Over the past quarter of a century, Carol Alt has been scrutinized by the cameras of some of the world’s greatest photographers and by the public eye. Touted as the model who started the supermodel trend, it is estimated that her face has graced between 600 and 700 magazine covers. Over the past 25 years of her career, she has also become highly visible through numerous advertising campaigns, commercials, endorsement contracts, hosting jobs, talk show interviews, television series, and films. Her work has been recognized by numerous industry groups, including the Monaco Film Festival for her portrayal of the life story of Rosanna Benzi—a woman with genetic polio living in an iron lung in the film A Vice for Life.
In her first book, Eating in the Raw: A Beginners Guide to Getting Slimmer, Feeling Healthier, and Living Longer the Raw-Food Way, Alt explains how we can achieve our goals of feeling healthier, getting slimmer, and looking younger by embracing a raw food lifestyle. She defines raw food and explains why eating raw is more beneficial than cooked. She goes into detail on how to buy and prepare raw foods and how to eat raw when you are dining out. She also provides recipes for breakfast, lunches and dinners rich with life-improving qualities.
In order to give her readers a comprehensive insight into the critical imperatives of including raw foods in their diet, Carol asked her personal physician and totalhealth contributor Nicholas J. Gonzalez, M.D. to write the forward to her book. The following is a synopsis of Dr. Gonzalez’s message:
“This book tells the story of raw food—why it is beneficial and how to begin the raw food journey. Before that journey begins, however, I’d like to share some insights into the science behind raw food, explaining just how eating raw affects the body the way it does. And it all has to do with enzymes.
“Enzymes are protein catalysts, that is, a molecule that allows a chemical reaction to occur efficiently, with a minimal amount of energy needed to get the process, whatever it may be, going.
“Enzymes do many things, both within our cells and without. They help produce chemical energy to fuel our cells and their many varied activities. Our immune cells, our neurotrophils and lymphocytes, use enzymes to attack and kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, as well as dangerous cancer cells that some scientists believe form everyday in all of us. In the nucleus, another set of these unusual proteins allows DNA to repair itself from the ravages of free radicals and other toxic assaults, and, in fact, without certain enzymes our genetic material could not duplicate itself as needed to cell division. That’s a pretty important assignment, when you consider that, for example, the lining of the intestinal tract replaces itself every five days, and without these nuclear enzymes such efficient turnover would be impossible.
“And outside the cells in the stomach and in the small intestine, digestive enzymes such as pepsin and sucrase released by the gut lining help break down proteins and carbohydrates to jump start the digestive process. And importantly, at the back of the upper abdomen sits the pancreas, a most powerful gland that produces insulin to regulate sugar metabolism, and dozens of enzymes without which efficient digestion would be impossible.
“It would be helpful, however, if we could get our enzymes preformed, premade, ready to go to work, without always having to start from scratch. It would save time, effort and energy.
“There is a way, of course, and that way is from our food. But, as we shall see, only from raw food. Enzymes are indeed wonderful molecules, extraordinarily complex in their design and in their behavior, but like most proteins, they are very sensitive to heat. At around 106–107 degrees Fahrenheit, enzymes begin deteriorating, and above 116 degrees, most denature, that is, they become completely inactive, unable to do anything useful in the cell. That’s why fevers above 107 degrees F are generally deadly, because at that point our enzymes start self-destructing throughout all our tissues.
“So, when you cook food, be it fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, grain, egg, dairy, fish, poultry, meat—all the enzymes are gone very quickly. The body can in the digestive tract use its own enzymes to break these denatured proteins down into the component amino acids, absorb them as such, then put them back together into brand new enzymes—a process that is again, time and energy consuming, and basically reinventing a very complicated wheel.
“In our office today, we utilize enzymes to establish and maintain health, as well as for a component against cancer and other degenerative diseases. We have already completed our first clinical trial in which we treated patients with advanced pancreatic cancer with large doses of proteolytic enzymes. Fortunately, the results were substantial enough to warrant a National Cancer Institute—National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine grant, to study our approach in a large-scale clinical effort.
“I was pleased when I learned that my friend Carol Alt intended to write a book about raw foods, and how a raw foods approach made such a difference in her own health. Her personal story is inspiring, and I always think it useful when ideas that have remained largely hidden are brought into the open for discussion and review. I admire Carol, as busy as she is, for taking the time to share, in her own way, what raw foods and enzymes have done for her. I wish her well with her effort, and continued good health.”
TH: Carol, welcome to totalhealth. Our mutual friend and medical advisor, Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, informed me that Eating in the Raw is an important guide for any individual concerned with achieving wellness in our toxic society. Also that we should definitely consider your journey for our cover story. He was right on both counts. The book is of real value to anyone interested in optimum health, and from the engaging photo on the cover it seems you haven’t aged a day over the past 10 years.
Carol: Thank you on both counts. If I really don’t look much different than I did 10 years ago, I attribute both my appearance and my health to one decision: to eat raw food.
It was a necessary decision with some very pleasant, added benefits. In addition to transforming my health and having a positive effect on my appearance, eating raw has made me feel amazing.
I always feel satisfied—something very few people, much less models, can say. I feel happy and healthy, and I am. I feel a sense of there being a great deal of variety in my life and a quality of abundance I didn’t know before. I feel beautiful and youthful in a way that I didn’t when I was much younger and eating all the dead garbage that most of us eat. I feel creative, innovative, clearer, and, yes, different in a way that lets me know I’m doing something for myself that isn’t ordinary, run-of-themill, or boring. Eating raw just feels right.
And it shows. People remark that they sense a vitality in me that they didn’t in the days before I began eating this way. They see a life in me that they didn’t see before because, in fact, it wasn’t there before.
TH: Please explain the comment “they see a life in me they didn’t see before.”
Carol: Eating is now exciting for me everyday, and I’m never hungry.
For anyone in the public eye, and especially anyone who makes their living in large part based on how they appear, eating tends to loom large in life. It becomes more than something you do to satisfy (or sadly, not satisfy) a hunger. Because your diet can determine what you weigh, how you look, how you feel, and the image you convey, it all too easily can become a focal point of your life.
Models and actors are dogged by the food they consume. Many diet incessantly. And the world follows, yearning to have the abs of so-an-so or the butt of what’s-her-name.
I‘m one of the fortunate few who no longer find themselves struggling, and I thank God for that. I never worry about whether I should eat or not. I never skip a meal, I never crave food, and I never feel guilty.
Before eating raw I was sick a lot. I mean I really didn‘t feel well. I struggled with the chronic, bothersome health issues that most people think are normal. We simply pop a pill and go on our way. I had acid indigestion all the time and ate Tums like candy. I had headaches two or three times a week. My sinuses were a mess. The fear of colds and flu plagued me. The list goes on and on.
Since I started eating raw all these problems have cleared up. I‘m healthier than ever. I rarely if ever get sick. And I look different. Without trying to, I look and feel better, healthier, and younger than I did when I was eating cooked food. I‘m at peace with food and eating. I feel entirely different—and it‘s all for the better.
Also I‘m not the only one. Recently, great deal of attention has been paid to celebrities who have started eating raw food. You‘ve heard the names Demi Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Donna Karan, Woody Harrelson, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Cosby, Edward Norton, Sting, and Anthony Kiedis. Some eat only raw; others eat raw food off and on as best they can. These are just a few of the people who are eating raw.
TH: Please give us an overview of your goals for Eating in the Raw.
Carol: Each person has different reasons for eating raw. Some do it for beauty, some for health, some to live out a personal philosophy. If you aren‘t a raw foodist, you may simply be curious what all this talk of raw food is about. In the pages of my book I tell my story. I‘ll share how I started eating raw and how my life has changed in the eight years since then. We look at what raw food is, why I think you should eat it raw rather than cooked, and what the health benefits can be. I help you learn how to buy and prepare raw foods, figure out how to eat raw when you‘re on the road or going out with friends, and I answer some of the common objections to eating a diet of raw food that wellintended people have and are sure to express.
TH: How complicated or restrictive is it to make the change to a raw food diet?
Carol: In case you‘ve been wondering, I don‘t have a personal chef. I don‘t have an on-site nutritionist. I don‘t have a staff of raw foodists who surround me everyday. I don‘t own my own raw restaurant or have my meals catered morning, noon, and night. I work. I have family and a life beyond the glamour of movie sets and runways and designer evening wear. And, like you, I spend much of my time with people who do not eat raw. You don‘t need to become a hippie or adopt an Eastern religion to eat raw. People have eaten raw foods throughout the ages. You probably eat a few simple raw foods now. But because cooking has become the most common way food is made palatable, you only eat a small portion of your food uncooked. People think eating a raw diet is all about having endless boring salads. Let me assure you, I eat a lot more than salads, and I don‘t go hungry—ever!
The fact is that we are at a particularly opportune crossroads with food. Now more than ever we can find fresh, healthy foods nearly anywhere at any time of year. Yes, there‘s nothing like nutrition-filled fresh, locally grown foods in season. I think of a salsa made from New Jersey tomatoes just off the vine or, when I‘m in L.A., guacamole made from avocados that are bursting ripe straight off the tree in summertime. My mouth‘s watering just thinking of them. Now, with speedy transportation, refrigeration, and vacuum sealing, it is possible to get a wide variety of really good, fresh, raw foods just about anywhere at any time of year—if you know what to look for and where. You don‘t have to live in New York or Los Angeles. Quite the contrary. If you‘re near farms and farmers, or even a health food store, you‘re near at least to some raw food. I‘ve eaten raw in Chilliwack, British Columbia, and had no trouble staying satisfied.
I should also note this is not a book about dieting. Let me repeat: this is not a book about dieting. Forget diets and dieting. Diets are about deprivation. I never diet. Not ever. The reason is simple. I don‘t need to anymore. I can eat all that I want, and I do— just raw. And, if you take the steps that are set out in its pages, I believe you won‘t have to starve either. Never again, period.
It is a book about eating “naturally.” I put the word naturally in quotes with good reason. I believe that eating cooked food is not natural. Whether you‘re thin or fat, you can‘t expect to be naturally thin if you‘re eating unnaturally. We take it for granted as natural, but eating cooked food is merely a convention that humans in most societies have adopted. One of the common outcomes of eating cooked food is that in time we become unnaturally overweight. Call it pudgy, chubby, fat, or even obese—whatever term you want to use. Whatever you call it, being overweight is not natural. And from what I‘ve seen, those who eat raw, generally speaking, do not end up that way. They end up thin and well fed—naturally.
If you‘re lean and feel good and have a lot of energy, if you eat what you want, you‘re not hungry and you look great, why would you need to diet? You wouldn‘t. And you shouldn‘t have to. But in my opinion you should still eat raw.
So put dieting out of your mind. Forever. No more diets. Eating raw, to me, is not dieting—it‘s a way of life. It is not hard, painful, frustrating, full of sacrifice, or unpleasant in any way. It‘s different from what you have known for most of your life. Before long you‘ll wonder, as I did, why it is that no one told you before about something so simple, beautiful, and powerful. But be warned, I think you‘re going to like what happens. And once you begin to eat raw you may never be able to turn back.
TH: Thank you, Carol. While most of our conversation has centered on the health benefits of a raw food lifestyle, I want to reinforce to our readers that Eating in the Raw is a terrific companion on a personal journey to optimum health. We currently eat very close to a raw food diet and have found the book to be valuable in helping us source, prepare and enjoy what we eat.
Do you have any final comments?
Carol: Yes. Even though there are no known negative health ramifications associated with a raw food diet, it is always a good idea to check with your physician prior to implementing a significant change in your nutritional regime. For individuals interested in more information, I invite you to visit my Web site: www.carolalt.com.
Also, thank you for your interest in Eating in the Raw.