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Menachem's Blog

You are what you eat
unless your food is raw

When I became a vegan a year ago, it was the finale of a path along which I have been taking my body for twenty years or more. The final leap was just that -- it was a sudden radical change in diet following years of incremental changes (no white bread, mainly sour dough bread, whole wheat pasta, no cow milk products, off goat's milk). I don't like to use the word vegan to describe myself. The word vegan is usually defined as

"A vegetarian who eats plant products only, especially one who uses no products derived from animals, as fur or leather".

The term vegan was derived from the word "vegetarian" in 1944 when Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson became frustrated that the term "vegetarianism" had come to include the eating of dairy products and sometimes even fowl. They founded the U.K. Vegan Society. To coin the term, they combined the first three and last two letters of vegetarian to form the word "vegan," which they saw as "the beginning and end of vegetarian."

But I don't like to describe myself as a vegan because you can eat lollies and candies all day long with filo pastry apple strudel or baklava, and wash it down with Coca-Cola (I once weighed a 1.5 litre bottle of Coke and another of diet Coke -- the latter weighed 1.5 kilograms, which is what you would expect because it is basically water; the regular Coke weighed 1.65 kilograms! In other words there is a whole 150 grams of (cane?) sugar in the "regular" beverage) -- not a very healthy combination. I prefer to define myself to be on a "whole food, plant based diet".

When I decided to embark on this culinary adventure, I looked into the Bible. The Torah is and interesting source text for diet. When God blesses man (chapter one of Genesis) he gives us the right to eat herb yielding seed and the fruit of seed bearing trees. In other words, man was given permission to eat grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit. Period. That was all. It was only in the time of Noah that man was given permission to eat [other] animals, "every moving thing that lives shall be food for you" (bereshith chapter 9).

So while the Almighty allows man after the flood to eat meat, in essence Man was created without the necessity for it. Meat was not required for survival. Perhaps God was reacting to man's lust for consuming higher lifeforms.

Three type of animals were created: herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. These animals are not just different in what they eat but in their anatomies. It is this different anatomy that allows them to digest diverse food types.

Ruminants digest their food in two steps, first by eating the raw material and regurgitating a semi-digested form, known as cud, from within their first stomach. Their stomachs have four chambers: the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. Fibre (such as cellulose) is broken down in one section and protein and carbohydrate are fermented in another. These animals need these mechanisms because the vegetation they like to eat is very hard to digest.

Lagomorphs (which includes rabbits) are also vegetarians, herbivorous animals. But they do not chew their cud in the orthodox way. So how do they digest the fibre they consume? They solve the problem by passing two distinct types of faeces: hard droppings and soft black viscous pellets. The Lagomorph selects the latter for reingestion -- yes it eats them! They need to do this in order to fully digest their food and extract sufficient nutrients. Saliva, stomach acids and passing through their intestines, "soften" up their food the first time through allowing the second stage to fully digest it. By reingestion they achieve what the cow does "chewing its cud".

Humans (omnivores, monogastrics [animals with only one digestive cavity]) have a single stomach, and (luckily ;-) do not have to reingest our droppings. Why were we created like this? If we were really created with the ability to live soley on a vegetable diet, how are we supposed to digest that tough plant material?

The Lord endowed us with a much better gift! Part of this Divine present is our intelligence, and the other, our ability to use our hands and tools that we create. We have the ability to cook our food. We have the ability to create the appropriate tools for this process of food preparation. We harvest our grains, then we thresh, winnow, clean, grind, sift, knead and bake. We add sour dough or yeast if we want it puffy.

Animals are unable to prepare bread; they eat the grains, including the stalks and chaff, straight from the field. Today we know that consuming bran is "good" for our intestines, but we do not digest it. It does not provide us with vitamins or minerals.

Not all food requires cooking. Fruit certainly can be eaten raw and so can many vegetables. But grains and legumes? potatoes and pumpkin? Food can be overcooked; sometimes blanching is sufficient. Cooking greatly increases the flavour of food, and its variety. You can dry your rice out, but don't tell me it has more enzymes than steamed rice. By all means thow away your microwave, but do steam your veggies. And make sure your honey hasn't been boiled to make it flow better -- that does kill the enzymes.

I can't believe some of the things the raw food sites claim. As if it is authoritative, but they never quote scientific sources. Look at some of these quotes (bolds are mine):

Everyone knows it is healthy to eat fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables every day. A diet that includes whole, ripe, raw organic fruits and vegetables, sprouted nuts, seeds, and grains can greatly contribute to achieving optimum health.

Well of course "Everyone knows ". But they are honest enough to say "includes" and list fruit. They seem to imply you can't live only on raw.

Now look at this claim:

Research suggests that phytonutrients may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Phytonutrients may also help slow the aging process and enhance eyesight and brain function. Other important keys to health are pure water, sleep, rest, exercise, laughter, and love!

That might be true, and they are cautious enough to say may. But I couldn't find on the scientific sites I saw that they had to be eaten raw.

I love this one:

Raw and Living Foods are foods that contain enzymes. In general, the act of heating food over 116 degrees F destroys enzymes in food. (Enzymes start to degrade in as little as 106 degrees F). All cooked food is devoid of enzymes, furthermore cooking food changes the molecular structure of the food and renders it toxic. Living and raw foods also have enormously higher nutrient values than the foods that have been cooked.

Did you hear that -- steaming your potatoes and rice, and baking your bread renders them toxic; your vegetable soup is poisonous! I don't have much to add. They say it all themselves.

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I thought I'd put in this disclaimer. I copied from somewhere in the web and it sounds good.

The information contained on this webpage is presented for the purpose of educating people on diet. Nothing contained on here should be construed nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. Should you have any healthcare related questions, please call or see your physician or other qualified health care provider promptly. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the website or in this special report.


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