[5:13] About Melissa Henig
[7:08] Melissa’s Typical First Meal of The Day
[8:19] What Made Melissa Go Into A Raw Diet
[10:09] What A Typical Day of Eating For Melissa Is Like
[12:33] Why We Need Raw Animal Fat
[16:49] What Cooked Foods Melissa Eats
[18:10] What Cooking Methods Melissa Uses
[21:52] Eating Raw Chicken
[26:12] Eating The Raw Fat With The Raw Meat
[32:48] Quick Commercial Break/GainsWave
[35:35] Melissa’s Take on Taking Probiotic Capsules
[41:51] Raw Protein Being Easier To Digest
[50:05] Raw Cheese and Raw Butter
[53:04] Raw Eggs
[57:42] Cooking Increasing The Bioavailability and Digestibility Of Some Foods
[1:03:43] End of Podcast
Ben: If you think eating raw meat is gross, you probably don’t want to listen to this episode. Actually, it is a pretty interesting episode. I started trying more raw things, although I haven’t tried raw chicken yet. Anyways, yeah, raw chicken. You’re going to learn a lot in today’s show. But speaking of meat, did you know that you can actually sprinkle digestive enzymes on to meat, and like pre-digest it, and use it as a meat tenderizer if you happen to be stuck up the creek without a paddle and you need some extra meat tenderizer. But that same type of digestive enzyme, or also what’s called a proteolytic enzyme, can break down protein that you eat and increase the usable amount of amino acids available to your body, and one of the bestest enzymes out there, especially if you combine it with something called P3-OM, which is a protein digesting probiotic, it’s called MassZymes. So what you do is you combine MassZymes and P3-OM, and you massively, see what I did there, increase the amount of protein absorption you get from any protein-rich food, steak, chicken, protein powder, you name it.
So you want to increase the usable amount of protein in your body because that means more amino acids in your bloodstream, that means, bigger stronger muscle fibers, that means better neurotransmitter availability, that means enhancement of the immune system, and all sorts of cool things that happen when you actually get the amino acids from the food that you’re eating rather than having undigested proteins just kind of pass through and get pooped out. So you can check this stuff out, this one-two combo of MassZymes and what’s called P3-OM, which is again a protein digesting probiotic, if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/biopt, B-I-O-P-T. As in BiOptimizers. They’re the company that make these two supplements, this one-two combo of digestive enzymes and probiotics. You get 10% when you go to that URL. You don’t need a discount code or anything. Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/BIOPT, bengreenfieldfitness.com/biopt.
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In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Clean animals produce clean food and sick animals are going to give you sick food. So I’ll go to farms and I’ll talk to farmers, I’ll ask questions, I make sure the chickens aren’t fed any corn, or soy, or anything that’s going to get into their tissues and then get into what I’m eating and into me.” “Raw meat’s actually very detoxifying. All raw foods are. They have enzymes that are detoxifying, they have bacteria, the protein. Raw meats would make detoxifiers, so I eat the fat with it because the fat is going to soak up the toxins and help escort them to my bowels to be eliminated.”
Ben: Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield, and my guest on today’s show eats raw. And I’m not talking about like raw kale or raw carrots, but actually raw meat. Like a lot of raw meat. I mean I’m talking not just like raw dairy and raw eggs, but raw beef and yes, raw chicken. And she has a whole book about it. I just finished reading this book and it blew my mind, the number of things that someone who’s not like some hairy hippie living out in the forest is eating completely uncooked, and her name is Melissa Henig, and she’s a health coach, she’s a nutrition enthusiast, and she leads what she calls a raw lifestyle. And in this book, the book’s called “Raw Paleo: The Extreme Advantages of Eating Paleo Foods In The Raw”, Melissa says that raw foods are powerful medicine and offer a distinct health advantage over cooked food. So we’re going to find out what she means by that today. Melissa, welcome to the show.
Melissa: Hi, Ben. Thanks for having me.
Ben: Yeah. And I have so many questions for you about this book. But the very first one, I think just to lead us in here, is like in terms of kind of a typical day of eating for you, we’re recording this in the morning, did you have breakfast already today?
Melissa: I have not had breakfast. I usually do, it’s not quite a full intermittent fasting, but I always skip a good 12, 13 hours in between eating, and today is longer than that. So I’m not a big, like I-have-to-wake-up-and-start-eating-person.
Melissa: I definitely am drinking tea though with butter in it.
Ben: Once you do eat, what would a typical meal be for you that you would have to like start the day?
Melissa: So usually in the mornings I wake up and I’m not running to the fridge eating food, but I really crave a green juice. I always start the morning, I want to alkalize, I just had all these toxins come out during the night and I just want something that’s going to remove toxins. So I start with green juice, and then I wait an hour and I go right into all my raw saturated fats. Raw cheese, raw butter.
Ben: And when you say raw saturated fats, is that really what it is? Raw cheese and raw butter? You just like put those onto a plate and just like dive in with a fork and a knife?
Melissa: I do. My raw saturated fats are always in the form of raw dairy. I’m doing raw cheese, raw cream, raw butter, raw milk. That’s always a staple in the mornings.
Ben: Okay. Got it. And I realize that that’s not quite as sexy as raw meat, which we’ll get into, but I also am going to ask you later on, you have some interesting reasons that you do the raw dairy so I definitely want to get into that. But before we get into that, like what actually made you start doing this? I mean, I assume at some point in your life you were eating cooked foods and then you made a switch to not cooking your food?
Melissa: Right. I made a switch, seven years ago I was introduced to the raw vegan diet. So that got me on my path. I was so excited. I found out about this new diet that was going to give me so much energy. And that lasted a year, and I didn’t have energy, and I was on this raw food path, and I had this mindset of not cooking my food, the living food in a living form. And then after a year, I just started noticing my muscle mass was decreasing, I was tired. I was so disappointed. Like where did this energy go? I was really having fun with the diet, but I realized things were missing. Things like whole food groups were missing, my raw dairy and my raw meat, and we had a store down at Venice Beach called Rawesome, and so it was a raw co-op where it was like serving a lot of raw meat and raw chicken dishes, and we were getting all our raw dairy from the Amish. And so I was going there all the time and just buying anything I could that was raw vegan. And the folks kept saying, “You know, you should really try this other way. You should try some of this raw meat.” And I tried it, I mean one day I tried the raw meat and it was steak tartare, it had egg yolk in the middle, and I’ve never looked back. My body just said, “Yes!” Like, “This feels good. You need this.” And I got stronger and stronger, and I just started eating pounds of butter and all this raw meat. I’ve definitely balanced out these days. It’s like I go the full extreme into something and then it just makes its way into a nice balance.
Ben: Okay. So you talked about some of these raw dairy foods that you’re going to eat a little bit after you finish your fast, like the raw cheese and the raw butter, but what would the rest of the day look like for you as far as what your actual diet intake, like a typical day of eating after you’ve kind of broken your fast?
Melissa: Right. Well when I break the fast, I usually do the raw fats, and sometimes I just do the raw eggs, Rocky style. Like right away, that’ll ignite my brain. I just take them down a glass like Rocky did. And then most of my day is smoothies because they’re such nutrient dense smoothies. They have so much fat, they have a raw milk base, I put a lot of probiotics in the form of raw kefir in there, and the raw eggs. I mean that’ll take me until dinner. And I’ll just have a little fistful of steak tartare. The whole thing about this diet is it’s so satiating. I’m never in a starvation mode and I don’t need as much food. It’s really the quality, I’m sourcing really good raw meats. And so I have these smoothies that take me through the day, and of course some raw cheese and some bites of raw butter along the way, and then I’ll have a little fistful of some type of raw meat for dinner. And sometimes I’ll do bone broth for dinner, and I do incorporate a little bit of cooked food as well.
Ben: Now when you saw a fistful of raw meat, are you just like literally buying the meat at the grocery store, and coming back, and opening a package, and just kind of like taking out a fistful and tossing ’em out on a plate? Or what do you mean when you say a fistful of raw meat?
Melissa: I guess I’m using the fist as the quantity, the size. But it just sounds like I’m just digging into the bag, which I…
Ben: I mean it’s sounds really easy, for example, I had chicken satay last night and I had to put the peanut sauce on it, and put it on the skillet, and cook it up. I mean I suppose I could have just taken out a fistful of chicken and tossed it in a blender based on your logic here.
Melissa: You know, it’s really easy, and really fast, and really convenient. Yes.
Ben: Interesting. Okay, so I have so many questions here. Okay. So here is the first thing that I am curious about before we delve into the raw meat thing, ’cause I definitely have some questions about that. But let’s start with the fats. I mean you kind of just alluded to how like eggs kind of give you a pick-up for your brain and how you start the day with the raw butter and the raw cheese. Now one of the things that you say in the book is that our brain and our nervous system require raw animal fat in order to function optimally. Why do you say that? Why do we need raw animal fat?
Melissa: Yeah. Most of my studies go back from, my mentor was Aajonus Vonderplanitz. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, he wrote “The Primal Diet”.
Ben: That is a mouthful. So what’s his name?
Melissa: It’s Aajonus Vonderplanitz.
Melissa: So he’s the main guy that introduced the raw, well besides Weston A. Price, Aajonus started eating 35 years ago the raw meats and a lot of the raw animal fats.
Ben: How are you going to spell his first name? Just in case I want to look up this book and put it in the show notes for folks.
Melissa: Oh, yes. Definitely. It’s bible. It’s A-A-J-O-N-U-S.
Melissa: A lot of people that have heard of the raw primal diet, or I have actually turned it into the raw paleo diet so that it would be a little more friendly and I’ve brought in the raw dairy aspect to it, but it started out originally as the raw primal diet. And you’ll see that a lot of people that are into this they know of Aajonus.
Ben: Okay, yeah. I see him here on Amazon. So we’ve definitely got a few books that it appears that he’s written. I’ll put up links to these in the show notes. So if you guys are listening in, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/rawmeat. It looks like he wrote “The Recipe For Living Without Disease” and “We Want To Live: The Primal Diet”. Hopefully he doesn’t get sued by Mark Sisson. Doesn’t Mark Sisson also have a book called “The Primal Diet”?
Melissa: They had some things going on. Aajonus…
Melissa: But, yeah. There’s some things in the past there. I’m not [0:14:04] ______ up on it. But yeah, so I’m actually carrying on his work. I was introduced to his work through the store Rawesome, and I believe in it, and it feels good. And so that’s part of what I do too is carry on the raw primal diet.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. And so this idea behind the raw fats, raw animal fat, first of all, why does it have to be raw? Why wouldn’t cooked animal fats be just as good for our brain and our nervous system to function optimally?
Melissa: Right. So Weston A. Price studied that our ancestors ate a lot of cooked and raw, but mostly the animal fats were raw. Well, when you cook the fats up to 93 degrees, it’s changing the whole shape, chemistry, structure, size. Everything’s changing. So the body doesn’t recognize it as well. Like think of pasteurized dairies. So many people cannot tolerate or handle pasteurized dairy. It’s cooked, it’s totally denatured and they’re fine on raw. It’s like 98% of people can do a raw dairy, that I’ve talked to and interviewed. And so it’s the whole concept of cooking that the fat is pasteurizing it, it’s changing the whole structure in the body. It’s just like “what is this?” It can’t take it in as well as the raw form that nature intended. And if you overcook it, if you cook fats, I mean there are toxins that are formed. The lipid peroxides are formed when you overcook fat.
Ben: Right, right. And so what you’re saying is when you cook, that’s essentially a form of pasteurization if you were to take things, let’s say, well, give me an example of an animal fat. Are you referring to just like butter and cheese, for example? Are you talking more about like the marbley parts that we’d find in meat, or the marrow, or other forms of fat?
Melissa: Right. All of them. Even the fat on the meat. The fat in the bone marrow, for sure I eat raw. I just scrape it out of the bone. But, yeah. So cooking the milk, cooking the butter, cooking the cheese, all of that. I mean, I even would go out every now and then have some bites of pasteurized cheese, and it’s believable what it does to me, the effects of it. So I’m just really a believer, the raw saturated fats that are going to be much more healing. It’s not like something’s going to kill you if you slow cook the meat or anything. But if you want to get the most out of it, that’s…
Ben: Okay. So your logic here is you’re trying to completely avoid any oxidation whatsoever in the fats that you’re consuming by just consuming the animal fats, particularly in the raw form?
Melissa: Right, right.
Ben: Okay. Do you, by the way, eat any cooked foods at all? If so, what would you eat that would be cooked?
Melissa: I do lately. For a long time, I didn’t. I was really rigid. But now I’m just a little more relaxed with it. So if I eat cooked food, I definitely cooked veggies. That’s one thing I don’t eat raw. We’re just not equipped to digest, to break down the cellulose wall of the plants. So if I’m going to eat vegetables, I cook them and put a ton of raw butter on them. What else do I eat that’s cooked? Every now and then, I go out for a grass-fed burger and I ask the restaurant to do it as rare as possible. They look at me like I’m nuts. I’m like…
Ben: Will they, if you tell them you just want it completely raw, I’ve never tried this at a restaurant, but will they just not cook it? Or are restaurants not allowed to do that?
Melissa: They’re really not allowed to. Sometimes they know who I am ’cause I’ll only go into certain ones and I go so many times, and they will cook it really, really raw. It’s called a “5-second burger”. It’s just is five seconds, literally, on each side. The middle is kind of cold.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. Well the chefs must love you. You’re at least very low maintenance, when it comes to your burger that is.
Melissa: And the butchers too.
Ben: Now you also talk a little bit in the book, you mention a couple of cooking methods that you use, or that you consider to be less damaging or less oxidizing to the foods that you eat. The boiling and the sous vide, are those two methods that you use quite a bit?
Melissa: The sous vide method, it’s a French method, I actually, I don’t use that at home. There’s a restaurant in Berkeley though that, Mission Heirloom, I don’t know if you’ve heard…
Ben: Yeah. I’ve been to Mission Heirloom.
Melissa: Oh. Yeah, they’re amazing.
Ben: It’s like a molecular gastronomy kitchen. The thing that sticks out of my mind from last time I was there was I had cricket cookies dipped in camel’s milk, and then also a beet infused raw salmon served over some kind of a cream that they made that head like a liquid nitrogen infused in it to turn into some kind of a moose. It’s that kind of restaurant.
Melissa: Wow. Yeah. I mean it’s really, really amazing. They’re the ones that introduced me to the sous vide method. I know you went to their kitchen, but it was these really big pieces of equipment that they were using.
Ben: Yeah, I did go into their kitchen. Yep.
Melissa: Yeah. They literally put the food under a vacuum and they cook it really, really slowly at really low temperatures for a really long time. And if I’m going to cook a little bit here and there, I don’t quite get into that. But I think that that’s fine, and healthy, and it keeps the temperatures low. It’s under 140.
Ben: Right. And we’ve talked a little bit about sous vide on the show before, but it’s just a method of cooking where you use like a vacuum sealed plastic pouch, and it’s like a temperature controlled bath. They make home units now for sous vide. My wife and I were actually talking the other day about potentially getting one to help kind of evenly cook the food that we eat. But also it’s one of those deals where you literally put the food in that you want to cook, and when I say cook, it’s at a relatively low heat. It’s kind of similar to boiling, from what I understand, in terms of the friendliness that it has to fats that might oxidize or meats that might form like amines or other things like that when cooked at high temperatures. And it’s a very interesting way to cook. Do you use, or do you own like a home sous vide unit yourself?
Melissa: I don’t. ‘Cause I just keep it so simple and I eat a lot of raw. So I would definitely eat that food, and I love that restaurant, and you guys cooked it, I’d eat, but yeah, I don’t have one at home.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. There’s one I believe, it’s called the Mellow, it’s a really sexy unit I’ve been looking at. I’ll try and hunt down and I’ll link to one of the show notes for you, but it’s like a sous vide form of cooking but it’s like a piece of art that you could put on your counter. So I’ll hunt it down, and try and find it, and link to that in the show notes for folks who are listening in. But you do a little bit of boiling, you know a little bit of sous vide, but then most everything else is just raw?
Melissa: Yeah. It’s mostly raw. And like I said, socially, if I go out, I’ve learned to just really, if someone’s putting a lot of love and good intentions into the food and it’s organic, it’s not going to like it to harm me. Yeah.
Ben: Okay. So you aren’t necessarily dogmatic or religious about this. Like you’ll actually eat food that’s been cooked?
Melissa: Yeah, yeah, yeah. People that know me know that I’m not dogmatic because I’m not telling anyone to go 100% raw or 100% anything. I am like saying, I don’t want people to be afraid of food. I want to ship the paradigm about cooking meat and bringing in as much raw as possible, but I’m definitely easygoing about it.
Ben: Right. So what about chicken? You get into chicken in the book, and I’m curious a.) how you get past some of the cleanliness or parasitic issues, things like that that you see people complain about with chicken, and then also how do you actually eat raw chicken?
Melissa: Yeah. Raw chicken, well I have no fear of it all. To me, and it’s all about sourcing a clean animal. Clean animals produce clean food, and sick animals are going to give you sick food. So I’ll go to farms, and I’ll talk to farmers, and I’ll ask questions. I make sure that chickens aren’t fed any corn, or soy, or anything that’s going to get into their tissues, and then get into what I’m eating, and then to me. So the first step is sourcing clean chicken. And I think about a chicken that I go to the farm and I see them running around in this grass and in this dirt, they’re eating bugs, they’re soaking up sunlight, I don’t see how anything could be different than eating raw meat, or a raw fish, or any animal, any clean animal. So I can eat the chicken by soaking it in lemon and that’s a form of cold cooking it.
Ben: Ah. So it’s almost like a ceviche.
Melissa: It’s a chicken ceviche. I have no problem eating it just raw too and sashimi style ’cause the ceviche does denature it a bit with the lemon. So, yeah. The ceviche is amazing though. When you take it, when you squeeze it out of the lemon once it’s sitting in there for 24 hours in the fridge, the pieces of chicken, they look white. They look and they feel cooked. They have a cooked texture, a cooked feel and they’re just not denatured by the heat in any way, the proteins and the fats.
Ben: That’s really interesting. I’ve done that when I’ve been spear fishing, for example. We’ll just take lines and salt on the boat, or lemons and salt on the boat and literally fillet the fish. And within ten minutes of doing a little bit of a lemon or a lime soak, you can already see a lot of the proteins being pre-digested and broken down. I’d never thought about doing it with chicken. How long are you actually leaving the lemon? Or did you use lime as well? Or just lemon?
Melissa: I just use lemon and I put it in a glass jar. I cut the chicken into quarter-inch pieces, put them in a glass jar, and then cover the chicken with lemon juice. And I leave it in the fridge overnight for 24 hours.
Ben: Okay. Got it. And then what kind of things would you mix that with?
Melissa: Oh, there are so many. So that goes to all the recipes in the book. I have a basil raw cream recipe, there’s a cayenne chicken, a curry. I mean you could make anything using that raw chicken as the base. And it’s really delicious.
Ben: Now in terms of the parasites issue, I know that there are concerns about parasites in even things like raw organic grass-fed meat, or even chickens. Do you get that concerned about parasites?
Melissa: I’m not concerned about parasites because I’m sourcing clean one. But parasites, they have a synergistic role in our gut. I mean they have a job to do. People take it so far these days where they’re eating parasites to detoxify, to clean up waste. So that’s one of their main roles.
Ben: It’s called helminthic therapy, I believe.
Melissa: Oh, is that what it is?
Ben: I think that’s the technical term for it. But yeah, this idea that parasites can be like these symbiotic organisms that actually can assist your body with like eating small toxic matter or these little microscopic worms that can help to get rid of things like chemicals, and metals, and radiation, and food additives, and things along those lines. They may have like the symbiotic relationship with the body. At the same time, there are some parasites I would want to be careful with right?
Melissa: Well, right. I mean there are. If you keep a really clean environment, internally too, because people always want to blame the pathogen, blame the bacterium, blame parasites when it’s like we need to take responsibility too. Because if there’s no food, the parasites are, they’re not going to have anything to eat. If there’s not a lot of waste and a lot of cleanup you won’t have a problem, but if somebody is really toxic, the parasites have a huge job to do. And then what happens is they start pooing, so now you like have even more massive amounts of parasite poop. So that’s when it becomes a problem is when you’re not, have a clean environment to start too.
Ben: Now, you’re careful. You mention in the book how when you eat raw meat, you try to include the raw fat along with the raw meat. Why is that?
Melissa: Right. Well in nature, you always find a fat and a protein together. In the egg, it’s a fat and a protein. On the meat, there’s a fat in a protein. They come together. So the protein, let’s say protein powders without the fat, they rapidly will deplete vitamin A. That’s one reason. The raw butter with my raw meat is going to make sure that I’m getting the vitamin A. But the raw fat is also, it’s helping all the nutrients absorb. It’s that has the activators in there that are going to help everything assimilate better.
Ben: You mean like vitamin K, and vitamin D, vitamin E, et cetera?
Melissa: Vitamin K, yeah, the activators.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. When you say the activators, you mean what we would refer to like when you look at, say, Western A. Price, what he referred to as the things that help to activate a lot of the components of the nutrients you find in food?
Melissa: Yeah, exactly. And then last reason why eat the fat with the meat is, so raw meat’s actually very detoxifying. All raw foods are there. They have enzymes that are detoxifying, they have bacteria, the protein. Raw meat’s a big detoxifyer, so I eat the fat with it because the fat is going to soak up the toxins and help escort them to my bowels and eliminate it.
Ben: Yeah. That’s actually something a lot of people don’t realize. I mean, so it’s kind of this corollary to when you lose weight, or I’ve even talked about a lot of the lipolysis that can occur when one, for example, uses infrared sauna or other forms of light therapy to assist with detoxification. You get things like rashes and what’s called like, in some cases, like a Herxheimer reaction, and all sorts of issues that happen as you lose weight rapidly, or as you do a lot of like sauna type of treatments because fat cells store toxins in your body and then release those when your lysing the fat cells open as you burn them through exercise, or heat, or lowering your caloric intake, et cetera. But you kind of make the point in the book that when you eat fats with meats, the fats are operating the same way in the meat, they’re actually absorbing some of the toxins that you might find in meat.
Melissa: Right. Yes, exactly.
Ben: And you also, you mentioned, by the way, the bacterial profile of meat and you say that the actual probiotics can have a detoxification effect as well?
Melissa: Yeah. Well bacteria is, we’re dependent on bacteria. We evolved with bacteria and it plays such a major role in our health. It manufactures vitamins, and not just the vitamins in digesting food, but actually parasites. It eats massive amounts of waste as well. So bacteria is very detoxifying. Any type of probiotic is going to be cleaning things up, and meat it’s just like the raw milk, it has a natural bacteria on it. And that’s another reason I don’t want to kill the bacteria with the heat because that’s for me, raw meat is eating a raw probiotic, and it’s bringing a diversity of bacteria. It’s not just certain strains, but I’m getting it in raw meat, raw dairy, and vegetables.
Ben: Yeah. There is some interesting research behind probiotic consumption and the ability to be able to clean up the body. I talked about this a little bit, I was talking about different ways on working on kind of detoxing my body in 2017. I’m doing like a three month detoxification to start things off and I’m doing a lot of fermented foods because there’s some really interesting research on like the ability of probiotic strains to do things like cause a higher excretion of bisphenol A, like the BPA that we find on printer receipts, and on money, and in canned foods. You actually find higher excretion of that in the fecal matter of, in this case animal models, but animal models supplementing with probiotics. I know lactobacillus has been studied for like binding and removing of heavy metals. There is another one I mentioned on that same podcast, kimchi, I don’t know if you do much kimchi, but that’s one that’s been found to degrade a ton of these different like phosphorus-based pesticides that we find in food. And I think they’ve also looked into kimchi for being able to break down like a lot of the nitrites and the nitrates we find in, speak of the devil here, like heavily cooked or heavily processed meat. So, yeah. It’s interesting. A lot of people don’t think about probiotics as having a detoxification effect, but they’ve actually got a lot of good research behind those for everything from heavy metals, to pesticides, to some of the things that you might find in meet. And I suppose this kind of correlates to what you talk about when you talk about pasteurization or high heat cooking and the ability to kill some of the bacteria in the meat. Do you know, by the way, offhand, if there are any studies that have compared bacterial profile of like raw versus cooked meat?
Melissa: You know, I have definitely done a lot of research. No one really funds those studies. There’s not a lot on that, on the bacterial profile. I just know that there is a natural bacteria on it, but I wouldn’t know the scientific of it.
Ben: Yeah. Well, I would imagine there’s just more bacteria in raw meat in general. I’m sure that you could do a pretty easy experiment on your own to find that out if you were to like observe all raw meat. You just have to look under a microscope right? You could literally put a chunk of raw meat inside a microscope slide, and look at it, and you can see bacteria. I remember looking at bacteria in college, it’s extremely recognizable. It’s got like a stringy shape and it’s got this little one-celled structure without a nucleus, and you can find guides online to be able to identify bacteria. But you could literally just like count the bacteria in that sample, take that same meat, cook it, and then look at the bacteria again. I’m sure somebody has done that it’s at some point.
Melissa: I’m sure. Well Aajonus does have a lot of studies. He did a case study on a man once using raw meat and orange juice every other meal for a month, and they had tested his urine 30 days before this diet, and it was loaded with vaccinations, and chemicals, and just all the things from antibiotics. I’m sorry, it wasn’t in the urine. And then 30 days later, after raw meat and orange juice for every other meal, then his urine was loaded with it all. It was definitely excluding it like it was a detox.
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Now you also mention in the book about how you’re not such a fan of taking probiotics, like probiotic capsules for example. Why is that?
Melissa: Right. Well the probiotic capsules, well one [0:35:47] inaudible our ancestors did not have probiotic capsules.
Melissa: Yeah, right? There’s like, “Well, let me just go to the fridge and take a little capsule.” They got all the different strains from their food. But yeah, the probiotic capsules are just only, they’re feeding certain species, a really low amount. We have a thousand species in our gut of different diversities that we need to feed to keep strong. All the good bacteria’s going to keep that bad bacteria in check. And the probiotics just aren’t a diverse form, you’re not getting all the diversity of that nature has to offer in those little different capsules. There’s not enough species. So I definitely like getting all my probiotics from raw forms, from different types of foods.
Ben: Yeah. It’s a good point. Like if I look at the actual label of, probably the probiotic I take the most, I use one called Caprobiotics and it’s eight different strains. So there’s like 30 billion CFU in a capsule, which is a lot, and eight different strains, and there’s like a little bit of goat milk in it. But, and you make this point in the book, there are literally like 990 plus additional strains of resident bacteria in the gut. And so even though I’m popping those probiotics as kind of like insurance, I’m eating frickin’ like kimchi, and sauerkraut, and kefir, and dairy, and potentially after reading your book, a little bit more raw meat, and all sorts of other bacteria all day long. And I’ve written about this before, how even if you’re taking a probiotic, it’s introduction of a wide variety of bacterial species into your gut that ultimately matters, with I guess the exception, I should toss this out there, are you familiar with SIBO, Melissa? Or small intestine bacterial overgrowth? There are some people who have that that respond kind of deleteriously to the high probiotic intake because it almost contributes to some of the bacterial overgrowth, specifically when you’re doing like very, very concentrated probiotic capsules. But yeah, you make a good point though. We need this wider variety of probiotics, but I had never really considered raw meat as like a fermented food. But I suppose it does have a pretty large bacterial profile.
Melissa: And since you just brought in the fermented food, so there’s actually something called high-meat, and a lot of people will take their meat and leave it out of the fridge, it’s a whole system. You put it in the fridge, you take it out, take the lid off for a second, get the air in there, put it back in the fridge, get air in there, and it just grows bacteria, and it’s called high-meat, and you instantly get high when you eat it. And it cures depression and like different types of digestive issues…
Ben: What do you mean when you say you get high? ‘Cause that means different things to different people.
Melissa: Well, you get happy. It elevates the mood, getting high. It’s such a concentration of bacteria, it’s called a high-meat if you want to look into that. So a lot of people down in the Venice Beach area that were part of this club had these potlucks, and I would go to them and there would be only raw meat dishes spread out on the table. And it was just like really cool to have a community of people that were doing this. And so most all of them have tried raw high-meat. I personally have not tried it. I’m kind of afraid to eat that rotten of meat, as much as it makes sense.
Melissa: There’s even tribes in our past that would take their meat and put it in the hide, and they would ferment it for weeks under the ground. This is regular meat, not just vegetables.
Ben: Oh, yeah. I’m familiar with that concept. I actually just read a really interesting book called “Unlearn, Rewild” in which this guy goes into the concept of, as nasty as it might sound, like he will go out and harvest things like road kill, like fresh road kill, he has a whole chapter in the book where how to identify whether or not the road kill is fresh. But he also does a lot of burying. Like he’ll take animals, and bury them in the ground, and then come back and eat them. He actually has a whole recipe in the book on just how to bury a rabbit, and come back and eat it, and how it’s extremely tender after it’s been kind of like fermenting in the ground for a long time. I’m not sure the mechanism of action via one could actually get high on the meat, but I could see how fermentation would potentially introduce some interesting potential health benefits. I even have a refrigerator out in my garage, I have hunted white tail deer in the past. It’s a humidity and temperature controlled refrigerator where I can do like bresaola, and meat aging, and things along those lines, and granted I’ve always cooked the meat after I’ve aged it. But it’s really interesting, like it does ferment, you get like this kind of whitish bacterial overgrowth on the exterior of the meat, and I’ll usually cut that off and then cook the meat, and you get extremely tender when it’s been aged and fermented like that, but I never really thought about just like, I guess, pulling it out of refrigerator and sinking my teeth into it. It might be an interesting self-experiment. I might want to have some activated charcoal capsules handy just in case.
Melissa: Well you might want to because they’ll absorb any toxins from all that bacteria detoxifying you.
Ben: Right. Yeah. That’s kind of my logic on that one. Interesting. Okay. So another thing that you go into in the book is you say that the raw protein is easy to digest and does not impose a load on the kidneys. This seems to fly in the face of what I would expect, meaning that it seems like cooking would pre-digest meat and there’s even, and I definitely want to ask you about this later on, there’s this idea that we as humans, when we learned to cook, we were able to develop larger brains and smaller guts because our guts didn’t have to work as hard to break down the food. But it sounds to me like you’re making an argument that the raw protein is easier to digest. How can you say that?
Melissa: Right. Well the raw protein, well one, it’s in a bioavailable form because it hasn’t been denatured. I mean it’s just there, nothing’s to change in the shape, the structure, the chemistry, the chemicals of the food hasn’t been altered at all. But as far as like, so the bacteria on it like we were talking about with the fermentation and your meat becomes much more tender, the one that was in your fridge is that bacteria breaking it down and transforming it into a different, just an easier to digest and assimilate. So it’s the bacteria and it’s the raw proteins not being denatured or changed at all.
Ben: Okay. That kind of confuses me because when you denature a protein and break it down into its constituent amino acids, you would think that absorption would be increased in terms of the availability of amino acids and not decreased when you break down a protein into a peptide and then a peptide into a whole bunch of amino acids. But what you’re saying is you haven’t found that to be the case?
Melissa: Right. And I have read that as well. And the other aspect of eating the raw meat and having it be more assimilated indigestible is it has all its inherent enzymes intact as well. So that’s the other point as far as it being more digestible and absorbable as the enzymes are in the raw meat. So when you cook it, there’s no enzymes as well. And there’s no bacteria.
Ben: Okay. So the argument is that cooking would actually destroy some of the enzymes in meat, and that would inhibit digestion or inhibit, for example, release of hydrochloric acid in the stomach or something along those lines?
Melissa: Right. And also like, I mean there’s a little thing as far as I like to cut the meat into really, really small pieces and everything so that my body doesn’t have to work as hard producing the hydrochloric acid because I’m making it easier. It has enzymes, I’ll like food process it, or cut it really, really small. I’m just trying to make everything easier on digestion and with the bacteria in there. And enzymes are so crucial that they make life possible. And one of the main reasons why I eat the meat raw, and the chicken, and the dairy is for the enzymes. That is so crucial for, they detoxify, they do everything from thinking to smiling. I mean, they are just so important for digestion.
Ben: Wouldn’t your body be able to produce its own enzymes, like everything from solitary enzymes to pancreatic enzymes?
Melissa: It does. It does produce its own enzymes, but this is making it easier because it has to produce way less to break down the food if the food has that many enzymes in it already.
Ben: Interesting. The other thing that I kind of wonder, are you familiar with the Maillard reaction when food is cooked?
Melissa: I don’t know the Maillard.
Ben: Okay. So the Maillard reaction is this chemical reaction between amino acids and any residual sugars, or even something like the glycogen and things like that in meat. And I do know that when you get browning of the meat when it’s cooked, or browning of proteins when they’re cooked, and the amino acids and the sugars have this chemical reaction between them that can potentially decrease a little bit of the absorption of the protein, or the absorption of amino acids. It’s essentially stuck to a sugar. I’m not doing the entire reaction justice in terms of my explanation in it, but when you hear about like the accumulation of advanced glycation end-products in foods, in many cases that’s blamed upon something like this Maillard reaction. And so that is one thing I suppose you’d be avoiding by not cooking the meat, and so that may assist with absorption a little bit too. But it’s interesting, I suppose I’ll have to use myself as an n=1 and maybe eat some raw meat that I would normally cook and see how my own body kind of performs when it comes to digestion. Because I would have expected it to be harder to digest, not easier to digest. But you also mentioned that it doesn’t impose a load on the kidneys. You have kind of a quote in the book, it says, “Raw protein is easy to digest and doesn’t impose a load on the kidneys.” Are you saying that cooked meat would be harder on the kidneys than raw meat?
Melissa: Well I actually don’t think, there’s this whole scare that too much protein is really hard on the kidneys, and that’s people that have kidney disease, or their kidney’s not functioning right. I mean in healthy people, it’s not going to impose a load. But I’m also saying that it’s not the cooked meat that’s going to be a problem. The cooked meat forms different carcinogens, and toxins, and doesn’t have enzymes. But I’m also just saying that it doesn’t impose a load on the kidneys because you don’t need as much. You don’t need these big, large quantities because you’re getting so many nutrients, and the B vitamins, and all these things that are really altered by heat you’re getting in the raw form. And so I just notice in my body I need way less meat. I don’t need as much because it’s in its raw form.
Ben: And the other interesting thing when you talk about that, you don’t need as much would be energy availability. ‘Cause there’s this theory that cooking would make me a more efficient delivery mechanism for calories. Like that is one of the arguments behind why when men developed fire and cooking, how we would have been able to develop a bigger brain and a smaller gut because the heat would help to denature the proteins or to pre-digest proteins. But it is kind of interesting because I do know that with eggs, they’ve looked at raw eggs versus cooked eggs and they have found that when you look at cooked eggs, you actually do see a higher amount of digestibility in some studies. But in other studies, they found that the raw eggs are actually far more digestible. And then cooked meat obviously has less water content, so you could probably get more calories with a smaller volume of food out, I would imagine. But yeah, it’s kind of interesting when it comes to energy availability. Basically what you’re saying is when you eat cooked meat, it feels as though you’re getting less energy out of the cooked meat versus the raw meat from just a pure caloric availability standpoint.
Melissa: I am. And actually a nutritional standpoint as well, the vitamin B12 and B6, the stuff, it’s heat sensitive. So when I eat my cooked meat, I’m sorry, when I eat my raw meat, I instantly feel energy. One day I was going to come home and I thought, “Well, I’ll just make a little bit of raw meat and I’m going to take a nap.” It was a long day and I ate this raw meat, there was no taking of a nap. I mean a lot of its anecdotal studies, and I really feel it, and Sally Fallon, she’s the founder of the Weston A. Price foundation and she just did a podcast about raw meat.
Ben: Did she?
Melissa: She did. It’s very interesting. And she was talking about how our ancestors ate a lot of raw meat and it was a part of their diet. And then she even said she can’t eat raw meat past noon or 1. It has to be for lunch or she can’t sleep. I mean it just gives you so much energy. It’s this instant energizer. And I was like, “Oh, I love that Sally’s talking about this too.”
Ben: Yeah. That is really interesting. I got to know Sally a little bit at this most recent Weston A. Price conference down in Alabama, and she’s a very interesting person. Kind of on the cutting edge for nutrition. You look at her and she’s kind of like your friendly aunt or something like that, but then she just spitballs a ton of nutrition information out. So she’s definitely doing her research and using herself as a bit of a guinea pig, I suppose, in the same way that I’m curious to do so after having read this book. You mention you eat the small cube of raw cheese, or raw butter kind of to start off your day. What’s the actual strategy behind that? Why are you doing that?
Melissa: Well the raw cheese acts as a sponge. Like it’s that concentrated saturated fat to soak up the toxins. And we release so many toxins during sleep, that’s one of my practices is to start the morning with a little cube of raw cheese. And I know a lot of people on the Aajonus diet, and his clients, they’re the kind of elderly that come on this. They’ve tried everything, every diet there is, and nothing’s working. So they’re like, “Okay, give me the raw meat diet.” And so I notice when I would go to these potlucks, it actually was an older crowd, and I am trying to bring it more mainstream ’cause it’s so healthy. But a lot of even his clients that would get nauseous during the day, they would carry a little tiny eight ounce glass jar, and raw cheese doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and they would have little chunks cut into size, and they pop them every hour, just a little chunk of the raw cheese for any type of nausea as a binder for toxins.
Ben: That’s interesting. What about like the insulinogenic effect on it? Do you know what it does in terms of the blood sugar response?
Melissa: I mean it’s a concentrated raw saturated fat. I mean it’s a complete meal, carb, protein, fat. I don’t know exactly what it does to insulin, but I know that saturated fats definitely stabilize blood sugar.
Ben: Yeah. I know they’re very insulinogenic, which theoretically if you weren’t insulin insensitive would indeed drive sugar out of the blood and into, for example, muscle tissue. But to back that up, I do know they had a pretty big study, and this was over eight different European countries in which they found that a couple of small portions of cheese spread out throughout the day actually dropped diabetic risk by over 10% by just including a little bit of dairy you know in these extremely small portions, just a bit here and there throughout the day. And I think part of the reason for that could be because of the slight insulinogenic effect, which in moderate amounts, without too much insulin so you would, say, that you don’t develop insulin insensitivity could actually stabilize blood sugar levels. So it seems like an interesting strategy. I hadn’t thought about like the detoxification effect that you get at, but from a blood sugar stabilizing effect, it seems like it would make sense.
Melissa: Yeah. It makes total sense. I mean I feel this calmness come over me, and I feel very satiated, and I do a lot for lunch too. And just between my smoothies, I’ll have the little cubes of raw cheese, and you just feel the stability effect having on your body.
Ben: Yeah. Now what about eggs? One thing I know a lot of people were concerned about when eating raw eggs is in the egg white there is that avidin protein that apparently can deplete biotin if you get a bunch of concentrated egg white avidin into the body. What’s your take on that?
Melissa: Well, my first take on that is that I never wanted to nature nature. There’s so much wisdom and I know that it knows what it’s doing. An egg comes in this perfect package with the fat and the protein together. And if you were to crack it, you’re now having a fragmented food because it works together, it’s coming in this whole form. But I mean actually, the egg yolk is nature’s richest source of biotin. As much biotin as you need is in the yolk. So to me, it would counteract any effect that the avidin would have…
Ben: So the issue would be like if you did a raw egg white, or even a cooked egg white really, that’s where you’d be mainlining avidin into your body and that’s where it would deplete the body’s biotin stores. But if you were to consume the yolk, which has the concentrated levels of biotin along with the egg white, then you don’t run into that problem?
Melissa: Exactly. That’s what it is. And it’s fine, there’s a lot of controversy on this. Like people’s research keeps changing, the science keeps changing, the articles of Dr. Mercola just came out with one now stating that it’s fine to eat the egg white because of the source of biotin in the yolk. But years ago, they said it wasn’t. And now it is okay. It’s like everyone’s changing, and I just know that when I don’t denature the egg at all and I just crack it into my mouth, and it’s not even denatured by the blender or the spinning of it, I feel amazing. I mean a lot of my stuff is, I am the evidence. I’m the science, I’m using it, and I would love to just encourage people to try things and see how they feel.
Ben: Yeah. The other interesting thing that I thought about when reading your book where you were talking about our ancestors and their consumption of raw meat, when we talk about trying to keep things as close to nature as possible and eat the egg yolks along with the egg white, for example, is the idea that our ancestors, I was recently talking with Nina Teicholz, the author of “The Big Fat Surprise” about this on a podcast recording, they didn’t eat a lot of vegetables. And vegetables, as we know, are a pretty decent source of vitamin B and vitamin C. And you go into this in the book a little bit, but I think that it’s cooking that actually reduces the levels of these in meat. Is that true?
Melissa: Right. Yeah. Definitely. Well I was thinking about the liver being a really good source of vitamin C as we were taught, I eat raw organs as well. But yeah, the cooking definitely depletes the vitamin, the minerals, the vitamin B’s, the vitamin C. But you bring up the…
Ben: Which you could get back into the diet if you were eating a bunch of vegetables. But if you weren’t eating a bunch of vegetables, then that could be an issue.
Melissa: It could be. And I do bring it back into the diet ’cause I juice vegetables and ferment them. Those are the two ways to eat them. Or steamed. But, yeah. So besides the raw meat and the raw dairy, the green juice is a big part of it. It’s almost every other meal where it can be, the bites of the raw cheese, the green juice, smoothie, green juice, the raw animal protein for dinner and another green juice. I mean it’s really a big part of it, and you get a lot of minerals and hydration through the green juice.
Ben: Yeah. And what I’m saying is you probably, if you were eating a higher amount of raw meat, you need less green juice, you need less vegetables, and less fruit because you’d have more bioavailable vitamin B and vitamin C in the raw protein.
Melissa: Gotcha. Yes, definitely. I mean the only thing is I don’t want to become acidic. I bring in the green juice.
Ben: Oh, yeah. You’re looking for the alkalinity.
Melissa: Yeah. That’s why I bring a lot of that green juice in. But you’re right. As far as covering all the B vitamins and the C, and even creatine and carnosine, I mean there so much in the meat and all the conjugated linoic acid, I mean the fats. Yeah, I bring the green juice in for the alkalinizing effects and for more minerals.
Ben: Now what do you do about the idea that cooking does actually enhance the availability of some nutrients? You look at like tomatoes, for example. I’m sure you’ve heard about this, how the lycopene becomes more bioavailable when the tomatoes are heated. And so cooked tomatoes could be better than raw tomatoes. Or broccoli, right? We know that broccoli, when you look at some of the glucosinolates and the compounds in broccoli known to be like anti-carcinogenic, those get concentrated when you cook the broccoli. Like what do you think about this idea that cooking does improve the bioavailability of some nutrients or may improve the digestibility of some of these foods?
Melissa: Right. Yeah. I do agree with that. I mean I get it on the tomatoes, and I will cook tomatoes from time to time. That’s where I don’t become really dogmatic because it’s not like all panacea, it has to be all 100% raw food. I’m sure that cooking is going to make some nutrients more available. It just won’t have the enzymes, and the bacteria, and those certain things that the raw food gives you.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. So when we step back and we look at this big picture when it comes to the whole like kind of raw versus cooked type of thing, it sounds to me like what you’re saying is when we look at cooked meat, first of all there, are some potential carcinogenic byproducts of cooking, like your heterocyclic amines and those advanced glycation end products that I brought up, there’s a slight decrease in digestive enzymes, some denaturing of proteins, a definite drop off in probiotics, and a definite drop off in digestive enzymes, and the energy availability of the food might be increased by cooking, but in some cases it’s been shown to be decreased by cooking. That kind of seems to go back and forth. And then your B’s and your C’s get degraded a little bit when you cook, and so you’ve got a little bit more vitamin availability when you eat the raw food. That’s kind of like in a nutshell where you’re coming out when it comes to the argument for raw meat.
Melissa: Exactly. I mean you have it. And then there’s the detox edge that you get from eating the raw foods as well.
Ben: Right. The raw fats, particularly.
Melissa: Raw fats and raw meats are detoxifying ’cause of the enzymes. But, yeah. So exactly what you said. And then we have an onslaught of toxins constantly coming at us, so it’s just another form of detox as well.
Ben: Yeah. Now are there any populations that you think should not be eating like raw or under cooked meat? Like pregnant women or people like that?
Melissa: Oh, I don’t see any problem with it. The only thing I would say is if it was too much of a detox, I would slow down with it. But definitely, I know many pregnant women on this diet literally had hardly any contractions. It was the easiest labor ever. I mean they’re so nutritionally, all their requirements are so met with all, they were eating raw dairy and raw meat the whole time, and just had ease of labor.
Ben: Right. But you’re also talking about folks who are being very careful of the source right?
Melissa: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Exactly. That’s always number one.
Ben: You’re not just going to the butcher block at Wal-Mart and asking them for whatever happens to be on sale that day?
Melissa: No. No way. I know many people on this diet from the raw food groups I used to go to and they were really particular about sourcing their bone marrow and their fats, organic, and their organs. ‘Cause that’s where toxins are going to be stored, so you want really clean sources. But I know some of them that, we’re not so concerned about the muscle meat and would still eat it raw. Me personally, everything has to be organic and grass-fed. But it really is important on the organs and the fats.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Well if anything, you have given me the inspiration to try chickens ceviche. ‘Cause I’ve had steak tartare before, et cetera, but I never had raw chicken. So I’m adding that to my to-do list. And I’d also, I think I’m going to experiment a little bit and try some of these foods raw and just see kind of how my body feels. A lot of the stuff you do need to just try for yourself, so I think what I’m going to do, because we’ve got chickens, and they’re nice and clean, and I definitely have access to good grass-fed beef, the game I hunt, et cetera, I’m going to toy around with us a little bit and I’ll leave my my own comments and my own experiences in the show notes if those of you listening in kind of want to know how I felt with it. And then of course if you want to weigh in on this matter as well, you can go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/rawmeat. And if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/rawmeat, I’ll link to Melissa’s book, I’ll hunt down what I can about this high-meat phenomenon, and also I’ll put in some links to the books by this guy, Aajonus Vonderplanitz, and some other resources for you. And in the meantime, Melissa, thanks for coming on the show and sharing this with us. If anything else, it’s extremely fascinating. If not anything else, it’s extremely fascinating.
Melissa: Oh, yeah. Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Ben: Alright. Well, cool. I’ll let you go off to your little chunks of raw cheese, and raw butter, and whatever other raw things you happen to be putting into your body these days. And in the meantime, for those you’re listening in, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Melissa Henig signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
My guest on today’s show eats raw.
And I’m not talking raw kale and carrots, but rather raw meat.
She eats raw meat. A lot.
Yep, that includes raw dairy, raw eggs, raw beef and even raw chicken.
Her name is Melissa Henig, she is a health coach and nutrition enthusiast who leads what she calls a “raw lifestyle” and in her new book “Raw Paleo: The Extreme Advantages of Eating Paleo Foods in the Raw“, she makes the claim that raw foods are powerful medicine and offer a distinct health advantage over cooked foods.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-What made Melissa start eating raw meat…[8:05]
-What a typical day of raw eating looks like for Melissa…[10:00]
-Why Melissa says our brain and nervous system need raw fat specifically…[12:30]
-How you can prepare raw chicken safely…[21:35]
-If you need to be concerned about parasites in raw meat…[24:11]
-Why Melissa says probiotics in raw meat are naturally detoxifiers…[27:00]
-Why many probiotic capsules can have some issues…[35:35]
-Whether raw meat is really higher in amino acids…[42:30]
-How raw protein may be easier to digest and does not impose a load on the kidneys…[46:00]
-Why Melissa eats a small cube of raw cheese through the day…[49:55]
-Whether the avidin in raw egg whites depletes biotin in your body…[52:45]
-Melissa’s take on the idea that “cooking” is what set humans apart and allowed us to have a bigger brain and smaller gut…[41:30]
-Whether Melissa cooks *any* foods…[57:05]
-And much more!