why did a raw/living food lifestyle spark my interest?
For many reasons, becoming a vegetarian (not consuming meat, poultry, fish, or seafood) has never truly sparked my interest (not to be interpreted as “I agree with treating animals inhumanely!!”). One, I never knew if it was feasible for me to do it in a nutritionally sound way; two, I question whether vegetarian substitutes are any better considering they still contain ingredients I can’t pronounce, let alone understand, & truth be told, sometimes I like rolling up to Chipotle & ordering the chicken burrito bowl (ps- Chipotle sources their meat from farmers who raise animals naturally & in a humane way. Animals are fed a vegetarian diet & never given hormones).
Having this mentality, one might question why I was interested in incorporating the raw food lifestyle, which is a sub-category of being vegan (not consuming any animal products or by-products). Eating raw/living food interested me because it is a lifestyle that focuses on eating nutrient- dense food, keeping processed foods to a minimum, & energetically maintaining the “life” in your food. This sounded appealing to me because nutrient-dense means that, nutritionally, you’re getting the most bang for your buck & that also means eliminating the un-pronounceable/unnecessary ingredients (think preservatives, color dyes, & flavor “enhancers”) from my diet. Preserving the “life force” in food also resonates with me because I like the visual of my food vibrating with life & I don’t agree with treating any living thing, that includes animals, inhumanely.
what is the raw food diet?
The raw food diet is a diet based on unprocessed and uncooked fresh fruit, vegetables, sprouted grains, seeds, nuts, beans, and seaweed.
why uncooked food?
Raw food enthusiasts believe that…
- Cooking food above 118 degrees F destroys enzymes, which are necessary to help you digest & absorb food.
- Cooking food changes its chemical composition. Raw foodists draw attention to the fact that cooking can reduce vitamin & mineral content, as well as change the pH of food making the body more acidic upon digestion. A body that tends to lack nutrients or be more acidic is more susceptible to being in a disease state.
- Cooking food at high temperatures strips food of it’s “life force.” In essence, acknowledging that all things are living & preserving that life, even in the food we consume, will in turn provide us with more energy.
how do you prepare food then? is it always cold?
- Raw foodists use a dehydrator as their means of warming up & “cooking” food. A dehydrator blows warm air onto food and removes all the water, yet maintains all the enzymes because the temp can be set below 118 degrees F. It’s important to note that many raw foodies believe that eating too much dehydrated foods is not good either because you’re consuming food that’s stripped of its precious water content, but is used because it replaces many textures & tastes of cooked food.
- Juicers for used for extracting juices from fuits & veggies that are high in vitamins & minerals.
- Blenders, food processors, &/or choppers are used to mix food & flavors together in a way that’s more time efficient.
raw foodists always eat like this?!
It is generally accepted that to fully embrace this lifestyle, about 75% of your food is raw/living.
aren’t you lacking key nutrients in your diet?
This is an argument up for debate. Some raw foodist feel that eating solely raw foods supplies them with enough nutrients, vitamins, minerals, etc & others feel that it is necessary to supplement. Surprisingly, there are many foods that are high in protein, calcium, & other vital vitamins & minerals that most people are unaware of. For example, sesame seeds contain calcium, leafy greens such as kale contains B, K, & A vitamins & calcium, and many nuts are high in protein.
don’t you feel limited in what you can eat?
Yes & no. At face value one would think that there aren’t many options of things to eat, but when you dig a little deeper you find that the things you can create are endless.
what has been your experience & what are your insights on raw food?
I have never overhauled my entire diet for a significant period of time to consider myself having gone “completely raw”, but I definitely have ran about a 3 month self-imposed pilot study in which I incorporate the mentality & philosophy a great deal. Once you get into raw foods you quickly realize that you just can’t “go raw” overnight. Just like anything else it is a process that requires research & lots of small changes. I found that initially, “not cooking” some of the creations I was interested in eating required time & patience, but doesn’t this happen with anything that’s unfamiliar? After I tried a recipe once or twice I was able to breeze through it on the 3rd time. The more familiar I became with preparing raw foods, the more I became comfortable with planning out my meals.
Another thing I found challenging was that you need to begin at some sort of baseline of certain oils, spices, equipment, etc. for your life to be less complicated & frustrating, and that can be expensive. I didn’t splurge on a dehydrator or a fancy new blender, but I did make an investment in spices & oils which i think is necessary to truly enjoy all the complex flavors you can create on a raw diet.
One of my favorite things about the raw food diet is that it requires an open & creative mind to concoct up things with what seems like a limited ingredient list (don’t be discouraged if creativity isn’t your strong suite, that’s why cookbooks were invented). Before this I never knew that you could make a variety of “milks” by using different types of nuts & seeds (check out my almond milk recipe!) or that nuts, water, lemon juice, & salt could produce “cheeses” for pizza or that mushrooms & coconut seasoned the right way can taste like meat or that zucchini shredded thinly enough can taste like pasta?! It’s actually quite incredible.
Another thing I enjoyed about including raw/living meals into my day was that it was a learning experience for my body. I felt that my body became more sensitive to detecting the nutritional value of food, especially processed food. It’s almost like I developed a “what’s nutritionally-dense” radar! I specifically remember biting into a garlic breadstick at Olive Garden (the same ones I considered HEAVEN months earlier) and thinking this TASTES like it has absolutely no nutritional value, this tastes like cardboard, this tastes like it has nothing that could sustain me. A raw food enthusiast may refer to this as food that has been stripped of it’s “life force.”
Why haven’t I made the commitment to go completely raw yet?
Eating mostly raw meals made me feel like I made better choices throughout my day, such as choosing to work out, going to yoga, getting enough sleep- which in combination with my food choices, all lead to increased energy. I also felt that my body was given the chance to detox from overly processed foods laced with preservatives, excess sugar & salt. I even acquired a heighten awareness for nutrient-dense foods. Although there were many benefits to going raw, I felt that there were times when my body craved warm & grounding foods. I think I can characterize this in a different category than craving a glazed donut sugar bomb (with sprinkles please!). I didn’t think that my body was trying to revert back to a “negative” pattern, considering that rawists themselves use a dehydrator for the purpose of making raw, warm comfort foods. I think my body was asking for something that it needed to function optimally, somehow consuming an excessive amount of relatively colder foods made me feel out of balance.
I definitely experienced the benefits of why someone would chose to “go raw”, but I also feel that it is imperative to listen to your body’s needs. I feel that adhering to a strict regime for prolonged periods of time, without any room for flexibility, can in some ways be considered an extreme, & the body doesn’t operate very well on extremes.
The following article is one of my favorites. It highlights why the raw diet can be beneficial, why it may not be ideal for everyone, & how you can make a raw diet more balancing. Check it out….A perspective on raw food diets