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What’s All This Talk About ‘Raw Food’?

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You might have seen reference to the raw food movement, raw food recipes, or a raw food ‘diet’ floating around Facebook, the blogosphere or television lately. Just what is all this hype about, anyway?

What is meant by the term ‘raw food’?

Raw cuisine, in its mainstream movement, describes the use of plant-based nutrition sources including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds to create innovative dishes which retain and most often far exceed cooked varieties in taste, texture, appearance and most of all, nutritional value. Raw and living food is typically minimally processed, free from ingredients derived from animal products, and not heated to a temperature of over 46°C (115°F) during production. Most ‘raw foodists’ are not knocking back sushi or rare steaks, although some people, to include a limited percentage of raw foodists, may consume raw dairy products or eggs, particularly if they have access to these food sources from their own animals. However, the raw food lifestyle typically is vegan – meaning it is free of all animal products.

What types of foods are used in raw food preparation?

At first thought, a diet consisting of raw, plant-based food sources exclusively might sound limiting, but, in fact, nature offers a wide variety of botanical edibles of all colors and nutritional profiles. A few ideas to get your started are:

• Fruits and their juices (e.g., mango, papaya, bananas, pineapple, berries, apples, grapes, stone fruit)

• Vegetables and their juices (e.g., leafy greens, carrots, beets) • Leafy herbs (e.g., basil, rosemary, oregano, mint)

• Flowers (e.g., lavender, chamomile, hibiscus)

• Nuts (e.g., almonds, cashews, macadamia, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts)

• Unsprouted seeds (e.g., sunflower, hemp, pumpkin, chia, cacao beans)

• Sprouted seeds (e.g., broccoli, radish, mung bean sprouts)

• Some grains (e.g., buckwheat, quinoa, oats)

• Cold-pressed oils (e.g., olive, nut oils, seed oils, coconut oil)

• Seaweed and algae (e.g., dulse, wakame, ‘Irish moss’, spirulina)

Why eat raw food?

There are numerous reasons that someone might want to introduce raw foods into their daily diet. The main factor that brings someone into experimentation with raw food is the desire to improve his or her general physical health and well-being. With only a few exceptions, the vitamins, minerals and enzymes in fresh produce and nuts and seeds are retained and assimilated to a higher degree when the foods are left raw, as compared to when they are cooked (raw foods are more nutrient dense than their cooked counter-parts).

Skipping the heat also eliminates concerns over carcinogens resulting from grilling or cooking in oil at a high heat (e.g., barbequing or frying). Fiber naturally found in fresh produce remains intact when left uncooked. As raw food dishes and meals do not contain any unnatural additives, artificial chemicals such as colorants, flavorings and synthetic preservatives are excluded from the diet by default.

Raw food is also naturally gluten-free in most all cases, as gluten-containing grains are rarely eaten uncooked, and problematic foods for many cultures – namely dairy and eggs – are eliminated from the lifestyle. Sugars included in desserts are natural with a lower glycemic index as compared to refunded sugars and are usually kept to a minimum, or at least greatly reduced, when compared to standard cooked foods, and many people report dramatic weight loss, blood sugar stabilization, reduced sugar cravings, and clearer skin as a result of this dietary change.

Raw food diets are generally much more alkaline and less acidic that standard cooked food diets, which has been shown to be beneficial to maintaining a healthy pH level within the body. Other reasons for adopting a raw food diet and lifestyle involve reasons parallel for following veganism in general, namely love and compassion for animals and/or the philosophy of ahimsa or non-harming, as well as concern over environmental and pharmaceutical contaminants in our food supplies, which are often concentrated in animals such as those farmed for meat and dairy. In addition, the desire to reduce one’s overall environmental footprint, which can be achieved when living on a diet focused around unpackaged food (as compared to the Standard American Diet, for example), is just one of the many benefits that enjoying fresh, whole raw foods has on both the planet and all of us who live upon it!

Do any of these benefits entice you to try adding more raw foods to your current diet and lifestyle?

Jennifer M. Robertson (De-hydrated - Modern Living Cuisine)

Jennifer M. Robertson is a cephalopod biologist with interests in small-scale fisheries and environmental sustainability. She holds both Master’s and PhD degrees in Marine and Fisheries Science from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland and is a peer-reviewed published author, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand and an Honorary Researcher at the University of Aberdeen. Jennifer was trained in the Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine at the Matthew Kenney Academy in Oklahoma City, USA, the world’s first classically-structured raw and living foods education center. She currently teaches raw food preparation classes in Bangkok under her company De-hydrated, produces raw vegan food for order and delivery, and has catered for organizations such as Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

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Jennifer M. Robertson (De-hydrated - Modern Living Cuisine) Jennifer M. Robertson is a cephalopod biologist with interests in small-scale fisheries and environmental sustainability. She holds both Master’s and PhD degrees in Marine and Fisheries Science from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland and is a peer-reviewed published author, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand and an Honorary Researcher at the University of Aberdeen. Jennifer was trained in the Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine at the Matthew Kenney Academy in Oklahoma City, USA, the world’s first classically-structured raw and living foods education center. She currently teaches raw food preparation classes in Bangkok under her company De-hydrated, produces raw vegan food for order and delivery, and has catered for organizations such as Greenpeace Southeast Asia.