It could be said that raw foodism began many ages ago, since our prehistoric ancestors would have eaten an entirely raw diet before the discovery of the use of fire for cooking. In fact, many adherents of raw would argue that our bodies are designed for raw food and have never adapted to cooked.
There was no cooking stove in the garden of Eden, and the raw diet can be seen as one way of getting us back closer to the natural state that existed in those ancient times.
Where Raw Foodism Started
A raw vegan diet may have been followed by religious ascetics in many traditions in different periods in history. A notable example is the Belgian Saint Aibert, a Benedictine monk who lived to the age of 80 in the 11th and 12th centuries. However, raw foodism was hardly ever practiced for health reasons until the 20th century.
In the 20th century the scientist Arturi Virtanen discovered that when raw vegetables are chewed, enzymes are released in the mouth.
These enzymes are killed by cooking above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Medical and biological science shows that enzymes are destroyed during digestion, but raw foodists argue that many benefits can be gained from these enzymes while they are in the mouth and upper stomach, before they reach the digestive juices.
Therefore a raw food movement began which proposed eating mainly or only foods that had not been heated above 115 degrees, which is warm enough to dry them but not hot enough to kill most living organisms. For this reason raw foods are often called living foods.
Pioneers of the Raw Food Diet
Early 20th century pioneers of the raw food movement included Ann Wigmore and Herbert Shelton. Ann Wigmore founded the Hippocrates Health Institute and promoted the beneficial effects of drinking wheatgrass juice. She died in 1994 at the age of 84 in a fire.
Herbert Shelton took the ideas of the Natural Hygiene movement of the 19th century and developed them into a raw food practice. He died in 1985 at the age of 90 from Parkinson’s Disease.
Raw foodism in the Natural Hygiene style is focused around getting most of your calories from fruit and avoiding the high fat content of some other raw diets.
Raw Energy: Eat Your Way To Radiant Health
In 1984 the raw food movement gained enormously in popularity following the publication of the book ‘Raw Energy: Eat Your Way To Radiant Health’ by the British writer Leslie Kenton in 1984.
While Kenton advocated 75% raw food in the diet, many later writers propose going 100% raw. Since then there has been a huge growth in interest and in publications, with many people now living and writing in the raw foodism movement both online and offline.