Caused by Processing and Cooking

Cooking causes an average loss of 85% of the value of food12 but there is worse news. Not only is modern Western food severely denatured through production and processing methods, but dangerous anti-nutrients are also introduced as a result of cooking. These are the main areas of concern that have been highlighted by research.
  1. Studies have shown that leucocytosis (an abnormal increase in the white blood cell count) is caused by the ingestion of cooked foods because the body perceives cooked food as alien[12] Thus the perpetual eating of cooked foods puts the body on a high state of alert, thereby causing a weakening of the immune system.[13] This research finding has been repeated many times. Leucocytosis can be averted by eating a 50% raw diet, provided the raw food is eaten first;
  2. During cooking, pesticides and fungicides could be altered forming even more toxic compounds;[14]
  3. Cooking changes organic molecules. Starches and sugars are browned through molecular degeneration; fats and oils turn to smoke through the destruction of fatty acids and glycerol.[15] These altered molecules can set off an allergic response in the body;[15]
  4. When proteins are fried, they turn to carcinogenic (cancer causing) acrolein;[16]
  5. Acrylamide is a carcinogenic compound found in starchy foods cooked at high temps by frying, barbecuing, microwaving and even baking. Acrylamide is considered safe up to ten parts per billion (ppb). Chips and crisps have 100 times this amount. Fast food chain chips; crisps and crispbreads are the worst: Pringles has 1480 ppb’ Walkers 1250 ppb’ Ryvita 1340 and 4000 ppb;[17]
  6. Heating unsaturated fats (as in refining to increase shelf life or frying foods at home) destabilizes nutrients resulting in the production of free radicals. The more unsaturated the fats (particularly Omega-3 and -6) the more rapidly they oxidize, becoming lethal trans fats. Trans fats cause a myriad of health problems, including cardiovascular diseases (CVD), such that their addition to processed goods is now banned in some countries. They are gradually being withdrawn from British food. Trans fats cannot be metabolized by our bodies and interfere with the uptake of essential fatty acids (EFAs) which are needed for the smooth functioning of every cell. EFAs are particularly concentrated in the brain and trans fats have been implicated in dementia, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis as well as cancer;[18]
  7. Ironically, frying also destroys the antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E) that would protect us by neutralizing free radicals. Antioxidants abound in unadulterated (raw) foods;
  8. Over 50 fruits and vegetables contain oxalic acid. Though harmless in its natural state, when altered by heat it becomes harmful. Calcium binds with the oxalic acid in the blood to neutralize it and to form calcium compounds (calciumoxalate) which are difficult for the body to remove and may lead to kidney stones.[19]

A Raw Food Diet/Lifestyle Seeks to Maximize Health Nutrition because it:

  • Encourages the consumption of healthy fats and tasty, comforting nutritious foods;
  • Is alkaline forming, allowing the body to cleanse itself of toxic acid residues which allows the body to release fat stores;
  • Excludes (refined and excessively hybridised) foods that provoke allergies, thereby reducing toxic intake;
  • Provides a good supply of EFAs necessary for the effective functioning of every cell;
  • Is high in enzymes to aid digestion and metabolism and decrease demands on the body for production of enzymes, allowing the body to function more effectively;
  • Comes complete with the vitamins, minerals and subtle nutrients such as antioxidants and bioflavonoids that work in synergy for optimal health, restful sleep, and increased energy for health promoting exercise;
  • Dupports metabolism by nourishing all the vital organs and endocrine system;
  • Sustains quality sleep, a positive attitude to life, high quality hydration and sensible exposure to essential sunshine, all of which are needed by the immune system.

My Story

My initial interest in nutrition came about because my mother died at the age of 33 from breast cancer. Rather than accept the allopathic view that I was at high risk of developing the same disease, I chose to ensure that I was not, by researching its causes and changing my diet and lifestyle accordingly. I became a vegetarian and thought I was doing fine until I discovered raw food nutrition. My transition to a wholly raw diet was gradual, but I soon noticed, to my surprise, that I had dropped a dress size and then another and finally another, all within the space of about nine months. I lost around three stone.

In my early days on a raw diet my body wanted to indulge itself in the lavishness of dishes like lasagne, wild garlic and avocado soup, and dehydrated extras such as flax seed crackers and garlic toasts to replace bread. I was particularly keen on sumptuous desserts like Banana-Coconut Pie. This is a typical transitional diet. Having been almost entirely raw now for over three years, I find that I am much more interested in making green juices, salads and the occasional batch of sage and onion bread. I keep the raw cakes and puddings for festivals and other special occasions.


1.    McKeith G. Living Foods for Health. Piatkus London. 2000; Cousins G. Conscious Eating. North Atlantic Books. California. 2000. Pitchford P. Healing with Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books. Berkley. 2002.
2.    There are numerous websites with pictures demonstrating this including
3.    Katulak R and Gomer P. Ageing on Hold – Secrets of Living Younger Longer. Ch 5. Tribune Publishing. 1992. Harman D. Prolongation of Life: Role of Free Radical Reactions in Ageing. J Am Geriatr Soc. 17(8): 721-35. 1969; Kirkwood TBL. Ageing: Too Fast by Mistake. Nature. 444: 1015-1017. 2006.
4.    Alakbarov F Dr. Nutrition for Longevity. (8.3): Azerbaijan International. Autumn 2000.
5.    Wallechinsky D and Irving W. The People’s Almanac series of books. Bantam Books. New York. 1975-1981.
6.    Taylor R. Hunza Health Secrets for Long Life and Happiness.  Prentice-Hall. New Jersey. 1964.
7.    Poon LW, Clayton GM et al. The Georgia Centenarian Study. International Journal of Ageing and Human Development. 34(1): 1-18. 1992.
8.    Mizushima S et al. Hypertens Res. 15: 45-55.1992.
9.    BBC Radio 4 News. 19 September 2007.
10.    Lopez et al. Enzymes: The Fountain of Life. The Neville Press. Muchen. 1994.
11.    Will MJ, Franzblau EB and Kelley AE. Nucleus Accumbens µ-Opioids Regulate Intake of a High-Fat Diet via Activation of a Distributed Brain Network. Journal of Neuroscience. 23(7): 2882. 1 April 2003.
12.    Kulvinskas V. Survival Report into the 21st Century. p46. 21st Century Publications. Iowa. 1975.
13.     Kouchakoff P. The Influence of Cooking Food on the Blood Formula of Man. pp 1-8. Proceedings: First International Congress of Microbiology. Paris. 1930.
14.    Cousens G. Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet. p99. Cassandra Press. Colarado. 1986.
15.    Udo E. Fats that Heal Fats that Kill. p126. Alive Books. Burnaby. Canada. 1995.
16.    Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for Acrolein. Public Health Service. US Dept of Health and Human Services. Atlanta, GA. 1990.
17.    UK Food Standards Agency website
18.    Schmidt M. Brain Building Nutrition. pp141-143. Frog Ltd. 2001.
19.    Wolfe D. The Sunfood Diet Success System. p183. Maul Bros. 2006


None of the information given in this section should be taken as medical advice and you should always consult a health practitioner if you have any concerns regarding your health or nutrition.


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About Suz Evasdaughter

Suz Evasdaughter BAHons Dip ATh has studied and taught health and nutrition for many years. She has been eating an almost exclusively raw diet for 31/2 years, and has studied raw nutrition extensively. She has published a best selling booklet The Raw Route to Perfect Weight and Health, now in its second edition, and is writing a book on Raw Food Nutrition, Weightloss and Longevity. She runs raw food detox retreats in Leeds and Turkey, gives talks and demonstrations on raw food nutrition, and is a regular contributor to raw food publications. She recently appeared on TV with Anthony Worrell Thompson preparing a raw food dish. You may contact her via You can also visit her website

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