Why Raw?

veggies

Gena is a devoted raw foodist with a mission to make going raw as accessible as possible to the average eater.  Her recipes are absolutely fantastic and, even better, easy to make.

Greetings, Hadley Holistics readers! It’s my very great honor to be guest posting today for my pal Hadley. I’m the voice behind Choosing Raw – a raw blog devoted to readers of all culinary tastes and lifestyles.

You may have noticed a lot of raw love going around the blogosphere lately. And the sight of spiralized pasta and raw banana “soft serve” may have you wondering one very important question: why raw? What’s the deal behind these raw foods, and why should I be eating them? My hope is that I can give you an insightful answer about I choose to eat raw foods, and why they might benefit you, too.

Believe it or not, there are many kinds of raw foodists. While most raw foodists agree on certain fundamentals—that it’s good to preserve most of the enzymes in the food we eat by eating it raw, that raw foods can ease our digestion and thus give our body energy to devote to healing and other life processes, that eating foods in a state close to nature is a smart choice—there are some fairly sharp distinctions within the raw community. There are raw foodists who eat 100% raw – this means they won’t eat any cooked foods at all. They eat sprouted beans and grains (rather than cooked), and they insist that their foods not be heated about 117 degrees, the temperature at which enzymes in food start to be destroyed by heating. Some raw foodists are fruitarians, which means they eat a diet of fruit only; some follow an 80/10/10 protocol, which means that they obtain eighty percent of their calories from carbohydrates (usually fruits), ten percent from protein, and ten percent from fat. Some raw foodists practice food combining (which means eating foods that take similar amounts of time to digest together, and foods that demand different digestion times separately); some don’t. Some are green smoothie devotees; some are juicing fanatics. Some raw foodists are pescatarians or carnivores—yes, steak tartar is raw!—and some are vegans.

In other words, there is a multitude of raw lifestyles out there. The best I can do for my readers is to describe my own lifestyle and the rationale behind it as honestly as I can.

Here’s what I am: I’m all vegan, and mostly raw. My main emphasis within the raw lifestyle is on digestive health. To that end, I practice food combining and colon hydrotherapy. I also juice daily (or several times daily!). I don’t have a specific percentage of carbs/protein/fats; I do, though, tend to get plenty of avocados, young coconuts, and cold pressed oils in my diet, as I find that my energy flags when I don’t consume adequate fats.

Here’s what I’m not: I’m not a believer in superfoods, which means I don’t put much stake in the magical Incan berries and stupendously expensive algaes out there. I don’t chug green powders or swear by supplements. I’m also not religious about being 100% raw; I keep certain non-raw foods, such as root vegetables, grains, and the occasional piece (or pieces!) of vegan dark chocolate in my diet. I enjoy occasional cooked soups in the winter, and I eat steamed or sautéed vegetables now and then, too –especially when dining out. While I appreciate and admire those who adhere to an all raw diet, and while I try to eat all raw as often as I can, eating 100% raw is not my primary concern; digestive health is, and so is eating as much raw food as I can within a lifestyle that is nevertheless feasible and efficient. I’m more likely, then, to eat a piece of Ezekiel toast than to spend ten hours dehydrating raw bread.  In fact, the two most crucial kitchen tools for getting started on raw, in my mind, are a good set of knives and a decent blender or food processor (food processors are especially helpful!).

Do I believe that it’s wise to get as many enzymes as we can by eating mostly raw, plant based foods? Absolutely. But it’s not the rawness of the foods in and of itself that makes them healing: it’s also the fact that they digest with little stress to our systems, and that that they exit the body efficiently and quickly. Plant based foods are also healing because of their alkalinity; alkaline foods balance the acidity that so many people eating a standard American diet suffer from, and that’s the cause of so much chronic disease.

And of course, I believe that eating food as nature gave it to us—which is to say, in an unprocessed and largely un-tampered with form—is the best and wisest way to eat. For me, this is in many ways the essence of a “raw” diet: to eat food in its pure, natural state, in simple combinations, and without elaborate preparation or seasoning. Most of my recipes are tremendously simple; you won’t see too many raw pizzas or burgers or falafels on my blog. Chances are, if it demands dehydration or sprouting, I’ll prepare it seldom, if at all. What you will see on my blog are recipes that are simple yet flavorful; satisfying yet light. You’ll also see basic recipes idea that lend themselves to variety and interpretation. Here are three of my favorite examples.

1)    Zucchini pasta.

With nothing more than a nifty little tool called a spiralizer, you can create vegetable pasta that is tastier and more nutrient rich, but just as versatile as the real thing. Here are a few examples of the bounty that is vegetable pasta:

Zucchini pasta with red pepper marinara:

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Zucchini pasta with pesto sauce:

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Zucchini “Peanut” Noodles

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2)    Blended Salads

The basic idea here is simple: using a few vegetables and some avocado or oil for richness, you can make the simple, blended equivalent of a giant salad (that’s a bit easier to digest than the real thing!). My faves include:

Cream of Zucchini Soup

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Garden Vegetable Soup

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Harvest Vegetable Soup

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3)    Salads

You didn’t think I would finish this post without them, did you? Naturally, giant salads are a cornerstone of raw cuisine. The varieties are endless, and the satisfaction is tremendous. My faves are too many to name, but I can give you some highlights:

Massaged Kale Salad

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Fennel, Cherry Tomato, and Avocado Salad

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Tomato, Butter Lettuce, and Corn Salad with Buttermilk Chive Dressing

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And what are the benefits of this simple lifestyle? So many! Since eating raw, I’ve experienced an end to the IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) that used to plague me, an abundance of energy, and tremendous health all around. Best of all, my joy with the raw lifestyle has motivated me to coach others as they transition to a raw lifestyle.

I hope this post can persuade you that raw foods needn’t be time consuming or complicated; I hope it also shows you that eating raw needn’t just be about enzymes, digestion, or any single motive or goal; a raw lifestyle can provide many benefits, and should be undertaken in such a way as to suit your own needs!! Give it a try, modify to fit your lifestyle, and—most important—have fun as you do it.

Bon appétit!

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9 thoughts on “Why Raw?

  1. Evita says:

    Wow this was a fantastic read! I can relate to it so good as I describe myself in exactly the same way: “I’m all vegan, and mostly raw.”

    I make sure to focus on raw and eating as wholesome and natural, but am not 100% as I have a very similar outlook as you. Just your whole explanation of what you are and what you are not resonated with me so well!

    Good, wholesome, plant-based, natural food – what could be better!.

    Thank you for this, as I have been focusing on the idea of going raw 100% over the past few months and want to incorporate as much info and outlooks on this topic as possible!

    BTW – your recipes look fantastic!

  2. Hanlie says:

    Wonderful post, as usual, Gena! Thank you! I’m 8 days into a 21 day raw “cleanse” and loving it… I probably owe my readers a bit more info on raw foods, so I’ll link back to this!

  3. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) says:

    Great post, Gena. I had never really mentally classified all the different types one can be raw, I pretty much just thought raw = vegan, or high raw people are generally going to be vegetarian. I had not really thought of fruitarians, pescatarians, etc. and they could be raw, too. But labels, schmabels, right? I am all about your recipes: clean, simple, light, satisfying, food in the way nature intended. I have not yet purchased a dehydrator (and actually am more driven for one so I can make raw desserts in it! LOL) b/c for daily eating, if it involves sprouting or dehydrating it aint gonna likely happen in my life. Anyway, great post and hello Hadleyholistics, what a score to have Gena posting here!
    Averie

  4. Michal Mymo says:

    Excellent post Gena as always. I was a 100% percent raw foodie for a while, but I just got caught up in the dogma. I felt guilty if I ate anything that wasnt raw. I have changed though, and decided for my health to included bits of cooked foods in my diet (ie : sweet potatos, ezekiel bread, beans). Im trying to find a healthy balance, and just doing what I think is best for my body 🙂

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