The History of Raw Foods

November 10, 2008 at 6:09 pm 3 comments

Chef Mark Reinfeld
Author, Vegan Fusion World Cuisine & The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw

[Q&A] Raw Foods Interview – Raw History
by Dr. Devin Ryerson of Pure Prescriptions

DR: Mark, lets follow up on our last article where you talked about the basics of raw foods and your upcoming book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw. Can you give us a little history of the raw food movement?

Mark:: Raw food has developed its own history just as cooked food has developed its lore. Mainly, the cooked food story has dominated. Let us now illuminate the History of Raw cuisine. Before we discovered fire, it was pretty much a no-brainer that all of the food humans ate was raw. Foraging for berries, leaves, fruits and nuts was how humans ate most possibly for tens of thousands of years.
When, why and how people first began to cook food is a mystery right up there with Stonehenge and Roswell. A careless caveman might have dropped their meal in a fire. Perhaps it was a grain of barley, or another grain that made its way too close to the fire and it exploded. In fact, the first cooked foods were probably popped grains as it increased their food quantity many times over.

Since the dawn of time, we humans have been raw foodists and indeed, we are the only animal that cooks its food. Many believe we operate best on a raw food lifestyle. Throughout history, ancient cultures have adopted a predominantly plant based diet. The Brahmins, the priestly class in India for example, have a rich vegetarian history. Many Brahmins are known to have lived long lives on a plant based lifestyle.

Pythagoras, yes, the guy you studied in geometry class, was an ancient Greek scholar and mathematician who lived in the 6th century BC. He is said to have traveled to many places, including India, where he is credited with bringing the teachings of the Brahmins to Europe.

In addition to his well known work with triangles and mathematical formulas, Pythagoras is thought to have taught and lived with his students on a vegetarian diet, mainly on raw fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables.

Leonardo da Vinci, the great 15th century Italian painter, scientist, inventor and overall Renaissance man actually dabbled with a fruitarian diet. Perhaps his fruitarian diet is what put the twinkle in Mona Lisa’s eye. He is quoted as saying “Vitality and Beauty are gifts from nature for those who live by her laws”.

DR: Pretty fascinating. Can you mention a few other pioneers in the raw food movement?

Mark: Sure. Western civilization has bred many great healers and visionaries that were progressive in their thinking. The following pioneers each have their own place in history, with great ideas for attaining perfect health. Many of them have had success healing those with so called ‘incurable diseases’ with raw food nutrition and lifestyle changes.

Arnold Ehret 1866–1922

Arnold Ehret is the author of The Mucus-less Diet Healing System and Rational Fasting. He cured himself of Bright’s Disease (a type of kidney disease) with his system of fasting and a predominantly raw vegetarian diet, occasionally even living as a fruitarian.

In the early 1900’s, he opened a healing clinic in Switzerland and later in California. There he cured many people with his focus on long and short term fasting, and a combination of raw and cooked vegetarian foods. He considered fasting nature’s ultimate healing method.

Dr. Max Otto Bircher-Benner 1897-1939

Dr. Bircher-Benner is the author of The Prevention of Incurable Disease and creator of the grain breakfast cereal, muesli. He cured himself of jaundice with a predominantly raw foods, vegan diet.

Seeing how successful this was in his own life, he then began healing family and friends. He eventually founded the Bircher-Benner Clinic in Zurich, Switzerland where he had incredible results healing many of the so called ‘incurables’. He frequently referred to Pythagoras and his teachings on diet and lifestyle.

Dr. Max Gerson 1881-1959

Dr. Gerson is the author of the widely acclaimed study, The
Cure of Advanced Cancer by Diet Therapy: a summary of 30 years of clinical experimentation. His healing approach emphasizes a diet of raw foods, including organically grown fruits and vegetables. Many of these are juiced for maximum nutrition. He recommended 13 glasses per day! That’s a lot of juice.

Dr. Gerson’s method is now known to have helped cure people of heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. His most famous patient is Dr. Albert Schweitzer, whom he cured of diabetes. The ‘Gerson Therapy’ method is still successfully used today in several clinics throughout Europe and Mexico.

Edmond Bordeaux Szekely 1900-1979

Born in Hungary, Edmond Bordeaux Szekely was fascinated with longevity. He wanted to discover the secrets of the healthiest and longest-lived humans. He spent time studying with the Hunzas, a tribe in the mountains of Pakistan who boast many people that live to over 100 in excellent health with very few diseases.
With his wife, Deborah, he opened a clinic in Mexico that focused on curing people with organic living foods. Many of these people were told their conditions were incurable. This retreat is still open today and is the world famous Rancho La Puerta Resort in Tecate, Mexico.
Herbert Shelton 1895–1985

Herbert Shelton’s claim to fame is that he revitalized a historic approach to healing known for over 150 years as the Natural Hygiene method. He went on to found the American Natural Hygiene society.

Natural Hygiene advocates an essentially raw food lifestyle and includes creating balance in all aspects of life. In fact, it is an easily attainable approach to nutrition and inspiration behind many diet systems including Fit for Life.

Norman Walker 1886—1985

Norman Walker is the ultimate nutrition and juicing guru, (he is even the guru of Jay Kordich, a.k.a. the Juice Man) Countless people have benefited from his knowledge of the healing qualities of fresh fruit and vegetable juices. He is the author of Raw Vegetable Juices: What’s Missing in Your Body?

Living to a ripe old age of 99, he was a perfect example of the benefits of healthy living. He was a strong proponent of raw foods, feeling that cooked foods drained life from people. In fact, his juice formulas are still as powerful today as when he conceived them and can be used in any home that has a quality juicer.

Ann Wigmore 1909-1994

Ann Wigmore, the wheatgrass juice guru, is another legendary icon of the raw food movement. She has made sprouting and indoor gardening household terms. Learning how to heal naturally from her grandmother, she was able to cure herself of cancer with raw foods.

She founded the Hippocrates Institute (now the Ann Wigmore Institute) in the early 1960’s along with Victor Kulvinskas to teach people the benefits of sprouted and cultured raw foods. Victor, author of the cult classic Survival into the 21st Century, has been a proponent of raw food nutrition for over 30 years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Reinfeld is the founding chef of the Blossoming Lotus Restaurants and a recipient of a 2006 Platinum carrot award given by the Aspen Center of Integral Health to ‘Americas Top Healthy Gourmet Chefs’. He is a recognized authority in the field of healthy cuisine. Mark is the coauthor of Vegan World Fusion Cuisine, winner of 9 national awards. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw coauthored with Jennifer Murray and Bo Rinaldi is available through booksellers everywhere. Please visit for more information.

None of the above is intended as medical advice. Since every individual’s health condition and circumstance are unique, we recommend seeking the services of a qualified health care professional before using any of this information for medical purposes.

Entry filed under: Question Mark - Ask the Natural Chef, raw foods. Tags: , , . reviews The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw Recipe: Fire-Roasted Gazpacho

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. katinka - vegetarian  |  November 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Interesting historical overview.

  • 2. flourishgrace  |  November 18, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    That was a fascinating history, thank’s for putting it together. I often wonder about my great uncle Leo. He used to go to the animal store to get raw grains, oh around 1920. All his family laughed at him but he lived longer than any of them. To 98!


  • 3. Lester  |  January 7, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Dude I am not much into reading, but one way or another I got to read lots of articles on your blog. Its remarkable how appealing it is for me to visit regularly.


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