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In one daily newsletter that Wendi and I subscribe to, there was a discourse recently about being right -- but being right for the wrong reason. I've long been interested in that concept; it's fascinating, when you really think about it -- like getting credit on a test for an answer you guessed at, or knowing how to say something in another language but not knowing what it means. Along those lines, I'd like to share some personal opinion with you.

One of the common pro-raw arguments is that it's a calorie-restrictive diet and thus healthy because it limits our caloric intake (a regimen widely associated with extended lifespans in scientific literature).If you consider that a pound of greens or veggies has about 100 calories (generally speaking) and a pound of fruit has 300-400, imagine the incredible amounts of food you could ingest daily and still be considered calorie-restricted (as compared with the recommended number of calories for your build and lifestyle)!

It's quite a lot -- especially if you were to limit the calorie-boosters that also exist within the raw paradigm -- nuts, seeds, dehydrated foods, and calorie-dense foods like dates, avocados, etc. You know those plastic shoe-box sized containers of pre-washed spinach? Those contain merely one-pound! Can you imagine eating a whole box (or two!) that size in one day, and only getting 100 or 200 calories for your efforts (Actually, this problem -- recognizing that mega-quantities of greens are healthy, but pondering how to go about eating that much -- is said to be the inspiration for Victoria Boutenko's pioneering the now-ubiquitous green smoothie.)

So, yes, in one sense, raw can be a calorie-restricted regimen. But, let's back up a bit, as I want to make two important points here:

1. Let's not rush to conclude that healthy calorie restriction is simply a numbers game and that "a calorie is a calorie" -- meaning that any calorie will suffice on a restricted diet. Consider two similar people:? Person 1 eats a calorie-restricted diet of 1,500 calories per day from pure lard. Person 2 eats 1,500 calories per day of fruits and vegetables. Intuitively, you know where this is going, right?

So, the kind of calorie matters. It seems that there is a scale of "nutritiousness" out there, doesn't it On the "lard" end of this scale, you have calories that are not only devoid of nutrition, but that are in fact toxic! Then, somewhere in the middle, you have caloric sources that are likely ... let's say "kind of neutral." And then over on the right side are calories that are healing, nutritious, enlivening, and uplifting. Same calories, dramatically different results.Calories have dimensions, depth! (Perhaps they have many dimensions. Maybe we should devote a post to each one we can think of!)

Here's point number 2:? I would submit that this dimension of nutritiousness is actually more important than the "scientific calorie," this "unit of energy-producing potential equal to this amount of heat that is contained in food and released upon oxidation by the body" (according to my American Heritage dictionary). In fact, I'll stop just shy of asserting that counting calories as we know them now is all but useless to a raw foodist.

If nutrition is more important (which I believe), then that changes the whole game. To me, standard caloric recommendations represent a measure of how much cooked food, dead and/or highly diminished in nutritional value, the average person can tolerate. (I know that's not technically what it means, but I'm suggesting that it's another way to think about it.) It could also be, to some extent, that this is how many cooked calories we need in order to glean a modicum of life-sustaining nutrition -- to barely scrape by nutrition-wise, in other words ...whereas, if you're eating a generally lower-calorie raw regimen, you're easily pulling in the nutrients your body desires!

I do think standard calorie counting is useful as a very general guide. But, I have to tell you:? Neither Wendi nor I ever counted or restricted calories as part of our intention to lose weight. I mean, sure, there were times when we tracked calories out of curiosity. But, we also regularly enjoyed some very rich foods during our first raw years. I'm not speaking of packaged raw foods; I'm talking about things like creamy coconut milkshakes, rich apple pies for dinner, raw brownies, enormous salads with thick dressings, and other not-very-low-cal things!

Raw in general probably will fit into most people's definition of a calorie-restricted diet. But, I suspect that's not what's so magical about raw foods! So, I suppose it's nice to be right, but it's even more fulfilling to be right for the right reason. Maybe, in the end, finding the ultimate reason will elude our ability for understanding. ?(In other words, maybe I don't fully appreciate why I'm right, either -- assuming that I am.) But, I submit to you that, in delving into these other dimensions (nutrition trumping calories), you're heading further down the path of being right for the right reason.

Original Comments

Below, we have included the original comments from this blog post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On February 24, 2010, TerriDactyl wrote:

I SO get what you are saying.

On so many calorie restrictive diets I was encouraged to eat as much as I wanted to of certain vegetables. Of course the diets worked, I lost weight. But you're right about them completely missing the point. It should have been more about the fruit and vegetables all along, rather than the calories themselves. Immagine for a moment that I didn't eat vegetables on a calorie restrictive diet, and only ate carbs and proteins. I would have been starving! Since it takes so much cooked food to "satisfy" an appetite, obviously, I didn't last long on those diets and found my weight again immediately.

Now, . . . I know better. And you are right. I can nourish my body with raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts and "satisfy" all my body's needs. I have more energy because I am consuming more nutrients, which is really what my body wanted all along. So yes, I'm doing way fewer calories, though I'm not actually restricting them. But I am getting way more nutrition. I think that the low calorie people should start talking about the nutritional value per calorie more than just the number of BTU's.

I'm with ya,

Terri

On February 25, 2010, Cindy wrote:

Well, here is what happened with me. I had Candida overgrowth that went unchecked for years. Turned into being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Hypothyroid, to name a few. I tried every diet you can imagine. Even ate meat again for about a year to go on some "special" diet. I have been vegetarian since 1986 due to kidney problems. I gained 55 lbs in 6 months, despite the fact I jogged 4 times a week, did areobics, couldnt eat breads, sugar, alcohol etc. because of the Candida. Dr tried some meds, though I refused to go the whole route with Fibromyalgia and stuff. One DR sent me to a nutritionalist to help me get my food problem under control, since no one could gain weight like that for no reason. 10 years later, I went RAW. Dropped 30 lbs, my thyroid scores are better and I feel better. I would like to lose the other 20 but it isn't budging for now. So it had nothing to do with Calorie intake. I am downing more now than I was before.

On February 26, 2010, Jovana wrote:

I must admit, I am a little hesistant about how much I'm taking in. Before I was eating raw, I ate VERY little nuts or seeds. In the last five days since I turned raw vegan, I have demolished roughly about... 800grams (about...4 cups) of cashews.

All these recipies call for insane amounts of nuts and it HAS gotten me worried. However, I feel fuller, for longer, so I dunno if that helps more as well. Thanks for the encouraging post.