Raw Food Lifestyle 101
- Friday, 19 December 2008
The buzz surrounding the raw food movement is growing from a hum to a roar.
Although millions of people are opting to “go raw” the movement remains a bit of an enigma for some. So let’s take this opportunity to clear up a few things about just what it means to eat raw.
Whenever I tell someone about raw food, the most common response is something to the effect of, “oh, so you mean sushi?”
This is usually followed by a blank stare where I imagine they are bouncing around a kitchen whipping up a pizza or casserole and just as I’m about to toss it in the oven, I turn and shout, “Dinner’s ready!”
Raw foods are whole, fresh, natural, unprocessed and of course, uncooked.
A raw food diet is defined as eating the majority of our foods uncooked and in their natural state. Some people may still cook some of their food, however others will claim that eating all of your food raw will yield the most benefits.
There are some raw foodists who do consume animal products such as raw fish (sashimi), raw milk/butter/cheese, raw eggs and raw meat (carpaccio), but the majority of raw foodists are vegans. A vegan diet involves no consumption of any product derived from an animal, including dairy, eggs and honey.
So why eschew cooking? Raw food is loaded with untouched enzymes, vitamins and minerals. These enzymes are the spark plugs or catalysts that assist in functions of the body including breathing, thinking, immunity and digestion.
They help to keep us alive. Our body produces enzymes but has a finite reserve that depletes as we age. Enzymes are destroyed by heat above 112-118 degrees F, which means cooking truly can smoke them out.
Proper digestion requires a significant amount of energy to break down our meals. When we eat cooked food, we use up enzymes from our own body’s stores, but when we consume raw foods, the live enzymes in the food itself saves our body enzymes and energy.
Artificial processing is another enemy of the raw food movement. Processing involves changing the chemistry of the food in any way by heating, pickling, extracting, removing vital minerals/ vitamins or fortifying of the food --adding the synthetic vitamins and minerals back into the foods in improper ratios.
Many processed food items have seen the inside walls of a factory and are generally found in the inner aisles of your local grocery store.
So what’s left? Fresh yummy fruits, crunchy vegetables, rich raw nuts and seeds, energizing sprouts (made from grains, beans, legumes, alfalfa, sunflower, and onion to name a few), dried fruit that is sulfate and sugar free, untoasted seaweed (nori, dulse, kelp).
These are some of the main food groups of the raw movement. Combining these base items with some basic kitchen appliances -- such as a blender, food processor and sharp knives -- and a creative spirit you can chop, grate, puree, juice, dice, blend, ground and mince together unbelievable tastes and textures!
Additional foods to add and jazz up your dishes are:
- Unrefined, raw organic oils – olive, walnut, macadamia, avocado, sesame (untoasted), flax, etc.
- Raw honey, agave nectar, yacon powder/liquid (to sweeten things up)
- Raw cacao powder/nibs (Yes! It’s chocolate!)
- Raw carob powder (a mild, caffeine- free, malty, chocolaty flavored powder)
- Mesquite powder (a nutrient rich molasses flavored powder )
- Raw apple cider vinegar
- Goji berries (a little like raisons but a bit tart, very unique)
- Coconut cream (tastes like white chocolate)
- Coconut butter (a semi-solid oil that adds a great coconut flavor )
- Nama shoyu (a great raw soy sauce substitute)
- Sea salts (table salt has been adulterated by 2000-degree heat, bleached, minerals removed, dangerous heavy metals added – basically a poison)
- Fresh or dried herbs and spices (try growing your own)
- Raw almond, cashew, walnut, pecan, tahini (sesame), pumpkin and hazelnut butters (like peanut butter but more gourmet)
- Don’t forget, make sure the label says “raw”
This is only a partial list for the pantry. I know that this is the first time many of you have even heard of some of these items, so it is time to experiment. If your local health food store doesn’t stock all of them, most are available on line and you can usually find great deals.
In case you forget, here’s a handy list of items that are NOT including in the raw food diet:
- Anything packaged. That can include foods that are canned and jarred, including cookies, cakes, flours, sugars, soups, pasta … anything with a shelf life and prepackaged. Again, usually the middle aisles of your grocer. This also includes soy products such as tofu and tempeh.
- Bottled, canned and cartoned juices. These are all pasteurized. Remember Louis Pasteur? He killed bacteria through a process of heating! Don’t worry about juicing or blending your own fruit mixture, it’s easier than you think and much more tasty.
- Coffee and tea
- Vinegar (except raw apple cider)
- Artificial sweeteners
- Ketchup, mustard and all other condiments
- Chemicals and preservatives
- Alcohol (They are all distilled, except wine! Thank goodness! But watch out for sulphates).
Now what should a curious individual do with this newfound knowledge? Shake up your old routine. Take a trip to chow down on some raw cuisine at your local raw food restaurant. If there isn’t one in your community, but you have a blender and food processor, then go online and Google up some recipes. Here are a few of my favorites: goneraw.com, thesunnyrawkitchen.blogspot.com, http://www.living-foods.com.
Start small. Try increasing your raw food consumption by going to the fruit market and buying some exotic varieties, such as persimmons, bananas, durian, sapote, pineapple, mango, cherimoya, kiwi, papaya, cherries and pomellos. Have a fruit feast for your meal. It is a super high fiber, mineral and vitamin packed luxurious indulgence that you could do everyday.