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The Latest: Going raw

Eating raw and organic food isn't just for hippies

 by Kristi Eaton  published on Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Rawsome! Cafe at Gentle Strength Co-op in Tempe sells raw and organic foods.  People from all different walks of life are beginning to consume this healthier food.  Not just hippies anymore./issues/arts/692903
The Rawsome! Cafe at Gentle Strength Co-op in Tempe sells raw and organic foods. People from all different walks of life are beginning to consume this healthier food. Not just hippies anymore.


It's a Friday night in the Rawsome! Cafe in Tempe, home of raw and organic food.

Many customers sport dreadlocks and '70s clothes. One man wears an African tunic while a group of men in business suits munch on raw food. A waiter stands behind the counter, a mellow look on his face.

This is the new scene of organic and raw food places, which are not just for hippies. Ask anyone at the cafe and they'll tell you that in the past year, more and more of mainstream America, including business people, soccer moms and Joe college student, are trying and liking raw or organic food.

Nancy Lewis, a patron at the Rawsome! Cafe, says that although eating raw is great for health reasons, she also just likes the way it tastes.

"It's yummy," she says taking a mouthful of vegetables that have not been cooked.

Raw for Life is the movement behind the cafe. The local organization believes that raw foods, which it also refers to as "living food," is meant to give humans life.

"We believe that by embracing the 'raw' lifestyle, we are that much closer to really living our lives as the Creator intended," reads the group's Web site. "Our goal is to move toward greater awareness of our choices regarding what we put into our bodies and how we live our lives."

Lewis says she eats at Rawsome! Cafe an average of once a week, and like most raw and organic food eaters, she's a vegan. Vegans are people who do not eat any products, including eggs and dairy, that come from animals, while vegetarians simply don't eat meat.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an international organization that advocates animal rights, encourages people to become vegetarian and vegan.

The group's Web site lists 10 reasons why it's time to swear off meat. The site says not eating meat will reverse heart disease, there's a little bit of poop in every package of chicken, eating meat "makes you fat," you wouldn't eat your dog, and when animals feel pain, they scream.

The organization also offers "Pledge to be Veg" start-up kits for people who promise to be vegetarians for at least a month. The kits include recipes, coupons for vegan products and stickers reminding new vegetarians to "stick to it."

Lewis says being vegan can be a challenge at times, considering most menus have few vegan options. But, she says going to Rawsome! allows her to choose from a variety of menus items that won't compromise her dietary guidelines.

She says her favorite menu item is the pizza.

The six types of pizzas at Rawsome! actually look more like salads. There's no dough, no meat and on some, not even any tomato sauce. Instead, the pizzas are made on rice crust and come with various vegetable toppings, garlic, and mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. The cheeses can be substituted for vegan cheese.

Advocates of eating raw and organic food say doing so is beneficial to one's health because organic foods are safer to eat, are more nutritious and taste better because there are no added pesticides, hormones, herbicides, fertilizers or antibiotics.

But that's not what nutritionist Nadine Campbell says.

"There are practically no benefits to eating raw or organic food," Campbell says.

She says the value in terms of micronutrients in organic and inorganic foods is virtually the same. In fact, she says she prefers inorganic fruits and vegetables because she believes they look less mossy.

Campbell adds, however, that there is added fiber in organic foods.

Raw food advocates also believe that any food cooked above 116 degrees changes the molecular structure of the food, causing it to become "toxic" and destroying the necessary enzymes that are needed to properly digest food.

Spanish and German freshman Zachary Muehlenweg prefers to eat organic food as opposed to raw. After doing some research, Muehlenweg became vegan in June and decided to eat organically, as well.

Muehlenweg says he wanted to become healthier.

While some advocates say that eating organic foods increases energy, Muehlenweg is says he's not sure if that's the case.

"It's college," he says, "so it's hard to determine if I have more energy, since I never get any sleep, anyway."

Campbell, the nutritionist, says she is skeptical about people who say they are more energized on a vegan diet.

"When I hear people say they feel more energy, I would ask them to give me a comparison," she says. "Unless there is an accurate comparison, like a diary or daily account of some sort, I would be suspect to it."

English senior Lauren Price disagrees. She says she has felt more energetic since becoming a vegetarian and eating organically.

"There's a misconception that we don't have any energy," she says. "But that's wrong."

Rawsome! Cafe is located on University Drive and Ash Avenue inside the Gentle Strength Co-op.

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