Photo courtesy of my bud Aimee "The Wellness Woman." You can find the recipe to this gorgeous all Raw Bento Box here. Aimee is an amazing raw food chef and an inspiring life coach. She has also graciously agreed to do a guest post for my blog in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
So, What the Heck is Raw Food Anyway?
The terms "Raw Food" and to a lesser degree "Living Cuisine" have been making their way into the mainstream public's consciousness recently. This is due in part to a few celebrities who've adopted a raw foods lifestyle (... Anyone remember the hoopla surrounding Demi Moore's amazing bikini body when she appeared in the Charlie's Angels movie? Well, she achieved her svelte figure by going raw.).
But what exactly is raw food, you may be asking. Simply put, raw food consists of fresh, minimally processed and uncooked ingredients. Raw foodists are almost all exclusively vegan or vegetarian, so in this sense, raw food does not refer to raw meat and seafood. As an additional guideline, if you pick up any raw foods book (see resources list below), you'll read that food is no longer considered "raw" once it has been heated above a certain temperature -- most agree that's somewhere between 105 and 118 degrees.
So what do raw foodists eat?
Well, it's not just salads. There's an unending supply of fabulous raw food recipes out there (one of my favorites is raw, vegan lasagna). Still, leafy green vegetables, including wild greens and sprouts are usually at the top of a raw foodist's menu. Then there's a healthy dose of fruits (both sweet and unsweet), nuts and seeds, and fats/oils (avocados, coconut, olives). Some also include seaweeds and so-called "super foods" such as maca, cacao (raw chocolate) and goji berries. (more about super foods another day).
Some people do eat a 100% raw food diet. However, this is just not realistic for most (especially me), so many who are into the raw foods lifestyle eat "high raw" where they strive to eat anywhere from a 60% to 90% fresh, plant based diet.
Why would people eat only raw food?
There are many reasons why people adopt this way of eating. Many health buffs are turned on by the super high content of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients this diet offers; still, others claim this diet gives them more energy, improves digestion and makes them more conscious of where their food comes from; but the major reason people go raw is because they are facing some sort of health challenge. For instance, there are many people who have reversed their type-II diabetes and have completely come off of insulin after going raw. While training as a raw food chef, I even met one Type-I diabetic who has been able to significantly reduce the number of daily insulin shots by eating a diet high in raw foods.
Though, the biggest impetus behind people going raw seems to be Weight Loss. This is certainly true for me. Do a google search for before and after pics of people on a raw diet. There are some really amazing stories of people who have shed massive amounts of weight on this diet. One woman (Angela Stokes-Monarch), for example, lost and kept off about 160 pounds eating this way. The reason why people lose so much weight on raw foods is because raw foods are nutritionally dense but still low in calories. Thus you can eat a lot more raw food by volume while still consuming significantly fewer calories than you would by eating cooked food. Raw food also has more dietary fiber than cooked food, which is great for weight loss since foods with fiber make you feel fuller longer.
A Diet for the Masses?
Many people think that a 100% raw food diet is too restrictive. I happen to be one of them, but I think that it is a great Healing Diet, and periods of all raw can be great after days (or weeks) of eating too much junk. (Speaking of healing diets, I will be doing 3 weeks at Optimum Health Institute in June --stay tuned for my video-blogs about my experience!)
So, even though all raw many not be for everyone, most people could stand to add a little more fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets. And if you're feeling stuck in a salad rut and want to find fun new, healthy ways to feed your family, I highly recommend you give some raw food recipes a try.
Some Raw Food Resources
The following is a partial list of some raw food resources I've found helpful over the years. Although I do not agree with every opinion in the raw food movement, I like the overall messages of the people and products below and I think they are a great resource for beginners. Still, with most things in life, I take what is good for me, learn from it, and leave the rest behind. I suggest you do the same.
The Raw Food Detox Diet, by Natalia Rose
Super accessible, with multiple transition plans to help you incorporate more raw foods into your diet...especially for those who do not wish to go 100% raw. I also really liked her "raw before dinner" recommendations.
Everyday Raw, by Matthew Kenney
This is, by far, my favorite raw food recipe book of all time! It has everything: soups, salads, snacks, desserts, main courses and more. The mango wrapper on the cover is what prompted me to buy this book, and it did not disappoint!
The Vita-Mix blender
This blender is used by professional chefs and kitchens (such as on Food Network's Iron Chef Kitchen stadium) and it's usually the go-to-gadget for raw foodists everywhere. I even know people who travel with theirs! See my glowing review of the amazingness that is the Vita-Mix here.
Online Raw Food Shopping
Most things I need I can get at a regular grocery store, at my local health food store or Whole Foods. However, when I need a specialty item or just feel like treating myself to a tasty treat, The Raw Food World is where I go. It's my online stop for raw goodies and natural/health items for my home.