Raw Foods: A Healthy Tradition with Deep Roots

At the time Optimum Health Institute (OHI) opened its doors, one of the key healing lifestyle program elements – a live, raw, organic vegan diet – was not widely embraced by mainstream America. Now, 40 years later, OHI is going strong, and the number of people choosing a vegetarian or largely meat-free lifestyle in the U.S. is near 30 million. Raw food restaurants are sprouting up everywhere. Even conventional supermarkets and big box stores are jumping on the organic produce bandwagon.

While choosing live, raw, organic vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts over animal proteins might seem like a relatively recent trend, the practice has very deep roots. Biblical scripture and the ancient Essene gospels both advise the divine wisdom of maintaining a strict raw vegan diet for optimum health of body, mind and spirit.

Throughout history, brilliant people have touted the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle — Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Buddha, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, and Steve Jobs, to name a few.

Even traditional western medicine is warming to the idea. The Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School are among the groups advising that a well-planned vegetarian diet can help you stay healthy, and reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

The growth in popularity of raw vegan foods is closely tied to the history of OHI. When a Boston-area woman was diagnosed with colon cancer in the early 1950’s, she chose to follow her Lithuanian grandmother’s approach to healing – using weeds and wheatgrass – and went into complete remission. The woman, Ann Wigmore, devoted the next 35 years of her life to studying and teaching others about the healing benefits of live, raw, organic vegan foods. In 1956 she founded the “Red Schoolhouse,” which would evolve into Hippocrates Health Institute.

In 1976, two of OHI’s founders, Raychel Solomon and Pam Nees, attended a lecture by the author of the book, How I Conquered Cancer Naturally . Eydie Mae Hunsberger switched to Ann Wigmore’s raw vegan food plan after her breast cancer diagnosis, and also went into complete remission. She was eager to answer Raychel and Pam’s questions at her presentation. After meeting Eydie Mae, Raychel studied with Ann Wigmore at Hippocrates, and experienced for herself the healing power of a strict live, raw organic vegan lifestyle. Later that same year, Raychel, Pam and Pam’s husband Bob Nees, Sr., opened Hippocrates West in San Diego County, California.

The groundbreaking concept at the heart of Hippocrates and Hippocrates West was deceptively simple. Recreate your lifestyle, starting with switching to a primarily raw foods diet, and let the healing begin. Fueled by the healthiest, freshest vegan nutrients, people could more easily defog and quiet their minds, and feel a renewed, heart-centered connection to God.

Hippocrates West soon evolved into The Optimum Health Institute, and became a healing ministry of the Free Sacred Trinity Church.

The parallel growth of both the raw foods movement and OHI became deeply personal in 1997. Bob’s sister-in-law, Mary Helon Nees, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She and Bob’s brother, the Rev. Russell Nees, refused to accept her doctor’s grim prognosis, and instead strictly followed OHI’s raw vegan food plan, with lots of wheatgrass juice. Mary Helon went into remission, and became a strong advocate of adopting a plant-based diet.

As the raw foods movement continues to gain new adherents nationwide, OHI is more than keeping up with the growing interest. OHI has enhanced its dining experience by creating a new 21-day menu, offering delicious, gourmet restaurant caliber live, raw, organic vegan dishes at each lunch and dinner for the entire three weeks of the holistic healing program.

Come experience what “healthy” tastes like with a one, two or three week stay at our healing missions, OHI San Diego and OHI Austin in Texas. Our caring staff is eager to give you the unconditional support, inspiration and transformational tools you require to bring your body, mind and spirit into healthy balance in a serene, peaceful setting. Help us celebrate 40 Years of Holistic Healing. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.