The Raw Diet – An introduction on how to eat raw
The raw vegan diet can be traced back to Ancient Greece and Pythagoras, so he was certainly a man who knew a thing or two more than just right angled triangles. If like me, your immediate response to the thought of eating a raw diet is to swiftly dismiss it, spare a few moments to consider the benefits : Clear and vibrant skin, shiny healthy hair, slim and supple body, youthful appearance, high energy, deep restful sleep, exalted mood, deeper spiritual connection. Now think about how many foods you already eat that are raw – fruit, vegetables, salads, nuts – without even registering that they are part of a raw diet.
It is important to make it clear here that in referring to diet, it is not meant in the weight loss term which we are rather conditioned to associate with that word, however if you embrace this way of eating and have kilos to lose, you will shed them without having to go hungry. This is more about initiating a way of eating that continues for life, not just a few weeks or months. Although there are immediate benefits, the main ones are cumulative, and depending on the state of your health when you commence, it will depend upon how soon you reap said benefits. This is not a restrictive way of eating once you become accustomed to it. When you eat the raw way there is no counting of calories, no cutting out essential fats or carbs simply because they are not in the correct food grouping.
Resistance to the idea of a raw diet is more in the head than in actual taste. We are creatures of habit and have been trained about how and what we eat, yet there are now so many chances to alter how we eat with ease, without feeling we are missing out.
Raw food can be applied to any food that has not been subject to temperatures above 115 F/46C. Karen Ranzi, author of Creating Healthy Children explains the reasoning behind not heating food above a certain temperature, “In 1930, Dr Paul Kouchakoff…found that our bodies’ ‘normal’ toxic reaction to eating… occurred only when cooked food was eaten. He found that Digestive Leukocytosis, the immediate increase in our white blood cell count, did not occur if plant foods were eaten in their natural, unheated state. Leukocytosis is the stress response found normally when the body is invaded by a dangerous pathogen or trauma. He discovered that we have no stress response when we eat purely raw foods.”
So basically, consuming cooked food will over time bring about ageing in our bodies in the ways we expect and view as normal. It is time for a new normal! If you check out any high % raw fooder over 60 they will be vibrant, active and youthful Tonya Zavasta and Mimi Kirk being two such shining examples. In Mimi’s words, “Feeling like you’re in your 30’s at 82 is quite an amazing thing. I accredit this youthful look and spirit not only to my attitude, but really to my way of eating which is 85% raw vegan – living foods lifestyle.”
Swapping to Raw
So how do you start to eat a raw diet? You can dive in at the deep end as some do – this suits certain personality types who need to feel that have drawn the line under old habits and started a new regime. It is a great time of year to do this in the warmer months Or you can ease your way in with small steps and take as long as you like in the transition period. It’s not a competition. Generally, I suggest the easing in option as it is less likely to cause any detox type symptoms which can happen when suddenly altering your diet.
Start by making the raw parts of your present diet – salads and fruit – bigger so they become the main part of your meals. Make one meal a day all raw. Remember juices and smoothies count as raw, assuming the ingredients are known to you as such. (Not all uncooked food is raw) At this time of year it is easier to eat lighter meals, working with the rhythms of nature as well as gaining extra sustenance from the sun.
Which Raw Diet Version Suits You?
There are a variety of ways to rank raw eating. If I have to shoehorn myself into any category, I would call myself a high raw, high vegan, as I do use some ingredients that are not pure raw. Plus I eat pollen and use other bee products, (depending how the bees are cared for) which vegans do not. I’m not interested in pigeonholing myself, and no one size fits all. It is up to us to find what suits us individually, and it will be an ongoing experiment noting the results and refining as we go.
- 100% Raw Diet – This literally means no food passes your lips that is not 100% un heat treated and this is more complex than it seems For example, cashew nuts are removed from their shells using heat and this in turn renders them not raw. It is possible to buy raw ones at about three times the cost of the easily available non salted type. Cashew nuts figure largely in the transition period as they are so versatile for sweet and savoury and can be used to make a cheese. So a clearer example of a 100 percenter would be a fruitarian. This level sustained for months and years will bring a total transformation.
- Live Raw Foods – Dr Brian Clements of the Hippocrates Institute, which is committed to generating super – health through living food, regards foods that capture the most sunlight as the prime ones. So “live” raw focuses on the freshness and vitality of plant food, and less on sun dried or dehydrated raw foods. Another example of live foods are sprouted seeds: alfalfa, sunflower, broccoli et al.
- Vegetarian vs. Vegan Raw Diet – There is also the choice between a raw vegan diet and a raw vegetarian diet. Some raw vegetarians consume raw butter and raw cheeses, but you really need to do some homework to source these. Really it’s not about being defined by what you eat, but just being aware of the labelling pitfalls. You will find that nut cheeses and coconut oils will replace any non vegan foods – this will happen quite naturally over time as your taste buds adjust.
- Partially Raw Eating Diet – Raw has gained momentum over the 12 years since I began, and consequently there are variations on this theme. Someone somewhere came up with the idea of ‘raw til four’, which is as simple as it sounds, only raw foods until 4pm and then a cooked meal. It’s a catchy idea but beware the possible temptation to think you can then indulge in processed junky foods because you have been super clean all day!
- Quantum Raw Diet – Before intermittent fasting caught on in its recent big way, Tonya Zavasta was on this in her book, “Quantum Eating”, where she suggests finishing the last meal and drink of the day around 3 pm. The reasoning is based upon the natural rhythms of our body, and how key organs function at various times of the day. Also by giving our body a mini fast every day, it is being cleansed constantly. Tonya does however maintain that it will only be possible to stick to this if eating 100% raw. Her quantum raw recipes are very simple and pure.
Lose the Excuses
The first book I read about eating raw remains one of my most treasured ones. I loved the fact it gave me much information ahead of its time (yet conversely age old), on how to rejuvenate my body with herbs and spices, essential oils, vitamins and minerals. I became a convert to spirulina, ashwagandha, goji berries, skin brushing and distilled witch hazel, yet I baulked at eating raw which was actually the main focus of the book. It took me 12 years to get my head around this, thinking only of what I would have to give up.
Instead, I gained not lost. I discovered all manner of unusual foods and tastes which happily a further 12 years later, are far more widely available, with even ‘normal’ chef, Jamie Oliver, having some raw recipes on his website. Initially, you will likely be mimicking cooked recipes and this mean denser meals, using a lot of nuts and oils, maybe making dehydrated breads, crackers and pastries. There are myriad raw dessert recipes that are rich and filling and one of my favourite savoury dishes is a thick satisfying raw chilli. As time passes you will find desire lessens for the heavier meals. You will become more in tune with nature, and automatically eschew anything that isn’t going to nourish you. You will remake your body, your mind and your soul!
Next time: The Raw Kitchen: setting up with the equipment and store cupboard you need.
Helen is a nutritional therapist and freelance natural health writer, interested in metaphysics, Taoism, babies, cats and chocolate, though not necessarily in that order. Having searched over 2 decades for the best ways to eat to live long and strong, Helen switched 12 years ago to a highly raw, plant-based diet which she loves.” You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org