Becoming Raw: The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets by Brenda Davis, RD and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD
We’ve all heard the cry of raw food enthusiasts: “Cooking kills the enzymes!”
But what does that mean? I barely know what an enzyme is, let alone if I am degrading something in my broccoli when I steam it.
I do have a good friend who’s really into raw foods, who claims her boundless energy and good health are 100% attributable to lots and lots (and I mean lots) of salad eating. I will admit it: Her 40-year-old skin is amazing. But is it raw organic kale -- or good genes? How do we know if raw food claims really hold up?
Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina to the rescue. The two diet experts separated the sprouted wheat from the chaff in their previous book Becoming Vegan, which is already a classic. Now, with Becoming Raw, the pair describes the benefits and pitfalls of a raw food vegan diet by completely relying on science. The authors clearly enjoy raw food, but they aren’t raw foodists, and they seek not so much to convert as to educate and empower.
A section of the book is devoted to the various schools of thought related to enzymes. The reader will find that the antioxidant activity of raw versus cooked plant foods varies. Some foods (leafy greens and broccoli, for example) have a higher antioxidant content raw, while other foods (carrots and sweet potatoes) can be enhanced through the cooking process. Sometimes it’s a mixed bag. Cooking might enhance one nutrient in a vegetable yet diminish others. Becoming Raw reveals the true complexity of nutrition.
The book is practically criticism-proof, as it covers every imaginable facet of raw cuisine in a complex yet comprehensible way. The last sections of the book offer raw food menus designed to be nutritionally adequate and satisfying. Reading this book will probably not win you over to raw food, though, if you’re not there now; that’s how balanced and fair the writing is. It’s important to eat raw, uncooked food on a regular basis, but I don’t think a case is made to eat that way exclusively.
The depth, complexity and scope of Becoming Raw might not make it an entertaining read (is that even possible when it comes to nutrition?), but it’s clearly a work of impressive thoroughness. And if you’re wondering, like I was, whether sprouted flax seed and greens are the fountain of youth, well, pick up a copy of this book. And help yourself to a big salad and a green smoothie while you read.