WHY EAT RAW?

WHAT DO RAW FOODISTS EAT?

Raw foodists eat whole foods without heating them above a temperature 110 degrees (Exact limit temperatures vary from 108-118 degrees. My limit is 115 degrees.). These foods include vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, roots, squash, grains, beans, sprouts, herbs, spices, sea vegetables, fermented foods (like miso, kim chee, sauerkraut, and nut cheese), dried fruits and vegetables, cured foods, raw nut butter, cold pressed oils, and raw soy sauce (nama shoyu).

WHAT'S WRONG WITH COOKING?

Heat destroys enzymes in food, which makes it harder to digest. Difficult digestion is not only uncomfortable, it is very unhealthy, especially over a long period of time (for more on enzymes, see "The Enzyme Debate" below).

Cooking also destroys much of the nutrients in food. Exactly how much nutrition is lost depends on how the food is cooked, for how much time, and which nutrient is in question. A very rough estimate is around half of the nutrients are lost when food is cooked.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EATING RAW?

Only an ideal diet will bring our bodies to ideal health. The Standard American Diet forces our bodies to spend undue energy on digestion, diverting energy to digestion that should be used for mental and physical energy. Everyone has experienced this. We all know that if we eat a lot of bread or pasta--which is hard to digest--we won't feel like going for a run afterwards. We'll feel like taking a nap, because our bodies have to spend too much energy on digestion. Only when I began eating raw did I realize how closely digestion is related to physical and mental energy. We should feel great after we eat, not tired or foggy.


The raw food diet is not just good for better digestion. If our digestion is good and we can eliminate toxins, our bodies can heal it's imbalances and create ideal operating conditions. The American diet creates a toxic load on our bodies over time, but we can detoxify by fasting or eating raw. Other benefits of our eating raw range from balancing hormones to making our bodies less susceptible to infections. The following benefits (listed below) are common among raw foodists. Depending on how sick one is to begin with, these benefits may be immediate or may not appear for some time. For example, when I started, my blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and mental clarity improved right away, but it took months for my hormones to balance out.

~Better digestion--no more cramping and bloating. Raw foodists actually have more energy after they eat, a feeling strange to many Americans (including me). More important than comfort is assimilation. If the body does not have to spend excessive energy ridding itself of offensive substances like dairy and wheat*, it can better absorb the nutrients it needs.

~Improved mental clarity--This partly results from better digestion. Some raw foodists have such a dramatic change in their mental clarity that they look at their previous lives as dreamlik.

~More energy--Until I began eating raw, I didn't realize I should be able to go through the entire day feeling energized.

~Better appearance--Besides bringing our bodies to an ideal weight, raw food also makes us look healthier. When I began eating raw, my acne improved, my skin became less oily, and my eyes got clearer.

~Better Mood: The American diet makes many people depressed, anxious, tense, and negative. There is something wrong with our bodies if we wake up uncomfortably groggy and go to bed at night worrying for no good reason. Eating right can make life a pleasure.

~A General Feeling of Emotional Balance: No more sugar crashes. Balanced hormones. Improved PMS symptoms (My PMS went from very painful to slightly unpleasant). Calm energy and mental clarity.

~Longer life--Although this is not as important as living an enjoyable and quality life (IMO), it is still quite important. Eating raw lengthens life in several ways. First, a diet of limited carbohydrates in itself slows aging. Eating raw can also remove most of our risk from several leading causes of death in the industrialized world. The leading cause of death in America, heart disease, is much less likely on the raw diet, especially for men. Cancer is also far less likely. There is a reason that cancer is not a leading cause of death in nations that do not eat the Western diet. (The American Cancer Association has a lot to say about the anti-carcinogenic effects of fruits and vegetables. See Link at bottom of post.)
Diabetes, the sixth leading cause of death, is nearly impossible if one eats a low glycemic diet**. The above are just a few reasons raw foodists live longer but, really, having a healthy, alkaline body makes us less susceptible most diseases.

WHO GETS INTO SOMETHING THIS RADICAL, ANYWAY? Many people who look into the raw food diet are desperate to cure diseases that traditional and even naturopathic medicine could not cure, especially chronic digestive illnesses and degenerative diseases. The raw food diet is excellent for these people because (the vast majority of it) is easy to digest and because it allows the body to continually detoxify and heal (similar to the action of a fast). Of course, this diet is great for most people. I consider it preventative medicine.

IS IT A HARD DIET TO FOLLOW?
No! When I tell people about my diet, they often look horrified that I deprive myself of things like bread and chocolate. They know how much they would crave these things if they tried giving them up. But my addiction to these foods is over, and I have no desire to eat sugar, diary, or wheat. I don't even like their taste anymore. After only a month of eating fresh food, processed food started to taste fake and unappetizing. I love eating raw! .......But don't think raw foodists go without dessert. The best desserts I have ever made were made of nuts, dates, fruit, berries, coconut oil, carob, and agave nectar. Just try mixing up finely chopped almonds, dates, cinnamon, and vanilla!

HOW DO RAW FOODISTS PREPARE THEIR FOOD?

Raw foodists use several tools and methods that many do not. The most important--and expensive--is the dehydrator, which is used for a wide variety of purposes, including making crackers, warming raw soup, drying nuts after soaking (see article on soaking nuts), drying fruit, and fermenting nut cheese.

Most raw foodists enjoy sprouts (see post on sprouting), and for this you need a couple quart or pint jars. (I use the ones coconut oil comes in.)

Another great tool to have is an ice cream maker (see post on raw ice cream). It sound weird, but raw ice cream actually tastes better than regular ice cream (fresh food ususally does), and it does not leave that slimy dairy feeling or the sugary aftertaste.

For more information on eating raw, check out Renee Loux Underkoffler's Living Cuisine, the ultimate guide to living raw (see post on Living Cuisine).
*Dairy and wheat are both very difficult to digest because they coat the intestines with mucus. This causes bloating, cramping, and tiredness.

**Many raw foodists do eat high-glycemic sweeteners, which is not healthy or necessary (see the post called "Sweeteners").

Link to American Cancer Association: <http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_3_2X_Common_Questions_About_Diet_and_Cancer.asp>

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Raw Recipes I Invented

Raw Tomato Soup
(no dehydrator required)

Ingredients:

8 ripe roma tomatoes
12 sun-dried tomatoes
2 tsp. nama shoyu (raw soy sauce)

Basil (preferably fresh)
Oregano (preferably fresh)
Parsley
2 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
2 cloves garlic
Pinch cayenne
3 sticks celery
1 white onion
1 cup steamed potatoes
Salt
Pepper

Steam potatoes. Boil 3 cups of water, turn off heat and put chopped celery and onion into it to soften for about a minute. Blend all tomatoes, tamari, basil, oregano, parsley, oil, lemon juice, and cayenne. Mix potatoes, tomato mixture, and strained celery and onions. Add salt and pepper.


Raw Pizza
(dehydrator required)

Crust:

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
2 jalapeno peppers (CORED!)
1 cup golden flax seeds, finely ground (a coffee grinder works well for these)

Blend all ingredients into a thick paste and spread about 3/8'' thick on a dehydrator tray. Dehydrate at 110 degrees for eight hours. They are good when still a little soft.

Sauce:

3/4 cups sun-dried tomatoes
6 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
5 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. nama shoyu (raw soy sauce)
1 tbsp. agave nectar
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
Celtic sea salt to taste
A pinch cayenne

Toppings:

1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
3 tomatoes, seeded and sliced thinly
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped small
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (optional)
1/2 cups sliced black olives (if you can find raw ones)

Marinate chicken in nama shoyu, garlic, and ginger, and fry with oregano, thyme, and basil. (If you are raw, but eat meat and fish occasionally as I do, chicken is great on the pizza. It is, of course, optional, though.) Chop veggies and olives and mix together with the chicken pieces.

Cheese (optional):

The pizza already has enough flavors without "cheese," but here is the recipe:

3/4 cups pine nuts
Juice of half a lemon
2 cloves garlic
Celtic sea salt to taste
6 tbsp. oil (for spreadability)

Blend all ingredients in the blender or food processor.

Assembly:

You can cut the large cracker on the dehydrator tray into a large circle, like a pizza, but I prefer to make small pizzas--about hors d'oeuvre sized. Spread sauce on the crust, sprinkle with toppings, and distribute pieces of "cheese."

Stuffed Pesto Mushrooms
(dehydrator optional)

Ingredients:

12 crimini mushrooms
4 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. nama shoyu
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic

3 cups basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
1 cup pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup raw black olives (optional)
Celtic sea salt to taste

Stem the mushrooms, and marinate the whole caps in nama shoyu, apple cider vinegar, and garlic for at least a half hour (overnight is good). Drain marinade. In food processor, blend basil, pecans, pine nuts, tomatoes, olives, and salt. Fill the mushrooms with the pesto and place in the dehydrator at 108 degrees for 1 hour. The mushrooms do not need to be warm, but they are better that way. If you don't have a dehydrator, put the mushrooms in the oven on the lowest temperature with the door slightly open. As with all foods, do not microwave them.

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