Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Douglas Graham and Natural Hygiene

Of all the approaches to health, Natural Hygiene makes the most sense to me rationally, intellectually, and instinctually. It seems to draw upon our natural diet and instincts rather than what the human mind has determined appropriate to eat. In addition, the Natural Hygiene people, Douglas Graham in particular, take a more holistic approach to nutrition.

The holistic view held by Graham and the Natural Hygiene movement questions the value of isolating nutrients and their affect on health. Instead, we need to understand that health-promoting food comes packaged in a combination of elements more numerous than we can know. Micronutrients, many not even discovered yet, work in conjunction with each other. To isolate one vitamin or mineral and think that more or less of it will improve health is to ignore the natural package that nature has provided.

It is possible that we have only discovered about 10 percent of the plant nutrients in existence. This means that our health depends on a lot more than getting what we often think of as all our vitamins and minerals. For Graham only a diet of whole foods will bring about a healthy body. Supplements may reduce and relieve symptoms, but only whole foods create health.

Eating By Design

Natural Hygiene makes the case, and a convincing one, that if you want to know what you should be eating consider what you are designed to eat and what would you eat naturally without cooking or altering the food. Douglas Graham, in his book The 80/10/10 Diet, points out that if you offer an animal all kinds of foods in their natural state the animal will eat what is best for itself. The same should hold for humans.

In Graham’s book he explains that if we were carnivores we would relish the idea of catching an animal with our bare hands and eating it, entrails, fat, blood, bones, flesh, and all. Also, our bodies would be designed to eat other animals. (We’ve discussed this in a previous chapter so we won’t do that here.)

So much for being a carnivore. But what about the other “vores?” Herbivores forage on grass, weeds, and leaves. Unless that greenery is flavored with a great dressing, we do not find it particularly appealing. And it looks that by design we are not really made to eat them either, lacking the proper enzymes for digestion.

Likewise humans, unlike birds, are not all that attracted to grains, the seeds of grasses. We also don’t get all that excited about eating raw tubers and legumes. Starches are just not very digestible by human beings.

How about milk? Surely dairy products do taste good, don’t they? At least in the form of ice cream and cheese. True, but when was the last time you had the urge to suck on the breast of a wild animal, or even a cow or goat? That aside, milk contains casein, possibly one of the most active agents in the cause of cancer and heart disease. No other animal in the world drinks the milk of another animal.

Dr. Graham also takes a swipe at nuts and all high-fat plants. Humans have a difficult time digesting them and the fats are trapped in the intestine for long periods of time, causing all kinds of problems.

Everyone knows that humans are omnivores. We can eat just about anything. Yes, that may be the case, but a true omnivore thrives on everything just mentioned. As was stated before, being able to do something doesn’t mean it is the best thing to do. Just because I can eat all of the above doesn’t mean that I should.

So, given that all of these foods are unnatural to humans, what then are we to eat? Fruit. Fruit is the only food that in its natural state is appealing to us. And, best of all, we are designed perfectly to digest and utilize the plentiful carbohydrates in fruit. Fresh, ripe, raw fruit comes wrapped with digestible fiber, making sure that the fruit sugars enter our system gradually and for longer periods of time.

Humans, according to Graham, are frugivores, designed to live on fruit and tender greens. Think about it, fruits are the only food that all on its own can attract human beings. We see fruit growing and eat it just as it is. Certain greens have the ability to attract us also.

In my garden, I go for the tomatoes, a fruit. At the same time that we are naturally attracted to the sweetness in fruit we just happen to be biologically designed to utilize and absorb the nutrients in fruits. This is the argument that really gets me. Of all the diets out there, the fruit diet makes the most sense logically and instinctually. We are naturally attracted to fruit and our bodies easily digest and utilize fruit.

Fruit: Facts, Fears, and Fats

Large quantities and even small quantities of fruit consumption is feared. Fruit is believed to cause high blood-sugar, which can cause diabetes, candida, chronic fatigue, and other illnesses. Eating fruit puts too much sugar into our blood. But Graham argues that fruit is not the problem, but fats.

Fruit, when eaten naturally, becomes a sugar in our body and then goes into the blood stream quickly and out of it into our cells, where it provides us nourishment. No problem. Primates eat enormous amounts of fruit.

The most significant contribution that Dr. Graham makes to our conversation here is this: a high-fat diet, one which nearly all of us have, makes it nearly impossible for fruit do get out of the blood stream and into our cells. Too much fat in the blood makes it difficult for fruit sugars to get out of our blood, causing high blood sugar.

Fatty food, making a thin coating of fat on the blood-vessel walls, cell receptor sites, and sugar molecules themselves, in essence, gum up the whole works. The fats in our diets prevent the fruit that we eat from doing its job. And then fruit gets all the blame.

The thing is, we need the wonderful carbohydrates that fruit gives us to do most of the things we do. Without healthy carbs all sorts of disease and distress occur.

Fats take a long time to pass through the intestines, blood-stream, and into the cells. The whole process can take up to twenty-four hours. I used to think that I was safe if I ate fruit on an empty stomach. Wrong. My stomach may be empty, but my blood is not. It may still have fat floating around if I haven’t gotten my consumption down to the level that Dr. Graham recommends.

If you remember anything at all from this chapter it is this: be very careful about how much fat you eat. Too much sabotages the essential work of fruit, and we all need lots of fruit. That is what we are designed to eat. So, if in the past you have had problems with fruit, it wasn’t the fruit, it was probably the fat.

Balancing Calories: 80/10/10

The cornerstone of Dr. Graham’s approach to excellent health is the need to balance the source of calories in one’s diet. We get our calories from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The ratio of these three nutrients is vital to health, longevity, and energy. That ratio should be 80/10/10: a minimum 80 percent calories coming from carbohydrates, a maximum of 10 percent coming from protein, and a maximum 10 percent coming from fats.

This is the ratio that results when humans eat a mostly fruit diet. In the wild, primates like ourselves, thrive on mostly fruits and tender greens. According to Graham, this ratio for chimps, bonobos, and orangutans (our closest cousins genetically), is 88/7/5.

Another argument for this ratio is that the longest living peoples approximate these percentages. The Abkhasians, the Vilcabambans, and the Hunza, all consume around 70 percent of their calories in carbohydrates while obtaining about 15 percent from fat and 15 percent in protein.


Our bodies convert carbohydrates into simple sugars. Simple sugars, like glucose, are the fuels that run the engines of our bodies. We need carbohydrates for energy and health. Fresh fruits are the optimal source. Water-soluble fiber in fruit allows the sugars to be absorbed slowly into the blood stream.

There are other ways of obtaining carbohydrates, grains, tubers, and legumes, being the obvious sources. Corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, carrots, beans, all make up a significant part of the American diet. In fact, these are the carbohydrates that most people think of when they think carbohydrates.

Many people are even aware that complex carbohydrates are better than processed. Whole wheat bread is better than white bread. There is a problem though. Grains, primarily wheat, cause all kinds of illnesses. Gluten intolerance is involved in the development of diabetes, arthritis, asthma, constipation, fibromyalgia, and autism.

Refined carbohydrates are essentially junk food, providing empty calories, and leave the body with no nutritional value. These empty calories simply accelerate the aging process.

Fresh, whole fruits provide carbohydrates without the problems. Easily digested and utilized, fruit should make up 80 percent of our calorie intake. Fruit is the least toxic and most nutritious source of energy for the human body. Human beings originated in the tropics, we evolved eating tropical foods, fruits. This is what we are designed to eat, our natural diet.


The protein myth. The need created by the meat and dairy industry. Protein, we must have our protein. Where do I get my protein if I’m a vegan? The thing is: most of us eat way more than is good for us. We are not in danger of getting too little protein, but we are in danger of getting too much.

If anyone needs protein, it is a baby when growth is at its greatest. So how much protein does breast milk contain? Only 6 percent of its calories come from protein. If we do not need a lot of protein then, why would we need more as adults? How much does the typical diet provide us? Around 15 percent, three times as much. And the only reason it is as low as that is that the high protein foods we eat, meats and dairy products, have even more amounts of fat.

The overconsumption of protein is a serious problem. Too much protein causes too much acid to form in the human body. (This comes from acidic minerals: chlorine, phosphorus, sulfur.) The body wants the bloodstream to be in balance between acidity and alkalinity. Protein throws the balance off and so the body takes calcium, an alkaline mineral, from our bones and teeth, to restore this balance. This results in arthritis, osteoporosis, liver and kidney problems, autoimmune problems, and premature aging.

The thing is, animals are a bad source of protein anyhow. When we cook meat we destroy half of the protein. And what is left, the body has to break down into amino acids. The body doesn’t make protein from animal protein, but from amino acids. The advantage of getting protein from fruits and vegetables is that the body doesn’t have to break down the protein; it is already in the form of amino acids.

The best part of plant based protein is that you eat a lot less to get a lot more, more of what your body really needs. You are not adding more toxicity to your body in the form of hormones, antibiotics, and drugs given to the animals that you eat. Eat your fruits and vegetables and you don’t have to even think about protein again.


It is no surprise that a low fat diet is healthy. What is a surprise is how low low is. According to the USDA 20 to 35 percent of our calories should come from fats. Dr. Graham recommends no more than 10 percent. He is supported in this by Dr. Dean Ornish, the Pritikin Longevity Center, and Dr. T. Colin Campbell in his book The China Study. The only reason the USDA recommends more is a result of the influence of the meat and dairy industries.

Besides causing weight and cholesterol problems, why limit our fat intake? Because fat in our blood makes it difficult for oxygen to reach our cells. It prevents fruits from delivering the sugars that we need for energy and healthy bodily functions.

If you are going to consume fat it should come from whole foods and not oil. Oil is stripped of the fiber, which keeps fats from going rancid. Oil is pure fat. It is best to get your fats from fresh nuts, seeds, and avocados. Oil is a processed food providing empty calories.

Dr. Graham takes a chapter of his book to warn that many people who eat only raw food eat way too much fat. When people convert to raw food diets they tend to eat a lot of food with fat in order to feel satisfied. Many raw food recipes use nuts and seeds to mimic cooked foods. This negates all the benefits of eating raw foods. Also, by eating so many fatty foods they end up not eating as much fruit as they need to. Instead of feeling energized and healthy, their bodies become clogged up with too much fat. (Many vegetarians are not all that healthy because they consume a lot of dairy products.)

Making It Work

Natural Hygiene and the 80/10/10 diet are the most radical of all the approaches to raw food. They are the most difficult to implement. Since they require the reduction and elimination of so much protein and fat, a person trying to eat this way will starve and find it nearly impossible to do unless they significantly increase the amount of fruit eaten.

I honestly believe that Natural Hygiene is the healthiest way to go. Fats do hinder fruits from providing the fuel that our bodies need. Protein, besides causing all kinds of problems with too much acidity in the blood and the depletion of calcium, is a major factor in heart disease and cancer, as proven by the China Study. And fruits and vegetables are what we humans are designed to eat.

There is one problem in this. Getting rid of fats and proteins and living on only fruits and vegetables is an incredibly difficult task. How do they do it? According to the Natural Hygiene forums and testimonials it is done by gradually increasing the amount of fruit consumed at every meal. Always eat your fruit first so it doesn’t get stuck fermenting behind the heavier foods. Eat much more than you think you should. Successful people on this type of diet typically eat two pounds of fruit at a meal. They also eat a whole head of lettuce at dinnertime.

Whether you incorporate the whole 80/10/10 diet or not, the ideas in this program are the gold standard of the raw food movement.

The Best of Douglas Graham

The most important lessons from the writing and research of Dr. Graham are these: 1.) make fruit the central and largest part of your diet 2.) seriously keep your consumption of fats to a minimum 3.) avoid meats and dairy because they contain too much protein and fat. We need to eat a lot more fruit than we think. We probably are eating a lot more fat than we should. And a vegan diet is best because vegans do not stuff their bodies with animal protein, toxic hormones, and body-clogging fats.

While following Graham’s 80/10/10 diet may be hard to accomplish, at least seeing it as a goal to reach, or an incentive, this is better than being ignorant of the ideal. I could see a time in my life, especially as I get older, where a light diet, based on easily digested fruits, would be so attractive. The less our bodies have to work on digesting our food, the more energy we have left over to live our lives to the fullest.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Back Home

I am back home from my trip to Viet Nam and still recovering from jet lag. More than anything I am missing my daily dose of durian. The stinky, spikey, delicious fruit, that I became addicted to is not available here in Rhode Island, but I'm going to try and find out how I can get some.

This was my first trip ever that I was able to eat more fruits and vegetables than I do at home. The selection of fresh tropical fruits was outstanding. Even the vegetables were special. I ate at least a head of lettuce a day.

I came home losing three pounds and my blood pressure being normal. That is a first. Usually I eat out for dinner when away, and I did this time, but the choices of healthy food in Viet Nam were excellent, so much better than Latin America. Even thought the food wasn't raw, it was light and mostly vegan.

Looking forward to going back in the fall. Thinking about getting certified to teach English as a foreign language. That would give me something useful to do in that wonderful country.