Over the past few years there has been growing attention to raw and "living" foods.
I was first introduced to it in college after reading Fit for Life. Soon after moving to NYC I consumed mostly raw foods as a vegan. While I'm not vegan anymore, I still make sure that at a substantial part of my diet is raw.
Raw or "living" foods are uncooked (or dehydrated at very low temperatures), soaked, sprouted or lacto-fermented. They're valuable because the enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants are left intact or are enhanced. This allows for easier digestion and greater nutritional value.
Raw foodism isn't a new thing. The irony is that while it's now become a popularized trend - raw foodism has been going on since the beginning of time. Raw foods and fresh juices/tonics have been used for centuries to promote healing and detoxification. Only certain vegetables and meats were cooked to soften the fibers and enhance digestion. Even grains were soaked or fermented before eating them.
Most nuts and grains: 8 hours or overnight.
- increases the content of vitamins C, B2, B5, B6 and Carotene.
- neutralizes the phytic acid that is present in the bran of all grains (and skins of nuts). Phytic acid inhibits mineral absorption (calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc) and digestive enzyme activity.
- breaks down the complex sugars responsible for intestinal gas.
- inactivates aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are toxins produced by fungus and are potent carcinogens.
This is why a diet high in improperly prepared grains can lead to mineral deficiencies, bone loss, IBS and other gastrointestinal problems.
Why eat raw, soaked nuts/seeds instead of roasted?
The brown skins on nuts/seeds contain phytic acids and enzyme inhibitors. These stop the body from digesting that food. In nature these keep the nut dormant until it gets soaked in water in the ground before growing into a tree. Soaking nuts/seeds starts the germination process. The food become pre-digested making the nutrients more bio-available.
Besides impeding digestion and nutrient absorption, roasted nuts contain rancid fats and oils. This increases free radical damage. Free radicals damage our cells like rust corrodes metal. Furthermore, free radical damage makes the body age more quickly.
Some people claim that soaking nuts helps to prevent weight gain from eating nuts. Physiologically speaking, this makes sense. If your body is able to digest somethng appropriately, excess storage including toxic build-up is more easily avoidable.
So with that said: Don't forget to soak your nuts!
Lacto-fermentation is a process used to preserve vegetables and to prepare grains for cooking. The process of fermenting increases vitamin levels and produces enzymes and substances with antibiotic and anticarcinogenic properties. The benefit of eating traditional foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and Indian chutneys is that they promote the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria - much like taking a probiotic supplement.
With the industrialization of food and the desire for convenience, the nature of our foods has changed. The traditional methods of food preparation have been, for the most part, lost. I'm not sure what stimulated the raw foods movement to what it is today but I feel it's a positive thing that will last.