Controversies" is perhaps most useful not as a how-to book
it goes for that angle too), but as the story of someone who's
continuously fought their way toward health, refining their diet and
lifestyle until they overcame the many stumbling blocks in their path
and arrived at something that works.
Author Frederic Patenaude, a long-time raw-food enthusiast and educator
who clearly states that he ocassionally eats some cooked food, walked a
tightrope with the book.
Starting from his teens, he chronicles the many mistakes he's made,
weaving in first-hand experience with some of the biggest names in the
raw food movement, and finishing up with a "what works for me,"
section of his current advice. He includes segments that succinctly
debunk many of the most popular raw diets and health gimmicks, like
Raw Food Controversies: The Big Names
For me, the most fascinating part was his stories about the big names
in the raw food movement from before they'd really made it big, such as
David Wolfe and Gabriel Cousens.
I've always been baffled by the figure of Wolfe, who comes off as a
somewhat laughable snake-oil salesman willing to hawk any product he
can to make a buck, no matter the cost to those who listen to him. Yet
at the same time, Wolfe is the founder of the Fruit Tree Planting
Foundation, a nonprofit that does some fantastic work (I donate to the
organization regularly). It's these and other odd contradictions that
curious about him and his actual beliefs. What could possibly have
created the David Wolfe we know? I hope I can meet him one day so I can
get a sense for what he's actully like.
Patenaude met Wolfe in the mid 1990s before the later's raw food empire
had really taken off, and paints him a friendly, open guy (then
attending law school) who gave Frederic a job, dietary advice, and even
a place to sleep for a few nights.
Yet in the book we see Wolfe as he transforms from a primarily
fruit-fueled raw foodist to one willing to try odder and odder regimes.
I'm all for experimentation, but what's interesting is that Wolfe
appears to embrace new ideas before they've even borne fruit for him,
quickly passing them off as his advice to health seekers like
We also see Wolfe fall under the sway of charismatic individuals who
are enthusiastic about their ideas, even if they don't have much sense
from a nutritional perspective. This is hardly a biography of the man,
but it certainly
provides some interesting anecdotes.
Raw Food Controversies: The Problem With Changing Your
One of the criticisms I foresee of "Raw Food Controversies" is that
Patenaude previously released a number of products endorsing different
approaches to raw foods, including a high-fat recipe book ("Sunfood
Cuisine", a companion book written for David Wolfe's company, which
Patenaude has revamped to include lower fat levels and still sells) and
one that promotes a more natural-hygiene-oriented approach to raw
foods, ("The Raw Secrets", which warns against the high-fat intake
found with most raw food diets).
the plans he laid out in these books always represented what he thought
was best at the time, yet they never brought him the health and energy
he was looking for. They even lead to a mouthful of cavities.
Disclosure: I received a free
preview copy of The Raw Controversies in return for considering it for
a review. Although I've met Frederic Pantenaude and his wife, Veronica,
and consider myself on friendly terms with them, I think this is a
fairly unbiased assessment of the book.
The natural thought is: If the plans in your previous books damaged
and you broadcast them as the best option, why should I trust "Raw Food
Controversies" will be any better?
But I actually don't have this objection, and have a lot of respect for
Patenaude's honesty. I've met more than
a few raw foodists who can't manage to maintain the very diets they
suggest are superior to any others, resorting to binges on fatty meals
foods to take in more calories than their diminutive plans allow. Some
of these people are raw food teachers who promote the very systems that
aren't working for them.
not sure if the move will affect Patenaude's business, but it's
path less traveled. Most authorities, if they
change their suggestions, merely brush the changes off as quibbles or
their earlier ideas as merely less-refined versions of what they
endorse now. Patenaude critiques the downsides of the various
approaches he's tried,
and I'd say all these analyses are accurate. I'd rather see someone
admit that they tried something adventuerous and had problems along the
way than lie about the old plan working great.
Raw Controversies: Fred's Plan
It's important for anyone looking to cast blame to note that "The Raw
Secrets," actually represented the first large-scale turn away from the
high-fat diets that are so popular today. Subsequently, several raw
food teachers, including Dr. Douglas Graham, have supported raw diets
that are grounded with modern nutritional research about fat,
carbohydrate, and protein levels, but this was new territory when "The
Raw Secrets" Came Out.
Frederick points out that the major problem with his diet at that time
was that he was still not getting in enough carbohydrates, a problem he
corrects with "Raw Controversies."
Although I do not endorse cooked food
eating and have a few minor quibbles about some of the information
in "Raw Food Controversies," I think the dietary
recommendations are spot on. The suggested diet is a low-fat one based
around fruits as the main calorie source, with plenty of greens and
limited quantities of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. He also eats
some cooked food.
Patenaude makes it clear that an all-raw diet works quite well, but
also supports a "mostly-raw" plan for those who have trouble staying
raw or desire some cooked food. This includes foods that would
typically be considered great on a cooked vegan diet, such as steamed
and non-glutinous grains like rice. Patenaude says he
eats some cooked food to make travel easier and for variety.
One of the points I'm glad he emphaisizes clearly is the importance of
eating enough calories, whether those be from fruit or low-fat cooked
carbohydrates like potatoes. Failing to eat enough calories, whatever
the diet, will result in binges on fat or unhealthy junk foods.
Raw Food Controversies: In Short
I enjoyed "Raw Food Controversies," and
wouldn't hesitate to suggest it
for someone looking for an interesting read.
Who Should Consider
Reading Raw Food Controversies?
Anyone who is currently eating a raw food diet who
isn't experiencing the vitality and health they desire. Patenaude has
tried just about
every plan out there, and does a good job walking people through the
downsides of each and offering a better plan.
If you want want to read an interesting health
journey told in a
conversational style, or want to find out more
raw food movement's big figures.
Those looking to adopt a partially-raw diet based
around nutritional sense.
Who Will Likely Not Get
Much Out Of The Book?
Established raw foodists who feel that their current
plan is working perfectly.
Those looking for wholly original dietary information
or suggestions not seen elsewhere.