As you might have noticed, I love exploring and experimenting with different diets and ways of eating. Raw food is one that I’ve been hesitant to try. In my (limited) experience, most raw diets are also vegan. Already being accustomed to a vegan, or even vegetarian, diet and then switching to raw is one thing, but making the leap to a raw-vegan diet directly from an “omnivore who loves to cook” diet seems pretty intense. Especially for someone who would probably list eggs, butter, cheese, and bacon in her top ten list of favorite foods. But, raw foods keep popping up in my life, and I can’t help but be curious.
Aside from salads, or meals that have coincidentally been raw, my first experience eating “raw” was last weekend. We were in Montreal at a family wedding and a group of us decided to try out a raw food restaurant called Crudessence. There was some definite hesitation among the group. How could we have a sandwich without bread? They offer pasta dishes? Made from what???
Four of us decided to be truly adventurous and order the Discovery Plate “a colourful plate of tapas comprised of our best appetizers and Chef’s selections”. I have to say, it did not disappoint. There were kale chips, hummus, cashew spread, vegetable sushi rolls, veggie balls (kind of like falafel), stuffed mushrooms, and some sort of tasty dehydrated crackers (sesame seed I think). We ate every last bit (as evidenced by the photo below). There was also a huge selection of smoothies and juices. Fletch and I decided to try the one we thought sounded the most “out there”. Spinach, almond milk, cayenne, banana, and mint. Weird, right? To my amazement it was delicious. I would probably make this at home and have it for breakfast quite happily.
I returned home to Ottawa thinking that I would probably experiment with raw food sometime ”later”. Much later (it is bbq season after all…and I have just mastered the perfect homemade veggie burger). Then, before I knew it, raw was popping up again.
My friends stopped by for dinner and they left me these tasty little treats to try. Apparently too much coconut for them (not me!).
At first I was too distracted by the tasty vanilla almond coconut delciousness to realize that they were raw. Then I had a look at the package: raw, vegan, gluten-free. Hmmm, Laughing Giraffe you are clearly onto something here. But $8.99 for 6 balls? Ouch. I can do better than that. Oh no….now my competitive streak has been activated. I’m pretty much doomed right? Possibly, but at least I can learn from my mistakes.
My most recent mistake being jumping into a paleolithic diet completely uninformed. So, this is the information stage. What am I getting into? Should I try going all out (all in?), or just try out a few recipes? What is this raw business all about anyway?
Raw Diet Basics
Just as the name implies, a raw food diet means you eat raw foods. Specifically only raw, unprocessed foods. Raw is defined as having not been heated over 104F/40C. The reasoning behind this, according to raw foodists, is that foods start to lose their nutritional value after they have been heated. More specifically the natural enzymes in food that build proteins, repair the body, and help us digest the food are destroyed once the food is heated. There seems to be some scientific research to support this. I also remember reading somewhere that if the natural enzymes are destroyed the body has to produce it’s own. Apparently (or maybe I am just making this up because I can’t find the source of my info) there are a finite number of enzymes, so people who eated cooked foods age faster once their bodies start to run out. Don’t hold me to this…
Also, people report just generally FEELING GOOD. As quoted from Steve Pavlina’s raw food trial, he says, “I felt totally euphoric during my first raw trial, like I was constantly buzzing on an emotional high”. A natural high, no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol. Sounds pretty tempting to me…
On the surface, this eating plan seems quite simple. The problems arise when you try to figure out what to eat. Many people have found that they just cannot get enough calories. Seems strange, but I think I understand what they’re getting at. After splitting that huge platter of food I expected to be stuffed, but all of us had the same reaction. “I’m still hungry”. If you try and get all of your calories from vegetables you will literally be eating all day. It’s just not possible (maybe possible, but maybe not realistic). You have to get your calories from somewhere, and most people turn to nuts and seeds. The problem here is that you are literally getting the majority of your calories from fat. A surefire recipe for not feeling good. This is something that I was particularly struck with when I was first looking at raw recipes. I love to bake, so I started there, and I came across this gorgeous looking pomegranate cheesecake (from Russel James – therawchef)
Looks great right? I’m sure it’s delicious. What’s it made from? Cashews and coconut oil. Fat and fat. In total there are 3 cups of cashews and 1 1/4 cups coconut oil. Sure, this would most likely be a special treat, but it clearly illustrates the trap of relying on nuts and fatty fruits like coconut and avocado. OK for some things, but really not a good way to eat all the time.
The other difficulty that I’ve heard that people often have with eating raw is the shear amount of time required to prepare their food. For one, you need to eat more food each day to get the calories you need. People seem to be stuck with the notion that their raw food diet needs to resemble a non-raw food diet, and spend hours each day trying to recreate familiar foods like pizza, pasta, breads, and crackers. I get it, but it doesn’t seem practical as a life choice.
The strategy that seems to make the most sense to me is a diet high in fruit (80-90%), followed by fats (like nuts, seeds, and fatty fruits- 10-15%), and then veggies (5-10%). I feel wrong even just typing this. It goes against a lot of what I think I know. Fruit = sugar and sugar = bad. Green veggies = the best. I suppose if I think about it in terms of calories it makes a little more sense. I could eat an entire green salad and only consume as many calories as in a single banana.
Alright…that’s enough food for thought for one day. I think I’ve just about convinced myself to give it a try.
Any thoughts? Do any of you have any experiences/tips for eating raw?