‘It Is Amazing That I Can Run Longer and Faster and That I Am Stronger Than I Was 20 Years Ago.’
Petr Cech’s longtime experience, rich knowledge, festival leadership and colorful travel tales amassed from exploring the world’s abundance of fruits make this Czech Republic citizen and native a luminary in the raw food community.
Petr, 41, discovered a raw food diet while exploring alternative ways to help a family member who faced critical health issues. As for himself, Petr occasionally suffered from eczema in the form of psoriasis on his elbows, ankles, fingers, knees and face (seborrheic dermatitis) and sometimes experienced pain in his joints and nausea. He came down with colds or flus about four times a year.
Petr started juicing lots in 2001 and adopted a raw food diet the following year.
“In the beginning, I did not have many clues about what to eat [and] how to prepare and combine food,” he said. “I thought, at that time, that I needed variety and ate all kinds of things to fulfill my nutritional needs. Because of this, I was eating things I did not really enjoy.”
“Of course, I did not feel that well after this kind of food sequencing, having nuts as the first thing and fruits as the last,” Petr said, adding that for breakfast, he ate a few apples and for dinner, he ate gourmet raw meals or large salads.
By 2003, however, Petr adopted Dr. Doug Graham’s recommendations outlined in his book The 80/10/10 Diet. Petr lost about 12 kilograms (about 27 pounds) in his first few months on this low-fat raw vegan diet, believing at the time that he was “detoxing,” and then realized he simply was not consuming enough calories to fuel him. “In the next few months, I regained my weight … and also my strength,” he said.
Petr largely felt satisfied on this fruit-based diet, saying he did not experience much in the way of cravings. When it came to salt, however, he struggled. “When I realized that salt is not healthy at all and that I was addicted to it, I wanted to stop eating salt at once, but it took me about one year to end my cravings for it,” he said.
After I started eating raw foods, I suddenly experienced a new well-being, not having pains and having [fewer] colds,” he said. “My eczema got better with the years but disappeared completely after I had all of my old amalgam fillings removed from my teeth in 2005.”
It took about five years of leading a wholly low-fat raw food diet before Petr “felt on top,” he said. Ever since then, he continues to ascend in health with each passing year. “I must say that with every year on the 80/10/10 Diet I have felt better and better,” he said.
Petr has supplemented with only Vitamin B12 while on a raw food diet after having ingested lots of multivitamin pills, which include B12, before going raw. He began supplementing with this vitamin in 2010 while enduring “a very stressful year” and experiencing symptoms of deficiency. Petr thinks this stress resulted in his B12 deficiency, which was corrected in two months by supplementing with 5,000 micrograms of hydroxocobalamine pills. Since then, he occasionally supplements with B12 to replenish his stores. “I will probably stop with it when I can eat produce directly from our own garden,” he said.
Petr adapts his physical activity to meet circumstances. “When I worked in Copenhagen, I used to bike every day, but now I only go out and run,” he said. About two days a week, he engages in strength training with bodyweight exercises and free weights. Lately, he is active in his garden.
“I enjoy the feeling of lightness in my body, not having to digest food for many hours and exercising whenever I want to,” Petr said. “It is also amazing that I can run longer and faster and that I am stronger than I was 20 years ago.”
Petr has enjoyed eating a wholly low-fat raw food diet since 2003. He prefers sweet, juicy fruits and nonsweet fruits over fatty fruits and greens. “I eat what is in season and what is of good quality and available,” he said. “Usually, I have sweet melons or watermelon or orange juice for breakfast and as a snack before dinner and bananas for lunch. For dinner, I also have zucchini pasta with tomato sauce or some kind of salad or another raw food meal.”
Melons, Petr said, are among his favorite fruits. He estimates he has eaten about 10,000 melons in the past 13 years. Petr also highly enjoys durian, cempedak, marang, figs, mangos, cherimoya and black pulasan. “But still, I must say that every perfectly fresh, ripe, sweet and flavorful fruit is my favorite, no matter if it is an apple, cherry or durian,” he said.
Petr eats overt fats only a few times a month—sometimes less. “I feel best eating water-rich sweet and nonsweet fresh fruits,” he said.
Petr goes for nonsweet fruits, especially tomatoes, over greens. He said he doesn’t consume much lettuce or root vegetables and occasionally has cabbage or cauliflower. Arugula, however, is one variety of greens he highly enjoys. “We grow a lot of it where I live, so I have a daily fresh supply from all the way from March to November,” he said. “It is the best arugula I have ever had, and it is for free.”
All of Petr’s raw food knowledge has served him well over the years. He’s recognized as a leader in the raw food world and founded the Fresh Food Festival in 2008. He’s helped grow the festival—the first fruit festival in Europe—and turned on many to a fruit-based diet.
“At every festival there, is a good opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, and I believe that this has always been the essence of the Fresh Food Festival and that the success does not depend heavily on what is being served or who the speakers are,” he said.
Petr has traveled to many places around the world and enjoys seeking out “delicious and exotic fruits” to feast on. Like any fruitarian, he relishes opportunities to pick and sample tree-ripened fruits. One weekend in Denmark while at a meeting for work, such an opportunity came when Petr peered out a restaurant window.
“While we sat in the dining room eating our lunches, I spotted two fig trees just outside the restaurant and got excited to see many figs on them—fully ripe, some of them so ripe that juice was already dripping down from them,” he said. “I went outside and started to pick and eat them while my colleagues were watching me from the restaurant. It did not take long before three of them joined me in an unforgettable fig fest. Who would believe this could happen in Denmark of all places?”
Petr also recounts cherry-hiking tours with his friend Eric in Sweden. “There are quite good wild cherry trees in Skåne in Southern Sweden,” he said. “The landscape there is beautiful, and it feels so ‘uplifting’ to climb fruit trees.”
In Turkey, Petr discovered some of the largest fruit markets (“fruit stalls where you cannot see from the start to the end”)—and some of the tastiest melons and figs. He was even served fresh melons at restaurants in this country. On the Canary Islands, Petr shelled out $35 per kilogram of locally grown mangos. “They were better than those for $7, but not worth the price,” he said. “Usually, the best fruits I have eaten were for free or quite cheap. Of course, there are some places where you get what you pay for.”
One place where this turned out to be the case is Bao Sheng Durian Farm in Penang. “Unfortunately, I could not eat more than four durians in one sitting while visiting there,” Petr said. “I think it is definitely worth staying there for a few days to enjoy their selection of durian varieties.”
A highlight for this fruit connoisseur is Borneo. Petr ticks off durian, cempedak and marang as being exceptional but said the treasures of this land are the “exotic jungle fruits you might not find anywhere else.” Among these are mangifera species, pajang being the most common one; baccaurea and nephelium species; and, of course, many of the durio species,” he said. “I like their white mango, binjai (mangifera caesia) or the round one, bambangan (mangifera pajang). They have really some amazing flavours.
“Another fruit you can find there is yellow tampoi, which can be called the princess of fruits,” Petr continued. “It reminds you a bit about mangosteen. Jungle durians taste quite different than durio zibethinus—they can taste like a blend of burned almonds with sugar or turpentine or remind you of a sticky porridge with saffron flavour. One of the most memorable fruits I have tasted was the black pulasan, a rambutan relative. If you like rambutans, you would be excited about black pulasan. The aril does not stick to the seed, it has a better flavour and is sweet as caramel but at the same time juicy and refreshing.”
Petr also enjoys visiting botanical or agriculture gardens or parks. Again in Borneo, he told of an incredible experience: “We experienced amazing diversity in one of their agriculture parks where we not only saw many indigenous and exotic trees but also many fruit trees indigenous to other continents like Africa and America,” he said. “We could wander in their park and taste everything that was hanging down from the trees—velvet apples, miracle fruits, white mangos, canistel, mamey sapote, abiu, chocolate sapote, pulasan and many others. It was an amazing experience and worth all the mosquito and ant bites.”
Petr and his family grow their own food, namely salad greens, zucchini and tomatoes. Last year, they grew melons, apples and strawberries. They have planted more than 50 fruit trees and berry bushes and plan to keep doing so until they run out of space in the garden. They also buy wholesale organic fruits such as bananas, oranges and dates as well as vegetables from a friend in Prague.
Petr urges transitioning raw fooders to educate themselves so they become comfortable with their new lifestyle. He suggests they learn about human anatomy and, especially, Natural Hygiene. “Deep knowledge of Natural Hygiene will free you from the dogmatic picture of how things work, presented by modern medicine,” he said. “This will make you understand the whole picture of health.”
Lastly, Petr recommends raw food newcomers get to know themselves by becoming “consciously self-aware.” “Without being true to oneself and understanding causes and consequences of one’s actions and thoughts, life can be bit more tricky and difficult,” he said.
Petr has a vision come 10 years from now of a “beautiful fruit garden” where he and his family live and where he can walk with his wife, family, children and friends. “I hope I can grow many varieties of sweet melons and have plenty of paw paw trees in our garden,” he said. “During the winter, I travel to the tropics to discover more exotic fruits and give presentations at some fruit retreats and festivals. I help people regain their health and change their lifestyle to a planet-friendly one.”
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