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Outside-the-Box Thinking
About an
Outside-the-Box Topic

By Don Bennett, DAS

If you came to the raw vegan diet primarily for the recipes, or just for improved athletic performance, and your adoption of this diet wasn't so that you can have the best health possible now and in the future, this article is not for you. It is for those who place a high value on their health, and who want the best health their genetics will allow. If this is you, you'll likely find that this article offers some enlightening and empowering information.

A great idea whose time has come will eventually catch on. And this is what has happened with the concept of eating as we were meant to eat, as opposed to eating what certain industries would like us to eat. These so-called "food" industries take advantage of our natural sweet tooth and our desire for enough fat and sodium and design foods that push our taste and "mouth feel" buttons. But while people may love those foods, those foods do not love us back; instead they are a contributing factor to degenerative disease. And while that's not great for us, it is great for the medical-pharma industry. So because all these industries benefit in one way or another from the Typical Western Diet, and they are very influential, it has been a challenge to get truly helpful health improvement information to the general public for those who are wise enough to value their health, and future health. But thanks to the Internet, this is getting easier.

Just as with any area of science, the science of healthful living has improved with time as more discoveries, observations, and realizations have come to light. But as with many areas of education, some educators fail to keep up with the times, and instead simply teach what they've always taught... what they originally learned. Being that even medical doctors peer-to-peer with each other to discuss what's working well and not working well for the sake of those they counsel, you'd think that the educators in the alternative health improvement community would do the same, but sadly, this has not been the case. And unfortunately, this has resulted in "raw food fails."

So it's time for Raw Vegan 2.0; some cutting edge education that goes beyond the Raw Vegan 101 information that many raw food educators teach. In this article, we'll cover some issues that you won't hear a lot about. And you don't hear a lot about them not because they are crazy, unsubstantiated notions, but because many educators are not thinking about these issues, and there is no peer-to-peer process in place to allow for the sharing of information... and even if there was, while some educators would be all for it, it's a sad fact that some wouldn't participate.

And sure, I could offer this information as a for-a-fee course, but when it comes to health information that's of a general nature, I feel it should be as widely disseminated as possible, and therefore, free. So if robust future health is high on your list of priorities, you'll likely find this information to be invaluable.

The First Question People Should Ask Themselves

Before deciding what health program to follow or whose advice to embrace, the first thing someone should decide is: How healthy do I want to be? The answer to this question will make it very easy for you to figure out which healthy lifestyle program will be best for you. On a scale of 1 to 10, if 1 is the worst health you can have, and 10 is the best health your genetics will allow, if you're fine with a level of 6, you'll have more options than if you pick 8. But if you want a level of 10, there are no options... you simply have to live – as best you can – in accordance with your biological imperatives. But considering that at a level of 10 you'll have the best odds of never getting a diagnosis of something serious and life-threatening, if you're a forward-thinking person, this way of living may be exactly what you want. More on this topic in the article How Healthy Do You Want to Be? (link below).

The Second Question People Should Ask Themselves

The next thing to get clear in your mind is: What should I base my behaviors on?

Obviously, the items in the right column are the ones that will be in your best interest, health-wise.


Now here's some outside-the-box thinking about our outside-the-box way of life.

Gluten and Nightshades: Okay for Some People?

I've come to realize that there are cultivated fruits and vegetables that taste good but may not necessarily be good for us (cruciferous veggies for one). Now that we're no longer living in our natural biological "echo-niche" we can't base our decision of what to eat and not eat on taste alone as we were once able to do. And basing it on availability has its own issues. The obvious example of this are all the processed "designer" things there are to eat (e.g. donuts, ice cream), but we shouldn't simply assume that if a soil-grown food tastes good to us, we're meant to eat it. Or that everything in the store's produce department is "our food". This is why critical thinking skills need to be applied to the foods of our diet if optimal long-term health is the goal. And this is what RV 2.0 is all about.

Many people are of the belief that if they eat something that gives other people problems, but it doesn't give them a problem, then it's okay to eat it because it's harmless. And while this may seem like a sensible conclusion, it isn't necessarily true. Just because you can eat something that doesn't cause an immediate, noticeable negative reaction doesn't mean that, over time, damage won't be done.

Some people are said to be gluten intolerant because they have a problem digesting a protein found in most grains, and these folks can be thought of as being "gluten sensitive", but they really should be called "gluten hypersensitive" because they will react more vigorously than those who might consider themselves as "gluten tolerant". In-other-words, it's been postulated that gluten affects everyone negatively to some degree, it's just that some people are more sensitive to gluten than others, so they will react more quickly and more noticeably. Why does it make sense that gluten affects everyone? Because we are not designed to eat grains, and therefore grain-containing products are not "our food". So just because you can eat foods containing gluten without reacting, doesn't mean the gluten isn't doing some level of damage that, over time, can contribute to a condition.

And the same can be said for nightshades. Foods like tomatoes and red bell peppers can cause a noticeable reaction in some people, so they steer clear of them. But just because you can eat foods of the nightshade family without any noticeable reaction doesn't mean that harm isn't being done over time. If you want to avoid arthritis, gut issues, and/or a diminished healing ability many decades from now, you may want to take the approach: If it's not a food I am biophysiologically adapted to eat, I won't include it as part of my diet... a "better to be safe than sorry" approach. And if you're waiting for multiple, peer-reviewed, double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies of thousands of people over many decades that show that you should avoid foods like tomatoes, potatoes (not sweet potatoes), eggplant, and red bell peppers, you'll be waiting forever. Just as with studies on the raw vegan diet, these studies will likely never be done, so we're left to think for ourselves, using some outside-the-box thinking about our outside-the-box lifestyle.

Tomatoes, bell peppers, and potatoes (as well as avocados, squash, pecans, cashews, and blueberries) are all New World crops, and have only been on the dinner table of African and Eurasian populations for about ten generations of their evolutionary history. Being that these are not foods we evolved to eat, it makes perfect sense that tomatoes and bell peppers should not be part of our diet since they contain a substance (solanine, a glycoalkaloid toxin) which is injurious to the body, even if you don't notice the effect immediately upon eating them. And tomatoes contain a particular lectin – an agglutinin – that's actually used in vaccines because it stimulates the production of antibodies. This has the potential to set off a low level antibody response when eating tomatoes; you may not notice anything, but, again, that doesn't mean harm isn't occurring, with damage being cumulative over time if you're a regular consumer of tomatoes.

I'm not saying we can't make use of foods that we didn't evolve with – I'm sure stone fruits have benefit – it's just that we shouldn't be surprised when a food that we didn't evolve with, that tastes good, turns out not to be good for us, all things considered. So we can't necessarily go by what the USDA recommends, or what is available to us in the produce department, or even what our own taste buds have to say when we're no longer living in our biological "eco-niche".

When we look at foods on balance, we'll be able to see the downsides of the cruciferous veggies and nightshades. And if we want to be as healthy as our genetics will allow us to be, it would be wise to not eat those foods that have the potential to damage us in some way, even if it's slowly over time. And to this point of "chronic damage" occurring over a long period, many nightshade articles will say...

"How to tell if you shouldn't eat them? Eliminate them from your diet for at least 30 days (no cheating). Then, reintroduce them into your diet as a test and monitor your symptoms for 72 hours. Did you improve during the 30 days? Did you have a negative reaction when you ate them again? If yes, you're nightshade-sensitive. If no, you're not."

Another piece of advice, this time from a popular raw vegan educator, says...

"Don’t eat the nightshade plants. THEY are hazardous to your health. The fruit is good, unless you are one of those rare individuals that has a negative reaction."

While these two pieces of advice sound like they make sense, they do not consider that damage can still be done even though you don't have an immediate negative reaction when eating the food, and empirical evidence bears this out. So the "what I don't know can't hurt me" way of thinking should not be part of health research.

What Defines "Enough" When it Comes to Nutrition?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that if we want the best health our DNA will permit, we need to get enough of all the nutrients our bodies require to provide us with this optimal level of health. No debate there. But how is "enough" determined? If your first thought is to look at the RDIs or consult Cron-O-Meter or FitDay.com, you're in for a shock. More on why these are not reliable sources of this information in the article Why We Shouldn't Rely on Cron-O-Meter and Fitday.com to Assess Our Nutrient Needs (link below). But this section delves into a more basic level of "enough", and it applies logic to the question, which is one of the tools we all have in our toolbox... a tool we should be using more of considering the amounts of misinformation regarding diet and nutrition.

There can be only three scenarios regarding getting an amount of nutrition. On average...

  1) we get exactly the right amount of all the nutrients we require, no more no less

  2) we get less than we need

  3) we get more than we need

Since it is virtually impossible to eat in such a way for you to get exactly the amount of calcium your body needs in a day, week, or month, and the same is true for all the other essential nutrients, we can disregard that first scenario. So we're left with either getting less than the body needs or more than the body needs. Which do you think the body would prefer? More on this very important topic in the article With Nutrition, Enough is NOT Enough (link below).

EFAs and EAAs: Is it Impossible to Not Get All You Need?

I'm sure you've heard this notion: If you eat a raw food diet of fruits and green, it's impossible to not get enough protein and fat. And while lovely notions such as this that fall into the category of "don't worry about it" are comforting, they are not always true. In reality (which is where your body exists), it is possible to not get enough of one or more of the Essential Amino Acids (the building block of protein), and possibly not enough of an Essential Fatty Acid like Omega 3 (needed for EPA and DHA). But how many raw food health educators are teaching this instead of the "don't worry about it" version. Since it's been shown that these scenarios are possible (because they've happened), there must be an explanation. And here are the top three that you need to be aware of.

1) Your body has a certain carbohydrate requirement, and as you might imagine, this requirement correlates closely with your level of physical activity; the more active you are, the more food you need to eat. But fat and protein are not primary fuel sources, and are used for other things by the body, so they do not correlate with your level of activity in the same way that carbs do. So let's say you've studied all about diets, and have chosen the diet all humans are best suited to eat, and are now eating this way, but you haven't yet researched what the body requires in the way of physical activity, and you happen to be way too sedentary (from your body's perspective). But because you don't want to be overweight, you're careful to eat only as much food as you need to support your ideal weight, and this amount of food will obviously be based on your level of activity (and on hunger). So while you're happily getting an appropriate amount of calories, if you're inactive enough, and you're eating foods that are thought of as being "low" in fat and protein, you may not be getting enough of some EFAs and/or EAAs. A way to make sure you are? Be appropriately active, which will warrant you eating an appropriate amount of food that should supply you with an appropriate amount of EAAs and EFAs. But there is a caveat with this advice...

2) Another way you could be flirting with an EFA insufficiency – and therefore not enough EPA and DHA – is if the fruits you're eating are Temperate Zone fruits and not the creamier Tropical Zone fruits that we evolved with (they contain more fat than apples, pears, grapes, berries, etc). If you simply don't have access to Tropical Zone fruits, there is something you can do to make sure you get enough EFAs. And no, it's not eating avocado every day (more on this in a moment). To deal with the unnatural scenario of not being able to eat the specific foods of your biological adaptation, you can employ an equally unnatural scenario: add equal amounts of some hemp and chia seeds to a banana smoothie. By doing this, you'll essentially be consuming the equivalent of a fattier banana... more like the varieties of banana that grow in the tropics that most of us don't get to eat because these bananas are not commercially viable (I'm fortunate to be able to eat them, and they are way creamier than the common Cavendish variety sold in stores). You can add the hemp seeds directly into the blender and blend on high for a few seconds, but grind the chia seeds in a seed grinder and then immediately pulse them into the smoothie as the last step. Try 1-2 tablespoons of each. I mentioned equal amounts of those two seeds because between them you'll get a 1:1 ratio of Omega 3s to 6s.

But that isn't the only ratio that a discussion of fat should address... there's also the ratio of the three categories of fatty acids: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated (PUFA, MUFA, SFA). The creamy tropical fruits have a higher SFA content than do the hemp and chia seeds, so a way to tweak this ratio more towards "tropical" is to add a tiny amount of coconut pulp (first choice), or coconut oil (second choice) to the smoothie, and now you're consuming the equivalent of the fruit we have a symbiotic relationship with. And if you're concerned about combining fat and sweet in the same meal, you do that whenever you eat creamy tropical fruit. If you ate seeds and bananas separately at a meal, then you'd have some digestive issues.

3) Another way to get an Omega 3 insufficiency is to consume too much Omega 6. The same enzyme is used to process both 3s and 6s, and you only have a finite amount of that enzyme on any given day. So even if you consume the amount of 3s that your body needs in a day, if you consume too many 6s, all of the 3s will not be processed due to "competitive inhibition" (all those 6s using up a disproportionate amount of that enzyme), and this can result in an Omega 3 insufficiency even though you're technically consuming enough of them. And the reason I mentioned that avocado is not a good way to ensure that you get enough EFAs is because it has an Omega 6 to 3 ratio of 17:1 !!! And that's way too "6 heavy". We're designed for a ratio closer to 1:1, and even mainstream nutritionists recommend no higher than a 3:1 or a 4:1 ratio of 6 to 3. So you can imagine how much 6 versus 3 competitive inhibition is going on when you eat lots of avocado. This is why avocado should be eaten sparingly and not as a main course, assuming you want the best health possible.

Consider both "Supply & Demand" when thinking about nutrition

One of the things that can be considered when looking at a diet is what the diet supplies in the way of nutrients. Will the diet provide enough protein (the most common question), enough calcium, enough B vitamins, etc. And you can find tons of charts that will tell you how much magnesium is in one gram of romaine lettuce. Never mind that these charts are pretty much useless (you'll see why below), but even if they were spot on, when you use these charts, how do they know how much of a particular nutrient you need? Well, of course, they can't. But we must have these charts, so they have to say something. The fact is that, although we're all designed for the same diet, our nutritional requirements can vary.

The reasons for the individuality of our nutrient needs are not hard to understand. There can be genetic issues that affect our ability to utilize one or more nutrients, we can have vastly different levels of physical activity which will require different levels of certain nutrients, our stress levels can vary as well, and this will affect things like our B12 needs, and if you look at two people who are eating the same diet of the same foods from the same store, one person may get enough of a particular nutrient, and the other person won't get enough because he came to the diet with a fairly deep deficiency of that nutrient. My point here is that demand can vary almost as much as supply. The article (link below) about the issues with relying on Cron-O-Meter to figure out if you're getting enough nutrition goes into more fascinating detail about the Supply & Demand issue.

Raw Food Misinformation

Because "misinformation" is defined as "false or misleading information that the provider of the information doesn't know is untrue", the misinformation that the raw food community is rife with is not provided with malicious intent or intended to mislead. So, many people are basing a portion of their lifestyle on inaccurate information without knowing it. And since most of those folks who have come to adopt a raw food diet have done so to improve their health to either deal with an existing health issue or to avoid a health issue in the future, following incorrect health information is presumably the last thing they want to do.

A distinction needs to be made between disinformation (where the educator knows he is lying and is just out to scam you), and "irresponsible misinformation." This happens when an otherwise well-intentioned educator, who is teaching something that has been found to be inaccurate, finds out about this and does nothing to investigate the contention that what they are teaching is not correct. And not only does he or she do nothing to see if there is any truth to the claim, but often doubles down, digging in their heels, defending their teachings, and even trying to discredit the contrary information; and thus the "irresponsible" label. Thankfully this type of educator is the exception and not the rule. But if this type of educator is also a popular educator, this has the potential to result in damage to a lot of people.

One of the most potentially damaging pieces of misinformation is the notion, "Once you start eating enough fruits and vegetables you don't have to worry about nutrition." And while this is a lovely notion, the fact remains that you should be concerned about getting enough of all the nutrients the body requires for optimal health when eating the best diet, if you want optimal health. And this is because – unlike many millennia ago – diet and nutrition need to be looked at as individual subjects. And this is because most of us are no longer eating foods that Nature grows for us; we're eating foods that are grown for us by an agri-based food industry that grows for appearance, yield, size, pest-resistance, shelf-life, growth-rate, sugar-content, and profit, but not for nutritional content because to do so is more costly, and they are not being mandated to do so by government or asked to by consumers, so why should they. The only nutrients they add back to their soils that we need in our diet are potassium and phosphorus, and they only do this because if they didn't, their crops wouldn't grow at all. But what about the dozens of other nutrients that we need to grow new cells and to be robustly healthy? Are there none of these other nutrients in those agri-based foods? Sometimes, for one or more of them, the answer is 'yes'. But even if there were always some of all of them, "some" is not necessarily enough for optimal health. Enough for surviving, yes. But not enough for thriving over time. And while it's nice for a raw vegan to survive better than 95% of the general population, I'd rather thrive (because the difference could be getting or not getting a diagnosis of something serious at some point later in life, like during those last ten years).

The reason why the above piece of irresponsible information (that every animal species in the world can get enough nutrition so why should humans be any different) is potentially damaging is because some popular raw food educators teach this, and some of those people they teach this to go on to teach it to others. This new wave of educators are no doubt sincere, enthusiastic, and well-meaning, they simply are not aware of the misleading and potentially harmful information they are passing along because they learned this info as a student and not as researcher. So even when taking a course that claims to prepare and educate you to go on to teach others, you should still vet the information being taught to you – as a researcher – in case any of the info is incorrect. And a tenet of a proper researcher when vetting information is to employ the ethos of science: open questioning, no authorities, no biases or personal preferences, honesty, transparency, and reliance on evidence. And this is done with a respect for rational and honest discussion, a desire to peer-to-peer, the ability to change your position when the evidence merits it, an intolerance of distortion and misrepresentation, and most important, a skeptical interrogation of accepted notions.

One of the other problems with our efforts to disseminate accurate health improvement information are those people who come to the defense of educators who have been found to be teaching some incorrect info. Think about it: let's say you had a worsening illness that mainstream medicine was unable to help you with, and someone offered you a book by an alternative health practitioner, saying that this book helped them when nothing else could, and out of desperation you gave the book's program a try, and lo and behold, you got well! Might you feel a debt of gratitude toward this educator? And if this educator came under fire for continuing to teach something that was said to have the potential to harm those he/she taught, might you feel that you should defend the person who helped you heal? And might you do this without giving any thought to investigating the contentions made? Sadly, but understandably, some people do. And this serves to create a confusing mass of conflicting information in forums and the blogosphere.

To add insult to injury, there are educators who appear to care more about building their lists than they do about teaching accurate information. And some of them, realizing that people are running into conflicting information, use this to their advantage by addressing it in their promotional material. Have you seen this?

Have you ever been inspired by a raw food educator who makes a lot of sense, only to find another inspiring speaker who says something completely different? We know how confusing this can be. Attend our summit and cut through the raw food confusion, learn how to maximize your health results, our speakers will share with you their success strategies for creating successful real-world approaches to raw and plant based eating.

I am familiar with these approaches, and let's just say the real-world info you're reading here in this article conflicts with some of them. And yet they are described as being "real-world approaches". Folks, there can't be contradictory real-world approaches. Different ones, yes, but not ones that say opposite things.

An example of a sincere, well-intentioned raw food educator teaching some things that are not quite true can be found in the article, Some Well-intentioned Misinformation (link below).

An example of a raw food educator digging in their heels when they've painted themselves into a corner can be found in the article, My Rebuttal to Comments About a Barley Grass Juice Supplement (link below).

Bottom line: The most popular raw food info is not necessarily the most accurate.

Sunshine is Not Just for Vitamin D

Diet is important for its impact on health, but it's not the only thing. You could be eating the most perfect diet of the most perfect foods, but if you're not paying attention to the other equally important basics of health, it is physiologically impossible to be as healthy as you can be. So since the Raw Vegan lifestyle is about more than just diet, let's look at two non-diet related issues you don't hear much about.

We're meant to get our vitamin D from the sun. This is not new information. But if sunshine just made D in our skin and nothing else, we could get our D needs met from a supplement, and indeed, those people who live in areas where the sun isn't strong enough to make D in their skin all year 'round should be mindful of maintaining an optimal D level (which by-the-way isn't what conventional vitamin D lab tests display in their reference range). But here's what most people aren't hearing: vitamin D is not the only thing the sun makes in your skin when it shines on it. Two other vital nutrients are made: D sulfate and cholesterol sulfate. There has been research that's shown that when your D level is low, so is the functioning of your immune system, and no good will come of that. But we're now seeing that this immune system "boost" is more likely due to D sulfate, and this was discovered because those study participants who took a D supplement didn't improve as much as those who sunbathed (and they were both getting equal amounts of D). Also consider that most people consume too much cholesterol from eating animal "foods", but if you're a vegan (which technically we all are by nature), since getting enough cholesterol is important, so is making enough cholesterol sulfate. And since there are no D supplements that also contain D sulfate and cholesterol sulfate, this makes getting sunshine – or its equivalent – vitally important if you want to be at an 8 to 10. More on how to do this at the link below (The Importance of Sunshine).

You Can Certainly Be Underactive, but Can You Over Exercise?

We're all aware that it is entirely possible to eat more than you should. Many people do it every day. But is it possible to exercise more than you should? The human body has a physical activity requirement, and it's not like sleep, where you can get too little but can't get too much. Physical activity is in the same category as fat, water, and sunshine, but it's not as self-evident on the "too much" end of the spectrum as those things are. More on this important issue in the article, You Can Over-Eat But Can You Over-Exercise? (link below)

The Study of the Science of Health

If you're wondering what school of thought my thinking most resembles, it would be "Natural Hygiene". This is the study of the science of health, but some people who consider themselves Natural Hygienists or Hygienic Practitioners have adopted a narrow view of Natural Hygiene or have misinterpreted what the tenets of Natural Hygiene state. I won't attempt to go into this here, but if you're curious as to what Natural Hygiene means in today's world – and hopefully you are – you can find out from the link below (Natural Hygiene).


I hope you find this first installment of Raw Vegan 2.0 a help to you on your learning journey. More insights and empowering information to come. Your feedback is most welcome here.


Additional Reading Mentioned Above

How Healthy Do You Want to Be?

Why We Shouldn't Rely on Cron-O-Meter to Assess Our Nutrient Needs

What is "Enough" When it Comes to Nutrition

Some Well-intentioned Misinformation

My Rebuttal to Comments About a Barley Grass Juice Supplement

The Importance of Sunshine that You May Not Know About

You Can Over-Eat But Can You Over-Exercise?

Natural Hygiene – The Science of Health

Other Raw Vegan 2.0 Topics

Where Do Vitamins Come From?

Food for Thought on a Raw Vegan Diet

Can a Child Be Raised Raw Vegan?

Do Whatever Works for You – A Bad Philosophy?

When is Unnatural a Good Thing?

Top 10 Requirements for the BEST Future Health

Why All the Anti-Raw Vegan Chatter?

Health 101 Educational Resources

Don's Blog