Much ado has been made about raw diets in the press. Raw foodies believe that heating of consumables to a temperature higher than 40 degrees centigrade destroys their nutritional profile. There are many variations of the diet, from the Primal Diet, consisting mainly of animal products, to Vegan and Vegetarian variations. While there seems to be very little to prove or disprove the raw diet theory, we probably would do well do increase our intake of raw fruit and veggies as a general rule. As with any drastic dietary change, some care should be taken to maximize benefits and avoid negative consequences. With this in mind I bring you a partial list of foodstuffs that should never be consumed without cooking.
#1 : Honey
Parents have been cautioned to avoid giving unpasteurized honey to young children due to potential botulin toxicity. That aside, people tout the supposed health benefits of consuming honey straight from the hive as a potential antibiotic, and applied topically to ulcers or wounds may indeed be helpful. Unfortunately, much honey comes from British Columbia and other areas where Rhododendrons are a favourite of bees. Honey was actually used as a biological weapon against enemies in at least 2 known wars. The culprit here is Grayanotoxin, found in plants of the Heather family.
Raw honey can contain a poison that in rare instances is fatal. C22H36O7 can cause symptoms ranging from weakness to severe cardiac irregularities like Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. Grayanotoxin is an Ion Channel Toxin in the same family as Cobratoxin.
If you still insist that raw is best and are willing to take a little risk, I offer up the following pointers. First, be an adult- children cannot decide for themselves how to mitigate risk and you should do this for them. Next, go for an organic source like your own hives and become aware of bee behaviour and plant life around you. A varied diet produces more nutrient-rich honey and can water-down Rhodotoxins to a reasonably safe level. If you purchase honey, know the farmer or at least avoid bee barf from British Columbia, Japan, Brazil, Nepal, and the western United States. NEVER give unpasteurized honey to any child under the age of 2 under any circumstances.
#2 : Red Kidney and Cannellini Beans Including Sprouts
Sorry raw foodies, kidney beans are off the menu. But if you insist, don't blame me when you are sitting in emerg getting an IV. You were warned.
#3 : Milk
Primal Diet fans claim that healthful components of dairy are killed during pasteurization, but this is simply untrue. Dairy in and of itself is linked to allergies, type 1 Diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and heart disease. Raw foodies suggest that cooking milk causes lactose intolerance, but that again is not true. lactose is a foreign substance and if your body doesn't dig it, it just doesn't.
Raw milk and cheeses have been linked to severe outbreaks of Listeria, several types of Salmonella, Q Fever, Campylobacters, E. Coli, Brucellosis, Yersinia, Brainerd diarrhea, strep and staph infections. Even rabies and tuberculosis have been linked to unpasteurized dairy products. Every one of these nasties can kill you or cause permanent disability. Bummer.
If you feel like playing Russian Roulette with your health, go ahead and buy a cow and pray that no wildlife infect it with tuberculosis. Louis Pasteur came up with his methods because people were getting seriously ill from consuming dairy products. While it is my personal opinion that nobody should consume dairy products of any type, you should opt for organic produce that is pasteurized. If you are grown and feel like taking the risk, go ahead. If you feed this shit to your kids or pregnant wife, you are an asshole of the worst kind. The majority of fatal reactions to diseases encountered by raw milk consumption have been amongst children or pregnant women, along with those with immune disorders. That said, typically large and healthy individuals have become catastrophically ill from raw dairy products. If you consume them and wind up needing a kidney transplant, don't whine to me.
#4 : Meat
Proponents of the Primal Diet claim that cooked meat causes cancer, and this may be the case, as all meat has been linked to colon cancer. They claim that raw meat is man's natural diet when it is simply untrue. Humans began as herbivores and began consuming meat after the advent of fire. While Inuit do consume some raw flesh, they also have the lowest life expectancy on the planet due to ridiculous heart disease rates.
But why do Eskimos survive after eating raw meat? Well, it is about time and temperature. It is chilly, the water is salty, and consumed very very quickly before bacteria in the fish can multiply. They are still playing with their health if they consume raw deer or caribou. As for sashimi, it has actually been frozen prior to human consumption, killing most of the bacteria in the fish.
While restaurants do indeed serve tartare-type dishes, the meat is generally frozen and thusly safer although not all parasites are killed. Maria Callas, fond of raw meat throughout her life, was continually infested with tapeworms that may have shortened her life. If you REALLY can't live without raw meat, go grass-fed and consume it as quickly as possible after it is killed. Freezing it is a much better option, especially with fish. It is still playing a dangerous game that I do not understand. again, feeding raw meat to any child or pregnant woman is a most serious no-no. Seriously though, either go vegan or fire up your grill. This coming from someone who used to eat raw meat and eggs and is counting her luck.
#5 : Cassava
Indigenous cultures understand that there is something in Cassava root that can make you very sick. Insufficiently processed cassava can cause Konzo, a debilitating paralytic disease. The onset is sudden and the disability is permanent. The roots and leaves of this plant contain 2 cynanogenic glucosides, that free cyanide throughout the body. The more bitter the root, the more dangerous.
In addition to Konzo, excessive consumption of cassava can cause permanent pancreatitis, tropical ataxic neuropathy, and goiters.
Cassava production is also toxic to the environment. In South America, toxic cyanide effluents from cassava flour production have caused much pollution. Even small operations have produced enough cyanogenic compounts to severely effect the environment.
When it comes to cassava, if you are not in an impoverished nation, there is no real need to consume it, so just don't. While cassava flour has become popular due to coeliac disease and irritable bowel disease, it causes such negative ecological impact to make us think of looking elsewhere. Never consider consuming raw cassava in any amount, EVER. As little as 40 grams of bitter cassava root can kill a cow. A COW. 'Nuff said.
The world is a dangerous place and not all sources of nutrition can be consumed by our sensitive systems. Many plants like mustard and parsnips have built in defense mechanisms that have evolved so herbivores will stay away. Most diets can be healthful, but we should always be aware of what can harm us and what can help us thrive. There is much truth to he old latin proverb that states "what nourishes me also destroys me.".