Food in Nature: Raw, Fresh Foods

The following is an excerpt from Doctor Stillman’s online course, “Practical Wellness.” To find out more or to subscribe, visit

In order to understand how food is preserved and the implications of how it is preserved to your health, it is important to understand what food is in its fresh, raw state.

Raw foods are foods that have not been cooked or frozen, meaning that their cellular structures and enzymes are intact. Cooking and freezing gradually break down these structures. Even when refrigerated, enzymes and cellular structures gradually break down. As they break down, they become susceptible to microbes including fungi and bacteria that can be harmful if eaten.

Raw, fresh foods have always been a major part of the human diet because of the enormous energy that otherwise goes into preserving food. Freezing has only become possible in the last few decades. Cooking has become simple with modern technology. Prior to this, cooking required labor to find and gather fuel and start and maintain a fire, not to mention creating cooking implements, pots, and pans. For this reason, a large amount of food was consumed raw. Foods that were preserved were often preserved with fermentation or pickling.

Once it is picked or harvested, food can either be prepared for immediate consumption or it can be preserved. Many foods, like beans and nuts, can remain edible for long periods of time without additional preservation. Ultimately, there are a few key ways in which we modify our food to either make it more palatable, digestible, or to preserve it.

To understand the basic principles behind how to prepare food in a healthy way, you have to understand the basics of food biochemistry and microbiology.

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