Fall foliage 2013 2

One answer is very simple: antioxidants. Xanthophylls and carotenoids are two types of antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, and fall foliage.

Regarding fruits and vegetables, xanthophylls are yellow plant pigments found in these foods and leafy greens. Well-known xanthophylls include lutein and zeaxanthin which have been studied for potential benefits in human vision. Carotenoids are orange plant pigments found in some leafy greens and orange fruits and vegetables. Well-known carotenoids include beta carotene and alpha carotene.

DSC_0013

Regarding leaves on trees, xanthophylls and carotenoids are present in leaves for the entire life cycle and are only revealed when chlorophyll production ceases toward the end of this cycle, which happens on a large scale in the fall. Chlorophyll is a green pigment that plays a role in creating energy for green plants from sunlight through a process called photosynthesis. Chlorophyll breaks down with exposure to sunlight throughout the life cycle of leaves and therefore constantly has to be replaced. As autumn approaches and a leaf approaches the end of its life, chlorophyll is no longer replaced by the plant, revealing the xanthophylls and/or carotenoids underneath.

Easton, October 28 2012 3

In addition to yellow and orange pigments, we see red pigments called anthocyanins in some fall foliage. Other anthocyanins are purple and blue in color and are found in blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. In contrast to xanthophylls and carotenoids, anthocyanins are not present throughout the life of the leaf, but instead are made at the end of the life cycle when chlorophyll production ceases. Not all leaves contain anthocyanins.

Blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries

To summarize, xanthophylls, carotenoids, and anthocyanins are groups of antioxidants found in both fall foliage and fruits and vegetables. All three types of phytonutrients help protect the leaves of trees from stresses such as constant sun exposure which can generate free radicals. This is especially true for xanthophylls and carotenoids as they are present for the entire life cycle of the leaf. Similarly, the xanthophylls, carotenoids, and anthocyanins we eat from fruits and vegetables are thought to help protect our internal tissues from the free radicals to which they are exposed.

What about the brown pigment seen in some fall foliage? This pigment is called tannin and is revealed when chlorophyll, xanthophylls, carotenoids, and anthocyanins break down near the end of the leaf life cycle.

Interested in taking your nutrition knowledge to the next level?

We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

Additionally, our book The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets addresses many hot topics in raw food nutrition such as essential fats, protein, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

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Wheat

Gluten is a popular and controversial topic for a number of reasons, with very strong voices on all sides of the conversation. Being a clinician, I always have the interest of the individual in mind given that the achievement of personal health is the ultimate goal. To this end, I am constantly looking for reliable information grounded in reliable biochemistry, physiology, research, and clinical experience to help people reach their health goals, especially since much of the most compelling information is not common knowledge. There are many simple facts that are well understood about gluten which are often perpetuated in the media, but there are some important pieces of the gluten puzzle not popularly known or well understood. For the past couple of years, I have been hearing from students and other people with gluten-related health challenges that their gluten free diet was not getting them the results they were expecting. On closer inspection and with some recent research, I learned some fascinating information that I will cover in this article. But for now, let’s start with:

The basics

Foods that contain gluten are found in one plant family, the grain family, also known as the grass family. The scientific name for this family is the Poaceae. Often people may think that grains and grasses are in separate plant families, when in fact they are in the same plant family.

Although gluten is found only in grains, not all members of the grain family contain gluten. Currently, wheat, rye, barley, triticale, spelt, and kamut are the grain family members considered to contain true gluten. These foods, or foods that contain these foods as ingredients, such as certain processed or prepared foods, contain true gluten. Processed foods can often hide gluten-containing ingredients in them, so it’s important to read labels. Despite these grains being identified as containing gluten, there has been some concern about the gluten-free status of other members of the grain family. A 2009 study showed that a percentage of compliant people with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) on a gluten free diet still did not get the results they were seeking in terms of symptom reversal and lab test results. One of the possibilities considered by the researchers was cross contamination of their diet with gluten containing grains. Another concern raised was the consumption of other members of the grain family that contain proteins which resemble gluten.

The controversy

There are several perceived gluten free grains that are currently under investigation and information on them is growing, but for our purposes, we will focus on oats and corn, two of the most popularly consumed gluten free grains. Oats are a popular breakfast food and corn is commonly found in many forms in processed and prepared foods.

oats

Many sources consider oats to be gluten free, but there are some challenges with them. Oats can sometimes be processed in facilities that may also process gluten containing grains, so there may be some cross contamination between these other grains and oats. Another consideration is avenin, a protein found in oats that is biochemically similar to gluten. Some people who are sensitive to gluten may have a similar experience with oats for this reason. Recent research indicates there is a wide range of variation in potential effects that different cultivated varieties of oats can have on gluten intolerant individuals. This means that some varieties of oats may have notable effects while others may have less of an effect.

Corn on the cob

Corn is also a member of the grain family, and like oats, is considered to be gluten free by many sources. However, corn contains zein; a protein that is biochemically similar to gluten and is often referred to as “corn gluten.” A study published in 2013 indicated that some gluten intolerant individuals may have symptoms and lab test results consistent with the ingestion of gluten containing grains despite adherence to a gluten free diet. Corn consumption by these individuals was cited as being a possible reason for this outcome. The researchers also noted that even though a gluten intolerant individual may not experience overt symptoms from eating corn, there may still be small intestine effects that can be identified through laboratory testing.

At this time, more research is needed to fully understand the gluten status of oats, corn, and other members of the grain family. In the meantime, there are plenty of foods that do not contain gluten or gluten-like proteins. For example, foods commonly consumed on a raw plant based diet such as fruits, vegetables, sea vegetables, nuts, and seeds are not members of the grain family and therefore do not contain gluten. Although anything that can germinate (including grains) is botanically considered a “seed,” commonly understood seeds such as chia, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, flax, and poppy seeds do not contain gluten.

Quinoa and amaranth 2

Quinoa and amaranth are often mistaken for grains, but they are not members of the grain family. They are members of the amaranth plant family (Amaranthaceae), and do not contain gluten. Amaranth and quinoa are often referred to as pseudograins or pseudocereals, because of their resemblance to true grains.

The Bottom Line

The good news is that if one is eating a whole food plant based diet that does not contain members of the grain family (Poaceae), they are consuming a diet free of gluten. Gluten is an area of nutrition with ongoing investigation. Sometimes it takes a while for this research to reach the general population, so my goal here is to provide tools of exploration for people who are seeking their greatest health potential. In our Science of Raw Food Nutrition series of classes that we teach at Living Light, we cover gluten and other popular cutting edge raw food and nutrition related topics to assist you in achieving your health goals.

Fruits and vegetables larger

If you're interested in taking your knowledge to the next level.........

We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

Additionally, our book The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets addresses many hot topics in raw food nutrition such as essential fats, protein, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

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References:

Fric P, Gabrovska D, Nevoral J. Celiac disease, gluten-free diet, and oats. Nutr Rev. 2011 Feb;69(2):107-15.

Lanzini A, Lanzarotto F, Villanacci V, Mora A, Bertolazzi S, Turini D, Carella G, Malagoli A, Ferrante G, Cesana BM, Ricci C. Complete recovery of intestinal mucosa occurs very rarely in adult coeliac patients despite adherence to gluten-free diet. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Jun 15;29(12):1299-308.

Maglio M, Mazzarella G, Barone MV, Gianfrani C, Pogna N, Gazza L, Stefanile R, Camarca A, Colicchio B, Nanayakkara M, Miele E, Iaquinto G, Giardullo N, Maurano F, Santoro P, Troncone R, Auricchio S. Immunogenicity of two oat varieties, in relation to their safety for celiac patients. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011 Oct;46(10):1194-205.

Ortiz-Sánchez JP, Cabrera-Chávez F, de la Barca AM. Maize prolamins could induce a gluten-like cellular immune response in some celiac disease patients. Nutrients. 2013 Oct 21;5(10):4174-83.

Silano M, Pozo EP, Uberti F, Manferdelli S, Del Pinto T, Felli C, Budelli A, Vincentini O, Restani P. Diversity of oat varieties in eliciting the early inflammatory events in celiac disease. Eur J Nutr. 2014 Aug;53(5):1177-86.

Real A, Comino I, de Lorenzo L, Merchán F, Gil-Humanes J, Giménez MJ, López-Casado MÁ, Torres MI, Cebolla Á, Sousa C, Barro F, Pistón F. Molecular and immunological characterization of gluten proteins isolated from oat cultivars that differ in toxicity for celiac disease. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e48365.

What is Methylmalonic AcidMethylmalonic acid (MMA) is a popular vitamin B12 test.

But what actually is MMA and where does it come from? In the human body, MMA is a breakdown product or byproduct of protein, carbohydrate, and cholesterol metabolism. In other words, when a variety of proteins, fatty acids, and cholesterol are used to create energy, one of the byproducts is methylmalonic acid.

The specifics of this energy producing pathway are described as follows: In the creation of energy, the amino acids valine, isoleucine, methionine, threonine, odd-chain fatty acids, and cholesterol all go through a variety of metabolic processes to be converted into a substance called propionyl CoA. Propionyl Co-A is then converted into methylmalonyl CoA. When we are in good human bioactive B12 status, methylmalonyl CoA is then converted into succinyl CoA by an enzymatic reaction in which vitamin B12 is a co-factor. In other words, vitamin B12 is essential for the conversion of methylmalonyl CoA into succinyl CoA.

MMA 1

Succinyl CoA is an intermediate in the Kreb’s Cycle (also known as the TCA cycle), which is involved in energy production. We now see how vitamin B12 plays a role in energy production in our body.

What happens when someone becomes B12 deficient? The pathway that converts methylmalonyl CoA into succinyl CoA becomes de-emphasized and the amount of methylmalonyl CoA starts to increase. As this amount increases, methylmalonyl CoA is converted into methylmalonic acid. Methylmalonic acid does not have any specific function in the body, so it is eliminated from the body by the urinary tract. When one is deficient in vitamin B12, their blood and urine generally have elevated levels of methylmalonic acid.

MMA 3

Vitamin B12 is very important for this pathway and many other reactions throughout the body. The bottom line is that it is a good idea to know our vitamin B12 status, which we can achieve through reliable B12 testing.

We cover the importance of vitamin B12, reliable testing, and reliable sources in our book, The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook, An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets. If you are interested in our lab testing and nutrition consulting services, please visit www.rawfoodconsulting.com.

This video explains how and why methylmalonic acid can be created in the human body:

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Got wilted greens? Don't compost them, rehydrate them! This simple, short video shows how our wilted collard greens regained their turgor:

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One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

carrotsWhere does one get vitamin A on a plant-based vegan diet?

Vitamin A is essential for proper cell growth and reproduction and is probably best known for its importance in vision. It also plays an important role in immune system function and skin health. Vitamin A (also known as retinol) is found exclusively in animal foods and various vitamin supplements. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for humans, so if one is eating a vegan diet, where is this vitamin A obtained? Fortunately, the human body converts beta-carotene and certain other carotenoids to vitamin A when necessary. Beta-carotene is a well-known carotenoid famous for providing carrots with their orange coloring and is found in many other plant foods, especially green, yellow, and orange-colored fruits and vegetables.

Beta-carotene conversion to vitamin A

How does this conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A work? In the human body, beta-carotene is converted to retinal by a dioxygenase enzyme. Retinal is then converted to retinol (vitamin A) by a dehydrogenase enzyme:

Beta carotene conversio to retinol

 

Other carotenoids that are capable of converting to vitamin A in the human body include alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Of the four carotenoids, the one that converts the most reliably to vitamin A is beta-carotene.

Why is my skin orange?

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient, which means that it can be stored in our body and we run the risk of getting too much from outside sources, such as supplements consumed in excess of the body’s needs. Carotenoids are fat soluble also, but do not carry the same risks as vitamin A with excess consumption. In excess of the body’s needs, carotenoids are stored in fat cells including those under our skin, giving an orange color to the skin which is only cosmetic.

Do we have to cook our food to get enough beta-carotene and vitamin A?

Many people have asked about the effectiveness of this carotenoid conversion mechanism and how well carotenoids are absorbed from raw food. A recent study found normal vitamin A status and favorable blood beta-carotene levels in 200 long-term raw food enthusiasts. This indicates is that these raw foodists consumed a good amount of beta-carotene, a quantity was absorbed and was present in their bloodstream, and then an appropriate amount was converted into vitamin A.

References:

Fleshman, Matthew Kintz. Beta Carotene Absorption and Metabolism. Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 2011.

Garcia A, Koebnick C, Dagnelie P, Strassner C, Elmadfa I, Katz N, Leitzmann C, Hoffman I. British Journal of Nutrition 2008; 99: 1293 – 1300.

Interested in taking your vitamin A, beta-carotene, and general nutrition knowledge to the next level?

We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

Additionally, our book The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets addresses many hot topics in raw food nutrition such as essential fats, protein, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

Raspberries and blackberries

There has been a lot of talk about the importance of probiotics for health in the media recently. As a result, there are now numerous products on the market that are supplemented with probiotics. It’s important to understand not only the health benefits of probiotics, but how to keep them alive once they are in the intestinal tract.

Probiotics need food to survive, and once in our intestinal tract, probiotics can stay alive on the foods we ingest. Just like people, probiotics thrive on specific types of foods, especially certain types of fiber. Fiber is not digestible by humans, but is fermentable by probiotics. Fiber that can provide food for probiotics is referred to as a prebiotic. Most types of fiber are composed of glucose molecules hooked together by chemical bonds; but the types of fiber that probiotics prefer as a source of food are composed of fructose molecules hooked together by chemical bonds. These types of fiber include fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin.

Probiotics break down fructooligosaccharides and inulin into fructose and free fatty acids. The resulting fructose is then used as a food source by the probiotics and the free fatty acids serve as a food source for the cells that line our large intestine. In this way, among many others, probiotics help to provide food for us.

Raw Food Plant Based Diet Rich Source of Prebiotics

Inulin and fructooligosaccharides occur naturally in greater than 36,000 plant species in varying amounts. Some of the richest sources of inulin and FOS include banana, dandelion greens, garlic, artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, onion, leek, yacon, shallot, and many more. There are numerous other commonly consumed raw foods that provide smaller amounts of these types of fiber, including lettuce, snap peas, snow peas, carrots, peaches, blackberries, watermelon, navel oranges, black grapes, raspberries, other fruits and vegetables, and some whole grains. Fruits and vegetables provide plenty of this and many other beneficial types of fiber, which is just one of a myriad of benefits derived by consuming large quantities of fruits and vegetables in one’s daily diet.

There is still much to learn about the health benefits and preferred foods of probiotics, and the media buzz on probiotics continues to grow. There have been articles in major newspapers including the New York Times on the possible connection between probiotics and maintaining a healthy weight, attributed to the ability of probiotics to use calories from our food for their own energy needs. This way, those extra calorie sources are consumed by probiotics rather than being absorbed by the body and stored as fat.

This is just the tip of the iceberg! We include much more information about the importance of probiotics and prebiotics in our Mastering of Raw Food Nutrition. We’d love for you to join us to learn more about this and many other fascinating topics on the science of plant based raw food nutrition.

References and Research:

Bosscher D(1), Breynaert A, Pieters L, Hermans N. Food-based strategies to modulate the composition of the intestinal microbiota and their associated health effects. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009 Dec;60 Suppl 6:5-11.

de Vrese M(1), Schrezenmeir J. Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics. Adv Biochem Eng Biotechnol. 2008;111:1-66.

Kechagia M(1), Basoulis D(2), Konstantopoulou S(1), Dimitriadi D(1), Gyftopoulou K(1), Skarmoutsou N(1), Fakiri EM(1). Health benefits of probiotics: a review. ISRN Nutr. 2013 Jan 2;2013:481651.

Kelly G. Inulin-type prebiotics--a review: part 1. Altern Med Rev. 2008 Dec;13(4):315-29.

Niness K. Inulin and oligofructose: what are they? J Nutr 1999; 129 (7 Suppl): 1402S – 1406S.

Quigley EM. Prebiotics and probiotics; modifying and mining the microbiota. Pharmacol Res. 2010 Mar;61(3):213-8.

Roberfroid M(1), Gibson GR, Hoyles L, McCartney AL, Rastall R, Rowland I, Wolvers D, Watzl B, Szajewska H, Stahl B, Guarner F, Respondek F, Whelan K, Coxam V, Davicco MJ, Léotoing L, Wittrant Y, Delzenne NM, Cani PD, Neyrinck AM, Meheust A. Prebiotic effects: metabolic and health benefits. Br J Nutr. 2010 Aug;104 Suppl 2:S1-63.

Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients. 2013;5:1417-1435.

Thomas LV(1), Ockhuizen T(2), Suzuki K(3). Exploring the influence of the gut microbiota and probiotics on health: a symposium report. Br J Nutr. 2014 Jul;112 Suppl 1:S1-S18.

 

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Blueberries

In this article and video we will explore why fruit can be easier to digest than other foods by understanding several aspects of digestive physiology.

There are three macronutrients that we find in whole foods: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Fruit is high in carbohydrate and in general, carbohydrates tend to be more quickly digested than protein and fat.

Here is a chart that illustrates the carbohydrate, protein, and fat content (as a percentage of calories) of various types of foods:

Type of Food Carbohydrate Protein Fat
Fruit 89% 6% 5%
Vegetables 73% 18% 9%
Nuts and Seeds 16% 11% 73%
Legumes 66% 30% 4%
Grains 80% 12% 8%
Oil 0 0 100%
Avocados 19% 5% 76%
Coconuts 17% 4% 79%
Spirulina 26% 64% 10%

As we can see, the macronutrient content of fruit averages 89% carbohydrate, 6% protein, and 5% fat. Fruit is the highest in carbohydrate of the food groups listed.

Types of carbohydrates

There are three different types of carbohydrates: polysaccharides, disaccharides, and monosaccharides. Monosaccharides are composed of a single sugar, as the name would imply. Mono means “one” and saccharide means “sugar”. Disaccharides are two monosaccharides hooked together by a chemical bond. Polysaccharides are composed of multiple monosaccharides hooked together by chemical bonds. For further clarification, there are two types of polysaccharides, digestible and non-digestible. An example of a digestible polysaccharide is starch and a non-digestible example is fiber. Starch is also referred to as “complex carbohydrate”, while fiber is also known as “cellulose”.

Complex carbohydrates, such as starch, and disaccharides have chemical bonds that must be broken down by digestive enzymes into monosaccharides in order to be absorbed. The human body uses the carbohydrate-digesting enzyme amylase to break down complex carbohydrates into simpler carbohydrates. A common disaccharide is sucrose, which is composed of glucose and fructose hooked together by a chemical bond. Since sucrose is a disaccharide, it is broken down by the digestive enzyme sucrase into the monosaccharides glucose and fructose, which can then be absorbed.

To summarize, monosaccharides are absorbed by our digestive tract, so carbohydrates that are more complex must be broken down into monosaccharides in order to be absorbed.

Carbohydrates in fruit

The carbohydrates found in fruit are primarily fructose and glucose, both of which are monosaccharides, so they do not need to be broken down further by digestive enzymes. This is a reason why fruits are often referred to as being “predigested”. In other words, our body absorbs fructose and glucose “as is”, without using digestive enzymes to break them down further.

Here is a chart showing the fructose, glucose, sucrose, and complex carbohydrate content of various fruits:

Food Fructose (g) Glucose (g) Sucrose (g) Complex carbohydrate (g)
Mango – one whole (207 g) 6.00 1.45 20.5 0.83
Blueberries – one cup (148 g) 7.36 7.22 0.16 3.15
Cantaloupe – 3lbs. (1360 g) 23.69 19.47 55.10 0.17
Apricots – one cup sliced (165 g) 1.54 3.87 9.58 0.0
Figs – 5 dried 9.63 10.41 0.03 2.0
Raspberries – 1 cup (123 g) 2.89 2.29 0.25 1.25
Strawberries – 1 cup sliced (166 g) 4.04 3.30 0.78 1.31
Apples – one medium (182 g) 10.72 4.42 3.76 1.86
Watermelon – One cup diced (152 g) 5.09 2.40 1.84 1.44
Grapes – One cup red (151 g) 12.28 10.87 0.23 2.60
Pineapple – One cup chunks (165 g) 3.50 2.85 9.88 3.09
Banana – one medium (118 g) 5.72 5.88 2.82 6.35

The fructose and glucose content of these fruits is notable, especially when compared to the complex carbohydrate content, which is in several cases quite a bit lower. The sucrose content of these fruits varies by type of fruit.

This next chart shows the carbohydrate content of other various other plant foods:

Food Fructose (g) Glucose (g) Sucrose (g) Complex carbohydrate (g)
Bell pepper – 1 cup chopped red (149 g) 3.22 2.77 0 2.99
Tomatoes – One cup chopped (180 g) 2.47 2.25 0 2.34
Carrots – One cup chopped (110 g) 0.60 0.65 3.95 2.24
Lettuce – 4 cups shredded (188 g) 1.50 0.73 0 3.96
Yam – One whole (130 g) 0.91 1.25 3.28 16.28
Lentils – ½ cup (96 g) 0.26 0.0 1.40 26.45
Brown rice – med grain, ½ cup (95 g) 0 0 0 74.82

The yam, lentils, and brown rice on this table contain much more complex carbohydrate than the fruits we examined in the previous table. These foods are also generally much lower in glucose, fructose, and sucrose than the fruits. This would suggest that yams, lentils, brown rice and other foods high in complex carbohydrates would require more digestive enzyme activity than fruits, which contain simpler carbohydrates. Vegetables, such as carrots and lettuce, are in a less extreme but similar category since they contain fewer simple carbohydrates and generally more complex carbohydrates than most fruits.

In summary, the higher simple carbohydrate content, lower complex carbohydrate content, and lower protein and fat content of fruit versus other foods may account for the reason why the digestion of fruit requires less digestive enzyme activity than other foods. This ease of digestion and simple carbohydrate content constitute at least part of the reason why fruit can provide us with quick energy for our daily activities, and perhaps even our natural detoxification and healing processes. I look forward to a time when more information is available to share with you on this fascinating topic!

Isn’t fruit controversial for some reason?

To make it easy for people to find reliable information on fruit, the glycemic index, glycemic load, fructose, glucose, and carbohydrates in general, we dedicated a chapter in our book, The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets to answering many common carbohydrate questions.

In the book we also cover other hot topics in raw food nutrition such as essential fats, protein, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more: