Review: Becoming Raw

The title says it all – Becoming Raw: The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets. This is most certainly not a book you read through once, put up on the shelf and forget about. I know I'll be referring to this exhaustive guide repeatedly.

Although over 45 recipes are included, this is not your typical raw food recipe book.  In fact, this isn't your "typical" book about the raw food diet, and I've read oodles of them in the past two years.

Authors Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina are both registered dietitians. They offer scientifically sound answers to tough questions about raw foods, furnish nutrition guidelines and practical information, and show how to design a raw vegan diet that meets recommended nutrient intakes. There's no biased information in this book; it's just full of facts and you can draw your own conclusions.

Despite having healed myself from morbid obesity and a host of chronic health conditions by adopting a raw foods lifestyle, I've met my share of both skeptics and critics along the way, as has, I'm sure, most anyone who's been raw for any length of time. From friends to family members to medical professionals, we've all undoubtedly heard the questions and concerns:
  • Won't we end up with osteoporosis if we eliminate dairy products?
  • How will we get enough iron without meat?
  • Where will our vitamin B12 come from?
  • How can we possibly get enough protein?
  • Does cooking destroy nutrients?
  • Do the enzymes in raw foods really contribute to human digestion, health and longevity?
  • Are sprouted legumes indigestible?
  • Are most raw diets too high in fat?
Trust me when I say, this is the definitive guide in addressing each of these questions and many more — and not from opinion or even personal experience, but from scientific scrutiny that is referenced throughout the book.

The authors also look at specific health problems – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, etc. – and how the nutrients in raw plant sources address those ailments.

Rynn Berry, historical advisor to the North American Vegetarian Society, contributes a chapter on the history of the raw food movement, which I found fascinating. In addition to being introduced to the early pioneers of the lifestyle, I gained a better understanding of where the various "sects" originated — fruitarianism, sproutarianism, gourmet raw cuisine, and the Christian and Essene raw food lifestyles.

It's well known that raw vegan diets tend to be low in calories and high in fiber, a perfect  choice for folks who want to lose a few or many pounds. I've managed to shed all of my excess weight without counting a calorie, carb or fat gram; however, having done so, I now want to ensure that my cells are fueled with an optimal amount of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. I've also moved from a sedentary lifestyle to a very active (dare I say, athletic) one, so I know both my caloric and protein requirements have changed dramatically.

That said, if you're someone who likes to see data broken down into charts, tables and graphs, you'll have plenty of eye candy here. My new best friend is Table 5.3: Calories, protein, fat, carbohydrate, and water content in raw food. My BFF spans six pages and comprises just about every food imaginable – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, and more!

The authors then went on to educate me in determining how much caloric intake (energy) I'll need to maintain a healthy body weight and adequate nutrient intakes (protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals) for the long term. These are all broken down by individual foods into easy-to-reference tables as well.

Whether raw vegan or not, Becoming Raw is an excellent resource for anyone interested in understanding the relationship between food and health. I definitely recommend adding a copy to your home library today.

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