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Interview with Don Bennett
By Alison Andrews

Don Bennett is one of the most well balanced raw food experts I have come across. In fact I wish I had come across his writings a few years earlier as I might have saved myself an awful lot of trouble in the nutritional deficiency department.

A raw fooder for 20 years, Don Bennett is a raw food expert that we can all learn a lot from. In fact he is the first raw fooder that I would place in the category of 'expert' on this website, due to his 20 years of experience and study. And as such, this interview is different from the rest. We're not just going to talk about how he is personally doing on the diet (though of course we do cover that as well), mainly we're troubleshooting. We're discussing why the failure rate is so high on a 100% raw vegan diet.

My questions focus a lot on my own curiosity about certain aspects of a raw food diet, the reasons why I personally could not remain 100%, and all those questions that I have come across over the years from people who simply were not getting the results they desired even though they were eating heathier than they ever dreamed of doing before.

I hope this interview helps you and answers some of your most pressing questions - I certainly achieved some clarity from it and I hope you do too.

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Alison Andrews: Don, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background/experience and what brought you to a raw vegan lifestyle?

Don Bennett: I've been researching health issues for over 35 years, I've been vegan for 30 years, and have been eating an all-raw, fruit-based diet for 20 years. I've been a seeker of truth and understanding for as long as I can remember. As a child, driving down the road with my Dad, I noticed all the used car lots that had a sign that read, "BEST PRICES". I asked my dad how it was possible for all the places to have the best price, and he explained that only one had the best price, and the others were lying, and that they all say that to get you to come in. That was my introduction to the real world of conflicting information. I also discovered that I didn't like to be lied to (had too many encounters with people who did this because it was convenient for them to do so). And the topper was when I was a teen and asked an adult a question; a very objective question that warranted a yes or no answer. He said "yes". And I trusted him. Later, in a conversation with another adult, the issue came up, and armed with my new-found knowledge of the issue, I answered "yes", and was promptly told that I was incorrect. This adult went on to explain why the answer was "no", and in very exacting and specific terms. So now I was faced with a dilemma; how to figure out which adult was wrong. Since the second adult had an explanation of his answer, I went back to the first adult and asked for his answer: "Because everybody knows that [the answer is yes]." Hmmm, not a valid explanation in my book. So there it was, a major life lesson: adults didn't necessarily know what they were talking about, and you can't simply accept their answers to objective questions as the Gospel truth. Oh great! Looks like I was going to have to do a lot of self-exploration, research, etc. No problem, I was taught to "think with my own brain" and not with others'.

I mention all this to say that I was outfitted with the tools of an independent researcher early on in life, and I was brought up to be an independent thinker; very valuable assets if you're trying to discover the truth of an issue. And since I was also raised to be kind, caring, considerate, without the kind of self-interest that drives many people in today's society, I was poised to be an effective educator.

Then came my interest in health. I couldn't help but notice that my grandparents lived to over 100 in reasonably good health, and essentially died in their sleep from nothing specific, and others in my family died in their 60's of some horrible illness that gave them a terrible quality-of-life in the "winter" of their life. Since I loved life, I naturally wanted to go the way of those who lived to over 100 in good health. So what were they doing differently? (Even though I wasn't thinking about this, it wasn't genetics). So this realization stuck with me and allowed me to notice things that pertained to health, and as I came across information that suggested that XYZ wasn't good for your health, it would catch my attention and I would research it and act upon it. This brought me to vegetarianism in its various forms, and then to veganism. And I felt somewhat better during this slow progression. But I was still eating cooked food. It was when I accidentally burned my hand on the stove that I had an epiphany: I shouldn't have to be cooking what I ate! After all, I wouldn't have had to do so when living in my natural environment (I had realized by now that the concrete jungle I was living in was NOT a human being's natural environment, and that we were, in a sense, just as domesticated and "kept" as were the animals many of us lived with). So I decided to not eat anything that had to be cooked. The reason I came to this decision on my own was that I was not aware of people who had come to this conclusion long before I did. There was no internet at the time, and forget about going to a library to get a book on the benefits of eating uncooked fruits and vegetables. So I ended up figuring out for myself what turned out to be the tenets of Natural Hygiene, which is the science of health (Hygia being the Goddess of Health from Greek mythology). I tell you all this to mention that this is what sets me apart from many of today's health educators, who learned what they know from other people. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with learning from someone else, but if your teacher/mentor possesses 95% correct information, and you follow this person 100%, you'll be learning and practicing 5% incorrect information. And even if the person you learned from is well-intentioned, and doesn't realize that 5% of their teachings are incorrect, you are still being programmed with some incorrect information that you believe to be correct. And following, even a little bit of incorrect information could make the difference between you thriving and failing to thrive.

Eventually I came to realize that what I ate was not the whole ball of wax when it came to health, and that to be optimally healthy – which was the goal I set for myself – I had to include the other requirements of the body... and that ALL of them were equally important, and that if you focused on one to the neglect of others, it was physiologically impossible to be as healthy as you can be. I also reasoned that being as healthy as you can be would give you the best odds of never getting a diagnosis of something serious – which was my ultimate goal (once I clearly saw that serious illness was not inevitable, as we are led to believe by many in the so-called health care industry).

So after two decades of self-education, and what had to be the equivalent of multiple Ph.Ds, and applying what I had learned to myself and experiencing the improvements firsthand, I began sharing what I had learned with others, and then officially counseling others when my guidance was being sought on a regular basis. And after ten years of counseling, I've come to see, happily, that the conclusions I've come to regarding what it truly takes to be optimally healthy were correct.

AA: What benefits have you personally experienced as a result of your diet/lifestyle?

DB: They fall into two categories: The ones I've noticed, and the ones I haven't noticed and will never know about, yet they are very real and raise the odds of me never getting a diagnosis of something serious later in life. In the first category: improved vitality, less sleep needed, skin conditions cleared up, certain chronic conditions gone, improved eyesight, lessened tendency towards acute illness (colds, flu) and less severe symptoms when I do get "sick", and an easier time of it. There are other things that are relative; for example, by my present age, all the men in my family had snow white hair (I had gray hair in college) and they had much less hair, but I'm happy to say I'm salt and pepper (more pepper than salt), and it's still pretty bushy. I'm stronger, more muscular now at 58 than at any other time in my life, this owing to the realization that physical fitness is no less important than good physiological health. I've often been asked, "Have you healed from anything serious (as some health educators claim), and my answer is "probably". This due to my less-than-stellar genetics combined with working in an industry that exposed me to a carcinogenic chemical before it was known that it was carcinogenic. And because I was pre-diabetic (severe hypoglycemia), if I hadn't made the changes I did when I did, the odds are that I'd be a Type 2 diabetic today, assuming that the effects from the carcinogenic chemical didn't do me in first. And then there are the emotional "side-benefits". I've discovered that the healthier you are physiologically, the healthier you can be psychologically, and that translates into an increased happiness potential. Just as you can experience greater vitality physically, you can experience greater joy emotionally, and this is due to the "Body-Mind Connection". But all these things didn't happen overnight; it takes years of healthful living to undo all the damage of all the unhealthful living you've done. That's why the sooner you start this, the better. And the more diligent you are, the sooner you "get there".

But a very telling event suggests that I am today free of serious disease by inference. I was involved in an industrial accident where I was subjected to a very loud explosion at a very close range. This left me with ringing in my right ear (tinnitus) and some hearing loss (objectively recorded by neurological tests). Following the accident, I was told the loud ringing might go away in a few days or a few weeks. It didn't. Six years later it was still there, and I was told that if during that time it hadn't diminished in volume (it hadn't), it was permanent. Not what I wanted to hear (no pun intended), but multiple opinions by top-notch hearing specialists all said the same thing. Bummer, because I loved going camping and listening to the silence of the wilderness at night. I was offered an operation that would stop the ringing, but it would leave me 100% deaf in that ear. I opted not to do this, wanting to give my body every opportunity to heal it, even though I was told, in no uncertain terms, that, at this point, it would never heal... because it never does. Still, I'm a realist, and I realize that medical science is not dealing with your average, everyday person here. And sure enough, four years later, it went away! Wahooooo! I could go camping again! But the real wahooooo moment was when I realized WHY it had taken 10 years to heal. It actually didn't take that long for the body to heal the nerve damage; tinnitus, although very disheartening and potentially very annoying, was not life-threatening. And the body has only so much nervous system energy (nerve energy) for healing in any given day, so it devotes all the nerve energy it can to the life-threatening things first, and only when all the serious stuff is under control will it work on the next, less urgent things on its list, going in order of severity. Has there been multiple, peer-reviewed, double-blind studies done to prove this? No. It's simply logical that this is how the body works. And sometimes we have to use logic, sound reasoning, and good sense when there is nothing else to go by (and we should use them even when there ARE studies and expert opinions). Naturally, I went back to the neurologist who guaranteed me that my tinnitus would never go away to show him that permanent tinnitus can be "cured". He retested me (not wanting to simply take my word that it was gone), and he just sat there, scratching his head (my hearing had also returned to 100%). Turns out the reason he was so sure that it would never go away after six years of unchanging tones was that folks in this category always took the condition to the grave with them. The reason for this was now obvious to me: their bodies were dealing with serious illness right up until their death (in fact, the serious illness was no doubt the cause of their death), so their body never had the opportunity to resolve the tinnitus. I thought that this gave this hearing specialist doctor another tool in his toolbox to help his tinnitus patients (1% of them commit suicide), but after hearing how I lived my life, he was convinced that his patients would never make such radical changes in their lives. I told him that illness can be a powerful motivator, and that he should at least offer it. But then there was the criteria he had to follow, and what he was allowed to recommend had to be sanctioned by "the authorities" that ultimately control how he practices. But that is another story.

AA: What do you eat in a typical day?

DB: The only thing typical about the food I eat in a day is that I eat mostly, if not all, fruit. From there, it gets very non-typical. I realize that many people are looking for guidance in the way of a meal plan, but to be optimally healthy, the guidance I provide is more along the lines of learning how to reprogram your body's nutritional database so that your body can make your food choices for you, and then to get in touch with what true hunger is, so you can eat more instinctively. But I'm aware that in the beginning, some people can't simply do this right off the bat. After 20 years of eating a fruit-based diet successfully, I now can leave the task of what to eat up to my body, so I can just enjoy the experience, instead of having to be such a large part of the process. So, basically, I eat when I'm hungry, and I don't eat when I'm not hungry. Sounds simple, and it is, but it can take a while until it's also easy. The first thing to do is to make this a goal, and not simply assume that you'll be forever looking for better and better meal plans and recipes. Remember, we're looking to be successful, and not for an "easy way". With the exception of a smoothie, I eat mono meals, meaning a meal of just one thing. And most importantly, I don't give my meals names; the whole naming thing has no correlation with a human's natural lifestyle, and that line of thinking is something we should keep at hand throughout the entire process of transitioning from where you are now to where you want to be; passing things by a "Nature filter".

Because I live in an environment where the humidity level is lower than what my body is designed for, I will have dehydrated myself while I slept, so I will drink water upon arising to counter this. I'm not saying I wake up crazy thirsty, but intellectually I know I must have dehydrated my body because it's not in its biological "eco-niche". So this I do because it's a wise thing to do. I then don't eat until I'm hungry, and based on level of activity of both the day before and today, it may be soon after awakening, or it may be later in the day. Whenever it is, so be it. To eat when your body isn't wanting food is very disrespectful to the body. Many people aren't aware yet of what true hunger is, but what they need to be aware of is that there is such a thing, and that it's wise to seek it out so that they can make use of it. The recommendation to eat X number of calories divided by three meals a day is often given because when moving from an animal/grain based diet to a fruit-based diet, it's harder to fit the same amount of food in your stomach, calorie-wise, and because some health educators know that most people want "directions" of when to eat, how much to eat, what to eat, and that people are less comfortable being taught to think for themselves. But to be successful, you're going to have to work outside of your current comfort zone; following what someone's plan says to do is never as good for your body as following what your body wants. But learning how to understand what your body wants and what it needs, and the best ways to get it, is the art of healthful living. The art is not as complicated as the science, but fortunately only the health educators need to know the science; it's optional for the general public.

So if you're following a plan, understand two important things: It can't take into account what your body specifically wants, and 2. It may contain some incorrect information that will handicap your efforts at regaining and maintaining optimal health. Trust me when I say this; as this raw food thing has grown from a fad to a trend to a movement to an industry, there are now hundreds of new health educators on the scene, which is a good thing when the health educator has been taught 100% correct information. But in reality, there are many well-meaning health educators who have been miseducated in some respect, and their students will be so misinformed, although unintentionally. This is one of the reasons why some people fail to do well when adopting what they believe to be healthful living practices. And with personal computers, book writing software, and Print-On-Demand book printers/shippers, today it's easy to self-publish a book, and accordingly there are hundreds of raw food books out there that people are following, but most books will not allow a person to thrive for various reasons. It is akin to the Wild West out there. And I've not even mentioned the non-well-intentioned "health-educators" who care more about profits than people. Fortunately they are few, but they are also very inspiring and very good at marketing themselves and their incorrect information. So it's sad to say that the raw food world is now Buyer Beware. And really, when you think about it, if health restoration and maintenance is your goal, you shouldn't be immersed in the "raw food world" because, for the most part, it's just about diet, and as I said earlier, if you're not paying equal attention to ALL of the other equally important aspects of health, your chances of thriving are not good. So it makes me wince when I hear someone say, "I'm doing XYZ" with XYZ being the name of a diet plan.

But I digress (I do that a lot, but people seem to find my stream-of-consciousness tangents very enlightening). So I eat whatever fruit my body wants, and if I don't have it on hand, I try to get it. When I can't, my body has to settle for what's on hand. So I try and keep a variety of foods in my kitchen. Yes, this means some may never make it to my stomach, and instead go to the compost pile, but this is in the best interest of my body, if not my wallet. Those who can't afford to compost food, have to eat "closer to the edge" and do the best they can with their buying choices. Shopping daily helps with this; less compost but more traveling. But in Nature, that's what we'd do; we'd travel to seek out what our body wants. So daily shopping is actually closer to our natural lifestyle than weekly shopping. That said, if you get in with one or two other people, you can order weekly from an organic food supplier like Global Organics here in Florida, and at least you'll get to buy fruit wholesale, and they deliver. (See, some outside-the-box thinking helps when living differently from the general public.)

I also make a smoothie almost every day, with bananas as a base (no water). I do this in order to utilize nutritional adjuncts to my diet. The reasons I bolster my diet with nutritional adjuncts is explained in a video I made, which is at http://health101.org/products_supplements.htm (and posted below this paragraph) and although I'm not thrilled with the notion of having to do this, I am a realist, and in the real-world, if you don't supplement, it's going to make it difficult, if not impossible, to thrive. If you have a philosophical aversion to nutritional supplementation, or if you've been taught that it's not necessary, it doesn't matter; our bodies exist in the real world, and are subject to reality whether we like it or not, and our bodies need what they need regardless of our beliefs. So you have a choice to side with reality, or with what you'd rather believe, or with what you've been taught that you want to follow. I don't mean to get serious here, but your health is a serious matter, and if what you choose to do doesn't end up working for you 40 years down the road (as evidenced by a diagnosis of something you never thought you'd get) you won't have access to a time machine to go back to today to try something different, and to maybe try the prudent use of nutritional supplements this time. In many ways, you've got one chance at this, which is why critical, independent thinking must be applied to all the decisions you make. Take human nature into consideration when "following" someone, and realize that they might not be 100% correct for many reasons. But 100% correct info is what you need to thrive.

I never get hungry near bedtime, so eating before sleep is not an issue for me, but I'll say that until you get your eating cycle down, and until you regain your original stomach elasticity so you can eat enough fruit during the day, you may find yourself wanting food near bedtime. Some health educators will say to go ahead and eat, but I wholeheartedly disagree. When you take all of your body's requirements into consideration, sound, restorative sleep is vital to healing, and most people have a bunch of healing to do (even if they don't realize it), and eating before bed will disturb deep, restorative sleep. So it may sound counter-intuitive to say, but it's better to go to sleep hungry than to eat a full meal. So either eat a small amount of high water content food like melon and then wait 30 minutes before laying down, or eat some higher calorie-per-bite foods, like dates, during the day so you won't be hungry for calories just before bedtime. (But keep in mind that we can also be hungry for nutrition, but that's another topic).

So I may eat many small "meals" during the day, or I may eat a few larger ones, it depends on what my body wants. Neither is better than the other, although if you're trying to lose weight, eating the X number of calories you need in a day (less a small amount so you'll lose weight) with more, smaller meals will keep your metabolism higher, which helps with weight loss.

Since I've long since regained my stomach elasticity, I can eat a meal of ten bananas comfortably, and one day, you will be able to also. A before and after photo can be seen on my edu page at http://health101.org/edu under "Don's Banana Page".

AA: Can you tell us about an average day for you? How much exercise, general activity, sleep, sunshine, fresh air etc?

DB: I strive every day for balance. Sometimes my chosen profession of helping people understand the realities of health doesn't mesh well with healthful living. Every moment at my computer is a moment I'd rather be in Nature romping or relaxing. So it's a careful balancing act I do everyday, trying to be aware of my needs, both emotionally and physically. I've seen how past pioneers of healthful living drove themselves into a state of ill-health by their dogged desire to help spread the world of real health, and I certainly don't want to do that to myself.

As far as physical activity (I don't like to call it exercise), I do what I'd like to be able to do well when I'm 90. I'd like to be able to still walk like a champ when I'm 90, so I do a lot of walking now. I'd like to be able to still climb a tree when I'm 90, so I climb now, which is the BEST exercise in the world for the human body; it's impossible to overdo it, and it works every muscle group. If I can't climb on something, I go to the gym and use those machines that will utilize the same muscles I'd use when climbing (and I find that everyone else in the gym is using machines and free-weights for an entirely different reason). I'd like to be able to sprint when I'm 90, so I sprint today, about once a week I run as fast as I can for as long as I can, and this will keep my sprinting mechanism in good shape for a lifetime. I may not be able to run as fast or as far when I'm 90, but how many 90 year olds do you know who can run at all. Running any more than what I do is overdoing it in my opinion. I realize this is not an opinion shared by many others, but I operate from the perspective of what's best for my body, taking all things into consideration. And I pass the running issue by the Nature filter I spoke of earlier. I can see having a reason to sprint millions of years ago, but probably not a reason to run for long distances. Walking, yes, but not running. And you'll see little kids sprint, a lot, but never run for long distances. Let's take our lessons from Nature and the natural behavior of children.

Sunshine is a whole 'nuther issue, and an extremely important one. I've written extensively on it in "Cancer Prevention and Vitamin D" in the articles section of my website, so I won't go into too much detail here except to say that the issue of sun exposure, like diet, is filled with a lot of conflicting information and misinformation. Appropriate sun exposure is crucial for optimal health, and not enough D is one of the main reasons people fail to thrive when transitioning from a diet that has D added to foods at the factory, to a diet of fruits and vegetables which does not provide any D. This brings us back to the supplement issue. So during your "vitamin D winter" when the sun isn't strong enough to make D in your skin, you need to use a sun lamp that makes D3, or take D3 supplements, or take a long vacation to the tropics if you want vibrant health. The tropics or a sun array is preferable to a D supplement because the sun's rays also cleanse your blood and lymph fluids when it penetrates your skin. So I try and get as much fresh air and sunshine as I can, because that's where my body belongs. In fact, excuse me for a moment while I step outside.........

As far as sleep is concerned, being that I know how vital it is for regaining and maintaining robust health, I make sure to get all the sleep my body wants. Most people don't. They are under-slept, and sometimes very under-slept. The electrical energy that powers your body and all its systems is recharged during Phase 4 deep sleep. If you shortchange yourself even one Phase 4 cycle a night, after 365 nights of this, you have a severe nerve energy deficiency, and this will always translate into impaired health. But there are different facets to the sleep issue; most people just figure that the answer is to simply go to bed earlier, but there's the other side of the equation: the need side. The easier your digestion, the less nerve energy you need for it. So the more efficiently you digest your food the better, and the easiest food to digest – once your digestive system has normalized – is fruit. That's one of the main benefits of fruit. Another "need" angle to consider when it comes to sleep is physical activity. The more overworked you are physically, the more nerve energy you use, and the less you have available for healing. And the overwork that I'm talking about is the one people have control over: the over-exercise they do. We all can envision an under-active person; we can visualize and recognize a couch potato. But we have a hard time picturing what over-doing it looks like. And this is partly because over-exercise has become ingrained in our culture as "athletic" activity, and is seen as a good thing, when it is anything but. And it's a double-whammy on nerve energy: 1. The extra nerve energy needed to power the over-activity, and 2. The additional nerve energy needed to process the additional food that's needed to fuel the over-activity. And to add insult to injury, if the over-activity causes any micro-cellular damage, there is additional nerve energy needed to repair this sub-clinical damage. So over-activity requires more than what would be a normal amount of sleep. Something to think about.

AA: A lot of people seem to experience a 'failure to thrive' on a raw vegan lifestyle. In fact the raw vegan lifestyle can be like a revolving door with people leaving as fast as they're coming in. What are some of the factors that lead to this?

DB: The first thing that comes to mind is misinformation. This can obviously derail the best of intentions. And my observation is that there is more misinformation today than ever. And I'm not talking about the cooked food vs raw food conflicting info, that's easy to comprehend once you get a little education under your belt. I'm talking about the misinformation within the raw food arena; the misinformation caused by human nature: personal preferences, personal biases, personal philosophies, etc. And then the misinformation is taught and perpetuated by otherwise well-meaning folks. So educating against misinformation has become part of my practice.

Then there are other factors such as: too much emphasis on greens and not enough on fruit which leads to insufficient calories, too many "overt" fats (avocado and nuts), the continued use of processed oils, not enough sweet fruit, not enough variety of sweet fruit, eating fruit before it's ripe on a regular basis, didn't give the healing process enough time and gave up, didn't eliminate harmful food completely, didn't really want to do it in the first place (did it at the urging of someone else), too much emphasis on recipes and not enough on mono meals, made choices based on personal preferences as opposed to the body's preferences, and as I said earlier, made choices based on misinformation or misleading, deceptive, or otherwise incorrect information, rather than on information based on hard science and human physiology. But the biggest three are probably: didn’t pay equal attention to the other requisites of health (sleep, exercise, sunshine, toxin avoidance, water, stress management), and a lot of focus on food and no focus on nutrition, and no support. All this underscores the value of quality education, and coaching by experienced health educators.

AA: Do you think people should count calories on a raw food diet?

DB: This can be helpful for some people, to both ensure that they are not undereating or overeating on carbs. Most people have heard that it is possible to under-eat on carbs in the beginning, and there are reasons for this, but most are surprised to hear that you can over-eat on carbs too, and some say this isn't even possible, but it most certainly is. But counting caloric intake is nice but meaningless unless you know how many calories you're "burning", and how many calories you SHOULD be burning. To this end I've written a white paper on the issue of calories, which is on my edu page entitled "Article on calories". If you find counting calories helpful, will you always need to do this? No. It'll be helpful just in the beginning. And some people don't need to do it at all. It's just another tool available in your toolbox.

AA: If someone needs to lose excess fat, and restricts their calories accordingly, how would they get enough protein on a raw vegan diet, with the low protein content of fresh fruits and vegetables?

DB: It's understandable that the protein issue is the first thing mainstream people ask about when hearing that I eat mainly fruit, and this is because of the influence of the meat and dairy industries. But I'm hearing more and more about protein concerns from raw foodists, and although I'm not saying that it's nothing to be concerned about, it's not as problematic as other deficiencies that should be getting more attention. Our protein needs, as adults, are normally very small, and are easily met by eating a variety of raw fruit assuming you're being active enough to warrant eating the amounts of food required to fuel that normal level of activity, which in turn will provide enough amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. So if you're under-active, you could theoretically bump up against an amino acid insufficiency if you also ate a narrow diet, and one that didn't include the occasional durian, which is a good source of two of the essential amino acids (and sulphur, the body's natural disinfectant). So paying attention to variety and being appropriately active helps in the protein department. A scenario where I've seen a protein sufficiency problem is this: You've brought your body fat content down to where it should be, and you look in the full length mirror with no clothes on and remark to yourself, "Hmmm, I still don't look right!" This is because you've been under-muscled, and it's easier to see this now that you've lost the excess body-fat. So you wisely decide to embark on a strength training protocol, and join a gym, and start sending your body signals via a High Intensity Training program to build more muscle (and not just maintain what you already have). Building more muscle will take proportionally more protein, and a fruit-based diet, while it can build appropriate amounts of muscle as you grow from a child to a teen to an adult, is not really designed to "suddenly" build muscle as an adult, and the normal amounts you intake, which are adequate for maintaining what you have, might be inadequate for the relatively quick building of more muscle to take you from under-muscled to appropriately muscled, and may handicap that growth. You might assume that the body will simply increase your desire for "high" protein foods, but it looks like we don't have that mechanism (which shouldn't be surprising, because we'd normally not need such a mechanism). So during this unnatural time period of going from under-muscled to appropriately muscled, you may need to consciously consume a disproportionate albeit small amount of additional protein so as not to handicap muscle building. Other than this, protein should be the last thing to be concerned about unless you're under-active.

AA: Similarly, it can be very hard to meet your mineral requirements unless you're eating thousands of calories, is this the reason why athletes seem to thrive more than 'regular' people on this kind of diet?

DB: Arguably, athletes – those consuming more food than people being appropriately active – will get proportionally more minerals. But this should not be an incentive to work out to athletic levels; when looking at things on balance – all things considered – athleticism has some downsides, especially when there are other ways to get more minerals. As my above mentioned video illustrates, the nutritional state of our agri-based food supply is not what our bodies would like it to be, so it may be wise to make up for mineral deficits in the foods we eat by the prudent use of nutritional adjuncts to the diet, in order to get sufficient minerals.

AA: Why is it that some people lose weight on a 100% raw food diet even when consuming a high caloric intake? Even perhaps those who do not wish to lose weight? And then conversely, others who may WISH to lose weight, actually gain a lot of weight?

DB: The weight gain/loss scenarios are an example of how individuality plays into a raw food diet. 1. Some folks, when adopting a dramatically healthier diet also become more active in order to improve their fitness level (and often they overdo it, working out to "athletic" levels). This requires more calories, and if they can't yet fit enough fruit in, they will lose weight. 2. Some people when switching to a fruit-based diet, will, for one reason or another, eat smaller meals more often, and this will raise their average daily metabolic rate, which will work in favor of losing weight, and when this scenario is combined with one or more of the others mentioned here, unwanted weight loss can occur. 3. Depending on the condition of the fat cells, once the body has more healing vitality, it may choose to eliminate stored fat that is also storing toxins (toxins were stored because the body wasn't able to deal with those substances when they were introduced to the body, so to prevent them from remaining systemic and causing harm, the body sequesters them away in fat cells where they can do no harm). This is part and parcel of a "rebuilding" process, so some people will become technically underweight for a while and then regain weight up to their set-weight. This "renewed" fat has an advantage, physiologically; if the body needs to fast for, say, two weeks, it will require about seven pounds of stored fat to be used for fuel during that time. If the body is wanting you to fast for two weeks, it's because it's dealing with something serious, and does not want any digestion to occur because that will be that much less nerve energy available for dealing with a pathogen, for example. And if those seven pounds of fat had been storage for toxic compounds, those substances would have become systemic at the worst possible time. But "clean" fat would not pose that problem. So it is in the body's best interest to keep your fat stores "toxin-free", and therefore, this can be one reason the body sheds fat and then renews it. 4. Some people define their caloric intake as "high", but really have no idea of their requirements, so they may think they're getting more calories than they need, but they really aren't, and they lose some weight. This is why I wrote that white paper on calories, which is at the edu section of my website mentioned above.

The gaining unwanted weight issue is a little more basic in its cause: Some educators recommend to people new to a raw food diet to eat X number of calories a day, and a set number obviously has no correlation with an individual person's needs, and is usually much higher than the person requires. This is done for one of a number of reasons. 1. This amount of calories is what the health educator consumes. 2. This amount of calories is what the health educator feels should be the minimum for everyone. 3. The health educator knows this is way more calories than a person needs, but since new people have trouble consuming enough calories of fruit, it is felt that setting a higher than normal amount of calories as a goal will help people eat beyond satiation which will help regain the lost stomach elasticity that is needed to accommodate a fruit-based diet. 4. Some health educators engage in an "athletic" level of physical activity, and they feel that this level of activity is what everyone should be doing, and this level of physical activity requires more calories than a more appropriate level of physical activity, so this accounts for the overly high caloric recommendation, and if a person manages to attain this high level of caloric intake, and is NOT active enough to warrant those calories, weight gain will occur for those people with "slow" metabolisms. So the statement that it is not possible to be overweight on a fruit-based diet flies in the face of both physiology and empirical evidence. For all practical purposes, it's harder to be overweight on a fruit-based diet compared to an animal/grain based diet, because of the lower calories-per-bite aspect of fruit (due to its high fiber and water content compared to the foods of the typical Western diet), but it's not impossible, especially for people with a more "Neanderthal" (sparing) metabolism.

AA: What are your views on salt consumption? Is it possible to get too little sodium and run into problems on a low fat raw vegan diet?

DB: We need sodium, but we don't need salt. So those raw foodists walking around with those little boxes on a chain around their neck containing salt are doing themselves a disservice even though they're trying to supply their body with sodium. Most minerals have a relationship with other minerals, and sodium is no exception. So if you feel that you're not getting enough sodium, and then supplement with it, and the "co-factor" minerals that balance sodium were also insufficient in your diet, you could throw your body out of balance. To illustrate how our agri-based food supply can be lacking in minerals like sodium, I'll use the tomato as an example (even though this fruit is not one of our original fruits). A tomato will uptake all the sodium the soil has to offer, meaning it has an affinity for sodium. And a tomato's sodium content is what gives it its "savory" flavor. And if you compare the best store-bought, organic tomato, it doesn't hold a candle to a tomato grown by Dr. Strain, a local farmer who loves tomatoes so much that he can't eat store-bought tomatoes because he knows how a tomato is supposed to taste, so he grows his own, with VERY nutritious soil. And when you eat one of HIS tomatoes, you can never again eat those store-bought tomatoes that you previously had no problem eating. And since sodium is not necessary for the growth of a fruit or vegetable, farmers are not that concerned with making sure their soils contain sufficient sodium for the crops they're growing, and as a result, that food will be "sodium-poor", yet your body cannot adapt its sodium needs to the needs of the farmers to maintain a certain profit level. So what do some of us do to help ensure we're getting enough sodium? We look up in the USDA food database, or some other database, to see what foods are good sources of sodium, and then we try and make sure to eat enough of those foods. But these charts leave out one very important piece of information: Where it says, "Grapes have 2 mg of sodium per 100 grams" it SHOULD say, "Grapes are supposed to have 2 mg of sodium per 100 grams". Government agencies don't explain this factor because they don't want you to worry about it; just eat according to the food pyramid and everyone will be happy. But in the real world – where our food comes from – when a research group collected grape samples from around the U.S. (the same variety) and measured various minerals, they found that the sodium content varied from 0.3 to 10.5 percent, calcium from 1.7 to 22.6 percent, and iron from 0.05 to 1.7 percent. These are wide margins! And it just goes to show that not all soils yield the same nutritional content. This is one of four major reasons I engage in the prudent use of nutritional adjuncts to my diet.

One very important thing we raw foodists need to keep in mind: When it was discovered that certain nutrients were lacking in the typical Western diet (when there were outbreaks of illness that were then traced to a newly discovered nutrient like D or a B vitamin), it was decreed that these nutrients were to be added to the foods that Americans were eating. So they were, for example, sprayed onto the cereal as the machine dispensed the cereal into its package at the factory. Problem solved. But when we move away from these unhealthy but fortified foods to the foods of a healthier diet, we leave behind the fortification and are at the mercy of soil quality. Not a problem if you grow all your own food, but potentially problematic if you eat from an agri-based system and don't compensate for less-than-stellar soil with nutritional adjuncts. So when you hear that you can get all the nutrients you need from an all raw fruit-based diet, see that statement for the romantic notion that it is. And it is a lovely thought, just not a realistic one. Also, it should be noted that the more tropical fruits you eat, the better your chances for getting sufficient nutrients. This is because many of the tropical fruits are not grown to the scale of the more mainstream fruits like apples, pears, oranges, and tomatoes, and they tend to be more nutrient sufficient. And, after all, it is the tropical fruits that we are specifically designed to eat, so this practice is a win-win.

AA: You are one of the few in the low fat raw vegan movement who recommends supplements. As someone who personally ran into some nutritional deficiencies while not supplementing at all over several years, I appreciate what you are doing in this respect by spreading this important message. Can you tell us about your views on supplementation, which supplements are important and why?

DB: I've no doubt covered my reasoning for using nutritional adjuncts to the diet in my previous answers, because it's hard not to run into this issue when talking about the reasons why raw foodists fail to thrive, or why people have cravings even though they're getting enough calories to support their level of activity, or why they have specific challenges to eating things they should be able to eat, like sweet fruit (possibly due to a lack of sufficient chromium). People who know me well know that I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist because both of these extremes don't deal with reality; instead I am a realist, preferring to acknowledge real-world issues even though I may lose some sleep over them. I'll start by saying that I'm not thrilled about having to take a D supplement during "vitamin D winter", but until I can live in the tropics where this wouldn't be necessary, and because my health is a priority, I'll supplement with D3 (because I can't fit a sun lamp array into my tiny motorhome where I live full-time, which would be my first choice).

Once I realized that the foods I was eating were nutrient insufficient or deficient, I began researching the supplement industry. Fortunately, I was self-taught and wasn't educated by those who were of the opinion that supplements were not necessary, and that they unbalanced the body, and that they did more harm than good, etc. This anti-supplement philosophy persists today simply because this is what was taught to many of today's health educators, and therefore this is what continues to be taught to tomorrow's health educators. If it was true, that would be one thing, but it turns out not to be, especially with the declining quality of the soil that the industrial farms are growing things in. Because I take a real-world approach to issues, and give things logical, sensible, and considered thought, and have not been handicapped by the hurdles set up by academic tradition, or any incorrect information unintentionally taught by the pioneers of healthful living, I can see certain things that others can't, and I call these the "realities of human health".

As many of today's health educators will tell you, tongue-in-cheek, the most important nutrient is the one you are lacking. But unfortunately, there aren't tests for all the nutrients that we require. If there were, it would be easy to discern what you need, and then adjust accordingly (it should be noted that there are some so-called health practitioners who say that they can test for every nutrient by analyzing your hair, your blood under a dark field microscope, by looking into your eyes, and by feeling your aura; a wonderful notion, but I have not found this to be true).

So in light of this, what tools DO we have in our toolbox? There are certain nutrients that fortunately CAN be tested for, and I say fortunately because they are the more problematic nutrients... the ones that I've found many people to be deficient in. Other nutrient insufficiencies/deficiencies can be discovered from symptoms that arise, but this "method" is to be avoided if at all possible, for obvious reasons: Once you're manifesting observable symptoms, your health has already suffered to a degree. And I think it's irresponsible for a health educator to recommend that you wait for signs of a deficiency before taking a nutritional supplement to deal with a deficiency. So the tool I like to use is research, and good sense coupled with logic unfettered by personal biases (yours or your mentor's). This may require some experimentation and some faith (that the decision you made using good judgment is the correct one), but I've found that this approach gets better results in the long run than adhering to wonderful sounding dogmatic philosophies that have no basis in the real world. In a certain sense, my approach comes under the philosophy of "tis better to be safe than sorry". And often with my approach, I'm telling someone something they don't want to hear, but I am also telling them what they NEED to hear if optimal health is truly their goal.

So I'm an advocate of a daily "multi" and in as natural a form as possible. While there are a scant few pill-type multis which you may want to also consider taking, a green powder supplement should be your first line of defense against nutritionally sub-par food. The one I use is on my website (I don't sell it), another is BarleyMax. Yes, technically this goes against one of the tenets of a truly healthy diet, that being that a true food should be something you can make a meal of, and I can't make a meal of barley grass, BUT, these things are not meant to be a food per se, but a nutritional adjunct to the diet for the purposes of supplying nutrients that are lacking in sufficiency in the natural foods that you are eating. Then there are some supplements that would be taken to resolve long-standing nutritional deficiencies, after which, you should no longer need to take them; such as chromium or iodine. Then there are the non-food provided nutrients like D and B12 that you were getting as part of a typical Western (fortified) diet, but now they must come from the sources they are intended to come from, which for some people, can be problematic for various reasons.

AA: What is your opinion on 100% fruitarian diets that exclude greens?

DB: Humans are not really greens eaters. When you look at the lineage of anthropoid primates, at the "low" end, where you'll find baboons, they eat far more greens than fruit, but as you travel up this line towards humans, the further along you go, the more fruit and less greens are eaten. The primates just before humans – the Bonobos – eat mostly fruit and some leafy greens. So why, when we travel a little further on to humans, should there be so much emphasis on greens? Here's the reason: In general, greens are better sources of minerals than fruits, so if you're eating sub-par fruit that doesn't have the mineral density that it should, a workaround is to eat more greens in an effort to compensate for the fruit that is lacking in mineral content. We normally don't hear about this rationale for eating greens, we simply hear that we're supposed to eat "fruits and leafy greens". But the truth of the matter is, if the fruits you were eating supplied all of the minerals your body needed, the ONLY reason you'd eat any greens is the same reason the gorilla, sitting under a banana tree eating one banana after another, reaches up and grabs a leaf and munches on it, and then goes back to eating bananas... to get some additional fiber to help regulate the uptake of sugar into the blood. Indeed, when type 2 diabetics start eating sweet fruit, they often must first eat some leafy greens, then the sweet fruit, to prevent a blood sugar spike because of their over-sensitive blood sugar regulatory system. Anne Osborne does a wonderful job of explaining this fruit vs greens issue in her book "Fruitarianism the Path to Paradise". When I first began eating a 100% raw diet, I ate tons of greens, not because I thought I was supposed to, but because my body craved them, obviously because I was very minerally deficient, and when my body discovered what leafy greens had to offer in the way of minerals, it signaled me to eat a bunch. Ten years later, I ate less greens but still wanted some, and then when I started taking a green powder supplement to help ensure I was getting the nutrients I needed, my desire for greens waned. Today, I hardly eat any greens at all simply because I no longer have a desire for them... as it's supposed to be. And good thing too because fruit digests a lot easier than greens, thus making digestion that much more energy efficient. So I'm not saying to DECIDE to eat or not eat greens, but to get to the point where your BODY decides. Just be empowered with the information that will help you "hear" what your body is whispering. This last statement is soooo key to obtaining optimal health.

AA: What is your opinion on 'fat-free' diets that some do for several years, excluding all overt fat sources from their diets?

DB: A lot is made of "overt" fats, when it shouldn't be that big a deal. The only truly overtly fatty fruit is an avocado. So there aren't a lot of overtly fatty fruits, just one; the creamy tropical fruits that we're designed to eat, aren't really "overtly" fatty. Durian has half the fat of an avocado pound-for-pound. So what else is considered an overt fat? Nuts! But we're not really nut eaters... unless we're eating a "gourmet" raw food diet, which is many people's first exposure to a raw food diet, and they can get stuck there thinking that it's THEE raw food diet. But there are many raw food diets, and the high-fat gourmet raw diet is one of them, but definitely not a health-enhancing one. True, it's all raw, and vegan, and has the benefits associated with that, but it's still too high in fat, and too much fat – even uncooked plant-based fat – is not health-enhancing. But it is what many people are used to from their typical Western diet, so it's an easy sell, especially since it allows recipes that resemble what people used to eat. But back to your question: Technically, there is no such thing as a fat-free diet, because all fruits and leafy greens contain fat. But if you take that to mean no nuts, avocados, oils, or anything made from those things, then yes, a "fat-free" diet is a good thing. I like to call our diet an Appropriate Fat and Carb Raw Vegan diet (AFCRV). True, the word "appropriate" isn't self-defining, but neither is a "low" fat diet. And when people hear I'm eating an appropriate fat and carb diet, this begs the obvious questions, unlike a low fat diet which many people think they know what that means. So AFCRV creates opportunities for a "reset" and for conversations about just what is an appropriate diet for humans. And "appropriate" is an appropriate word because there is plenty of hard-science and empirical evidence that clearly demonstrates what humans are designed to eat, regardless of blood type, metabolism, hair color, religious belief, or zodiac sign.

Now, for some real-world situations: What if someone is dealing with an Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) deficiency because for decades they've been cooking their foods and thus their fat intake? Can they simply do a 180 and adopt an AFCRV diet and do well? No, because it may take too long to "catch up" in the EFA department if there exists a sub-clinical health issue caused by a long-standing insufficiency in an EFA. So it may be prudent if this is suspected to add some hemp seed "hearts" to a daily banana smoothie for a while, as a corrective measure. And what if a person is under-active, meaning that they're not as active as they would be in Nature, and therefore they're not eating as much food as they are designed to eat (assuming they are eating according to hunger), but their protein and fat requirements do not necessarily parallel their calorie requirements, so now although they're eating an appropriate amount of food to fulfill their fuel requirements, they are NOT eating an appropriate amount of food to fulfill their protein and fat requirements. Yes, this is all theoretical, but doesn't it make sense? After all, this is the way the body functions, and we are simply using logic and good sense to come to some reasoned conclusions. And if these conclusions suggest that an inactive person, who may also be flirting with an EFA insufficiency from their former diet, should take in an amount of fat slightly over what would be considered an appropriate amount of fat, we should probably respect the intelligence of this line of thinking instead of relying on standard schools of thought about fat intake. I'm giving you some insight into how I think about health related issues... the "I" in 'I think" stands for both independent and introspective; two valuable tools in anybody's toolbox if optimal health is your goal.

AA: In your opinion, why is it that some people on a raw vegan diet run into dental problems, while others have perfect teeth? I just read a post from a facebook friend who after 15 years on a raw vegan diet, visited the dentist to be told his teeth are BEYOND perfect, not a single cavity, the dentist was amazed. Yet on the other hand we have people running into massive dental issues. What do you think is the reason for this?

DB: Here are what I have found to be the primary reasons for dental problems when adopting a raw food diet, in no particular order...

1. Weak "dental genetics". If you've got 'em, it's vitally important to floss and dry brush and rinse your mouth with diluted clove oil before going to bed, and rinse your mouth after eating citrus fruit or sticky fruit like dates, and to make sure you're getting enough minerals; if the foods of your diet aren't supplying them because of the reasons I've already mentioned, use nutritional adjuncts. I'm not thrilled about having to take nutritional supplements, but I'm less thrilled about ill-health during my lifetime.

2. Eating unripe fruit, which can be acidic; citrus fruit especially. So raw foodists need to learn when fruit is truly ripe, and to go easy on fruit that is naturally acidic if you have weak dental genetics. And don't brush after eating citrus fruit in case the fruit wasn't fully ripe (which means it will be more acidic to your teeth); you could wear away a thin layer of enamel that was softened by the "acid bath" of the unripe, acidic fruit. Better to rinse your mouth with water afterwards (the minerals in the water help to neutralize the acidic state).

3. Eliminating processed foods that are fortified with D. Vitamin D was never meant to come from food, and it can't come from food on a healthy raw food diet. If we lived where we are supposed to live, D wouldn't be an issue, but in our modern society, it is a HUGE issue for many people, and they don't even know it. Lack of sufficient D all year 'round negatively affects bones and – you guessed it – teeth. Is the answer to add back into your diet foods fortified with D? No. Either relocate to where there is no "vitamin D winter", or supplement with a sun lamp array or an efficacious D supplement (as verified by a 25-hydroxy-vitamin-D test) during your vitamin D winter. So there are things you can do to deal with your not living in your biological "eco-niche", you just have to be aware of the issues.

4. Fruit juices. Avoid them. Contrary to popular belief, they do more harm than good.

5. Sticky fruit, like dates. Some people should definitely rinse their mouth after eating things like dates. Some people don't need to; this is where your dental genetics come into play.

6. Too much nut and seed consumption (prevalent among many raw food vegans). The body controls mouth pH, and will lower mouth pH (make more acidic) during a meal of nuts – to help with digestion and probably to deal with the particles of nuts that remain in the mouth – and this can have a deleterious effect on tooth enamel over time.

I have more dental info on the edu section of my website under "Don's blog on dental issues".

AA: I have seen that you do not recommend people use toothpaste. My husband cut out toothpaste for several months as part of an experiment. However, his teeth became very yellow in color, so he went back to using toothpaste (and his teeth went back to white). Why do you think this happens and is there a way to avoid it?

DB: In your husband's case, I couldn't offer an explanation without knowing more information; there must be something else going on because all the people I know who've stopped using toothpaste in favor of dry brushing have not experienced this. I discuss using a "tooth tool" (as I like to call a tooth brush) in the Dental Blog article I mentioned, and I explain why dry brushing is better for teeth than using toothpaste along with the typical brushing method.


Don discussing dental health in a video interview with Megan Elizabeth

AA: What do you regard as our minimum protein requirements and how do we ensure these are achieved on a raw vegan diet?

DB: I don't attempt to offer numerical representations of our protein needs because these numbers are not helpful for any practical purpose. First of all, when trying to decide if you're good-to-go in the protein department by calculating the amount of protein in the food you're eating, you may not get a meaningful answer because your body doesn't need protein per se, it needs amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. And of all the amino acids in existence, some are essential in that your body can't make them, and you've got to get them from food. But the amino acids your body CAN make, are made from other amino acids which, if you're not getting enough of them, can handicap your body's amino acid conversion process. So just going by X number of grams of protein or X percent of protein as a percentage of total calories, isn't a real world way of looking at the protein issue. When you hear the standard line, "A raw food diet will provide all the protein you need as long as you don't cook the fruits and green leafies you're eating", that's a little too simplistic, although it's a very nice notion. Keeping in mind that your protein needs and your caloric needs don't parallel each other, what if you're consistently under-active? If eating according to true hunger, you'll be eating an amount of food that is appropriate for your caloric needs, but may not be appropriate for your protein needs, specifically one or two of the Essential Amino Acids (EAAs), and this scenario could be exacerbated by not eating foods that are decent sources of the amino acids in question. Can you input all the needed data into a computer to see if you're getting enough of all the EAAs? Hardly, because there are way too many variables, and there's too much we simply don't know about the body's use of amino acids. But this doesn't stop some health educators from touting that standard line that there's nothing to worry about regarding protein as long as you don't cook the fruits you're eating.

So how best to think about the protein issue? Well, what tools have you now in your toolbox? Let's pass it by Nature and see what she has to say about it. If you're less active than you'd be in Nature, and you're eating accordingly, you technically could be flirting with a sub-clinical EAA insufficiency. You might not know about it for many years or even decades, but the whole point of healthful living is that you never know about it because it never became a long-standing issue. So using logic, if you're appropriately active, and have decent digestion and no stomach acid production issues, and you eat a varied diet of fruit, and you don't cook what you eat, then it's probably safe to assume that you're getting enough EAAs and non-EAAs. But if you're under-active, then you may want to hedge your bets and compensate for this until you become appropriately active and eat accordingly, which helps to ensure you're getting enough EAAs. What do some people do to compensate? Probably the least unnatural practice is to add some hemp seed "hearts" to a smoothie, and make sure to eat foods that have a more complete EAA profile, like kiwi and starfruit. What about eating nuts instead? Not my favorite go-to because of the tendency to overdo them, and digestively speaking they're hard on the body. And yes, greens are great sources of protein, but you'd have to eat quite a lot to compensate for missing EAAs in the diet, and the "stomach real estate" that greens take up would be better filled with foods that supply more calories per pound like fruit. If you get into the habit of eating lots of salads, you'll find it difficult to increase your activity level because lots of salads aren't going to fuel that increase.

AA: Why do you think some people (like me) seem to do so much better on high raw as opposed to all raw?

DB: First, we need to define "so much better" in real world terms. "So much better" in the short term often does not equal "so much better" long term. The continued use of cooked food can be very helpful in transitioning to an all-raw diet for those who just can't do a 180 and go there overnight and be successful. But this helpfulness is often mistaken for being the better way to eat in general, and people can rationalize that if some cooked food allows them to eat more raw fruit and veggies than they previously ate, then it's a good thing, and can be their new way of eating. The problem with this can be the following scenario: What if the continuous consumption of cooked food causes the body to keep certain defense mechanisms in place to deal with the damaged substances that cooking creates, and with the unhealthy substances that are part-and-parcel of the foods that are likely to be eaten cooked? These defense mechanisms handicap the body's ability to absorb nutrients in the digestive tract, and the body, in dealing with the substances damaged by cooking, creates antibodies which have the unfortunate side effect of damaging otherwise healthy tissue of various organs... and all this ends up being a contributing factor to a diagnosis of something serious. Yes, the person got this diagnosis 10 or 20 years further on down the road because of the healthier way of eating, but got the diagnosis nevertheless, and wouldn't have gotten it had they eventually transitioned to an all-raw diet. And if you're waiting for the results of multiple, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that prove this scenario, studies done on thousands of people over decades (so that the results are conclusive), you'll be waiting forever. So a healthiER way of eating is great if it helps you to get to the healthiEST way of eating, which will help to give you the best odds of avoiding disease.

And there are very valid reasons why some people feel better when still consuming some cooked food than if they ate all raw. And these usually have to do with detoxification, "rebalancing", and healing. But we shouldn't equate "feel better" with "do better"; someone kicking cigarettes or heroin will feel worse at first, but as they're feeling worse, their body is doing better. Then there's the issue of doing better with the continued consumption of fortified cooked food products, and I don't think I have to mention this mechanism; the key here is to make sure you're getting enough of the nutrition your body needs instead of only focusing on the foods that you should be eating.

And lastly, there's the issue of simply getting enough calories. Often, in the beginning of the adoption of an all-raw diet, a person – especially someone who is "athletic" active – can't get in enough calories to fuel the level of activity they're used to, so their activity level wanes and they take this to mean that an all raw diet isn't going to work for them, and that they need to consume some concentrated sources of fuel, like baked sweet potatoes. Here, under-stretchability of the stomach and over-active exercise combine to thwart a person's efforts to eat an all-raw fruit-based diet. And it's education that is needed to deal with this issue.

AA: What do you think about the 'blame game' that is often played when someone admits to no longer following a 100% raw vegan diet, because they did not thrive on this diet. Usually they are told they 'did not do it right'. Do you think this is true?

DB: When someone perceives themselves not doing well on the diet their body is designed to consume, there is going to be a good reason – often multiple reasons – for this. No one is designed to do best in the long run on some raw and some cooked, or on some vegan and some animal (cooked or raw). This is a lovely thought for some people, but it has no basis in reality, which is where everyone's body exists. The reasons for failing to thrive are plentiful due to all the ways our modern society has for us to live unhealthfully (millenia ago there were no unhealthy choices we could make, except for "I wonder what's inside this cave?") So here are some of the main reasons, in no particular order...

1. They misunderstood something, or were following some incorrect information to the letter.

2. They cherry-picked what they were willing to do and not willing to do.

3. Assuming they were doing everything correctly and were paying equal attention to all the requisites of robust health, they didn't give their body enough time for detox/rebalancing/healing, and this "phase" can sometimes make you feel worse than before you started making changes, and this can result in incorrect conclusions. And leaving out even one of the "basics of health" – like sufficient sleep – can handicap your otherwise good efforts, and make you think that "all-raw" doesn't work for you, when in fact it was you who unknowingly didn't allow it to work for you. And maybe you didn't live your life "in balance" with (your) Nature, for example you either didn't get enough physical activity which would have had you eating sufficient calories of food which would have provided sufficient EAAs and EFAs, or you got more physical activity than could have been fueled with a relatively low calories-per-bite diet of fruit and you perceived your weight loss and/or loss of energy as failing to thrive. So you could end up concluding that you did everything right, but that an all-raw food diet doesn't work for you.

4. They yo-yoed back 'n forth between eating 100% correctly and eating some cooked food. This roller coaster ride that the body is subjected to is not conducive to healing, and can drag out the detox phase for so long that people end up assuming that eating lots of fruit doesn't work for them.

5. They followed some dogmatic philosophy that prevented them from getting sufficient quantities of the nutrients their body required to effectively handle the newly kick-started healing that their other lifestyle improvements allowed. So they stagnated in the "feeling worse" phase of "feeling worse before feeling better". Or they made sure to get all the food-provided nutrients, but paid no attention to the few but vital non-food-provided nutrients that their previous diet might have provided via fortification, so they went downhill over time, concluding that this diet does not work for them.

So as you can see, diet gets the brunt of the blame when someone feels they didn't do well, which is why I don't like lifestyle plans that revolve around a diet and either pay short shrift to the other equally important aspects of robust health, or none at all. I'm constantly asked to write a "diet book", and I refuse for that reason. Sure, the chapter on diet in my first book is the largest chapter in the book, but that's only because diet has the most conflicting and confusing information, and not because diet is the most important lifestyle practice. Yes, we eat everyday, but we sleep everyday too, and should be active everyday, and should be getting sunshine everyday when it's not cloudy. So if you find yourself focusing on diet to the exclusion of the other "basics of health", you're selling your body short.

AA: To continue on from the previous question, do you think this is a diet where it is very easy to 'get it wrong' and achieve the opposite effect from what you are intending, i.e. poor health, as opposed to great health? If yes, then why is this, and what can we do about it?

DB: As I said earlier, in today's world there are numerous ways we can get diet wrong. There's the obvious misinformation and disinformation from the meat and dairy industries and their minions (governmental agencies), but there's also boatloads of misinformation within the raw food industry thanks to personal preferences and biases, marketing, and misunderstandings that are continually circulated. So there are plenty of ways to go wrong when it comes to the right diet. This is where education, research, and using the tools of logic, good judgment, unbiased sound reasoning, and plain ole common sense come in. But we're all very busy, and we're used to simply buying a book and following it. Unfortunately, the books that can be followed 100% and result in thriving are few and far between. And the most popular books are not necessarily the ones that cover everything, or cover what they do contain 100% correctly. That's why I recommend not following any one book or any one person if you want the best odds of being successful. I know this is not something that most people want to hear because of how busy they are, but how important is your health? If it's not Number One on your internal list of priorities, what kind of odds do you think you'll have of never getting a diagnosis of something serious? So I say the first step in adopting a plan of healthful living is to make sure you've got your priorities in order, because if they're not, all the decisions that follow will be affected accordingly. They say in real estate that the three most important things are location, location, location. And I say, in health restoration and maintenance, the three most important things are education, education, education. Fortunately, you don't have to do what I did, which is spend 35 years researching and s-l-o-w-l-y transitioning, going from the typical Western diet to vegetarianism to veganism to raw veganism to a gourmet raw food diet to an appropriate fat and carb raw vegan fruit-based diet. You can skip the reinventing of the wheel, you just have to make sure that the info you're following is reality-based and not philosophy-based.

AA: How important is a wide variety of foods to a raw vegan diet?

DB: A wide variety of foods is important for two reasons, one traditional, and one the result of our modern agri-based food supply. The foods we're designed to eat all have different nutritional "profiles", and they have this for a very good reason. It allows a body that has a properly programmed nutritional database to give you a desire for particular foods in order to supply, in a fine-tuning way, the nutrients it needs on a daily basis. For example, if the body is in need of potassium, it refers to its database and sees that bananas are a good source of potassium, and when it next needs some fuel in the form of carbs, it gives you an appetite specifically for bananas and not just food in general. A great system! But, if every time in your life that you've had a banana, it's never been as a banana by itself, and has always been as banana bread, banana pie, banana pudding, banana sliced up in cereal, banana smoothie with other things in it, your body has no way of knowing that a "banana" is a great source of potassium, and therefore cannot give you a yen for bananas. So variety is an important thing for nutrient acquisition, but eating enough mono meals (a meal of just one thing when hungry until full, and no other food until you're hungry again) are necessary to (re)program your brain's nutritional database so you can get "suggestions" for specific foods when hungry. And they're also super easy to digest versus a meal that contains multiple items. So it's best to have simplicity at a meal, but lots of variety during the week, month, and year.

The other reason for variety in the diet is that of soil quality. It's great to eat bananas, but it's a good idea to eat bananas from a variety of different sources so that you increase the odds of getting some bananas that are richly nutritious. This is not something you readily hear about in the raw food world, but it makes good sense when you think about it. I mentioned earlier about a variety of grapes that was sampled from many different parts of the United States where the nutritional quantities varied widely. The same goes for many of the other foods we eat. Even animals in the wild go after the most nutritious berries or the most nutritious bananas. Really, they're simply going for the best tasting ones, but that equates to the most nutritious ones (this doesn't apply to an agri-based food supply though, because the sweetest, best tasting apple is not necessarily the best apple from a nutrient standpoint).

And another advantage of variety is that people will often include some tropical fruits in an effort to eat a varied diet of fruit, and it is the tropical fruits that we're designed to eat. So the best fruit-based diet consists of a variety of tropical fruits, but this specific diet is not always practical for people, and they must also consume sub-tropical and temperate zone fruits too.

AA: Do you take or recommend that others take regular blood tests?

DB: For folks in general, I recommend monitoring 25-hydroxy-vitamin-D, also known as 25(OH)D. This lets you know your vitamin D status, which can change throughout the year if you're not careful. More on the vitamin D issue on the edu section of my website. And everyone should check their B12 status at least once via a uMMA test (and not the traditionally ordered B12 blood test which can be meaningless). B12 can be a problematic nutrient, and not just for vegans; people eating an animal-based diet can be deficient in B12 too. Other than these two tests, there are some tests for specific things that certain symptoms would warrant getting tested for, like iodine. There are other tests that are meaningless, like a bone density scan. Long term raw food vegans can have a bone density scan that shows their bones to be less dense than is commonly thought to be normal, but this just points out the inadequacy of the bone density scan. Vegans can have bones that are indeed less dense than their meat eating counterparts, but vegans' bones are also less subject to breaking because they're more resilient (bendable without breaking), which the bone density test cannot show. So some tests are only valid as diagnostic tools for the general public, and raw food vegans are not part of the general public. Take the white blood cell count blood test for example. After eating zero cooked food for ten years, my WBC count was technically below normal, but because the lab report showed it to be "out of range", the MD said I'd need further tests to discover what the problem was. The problem with this line of thinking is that there was no problem. In fact, in the case of a person who eats no cooked food, a lower than "normal" WBC count is a good thing! I tried explaining this to the doctor, who on the one hand understood what I was saying, but was also unsure of what to make of it because my diet was one big question mark for him. Not his fault per se, just the fault of the curriculum he studied.

AA: Do you think that different people may require different macronutrient ratios in order to thrive?

DB: If, long-term, they're living the same lifestyles, meaning equal amounts of stress, equal amounts of physical activity, all eating nutritious food, etc, then no; their ratios are the same, unless there are any genetic conditions from birth that say otherwise. But that's long-term. In the short-term, some people may need more of a specific nutrient compared to others due to past dietary inadequacies, and specific conditions of less-than stellar health; that's where you'll find differences. But these differences are because of different dietary practices up until that point, and different genetic predispositions that have led to different health issues, and so the different nutrient requirements would be temporary. When healing has caught up, and the bulk of detox is over with (which often takes years), and we're participating in appropriate physical activity and sleep and sunshine, etc., then we're more likely to require the same ratios as others who are living the same way. This is true for other animal species, so why not for us? And as far as the ratios of fat-to-carb-to-protein, the same thing applies; I acknowledge that people have different metabolisms. Those with higher amounts of Neanderthal DNA can have "slower" more sparing metabolisms, so they will retain fat more easily than someone like myself who can eat 6,000 calories of food in a day, "burn" only 3,000 calories, and never be overweight, but our bodies require the same caloro-nutrient ratio regardless of the fact that our bodies handle fat differently. There are some who appear to do "better" on a higher fat diet, and that can be explained by one of a couple of things...

1. They weren't getting enough EFAs because they weren't active enough to warrant eating enough calories worth of food to get the EFAs their body required. In-other-words, their low fat diet was too low (which is why I don't like descriptors of "low" when it comes to diets).

2. They came into the raw diet with an EFA deficiency, which an appropriate fat diet won't correct, it will only maintain, or if it could eventually correct it, it never gets to that point because a determination of "this is not working" was concluded long before that point could be reached.

3. There's a psychological component to their "doing better" on a higher fat diet due to the emotional yumminess of the higher fat gourmet foods.

AA: If someone has poor nutrient assimilation, would they be able to obtain benefit from a 100% raw diet?

DB: If that disordered nutrient assimilation is a result of a genetic birth defect, then a 100% raw food diet may be problematic in some areas, but these can be compensated for. But this scenario is rare. What's more common regarding poor nutrient assimilation is the impediments that exist due to eating a diet of non-human foods for so long. A diet that the body is designed to eat, along with other healthful lifestyle modifications will allow the body to eventually heal the digestive system and regain efficient nutrient absorption. But this does not happen overnight. I'm always amazed at how people are so disappointed when they hear that it takes approximately one year of truly healthful living for every four years of unhealthy living for the body to heal; they do the math and make a sad face, instead of focusing on the positive, which is that they can be healed, and not just have their ill-health managed. Those in states of ill-health didn't get there overnight, so they can't expect to undo all the damage in a few months, yet when a few months of healthful living have passed, and they're not completely healed – or worse, they're feeling worse – they see this as a "failure of the diet".

All that said, to obtain maximal benefit from a 100% raw diet, we need to consider the diet from a nutritional perspective, and not just a specific food perspective. If you're giving your body the foods it's designed to need, but not the nutrients it's designed to need, it shouldn't come as a surprise if you didn't end up eventually thriving. And since we're not eating from the wild in the area of the world where humans began, but instead are eating from an agri-based system that is focused on being profitable and sustainable, rather than producing food that is richly nutritious, we've got to be vigilant when it comes to diet.

AA: What do you think of smoothies/juices? Do you think these are good/healthful? Or can they be problematic? If someone consumes the bulk of their calories through smoothies and juices, would this be a good thing?

DB: There's a big difference between juices and smoothies; they are like night and day. I am not an advocate of fruit juices; the increased concentration of sugar combined with the removal of the fiber (which helps to control the uptake of sugar into the blood) is not a good thing for the pancreas and therefore not good for the body. Green juices however do not have that problem because they're low in sugar. But the benefit that people tout when it comes to green juices is that the nutrients are concentrated. True, BUT, juice is a liquid, and your digestive system is designed with one liquid in mind... water. Water has no nutrients; it's main function is hydration. So there is no need for the body to cause the liquid water to move through the digestive system slowly because there is no digestion or nutrient assimilation necessary. In fact, the body wants the water to get to the large intestines ASAP because that's where water is absorbed. Nutrients however are absorbed primarily in the small intestines, which come before the large intestines. So your body is designed to extract nutrients from a semi-solid mass that is moving through your small intestines slowly compared to how fast water moves through them. So when you drink a juice, which is watery, the body will treat it as water, and move it along with dispatch. So the nutrients in the juice will not spend a lot of "face-time" with your small intestines as they would have if they were part of a solid food meal. What I'm getting at is that you don't assimilate as much of those concentrated nutrients in a juice as most people believe they do. I will say that non-sweet juices can be helpful for people who have digestive system issues because juices are much easier on the digestive system.

Smoothies on the other hand can play an important role in a healthy lifestyle. I'm not referring to the blender's ability to create concoctions of dozens of different foods that aren't compatible digestively speaking. Many people use a blender to make recipes that, although healthier than what they previously ate, are not health-enhancing from the body's perspective, even though they may be delicious. So a blender can be used to make both health-enhancing meals, AND not so health-enhancing concoctions. I use a blender as a means of mixing the nutritional adjuncts to my diet in with the foods of my diet, such as bananas and a green powder supplement. Sure, I could simply eat the bananas as we're designed to do, and then mix the green powder supplement with water as the directions say to do, but I'd rather that the green powder's nutrients spend as much face-time with my small intestines as possible, and mixing them with water does not allow for that, as I mentioned with drinking green juices.

That said, as with most technology, there are poor, fair, good, better, and best ways to use a blender. And there are poor, good, and best juicers. So my opinion is: if you're going to get a juicer or a blender, get a blender. And regardless of what you get, get the best one. A juicer should be of the triturating type (two gears that inter-mesh and slowly squeeze out the juice from whatever you put into it) and should cost about $450, and a blender should have a variable speed control so you can blend at as slow a speed as possible to do as little damage as possible. And the only blender I'd consider is the Vitamix 5200; yes, it's expensive compared to store-bought blenders, but it's an investment in your future health. And for many people it will be the only piece of technology they buy.

But consuming juiced or blended stuff carries with it some potential pitfalls. Digestion begins in the mouth, with two very important things: 1. Chewing, which signals the brain to make the appropriate digestive juices based on what it detects, and 2. The mixing of saliva with what you're eating, for proper digestion. It goes without saying that if you drink down a green juice like you were drinking water, there's no chewing and no mixing of saliva, so you're circumventing and therefore handicapping the normal digestive process. Same goes for a smoothie if you drink it right down. So let a mouthful of smoothie spend time in your mouth (where your taste buds are), and "chew" the mouthful and mix it with the saliva that's being produced. Your digestive system will be most appreciative of this. Yes, you will look funny doing this, so if you're self-conscious about it, simply take your smoothie and go off by yourself and enjoy it.

Another advantage of a blender is the ability to make salad dressings. Some people simply cannot eat leafy greens without dressing. So learn how to make some simple (two ingredients max) dressings. Mango-raspberry comes to mind. Wow, that's a "low" fat, fruit-based dressing! So you see, avocados aren't necessary to make delicious dressings. I recommend getting the book by Ellen Livingston, "The Ultimate Raw Food Diet Detox and Wellness Program" because it has a bunch of simple and healthy raw food "recipes".

AA: Can you tell us about your website?

DB: The Health101.org website has been up for two decades, and contains lots of enlightening and empowering information. And you aren't required to give your email address to read the articles; the information is free. There is a "non-public" portion of the website that's tailored for the people who are reading this interview, and it's the http://health101.org/edu link I mentioned in various places above.

AA: Can you tell us about your books and where they are available?

DB: I wrote my first book because, after all my decades of research, I discovered that there wasn't a book that dealt with all the "basics of health" giving them equal attention. Books specialized on lifestyle habits, especially diet, and if you're eating the most perfect diet for a human being but not paying equal attention to the other equally important aspects of health – including nutrition – it is physiologically impossible to be as healthy as your genetics will allow. And because truly healthy living is so abnormal in today's society, the first seven chapters of my first book don't even deal with any of the basics of health; they focus on helping you to unlearn the things that have kept you in a state of ill-health, and to get you thinking in the direction that can lead to optimal health.

Regarding my second book, "...Your Questions Answered", I wrote that one, unknowingly, over a ten year period. During that time I had answered a lot of questions on various health-related forums where there were a lot of the same questions asked over and over, so rather than type my answers anew each time, I saved my answers in a computer file along with the questions, and after ten years there were 340 pages of the most common questions, along with my characteristically thorough answers. So the second book was essentially written by all those who asked those questions over the years. On my website, on the Products page, is where you'll find info on my two books, and they are offered in both paperback and ebook. And I'm trying to get James Earl Jones to do an audio book. :)

AA: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?

DB: We all hear a lot about investing for your future financial situation, but no one is talking about the wisdom of investing for your future health. Every person reading this interview will have a state of health in the future; what do you want that state of health to be? There is almost nothing you can do today that will positively affect tomorrow's health, but there are many things you can do today that will positively affect your future health. So if things get challenging, keep close at hand why you're making the lifestyle modifications you're making. And please, when looking at healthful lifestyle practices, use a common sense, reality-based approach, and get your info from those who teach real-world health education.

I'll leave you with some words of wisdom from a very wise albeit fictional character, "There is no 'try', there is only 'do' or 'don't do'."


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