You do not have to change your entire lifestyle or even eating habits to incorporate a raw food diet into your existing eating habits. In fact, you may be surprised to know that some of you already consume lots of raw foods!
So what is raw food?
Simply put, it is food that is not cooked. More technically put, it is food that is not heated over 118 degrees, and not processed in any way that removes the nutrients from the food. So, when you eat an apple or a salad (without the sugary dressing), you are eating raw! However, applesauce or a Three-Bean-Salad (garbanzo beans, kidney beans, green beans, etc) are not raw. Do not confuse cold dishes with raw. Many cold dishes have just been cooked ahead of time.
Why eat a diet consisting mostly of raw foods?
The question often gets asked, “Why eat raw?” Personally, the short of it is that it makes most people feel better (i.e. have more energy and mental clarity). It is also a great way to save time because there is less time spent in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. Another great reason is because it costs less to eat raw! Most of the cost of buying groceries is spent on meat products and prepackaged foods.
A more in depth answer to why one should eat raw has to do with how our bodies respond to cooked food. It has been shown that when one eats cooked food (food heated over 118 degrees), the white blood cell count raises in one’s body. Since white blood cells are invasive fighters and usually come around to attack foreign substances, like when one is sick, this tells us that our bodies recognize cooked food as being foreign. However, if enough raw food is eaten with any nutritional whole cooked food, white blood cells do not surge.
In addition, when food gets cooked, certain nutrients are killed off. The less we cook our food, the more nutrients we consume and therefore absorb. (There are a few components, such as lycopene, that availability increases with cooking.)
And last but not least, our bodies need enzymes to digest and assimilate the food that we eat. By simply increasing the amount of raw fruits and vegetables we consume, we not only help keep our digestive enzyme reserves up, but we help our body digest the meal we are currently eating!
How does one eat raw?
Transitioning to a raw diet does not have to be painful, nor does one have to be 100% raw in order to benefit from raw foods. There is a time and a place for cooked foods. Even so, we could all use to eat more raw foods, for our health and to expand our culinary horizons! I suggest everyone, at the very least, to incorporate fresh fruits and/or vegetables into every meal for basic health. With that said, here are some easy ways to do so:
• Make morning smoothies with fresh or frozen fruit (you can even add in spinach, chard, keale…)
• Add fresh fruit to your oatmeal or in your yogurt
• Make a fruit salad
• Eat a salad with dinner and lunch
• Marinate vegetables in olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt or Liquid Amino Bragg’s for a few hours to achieve a cooked texture
• Snack on fresh veggies in between meals
• Snack on fresh fruit between meals
• Choose raw seeds and nuts rather than pasteurized and roasted- this includes nut butters. And consider soaking them prior to eating. (See below for why)*
• sprout your own seeds for nutrient rich food (mung beans, sunflower seeds, adazuki beans, etc.)
Many people think that in order to eat raw they have to prepare these complicated dishes and have fancy blenders and dehydrators. While this can be part of a raw diet, if one so chooses, it is not necessary; eating raw is very simple- it’s as easy as throwing a bunch of uncooked veggies on a plate and eating!
*Why soak nuts?
Most nuts and seeds have enzyme inhibitors, which make it harder on the digestive tract to digest and assimilate the food. By soaking nuts for 6 hours or longer, the enzyme inhibitors are washed away, making it easier to digest them. If you are in a hurry or have not preplanned, go ahead and skip this step! We find it easiest to soak seeds /nuts overnight so they are ready for the next day. If you don’t get to them in time, rinse them and put them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer until you need them! Or you can dehydrate them after soaking them, and they’ll last longer until you do use them.
Macadamia nuts and hemp seeds are enzyme inhibitor free! No soaking required!