Renegade Health Radio: Foods We Don’t Eat Raw

Tuesday Sep 30 | BY |
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In this podcast:

  • Why maca should never be eaten in its raw state, despite the marketing by many super-food gurus. (at 10:31)
  • Why raw/soaked/sprouted grains and beans can make you extremely sick. (at 13:03)
  • When eating seaweed, raw or otherwise, may not be the best idea, and what to look for. (at 16:39)
  • What’s wrong with raw chocolate? Hear Fred’s personal experience with a “raw chocolate” cake that turned into a disaster. You can always have your cake and eat it too, but sometimes it’s better just to pass. (at 18:56)
  • Why the food industry isn’t infallible: how foods can still be contaminated and how to tell when they are. (at 20:02)
  • Hear Kevin and Fred’s side of the Cruciferous Vegetable Debate: Why cruciferous veggies may not be quite as bad as some say, and why you should be aware when eating them in larger amounts. (at 22:25)



Kevin: Renegade Health Radio. This is Kevin Gianni here with Frederic Patenaude. Fred, I hear you’re doing something pretty cool back at your house, there.

Fred: I’m doing some experiments, yes. I don’t know if you guys have Italian markets? Or, at least, if you live on the East Coast, you’re more likely to find Italian foods at a market that sells products for the Italian community. But in Montreal, one thing that I’ve always found around this time of the year—so we’re in the fall right now—is olives. Fresh olives, because it’s olive season right now. And I’ve always wondered, what do you do with a green olive? Like obviously, you cannot just eat it raw. I mean, you can, but you’re going to be in for a big surprise of…it’s very astringent…

Kevin: It doesn’t taste like—

Fred: It doesn’t taste good, right? But you can buy them. So I did buy them and I asked the store owner, you know, how to prepare them, essentially. It was hilarious, because everybody has like a different opinion, right? In the store, of what to do with them. But essentially, what I got out of it, and I’ve been experimenting with it, is you get rid of the bitterness by soaking them in water. And then you can cure them, if you want, after.

So what you do is you buy green olives, and you crack them a little bit, so if you have a mortar and pestle you can do that, or just slice them a little bit, just for the water to penetrate. But I just cracked them using, like, you could use a hammer or something, but you just crack them a little bit, unless you’re prepared to wait for weeks. But if you want to get them done quickly, you do that, and then you pour—the first time—you pour boiling water on top, or very hot water on top, and you add like, you know, let’s say some salt, like coarse sea salt or something like… whatever you want. Just like if you are soaking in vary salty water. And then the water will get green very quickly. And the olive will change color. They will start looking like olives you buy at the store, a little bit. Instead of that bright green, they will get a dark green shade. And then you transfer…you get rid of the water every day, and you replace it by cold water, this time, subsequent times.

Kevin: With salt as well?

Fred: Well, that’s the thing I can’t really figure out. In the recipes you find online, people don’t add salt, necessarily, until they start curing them, but the guy at the store told me…essentially, it’s up to you. If you keep adding salt, it’s just going to taste more salty, but that’s not what gets rid of the bitterness. What gets rid of the bitterness is the soaking in the water. So you can add salt every time, or…it’s up to you the taste that you want, right?

But after just two or three days, if you like bitter, if you do it the way I told you where you put boiling water the first time and some salt the first time, and you keep changing the water, it’s going to be edible. It’s still going to be very bitter, but if you like bitter, it’s not bad. And then you keep changing the water like that until you like the taste. And then what people do…you can eat them like that. And what I like about it, it doesn’t have any vinegar. It’s never very, you know, like an olive you buy at the store, it’s very kind of super salty, and it’s also very intense because there’s a lot of vinegar and there’s a lot of…so you can put your own seasonings after. That’s what’s great. You can put like garlic and hot pepper and sage or whatever you like, you know, fresh herbs, and you just marinate the whole thing. You can put a little bit of olive oil and maybe vinegar, if you like.

The way people cure them to keep them for a long time, then you have to soak them in vinegar or something like that to keep them and cure them for like two weeks after. And then you transfer them, and then they are going to keep for awhile. But if you just want to eat them right away, they’re going to be good just after a week or ten days or something just by changing the water and then adding your own seasoning.

So I thought it was pretty incredible to do that because it’s so fresh. You’re eating something that’s really fresh and you control the taste. It doesn’t have to be that intense vinegary taste that we often find in olives. And the texture is really nice. So play around with that, if you can find them. I’m sure in California you can find them. It’s the season right now.

Kevin: Yeah. We just were up at…we were just up in Sonoma and there was this big beautiful olive tree and there were just so many olives on it. And I said to myself—it’s funny that we’re talking about this today—but I said to myself, I said, I want, you know…you can’t eat these just right off the tree. I mean you can, but they taste really awful. So how do they get from the tree to the jar? And so this is clearly how it happens. It’s a lot of work, right? I mean, I wonder who the first person was who was like, “I really want to eat these. I can’t, so let’s figure out a way to make them edible.”

Fred: Well you can…some olives will get black and dry on the tree. And I know David Wolf and other people have sold those olives. And you can eat them, if they’re shriveled. And they’re still very bitter. Frankly, I prefer the taste and the texture of green olives. That’s just my personal preference, and adding some seasonings and so on. I like a little salt in it. But, in the end, when you soak them that way, what I like about it is that they’re still juicy, right? It’s not that shriveled olive taste. It’s this juicy, fresh olive-y taste, and then with your seasonings, it can be amazing.

I started with one batch. Today I went back and I bought like two more pounds. So now I have three mason jars of that, four, actually. So I’m going to try with the next three jars to do something different in each. And I’ll keep you posted on the results.

Kevin: Cool.

Fred: So far, I mean, you can’t really go wrong as long as you…if you don’t like it, keep soaking them, and eventually they are going to taste good enough.

Kevin: The soaking is an interesting concept, because it’s seen throughout history for a lot of different foods that would be pretty miserable to eat raw, or miserable to eat right off the tree. For instance, acorns—they’re very tannic. They have a very strong tannin flavor. And the Native Americans used to soak them in a stream or in water for a few days, maybe even longer, before they then turned them into a flower.

Peruvians do it as well. When we were in Peru, we noticed that some of the…not from the markets, but as we were moving up into the mountains a little bit from the sacred valley, we stopped by the community, and Daniel was our guide and our friend Jackie came along, too. And Daniel, this is Daniel’s native community here, and he showed us where they were soaking some of the potatoes just in these little…it was right by a creek. It was almost like they made these little areas where they could, you know, the water would come in and it would be moving, but on the other side it would come out and the potatoes would stay in there so they wouldn’t like wash down into the, you know, just downstream.

Just really interesting to see that happening not only with potatoes and acorns, but olives, which I’m sure were cured. Who knows? Probably around the same time or maybe even long before the Peruvians were.

Fred: The Greeks were curing olives already…2,000 years at least.

Kevin: Yeah, that’s pretty interesting. It kind of leads into what we want to talk about today, which is kind of this raw foods to avoid, or things you shouldn’t eat raw, or things that people think or try to eat raw and it’s probably better to eat them either cooked or maybe even not at all.

Fred: All right. So you want…what should we…what’s the first one, Kevin?

Kevin: Let’s see. I want to start with one that’s kind of a little pet peeve of mine, because I’ve spent a lot of time in Peru and it just kind of drives me nuts that people are eating it this way, because it’s kind of taken out of context. So this is maca. I think maca is a great adaptogenic herb or food. I also think it’s a great super food, but it’s never traditionally been eaten raw in Peru. And the fact that we eat it raw is almost like a diss to the tradition of that unique food. I feel that it probably shouldn’t be eaten raw.

I know a lot of people who will get affected negatively by eating it raw. Their body goes a little bit nutty, including myself, and this is a food that’s traditionally been soaked, boiled or roasted, and I just feel that there is a reason for that. The ancient wisdom of that plant was either transferred onto the Peruvians who were using it, or the Peruvians said, “Hey, this is a cool plant, but when we eat it raw, if we do eat it raw, because it’s a root, something is happening, so we have to change it.”

That’s my first one: maca. You can eat it as a tincture, you can eat it as a, you know…not eat it, but take it medicinally as a tincture, or you can eat it roasted or cooked. but I would steer away from eating it raw.

Fred: Good one. Well for the next one, I have a little story to tell. I wasn’t there to witness it, but it was told to me by someone in attendance. So there was a big vegetarian conference in Switzerland years back. And they hired a chef to cater the event, but the chef wasn’t really a vegetarian. But he also had to cater for the raw foodists in the crowd, right? So he decided to take a bunch of beans, just soak them and process them in a food processor, and make some kind of pate with it. And he chose, for his bean, red kidney beans. And what happened is people ate the food and then started projectile vomiting in the conference so much that they had to bring in a helicopter to take people, because it was like in the Alps or something like that. Fortunately no one got killed.

So the doctor examining all the sick people said, “Well, you got food poisoning and stuff, but I got to tell you, you’re the healthiest people to get food poisoned, because usually people end up in a much worse position when they eat that.”

So raw beans of all kinds should be avoided, including sprouted beans. We talked about before, Kevin, that some people take chickpeas and sprout them and then process them to make a raw hummus. And I’ve actually eaten that, in my raw food days. And it’s not a good thing. There’s so much starch, enzyme inhibitors, and possibly factors that can poison you, in certain beans, at least. So it’s really best to avoid beans and grains, for that matter, raw.

Kevin: All right. Next one is something that a friend of mine and I were actually just talking about. He bought a package of these sprouted and dehydrated nuts from, I think, the local grocery store here, The Berkley Bowl. And he used to love them and he’d eat them all the time. And then this time, just this one package, he started eating them and they just tasted off. I don’t know whether it was moldy or just had this weird kind of flavor to them.

But a lot of the sprouted package foods—Annemarie and I have experienced this over the years, where we loved a product, and this is exactly what happened to my friend too, you know? You love a product for a certain amount of time. It’s this raw sprouted thing and it’s really nicely and consciously made. And then you end up getting that one package where there’s either mold, which we’ve experienced before, with a raw sprouted cereal we were eating. We opened it up and started eating it and were like, “Holy crap, this tastes like mold!” And there was mold in it.

And then with my friend, this happened to me, too, with the same product, is that it almost tastes like when you are flossing your back teeth, and maybe you haven’t flossed in a while—I think everyone does it—and you have that bacteria, smelly, tasty kind of like feeling. Fred, are you familiar with that?

Fred: No. [laughs] Yes, yes.

Kevin: No, okay. So I mean, you have that. They almost taste like that, these sprouted nuts or sprouted seeds. To me, that’s pretty much uncontrolled bacteria growth. So essentially, the sprouting and the dehydration process, maybe it wasn’t warm enough to kill the bacteria, which it probably wasn’t, or there was some mold or some bacteria on the existing nut or seed, and it just continued to grow in the package, like it wouldn’t have if it had been roasted to a certain temperature and the bacteria was destroyed.

So just be careful with some of these sprouted package foods. I mean, you might even want to contact the manufacturer and say, “Hey, you know what? Like what are you doing? Do you have bacteria tests every once in a while? Do you have mold tests every once in a while?” And just see what they say, because I haven’t done that, because I’ve stopped eating a lot of them jut because of that fact. I just feel that maybe, if I am going to eat those, I am going to make them myself.

Fred: That’s a good one. I don’t trust these companies. I mean, you might think that it’s healthy, but like you said, Kevin, it’s often like, these are small operations and people are not necessarily familiar with all the procedures to make the food super safe. If it’s packaged and it’s raw, bad combination.

Kevin: It is, actually. It’s not a great combination. Yeah, I think you’re right. Mike Adams has done a good job of testing some of the foods or supplements from these companies, and he found some pretty crappy stuff going on. Not intentional, but just high levels of either heavy metals—particularly aluminum or arsenic, lead—so it happens. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s going to be, you know.

Fred, I might as well just talk about the other one here, too, is for the book. I sent a bunch of things to be tested because I am concerned about heavy metal toxicity and other toxicity, but heavy metal is one that’s pretty much universally recognized by scientists, doctors, and even just everyday people like you and me. And so I sent some seaweed…packages of seaweed products that we’d been eating. And I’m not concerned about the arsenic, because I tested for organic and inorganic arsenic. The organic arsenic, not organic like organic food labeling, but naturally occurring arsenic that your body is able to process efficiently, but the inorganic arsenic that comes from either farming or industry, manufacturing. That’s the one to be concerned.

So the seaweeds are generally clear of the inorganic arsenic, but some of them are not clear of cadmium, and that’s a heavy metal that we really don’t want in our bodies. And so we’ve kind of stepped back from eating a lot of seaweed as well, particularly giving it to Hudson, because he’s just smaller, he’s got a smaller body, just smaller body size, so its potential to be more toxic is greater.

So seaweeds as well are ones that I just feel eat them sparingly. I would be concerned if someone was eating them everyday just because of, at least what we found with our testing, that the cadmium levels are…they’re not super high, but they’re just not low. You know what I mean? It’s just like with heavy metals. it’s like closest to zero is best.

Fred: I have another one where I’ve got a personal experience. And I think it might be related to some bacterial overgrowth like you mentioned with crackers, and it’s raw chocolate. As you know, chocolate is generally, the beans are roasted or the fruit inside, the chocolate fruit. So there are some seeds, and that’s what we use for chocolate. They’re roasted to get that flavor, right? So raw chocolate beans are not roasted, but they’re fermented, and in that fermentation process, I feel that…and in fact, I’m quite convinced that some of the stuff is contaminated.

And what I had…my experience was, this was about five or six years ago, I went to…I was invited to speak at a raw food event here in Quebec. So it was about a two-hour drive from my place, two or three hour drive. I got there, gave the lecture, everything went well. I was on my way back home, but before I left, they gave me like a slice of their chocolate cake made with raw chocolate, right? I got so sick, Kevin, I mean, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. And I only realized that I was sick as I was driving back home. I just had the worst headache, vomiting, nausea; I mean horrible, horribleness. I just literally couldn’t continue driving, so I spent like the night literally puking on the side of the road and shriveled up in my car in a fetus position. Until the next morning, I felt strong enough, or actually I was pretty destroyed by then since…but I felt like I could drive back home, which I could not do in the middle of the night.

I don’t know what it was. It could have been something else, but I feel knowing that the food industry doesn’t use raw chocolate. It’s like an invention of the raw foodists, and for what reason? What benefit do you get out of it being raw? Nothing. So I don’t think, really, I think it’s hype. You can get natural chocolate, and I am all for that, but raw? I don’t see the benefit in there. In fact, it could be potentially dangerous.

Kevin: Well even traditionally, they do a sun drying type process as well. And at the surface, if they’re sun drying on either tarps or leaves, sometimes banana leaves, it gets pretty darn hot right at that surface. So even traditionally, there is a heating process done with chocolate even if there’s no actual fire involved.

I wanted to say one more, and this is probably one that we can’t really…it’s weird, because we shouldn’t really brush over it, but I’m going to not fully cover it and maybe we’ll cover it fully in an article coming up, but it’s cruciferous vegetables. A lot of people…this is all…it’s kind of a funny thing, because it is a heated, it’s almost one of those things where people get a little bit heated about their cruciferous vegetables. So they either defend them or there’s two camps in this space. On one side of the camp, we have people who say if it’s raw, it’s a cruciferous vegetable. And cruciferous vegetables, I mean kale, collards, broccoli, maca is actually a cruciferous vegetable, as well. Let’s see, did I say cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, all these vegetables are in the cruciferous family.

And they…there’s the two camps, there’s two camps. One camp says that you could eat it raw, because it’s raw, it’s good, no matter what. You’re totally fine. The other camp says, “Hey, you have to totally eat it cooked, because it can affect your thyroid.” You don’t want your thyroid to be sluggish because of cruciferous vegetables.

When I went back, I dug into some research a while ago, and I found out that a lot of the study that’s coming out about this, and the reason why people say this, is because there was an animal study done. I forget if it was done on like rabbits or mice or something like that. But they actually fed them cruciferous vegetable seeds. And the cruciferous vegetable seeds, they ate a lot of them obviously, because that’s what they eat. They eat seeds and leaves and greens. They ate a lot of them. And they did find that it affected their thyroid, but the concentration was pretty high in terms of the amount of goitrogens, which are what is affecting the thyroid.

And so the study just…it’s just not that convincing, in terms of the affected, how it translates to how we would be affected by it. But at the same time, people who have low thyroid, there is a small affect of raw cruciferous vegetables on the thyroid. But if you have a high functioning thyroid, if your thyroid functions fine, you can actually eat some raw cruciferous vegetables and be fine.

Essentially what I am saying is this: Is that, if your thyroid is functioning fine, then you could eat some cruciferous vegetables. I wouldn’t overdo it. I wouldn’t just eat all different types of raw cruciferous vegetables all the time, but if your thyroid is not functioning properly, then you can eat it, then I would eat your cruciferous vegetables cooked and that’s pretty much it. It’s not like it needs to be this big fight, it can just be kind of a gauge of what your own personal situation is.

Fred: I think that people eat certain foods not necessarily because they like them, but because they think it’s good for them. So more is better, obviously. If a food is good for me, then I can eat, the more I eat it, the better off I’ll be. But it’s not always the case. I’m not sure that if left on your own, relying on your sense of taste, people would eat like two pounds of kale raw a day. You know?

Kevin: Yeah, it’s true.

Fred: Trust your instincts.

Kevin: Eat like half a leaf. Okay, give me a tomato. The other thing, too, is that…ah, man, I lost my train of thought. It’ll come up later. Maybe I’ll think about it before, if not, we’ll cover it in the article.

Fred: Why don’t we just wrap it up? We don’t need to mention buckwheat sprouts because nobody like eats pounds of it.

Kevin: Yeah, that’s true. I think that’s an old thing, the buckwheat sprouts. I don’t think anyone does. I mean, maybe someone does it, but I don’t think that anyone does that anymore.

Fred: I don’t think it’s an issue.

Kevin: Yeah, cool. Well guys, we hope you enjoyed this. Please comment on iTunes. If you’re listening to this through iTunes, we’d love for you to give us a review. We’ve been stuck at 30. Let’s get it up to 31, at least. I know one of you listening can give us a review on iTunes. Let’s move it up one. Let’s move it up one notch.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Donata says:

    Please, keep on writing the transcripts, they are a real blessing! 🙂 Thank you! 🙂

  2. Dana says:

    Thanks, guys; that was an interesting topic!
    Talking about seaweed: what do you think of a daily intake of spirulina and chlorella supplements? Are those contamined with heavy metals, as well?

  3. Dolores says:

    What about raw carob powder?

  4. Dana says:

    Hello again!
    Do you know where we can find raw maca in the US?

  5. Patrick says:

    Thanks for the podcast!

  6. Ivan T says:

    Its the first podcast I have heard from RenegadeHealth.

    First I would like to say that raw chocolate is good and I have a suspicion that it was not the raw chocolate that made Fred sick. I have made raw chocolate from the tree… that is… I took the beans out of the pods, fermented them for a week (as all chocolate is done), and put in the sun to dry. It could take a few days to dry depending on the cacao beans and the temperature but one can tell by opening them up and seeing the color has changed from purple to brown. This is still considered raw and this is what (as far as I understand) what people are making raw chocolate raw. My girlfriend prepared the rest and whalla – magnificent raw chocolate. Now unless the beans did not dry properly they could mold. But frankly who keeps raw chocolate around that long!? I know of some raw chocolate bar companies that do have longer shelf lives… but here they have been tested. The assumption from Fred that he felt sick from the chocolate cake
    I found unprofessional.

    The maca story surprised me because I have heard from friends that and my own experience that Maca energizes us. Raw maca seems to be the only kind I have seen in powdered form but
    I did,

    What algae were you talking about and from where was it harvested? Reference the tests perhaps would have been nice and I would still like to know.

    Did I understand Kevin right? – the study for the cruciferous plants was done with the seeds of the plant? If this is so then that form could be the culprit. Seeds after all are different in some ways from their leafy parents. A reference to this study would also habve been helpful!

    Its true that we should never overdue any food. That said, many people I know who eat well and therefore tend to listen to their bodies more (even subconsciously), can usually gauge what the right amounts are for them by sight, memory, smell or taste along ((a kind of biological tool from past experience).

    All in all I was hoping to learn something in detail as opposed to touching on things that didn’t give a fully concrete answer.

  7. Elaisa Grace says:

    I bought a small (and very pricey) raw chocolate/ goji bar to treat myself after a grueling Candida cleanse. I won’t mention the name of the company, b/c I have no need to hurt them. Although I did send an email to the company via their web-site, and took the bar back to the local health food store, who promptly pulled them all off their shelves.

    Any way, I broke a little piece off the corner and took a teeny nibble off the very corner of that piece, not even getting into the layer of goji at that point (thank god!). I placed the little piece down on the counter to savor my experience when out came bursting a 2″ white worm! Obviously happy to get out of its prison. Needless to say, that ruined me for that particularly company, who I later found out was certified by a number of boards, including:

    – USDA Organic Certified
    – non-GMO Project Certified
    – Vegan Certified by Earth Kosher
    – Certified Kosher by Earth Kosher
    – Certified Organic by CCOF
    – Certified Vegan by Vegan Action
    – Certified Gluten Free by CSA
    – Member Organic Trade Association

    This list is impressive, but clearly Quality Control leaves something to be desired. Additionally, the handling of food and containers in the local health-food store (Morro Bay, Cali) is deplorable, and I have simply gotten back to making my own salad dressings, wraps, etc. and certainly my own juices and smoothies. The owner of the store has a macrame bracelet with many dangling pieces that is consistently and liberally sa-shayed across the food he is making. The cashier, picked up a cardboard container (for my salad dressing) and not only grabbed it by the inside and outside, but played with it on the tips of her fingers, hand held in the air waiting for the food-prep person to pick it up, and literally contaminated every square centimeter of the inside of this 8 oz. container and the lid, which she failed to handle properly.

    I left the restaurant to shop at the sister store while waiting for my order, and when I came back in, this same “cashier” now had a spray bottle of something, with which she was cleaning the tables! With the same hands that contaminated my container. I mentioned it all to her, took the dressing home, and simply could not bare to eat it.

    Anyway, you bring up some very valid points, and I thank you.


  8. jay says:

    I know Frederic has been to Costa Rica and hopefully he has seen the cacao process.
    We pick up the whole ripe fruit from the tree open it and take out all the pods that come
    covered with a sour substance so we put them in a tank to ferment to get rid of said sourness…
    Then we wash them and dry them. I have eaten them in this state and they are not bad to my
    health( your mileage may vary).

  9. Gg says:

    Great information on raw food

  10. suzanne says:

    Why is buckwheat sprouts not an issue? I am in the dark. I eat them a few times a year, just soak in water to soften for a short time. Is that bad?

  11. Sondra says:

    Thank you for this beneficial information. Just because a food is raw does not necessarily mean it is more nutritious. Such as the case with cassava root. When in doubt, it is Best to do good research first.

  12. Satori says:

    Cruciferous vegetable is an interesting one. I was shocked when I learned Americans eat broccoli raw. I’d never seen a person eating broccoli raw in Japan. Never.

  13. Dana says:

    I’ve experienced excessive heat in my body when eating the raw maca powder.
    so, does that mean I should use the raw gelatinized maca powder that i have only when baking or something?

  14. Abigail says:

    I listened to your conversation on seaweed and heavy metals. I want to mention a product that I bought here in italy. it’s called kydos. practically it’s a type of magnet not an ordinary one. That draws impurity from fruit and vegetables. i have friends who swear to it. however, it would be nice for someone objectively to test it. it’s pretty expensive about 70 euro. But, it would be nice for someone to test it out, even in the case of kelp seaweed to see if it actually does tear out the metals too. let me know if it would be of interested. Regards, Abigail

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