Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why Eat Raw?

If you read my New Year's resolutions, you may have noticed that one of my goals for 2009 is to increase my daily Raw food intake. I started learning about the benefits of Raw food before I made the decision to actually study holistic nutrition. One day I decided to look up different vegetables and read about their nutrional value. I was blown away by all of the really great benefits each individual vegetable posesses. (More on that later.) From there I started learning more about how cooking or overcooking (as most of us do) our veggies, pretty much breaks down/removes most of the nutritients and enzymes that our bodies need. Thus my journey into Raw.

Raw fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, proteins and enzymes that help our bodies function properly. They promote healthy cell growth, help to remove toxins and fight disease. They are essential to living a healthy, whole life and most of us don't get nearly enough.

Specifically, eating Raw food increases the phytonutrients you get from your food. Phytonutrients/phytochemicals are "plant nutrients" generally concentrated in the skin of many fruits and vegetables. Phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables contain potent antioxidants that can neutralize free radical damage, which not only provides anti-aging protection, but is suspected to help prevent diseases like cancer and heart disease. The reason it is so important to eat plant foods Raw is that these chemicals are heat sensitive and will lose most of the powerful phytonutrient benefits if heated over 130 degrees.

Raw plant foods also provide digestive enzymes which help to break down the food you eat, high-quality protein without all of the fat that animal proteins contain and plenty of fiber to keep everything flowing, if you know what I mean. Once again, it is important to eat organic produce whenever possible to keep the herbicides, pesticides and other nasty things to a minimum.

One article I read defined the Raw food diet as follows:
"The Raw Food Diet is a pure vegetarian diet consisting of mostly raw organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Food is consumed in its natural whole state and not heated above 118 degrees F."

I would venture to guess that their are very few people that eat a 100 percent Raw diet. And, although most individuals on what is known as a 'high' Raw diet, where they will eat some cooked food, are Vegan (which means they consume no animal products or by-products), I believe that no matter where you are on your food journey, adding more Raw can be a powerful, positive step. For the record, although I have cut down on my consumption of animal products, I am not Vegan and manage to eat a moderate to high Raw diet most days. (No, I don't eat Raw meat.)

To increase my intake of Raw fruits and vegetables, I have started juicing which was discussed in a previous post, drink green smoothies most everyday and have tried a few Raw recipes. The smoothies and the juicing really help to increase the amount of fruits and veggies you can take in in a day. It has become a little addicting. I literally get a boost of energy after a glass of fresh green juice.

But back to reality, the Raw recipes so far have been good, but require a little tastebud adjustment. The flavors are overwhelming, believe it or not, and will take some getting used to. One that worked for my family and I will try again is a Raw Pasta sauce. Now true Raw foodies would eat this over thinly sliced zucchini (which I slightly steamed for myself). For my family though, I served the Raw sauce over cooked whole wheat pasta. I thought that was a good compromise. So here is the recipe:

Raw Pasta Sauce
3 cups chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups sun dried tomatoes
1 sprig basil (about 10 large leaves)
7-10 sun dried black cured olives (I found cured black olives at Whole Foods, don't forget to remove the pits)

Pulse tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, basil and olives in the blender until blended but still a little chunky. Pour over zucchini or pasta, but go easy on it compared to cooked pasta sauce. The flavor is much stronger.

Whether you are adding a few more carrot sticks to your lunch or are trying full-on Raw, I wish you the best of luck and would love to hear what has worked for you!

- Shannan

Sources: Kristen's Raw: The Easy Way to Get Stared & Succeed at the Raw Food Vegan Diet & Lifestyle and Raw Food Starter Guide/10 Healthy Recipes to Get you Started on Raw Foods! by Cecilia Benjumea.


Hanlie said...

I'm very similar - high raw (>78%), almost vegan. I think that's good enough for me! I also include vegetable juices and green smoothies in my daily meals.

Shannan and Karla said...

Yay Hanlie! I am glad to hear there are other non-vegans choosing a high raw diet.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

Shannan and Karla said...

That sounds great Shannan...I can't wait to try that sauce.


GirlonTour said...

I agree that Green Smoothies and Juices become addictive. I am away on a work trip at the moment, and although I brought along my favourite travel blender, over the last week I have struggled to get my green smoothie in and I have noticed the withdrawal BIG TIME! As for the raw pasta sauce, great place to start. That is the first RAW meal I made.

Kristen's Raw said...

Great post Shannan :)

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