With this in the back of my mind, a friend of mine informed me of a family of 100% raw-food vegans. She handed me a DVD of the family that endorsed their diet and themselves as the ultimate way to optimal wellness. She simply said to me, "I think you'll find this very interesting."
The idea in and of itself was intriguing: an entire family on a raw vegan diet. What did they eat? Were the parents healthy? Were the kids healthy? What were their temperaments like? I was excited to observe the family with these questions in mind.
Here's a decription of the family from their website:
Storm has been eating a raw-vegan diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in their natural unheated state for over 30 years and is known for his body builder's physique. At 60 he looks far younger than his years. Jinjee started eating a raw diet 15 years ago. Her before and afters show her weight loss transformation. Our family is 100% raw-vegan and thriving! On this site we share our photos and stories, photos of the kids growing up raw, and videos of raw vegan cuisine being prepared.
Watching the DVD, it's clear that this is a family on a mission to be the healthiest people they can possibly be. Storm, the husband and father, is the most enthusiastic of the bunch, sharing his reasoning behind the "Garden Diet" (as he calls it) and stories about improved health in his family and others who have experimented with this way of eating. His physique is quite impressive for a raw vegan, although nothing close to some of the omnivorisitic hunter-gatherers I've seen. Over the years he'd eaten higher-fat and protein versions of the raw diet -- mostly nuts and seeds -- which seemed to be best years for him in terms of building muscle and being fit. Slowly he transitioned to a more low-calorie raw vegan diet, and now he drinks mostly fresh orange juice for his calories. A low-protein, low-fat, high-sugar diet. Whoa, dude.
Here are a few pictures of Storm over the years.
It's pretty easy to see that his transition from nuts to orange juice isn't helping him much. To be fair, he is 60-years-old now. But this ripped, omnivoristic Austrailian Aborigine (below middle -- not a raw vegan) amidst some other phenomenal physical specimens from his tribe looks to be about the same age or maybe older, and time doesn't seem to be hurting him much:
Of course, there's more to a person than their physical form. In addition to appearance, Weston Price also noted the generous, vibrant, and uplifting nature of the healthy primitives. So I kept an eye out for the overall temperament of the raw vegan family members while watching the film. In certain segments, Storm can be seen philosophizing about the raw lifestyle in a very solemn, kind of soft, muted tone. His eyes look relaxed and sedated. Other scenes find Storm all fired up and ranting like a madman with his eyes bugging out all over the place. There seemed to be some definite blood sugar swings going on, which would make sense since the man was living on orange juice during the making of the film. Lacking a proper balance of amino acids, fats, and b-vitamins -- not to mention a complete absence of fat-soluble vitamins -- Storm appears to be unstable and obsessive. Someone get this man some fatty meat!
Storm's wife, Jinjee, makes several appearances on the DVD, endorsing the raw vegan way of life as whole-heartedly as her husband. Yet Jinjee expresses difficulty in sticking to the diet. She describes periods where she reverted back to cooked foods, but she "knows" raw is the ultimate path to unimaginable health and energy -- if she could only stick to it for life! It's evident that she's torn between listening to her body -- which obviously is craving cooked foods -- and adhering to the arbitrary law of raw. Her pregnancies were either mostly raw or 100% raw, as she explains in the film. Video clips are shown of her pregnancies with each child, and it's a little disturbing how skinny she is for a pregnant woman (see photos).
This brings us to the most fascinating portion of the film: the children. In Weston Price's studies of primitive populations, he discovered that adults suffered suboptimal health when abandoning their traditional diet for one rich in industrialized foods. The children of those adults then grew up with lowered immunity and physical degeneration. We'll get to the raw vegan kids shortly, but for now let's remind ourselves what a healthy traditional child (left) looks like compared to an unhealthy modernized child (right), according to Price:
Notice the round face, prominent cheek bones, wide nostrils, square jaw, and broad dental arch of the child on the left. Now observe the narrow face, sagging cheeks, pinched nostrils, weak jaw, and dental deformities of the child on the right. The child on the left was raised on nutrient-dense food (including animal foods high in vitamins and minerals), while the child on the right grew up eating processed foods like white flour and sugar.
Now that we've been refreshed as to what a healthy, properly-developed child on a traditonal diet actually looks like, take a look at the kids who Storm and Jinjee raised raw vegan (see photos).
Observe the narrow faces, weak jaws, pinched nostrils, and sagging cheeks of the raw vegan children. Like every modern child raised on a deficient diet, these children exhibit facial and dental deformities. The raw vegan diet -- though consisting of primarily whole foods in their "natural, unheated state" -- has not rescued them from the classic manifestations of poor physical development.
The theory of raw veganism is steeped in fanciful and delusional thinking. There has never been a group of human beings in the entire evolution of our species that were 100% raw vegans -- or even vegan for that matter. During Price's travels he was always on the lookout for a primitive population that subsisted solely off of vegetable foods. He never found one. Not only did every group utilize animal foods, they also made great efforts to obtain these foods and held them in very high regard -- particularly for child-rearing. Anthropologists and archaeologists have determined that meat and animal fat consumption (in some cases full-on carnivory) have been a mainstay in the human diet for several million years. Today, healthy traditional cultures all over the world eat cooked plant and animal foods and stay healthy from generation to generation.
Those that believe raw veganism is the ultimate path to wellness -- as Storm and his family do -- fail to take note of these facts and completely disregard hundreds of thousands of years of time-tested human foodways. We were left with the knowledge of proper diet by our ancestors -- perhaps we will only attain optimal health by returning to those food traditions of the past.