Have you ever questioned your lifestyle by asking yourself, “Why am I living like this?” It’s a hard thing to do, because there first needs to be a problem, and what’s more, you need to be willing and able to see it. Fruitarianism and raw foodism (or rawism) crossed my path at such a time. I saw a problem, but I couldn’t find a solution. Even if you’re saying something like, “Just fruits and raw veggies? What the hell! Are you crazy? I’d never give up my mother’s spaghetti bolognese. I hardly eat vegetables as it is, and you’re talking about eating them raw?” please read this article. At least you’ll gain an idea of our alienated way of living.

Raw foodism is a diet—or more accurately, a way of eating—that involves eating uncooked, unprocessed, and generally organic produce. There are variations of raw foodism based on the person’s views, so anything can be a part of raw foodism: fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds (especially via sprouting), eggs, fish, meat, unpasteurized dairy products, and so on. In this sense, we can talk about three basic types of raw foodists: raw omnivores, raw carnivores, and raw vegetarians/vegans. Whatever the food is, it is either not heated at all or cooked at no more than 40-46ºC (104-114ºF).

Let’s talk briefly about the history of raw foodism. Fire was discovered by humanity around ten thousand years ago. For us today, it’s almost unimaginable to think about eating just raw food. While some people in today’s globalized society accept some raw dishes, such as sushi and Carpaccio, even these are out of the question for other people. We know humans only ate raw food before the invention of fire. They gathered and ate fruits, vegetables, and nuts. It’s still unknown as to why they began cooking food, but it quite probably started when a caveman dropped something onto the fire by accident, so we started eating cooked food. The only beings currently eating cooked food are humans and their domesticated animals. Throughout history, many famous people have eaten a diet of raw food. For example, Pythagoras, who was famous for his theorem about triangles; Hippocrates, whose oath is still repeated by physicians today; and Leonardo da Vinci, who enchanted the world with his intelligence and artwork.

As I mentioned above, there are three different approaches to raw foodism, but the one I follow and want to share with you is raw veganism. In my previous article, I wrote about veganism. It has love and respect for everything, so accepting living beings as fellow earthlings and protecting their right to live is the basic principle of veganism. Like with all ideas, consumption is an important way of showing a political view, but it’s more accurately anti-consumption: not to eat or wear animal products, not to use products tested on animals, not to condone the use of animals for entertainment, and oppose animal reproduction for profit. This sums up how vegans use consumption to express their views.

If you haven’t read my previous article, you may wonder why I made such a choice. There are two reasons: ethics and health. I believe it’s unethical to use animals for our own purposes. All living beings on Earth are essentially equal, and the absurd notion of the food chain is just to justify the human ego. Humans who ate animal products before agriculture don’t need this anymore. We don’t need to eat meat for protein because there are scientifically proven plant alternatives that are even richer. To those who say we need meat and dairy products to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency, ask yourself why it is that in the USA, where meat consumption is at an extraordinary level, the rate of vitamin B12 deficiency is about 40%. We don’t need animals for clothing anymore either, thanks to the technological improvements of modern times. To put my views simply, animals are not resources but rather companions with whom I share this planet.

There are many things to tell about raw veganism as regards health, but let me first explain the benefits of raw foodism. Cooking is a process of destroying food through heat. If you were to hold your hand in boiling water for a few seconds (but please don’t), you would understand what I mean. Nutrition is cooked at high temperatures for an extended period, and this is why although nutrients are present at the beginning, they are dead by the time the food is cooked. What’s wrong with this? Vitamins are destroyed at high temperatures. Minerals turn their organic structure into their natural structure, which is unusable for the body, so the body ignores them. These then combine with fat and cholesterol in the circulation system to form cement-like planks. Proteins start to coagulate and lose their amino acids during high-temperature cooking, so they have no nutritional value by the end. Fats are even more dangerous when cooked because they form carcinogenic substances like acrolein and free radicals. Furthermore, cooking is a toxin-producing process. Research has shown the number of white blood cells (leukocytes) to multiply two or three times after eating cooked food. Because white blood cells are the first defense mechanism of the immune system, we can say cooked food is toxic for the body.

Now, how about the known and unknown dangers of animal produce. Let’s go back to basic chemistry. We all heard about pH (potentiel hydrogrène) levels, which measure a solution’s acidity or alkalinity. Ranging from 1 to 14, 1­–6 is considered acidic, 7 is considered as being neutral, and 8–14 is considered alkaline. Our body has an acid-alkaline balance, so in order to keep its homeostatic state, the blood and tissue pH needs to be 7.40, which is slightly alkaline. If this varies even a little, the body can go into a coma or even die.

The foods we eat have two kinds of pH values. The first value is measured before the food is eaten. For example, lemons are highly acidic with a pH of 2–3. The second value is measured after the food is eaten based on the pH generated in the body (metabolic pH). For example, lemons are highly alkalizing, which means after eating a lemon, the body has an alkaline state. Because the body has to stay slightly alkaline, the metabolic pH of food is very important. Now, here comes the danger of animal products: They are all acidifying for the body. Can the body defend itself against acidifying food? Yes it can, because our body is managed by a perfect mechanism. It uses alkaline minerals to keep the acid-alkaline balance. These minerals neutralize the acid before being discarded from the body. Can you guess which mineral is most important for this? It’s calcium! This means the more animal produce you eat, the less calcium you will have in your body. The best reserves of calcium are in the bones and teeth, so by eating animal produce, you’re inviting osteoporosis.

Now, as regards dairy… The dairy industry has created propaganda such as, “For healthy and strong bones, eat at least three dairy products a day. Dairy is our friend for life.” In fact, dairy products can bring you various diseases, starting with osteoporosis. Increasingly more people can’t digest milk, because many people’s bodies can’t digest casein, a protein found in milk. If you have gas after drinking milk, you know why.Â

Let me now explain how I eat. As I said at the beginning of this article, there are different approaches to raw food. I’m a high-carb, low-fat raw vegan. This is based on a high carbohydrate, low fat consumption of food, which is also called The 80/10/10 Diet or 811. It represents the daily percentages of the three macro nutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. According to this, at least 80% of daily calories should come from carbohydrates, at most 10% from proteins, and at most 10% from fat. Here are the reasons: (Adapted from THE 80/10/10 Diet, Douglas N. Graham, FoodnSport Press, 2006.)

1) Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are basically forms of sugar. Vegetables, fruits, honey, and milk, which contain monosaccharaides; beans, which contain oligosaccharides; and cereals and legumes, which contain polysaccharide-fibers, are in this group. Many world-renowned nutritionists agree that 60-80% of our total calories should come from carbs. They are fuel sources for the body because they provide sugar. Whether a food is carb, protein, or fat, it is first transformed into simple sugar (glucose) before being used by the body. Glucose is the only nutrient that the brain, red blood cells, and some nerve cells use.

Humans have a limited capacity to store excess carbs or protein, but they can stock them by transforming them into fat, which can be later transformed into glucose for energy in a process known as glucogenesis. This process saves people’s lives in time of famine, but it creates by-products called ketones because of the lack of carbs. When these are present in the blood, they have an alcohol-like effect on the brain and influence its ability to think. Those who don’t eat enough carbs often suffer from eating disorders, fatigue, or excessive fat consumption. People on a low-carb diet are also eating a high-fat diet. Generally, we assume that if we decrease our carb intake, we increase the protein, but this is not necessarily true! Carbs and fat are good friends here. If you decrease one, the other goes up. Fats are twice as dense in calories than carbs, so eating a low-carb diet usually means increasing the daily calorie intake. If you know people who have lost weight this way, it’s probably because they decreased their calorie intake. Yes, they may have lost weight in the short term, but they may also have health issues in the long term.

2) Protein

Protein is a macronutrient formed by multiple chains of amino acids. It has many roles in our body’s cells. People have become increasingly concerned with protein, choosing to take protein supplements in addition to eating meat and dairy. Whenever I tell people I’m a raw vegan, the first thing they ask is, “Where do you get your protein from?” or “You must eat lots of nuts, right?” Before you think like this…oh it’s too late, you already have. Anyway, please try to answer these questions:

  • How much protein do we need in a day?
  • Why do we need protein?
  • Have you ever heard about protein deficiency?

The main roles of protein are growth, healing injuries, and regenerating cells. The meat and dairy industries try to persuade us that we need a lot of protein, but on the contrary, we don’t need that much. Many health organizations, including the World Health Organization, conclude that 10% is enough. Think about this: A mother’s milk contains only 6% protein, and this is the time when humans need protein the most because a baby needs to grow. So, 10% is really more than enough. Even athletes and body builders don’t need more than 10%, because when we get enough carbs, the need for protein decreases. Muscle is built with exercise rather than protein. There are many famous vegan bodybuilders, and they are good examples for this. Increasing protein intake to more than 10% causes problems like low energy, high acidosis, osteoporosis factors, kidney diseases, arthritis, immune system disorders, and cancer.

What we really need is amino acids rather than protein. Protein is reduced to amino acids to be used, but our bodies already have a pool of amino acids where 100–300 grams are recycled every day. This is why protein deficiency doesn’t exist, especially in Western societies. All vegetables contain protein. The legendary Popeye grew strong thanks to spinach. Leafy green vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, cucumber, and apricot are great protein sources.

3) Lipids

Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, triglycerides, and cholesterol are all in this group. Lipids (fat) have important roles. They are the main transporters of fat-soluble vitamins and the source for necessary fatty acids. We need fat for hormone production, but too much fat influences hormones in a bad way. Fat protects us against cold and heat, provides the electrical flow in our nerves, and protects our organs from injury.

All fats are not the same. There are good and bad fats, liquid and solid fats. Most of them are indigestible and unnecessary for the body, while others are indispensable. Animals that resemble us physiologically consume little fat. They eat fruits and vegetables for energy. If our diet is more than 10% fat, we can develop diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and so on. What’s more, without salt and other seasonings, we can’t taste fat, and this speeds up the aging process.

The 811 raw vegan perspective includes just raw fruits and vegetables. Generally, breakfast, lunch, and snacks involve eating fruit, and dinner is composed of vegetables. In this way, the body gets its daily calorie, vitamin, and mineral needs. One reason to eat vegetables raw is to preserve the nutritional value. Cooking dehydrates food, but our bodies need water. Cereals, potatoes, and legumes are not welcome in the 811 diet either. Cereals, such as wheat and oats, and rice are acidifying when heated, but as I said earlier, our bodies need to be alkaline. When the body has acidosis, we have get conditions like cancer, arthritis, chronic fatigue, hypothyroid, and so on. Humans have cooked cereals for the last ten thousand years, but the history of humanity is much older. It takes a lot more time for the human body to adapt, so it’s easy to say the human body can’t digest cereals properly. That’s why many people suffer from bloating and gas after eating pasta, bulgur, and so on. In addition, cereals containing gluten have addictive effects and cause serious problems, such as neurological disorders, constipation, urinary problems, and vomiting. Gluten intolerance leads to asthma, arthritis, chronic fatigue, type 2 diabetes, depression, eczema, and gastrointestinal cancer. Furthermore, gluten intolerance is thought to be associated with autism and schizophrenia.

If you still can’t give up your pasta, pay attention to vitamin C. Eating cooked vegetables and cereals provides most needed vitamins but not vitamin C, which is needed for the immune system and tissue protection. Add as much fresh fruit as possible to your diet to ensure you get enough vitamin C. Potato is impossible to eat raw, but it’s recommended to eat boiled or steamed potatoes if you can’t eat enough fruit. Legumes also need to be cooked to eat, so they are also not included in the 811 diet. They should be soaked long enough before cooking so the phytic acid is largely reduced.

So, how about my transformation? As I said at the beginning, I suddenly encountered raw foodism while questioning myself. I was in the middle of a problem, namely the fear of regaining weight after a traumatized childhood of suffering from eating disorders, but I couldn’t find the solution. I’d been on a high-protein diet for almost a year, eating only animal products, oats, and occasionally vegetables. I was making myself ill without realizing it.

One of my students, who is a triathlete and a raw vegan, then told me about his lifestyle, and I was inspired to conduct some consumer research and try this style of eating. This made me understand that the solution to my problem was in my essence. I say essence here because our essence is about eating fruits and veggies. If you give an animal something to eat that is not in its essence, it’d sniff it and ignore it, but we humans think we are true omnivores that can cook and eat things not in our nature. When the addictive ingredients invented by the food industry come into play, and the system’s most important players, the media and medical professionals, have the same discourse, we continue to live as omnivores. Everyone talks about “balanced” eating. On all the TV shows, people talk about it. People consult a dietician to try to eat a “balanced” diet, but if we are so “balanced,” why are there more and more sick people? Why do we continue to learn about new diseases? They’ve brainwashed us for years, yet we don’t realize it. Wake up people!

I started this adventure two years ago in October. It was difficult in the beginning, and I suffered from painful gas for three weeks. I used to have a lower-back problem then, which I’ll talk about later, and the gas made it worse. This gas was the result of the detoxification process I was going through. As my body was in acidosis because of cooked food and excessive protein consumption, the toxins were being forced out of my intestines. This process of colon cleansing meant gas was inevitable, but I couldn’t stand the pain anymore, so I decided to have an incremental transition. In the beginning, I ate only fruit for breakfast, but I ate cooked vegan food for the rest of my meals. Between October and February the next year, I gradually increased the amount of raw food I ate.

In February, I wanted to have a “banana island” experience. This 30-day detox period is very famous in the 811 community and especially important for athletes. It involves eating only bananas and drinking only water for 30 days! Well, I rolled back evolution and ate like our primate ancestors. I ate at least 30 bananas a day and drank two or three liters of water. I’m not kidding! It was an extraordinary experience. It was kind of like fasting because you need to control your appetite, and it was a very good vacation for my stomach. Unfortunately, since we don’t know the correct foods, we eat as we want, so our digestive systems are very tired. I think we’ve all said, “I’m so tired” at least once after eating a meal, and this fatigue is caused by the energy needed for digestion. With the banana island experience, I’ve also disproved the urban legends about bananas. Contrary to what people say, bananas don’t cause constipation but actually make the intestines work really well, at least if they’re ripe enough. Contrary to what some people say, bananas don’t make you fat either. I think I would have become obese after this 30-day challenge if this were true. Instead, I lost weight. All my cellulite vanished and my skin was clear again. My hair and nails also grew fast.

After the banana challenge, I started eating 90% raw food. I barely have gas problems anymore, and this is really interesting because I had colitis before. Anyone that’s had colitis knows that raw fruits and vegetables are not good friends of it. I’ve not taken any pills in the last two years, nor have I been sick. Of course, I had the odd sore throat and  cold, but I’ve cured myself with natural ingredients like orange juice, lemon juice, and ginger. I never feel tired, especially not after meals, and this is something I have to pay attention to as a fitness instructor. Sometimes I lead classes for eight or nine hours a day, so I need a lot of energy. Thanks to fruits, I’m more energetic than ever! I haven’t suffered from any of the allergy or asthma problem that I did previously since childhood. Most importantly, though, my lower back problem is gone!

I’d had a lumbar problem for three years, and no one knew the cause. I heard many explanations from different specialists, such as lack of flexibility, hernia, disc problems, and so on. I started yoga and Pilates and gained enough flexibility and abdominal strength but still had problems. In the end, examinations showed it wasn’t a hernia. But what was it then? Why couldn’t I even walk straight sometimes? Why did I have to reduce my sporting activities? The answer was simple: my diet! I had such an increased acidosis rate that my joints and my discs between vertebrates were yelling, “STOP!” My two-year detox worked, and I’m now back on the stage. I was so lucky to meet that student at the right time and avoid developing more serious problems. By the way, my husband was also on a high-protein diet, and he developed kidney stones in just four days. Now I know why.

In terms of ethics, this lifestyle gives me another pleasure in addition to not exploiting animals: an environmentally friendly lifestyle. For example, the amount of detergent I use for washing dishes has decreased, and if my husband ate like me, I could eliminate it completely. Because I eat mostly fruits and vegetables, I’ve reduced my garbage with things like packaging. What’s more, because I don’t eat any animal produce anymore, the water requirement for my food has decreased. Did you know that animal production requires more water than agriculture and produces more carbon dioxide? Even one person not eating animal produce reduces the rate. I also don’t visit the doctor anymore, so I save money on that. Who could want more?

I’m sure you’re wondering what I eat. I generally prefer simple meals, just one food at a time. I eat bananas in the morning to give me enough energy. For lunch, I eat bananas again if I’m out, because it’s easy and practical to take anywhere. In the evening, I eat a huge salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and avocado, all seasoned with lemon juice. When I eat cooked food, I don’t use any fats such as oil. I like Turkish-style veggies, but I only cook them a little or steam them. I prefer quinoa and buckwheat to pasta and bulgur. Cooked food makes up about 10% of my diet, about three or four meals a week.

If you’re asking, “Why should I eat like this?” I have an answer: to control your body and your life on your own and free yourself from the dogma of the health and food industries and the media. Most importantly, you will age in a healthier way. It saddens me greatly when people say, “It’s normal for people to have this much sickness when they’re old.” To me, it’s our choice to be healthy or sick. Aging shouldn’t automatically be associated with being sick, not being able to walk, or pain. I like to imagine myself dancing, running, talking about healthy eating, and inspiring people in my 70s and 80s, and I know I’ll be like this. Like Buddha said, “Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”