Oh hell, let’s get it started

I’ve been staring at my feet for a couple of days, not sure where to begin.

I went to the eye doctor today — no ordinary eye doctor, but my man at UCLA, where I’ve had to go since I was 10 because I had pesky muscular issues. My point is, the man is high end, interns falling at his feet, residents hanging on every word. But I’ve known him since I came in with my arms crossed and informed him that I was not going to have surgery again because the first time entirely sucked (vomiting continuously on my mother’s 27th birthday while she tried not to cry, only to be told that the surgery didn’t really work? Hell, no). He put up with me, and I with him, and he held off surgery for 25 more years, then performed literal magic after all those years of practice (and an IV loaded with anti-nausea meds). So he’s no dummy is my point.

I hadn’t seen him in a while, and he asked me what I was doing these days. Every time someone finds out that I know something about nutrition, the next thing out of their mouth is a question about nutrition. As a result, telling anyone that I know a damned thing is a bit like throwing a small grenade – I let the cat out of the bag and wince waiting to see what the question will be and whether I’ll be able to answer it off the cuff to prove my encyclopedic intelligence. (Which I don’t really have but which seems necessary to gain people’s trust because of the high level of total nonsense out there).

So he asked me: Is a raw diet really good for you? This was a funny question coming from this 60+ year old, very reserved man.

Yes. A raw diet (where nothing is cooked over 115 or so degrees F) is indeed very good for you as long as you get enough nutrients. In fact, many people on raw diets get many, many more vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytochemicals (phyto=plant, chemical = chemical) than the rest of us, they tend to eat unrefined carbohydrates and only healthy fats, and there just isn’t a lot of processed food out there that’s raw so they tend to be healthy (and vigilant about what they eat, because one must be careful to eat well on this kind of diet). This diet may even help people with cancer.

But, I explained, the part about the enzymes being preserved for the body to “stoke the fire” in the belly and ease digestion is a big bag of bullshit. Because one of the great tasks of the stomach is to denature (read: unwind) proteins. Enzymes are comprised of proteins, so unless you’re swallowing food whole enzymes are going to be destroyed before they hit the small intestine. So the enzymes in foods are preserved because of the lack of heat, but they’re destroyed by the stomach.

Which makes perfect sense. Because why would you want to use the enzymes that another organism made? Your body destroys all foreign proteins because they were made by the DNA of other life forms. Then your body sets DNA to work making new proteins (of which enzymes, hormones, hair, skin, organs, etc. are many) that work uniquely in the human body. It’s really that other nutritional components of foods, like vitamins, remain intact from the absence of heat that contributes to the healthy attributes of the food. There’s no short answer for all of this, but that’s what I said.

To this brilliant man, this was news, and it was news to me because I assumed all doctors would somehow know this, which is absurd if you think about it.

Then he told me something to the effect that my vision should be worse and that I’m “cheating” the usual forces and still have good focus when reading. Maybe, he said, it’s the vegetarian diet. He could be right. If you eat greens like kale, spinach and dark salad greens often, along with all those colorful fruits and veggies, you get lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids found in plants that are also found in the largest concentrations in the back of our eyes. The carotenoids serve to protect plants against photo-oxidation (damage from light), and damned if they don’t do the same thing in the back of our eyes.

Oh well, you’ll hear me saying this over and over, but: if you can only make one change to your diet, adding a serving of vegetables daily would be a good idea.

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