Raw food has slowly been creeping up in the food scene, offering a unique take on culinary creations, but how many people ACTUALLY know what raw food is all about? What is a raw food diet?
There are so many misconceptions about raw cuisine, a few of my favorites being:
- Raw Food is essentially a plate of carrot sticks, raw broccoli florets and sliced mushrooms
- Raw Food causes malnourishment and emaciation
- All Raw Food is cold
- Raw Food is just a fad, another diet, and way to loose weight
With that being said, while I am not 100% raw, I do think that it is important to integrate into the diet, and therefore, everyone should actually know what in the world it is! Because let’s face it, does this look like something that falls under any of those 4 misconception points?
Just so you know, and just so we are clear… this is going to be a bit of a porn show here. Raw Food Porn.
Because what is sexier than NAKED cuisine?
Now, let’s get you Fooducated.
What is Raw Food?
Raw food is food that is prepared by not heating it above 105 – 118 degrees. Therefore, you can use a multitude of techniques to prepare the food, including the use of dehydrators, high speed blenders, and anti-griddles. As a result, the food is not always COLD, like most people expect.
Raw food is composed of the following: vegetables, fruits, sprouted nuts and seeds, sprouted grains, seaweeds, fermented plant foods, and natural sweeteners (agave, honey).
Raw food cuisine is actually quite advanced in the realm of its culinary techniques and innovations, and may have surpassed that of cooked cuisine it its ability to transform and create flavors and textures that are nothing short of magical. Therefore, raw cuisine is composed of dishes that are far more involved than just basic salads and vegetable platters, and can include pretty much anything that cooked cuisine offers. Hence this delicious cacao, pistachio and mint ice cream sandwich….
Is Raw Food Vegan?
While technically raw refers to anything not cooked, which includes raw dairy and meat, raw cuisine for the most part does not contain any dairy or animal products. Depending on the raw chef, it may not be 100% vegan either in that it may include bee products such as raw honey and bee pollen.
Is there Protein in Raw Food?
Raw food does actually contain protein, but rather from animal products, it comes from plants, nuts and seeds. Since raw plants, nuts and seeds still contain their enzymes, protein is actually quite available to be used by the body.
It is also typical for raw foodies to also utilize other sources of protein in their diet such as raw protein powders, superfoods (hemp seeds, spirulina) and nutritional yeast, which are actually great sources of protein.
Check out my article “Plant-Based Protein Chart” as a reference.
Does Eating Raw have all the Nutrition that we need?
Eating a raw diet is actually one of the most nutritionally dense diets, but one does have to be mindful about making sure to include foods that include B12. B12 is naturally found in animal products, but is actually quite abundant in nutritional yeast, which is a popular ingredient in many raw recipes. As for calcium, calcium is very rich in green leafy vegetables and chia seeds, so there is not an issue there.
Another one of concern is iron, but iron is rich in spirulina, pumpkin seeds and tahini – often used as basics in a raw diet. So the answer is yes, you can get all the nutrition you need from eating raw, as long as you are mindful about eating the right foods.
What are the Health Benefits of Raw Food?
1. Nutrition! Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
When food is heated above 105 – 118 degrees, precious nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are destroyed. Therefore, raw food maintains the integrity of the food and all of its naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and enzymes making it the healthiest way to receive nutrition from food.
Raw food is unique in that it contains enzymes that cooked food no longer contains. Enzymes are extremely important to our health for numerous reasons:
- Digestion – our digestive system (pancreas, stomach, small intestine) makes enzymes for digesting food, but if the enzymes are already present in the food, our organs don’t have to work as hard. As a result, we digest our food better, our organs are not stressed, and they can spend the time working on other important functions.
- All cells require enzymes to survive and function. Enzymes are your body’s workers. They are responsible for constructing, synthesizing, carrying, dispensing, delivering, and eliminating the many ingredients and chemicals our body uses in its daily business of living. Therefore, if we do not use enzymes for digestion, then they are free to be used for other very important functions. This is why eating raw food can help with disease prevention.
Because raw food is made with “raw” ingredients, you have to make sure they are of the highest quality. Each ingredient is chosen for its freshness and integrity meaning it is was picked at its peak ripeness, was grown in rich, fertile soil without pesticides and chemicals, and it arrives at the plate without altering, canning or any processing. Raw cuisine does not use any cooking methods to hide the taste of the ingredients, so you can always be sure you are eating the highest quality food.
4. No Dairy or Animal Meat
Mostly all ingredients used in raw cuisine are plant-based. As a result, you do not have to worry about exposure to antibiotics, hormones or pathogens commonly found in dairy and meat. Furthermore, most plant ingredients are alkaline, making them perfect for creating a disease-free body environment, unlike animal products, which are acid-forming.
To learn more about toxic exposures from meat, read “The Down and Dirty Cow Series”
Raw food contains high levels of enzymes and nutrients making it a perfect diet to maximize the daily detoxification process. Enzymes break down unwanted cells in the body, and the nutrients provided by the food support natural detoxification processes at the liver and kidney.
6. Therapeutic for Diseases/Disorders
Not only does a raw food diet cleanse the body, it also allows the body to heal itself. Since the body no longer has to deal with digesting and processing substances that are hard on the body, it has time to begin the regeneration process. Furthermore, raw foods help lower inflammation, reduce pain, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, while reducing food and environmental allergies.
7. No Processing, Canning or Artificial Ingredients
All ingredients used in raw food are fresh, meaning they are not processed, canned or manipulated. They do not contain chemicals, artificial flavors or colors, or any ingredient that is made in a laboratory. Therefore, you do not have to worry about the common culprits such as MSG, “natural flavors” or trans fatty acids.
Most all-raw food is gluten-free since wheat products are not commonly used in raw food cuisine. Therefore, raw cuisine is a great alternative for those who are dealing with gluten sensitivity.
Can Anyone Eat Raw Food?
Absolutely. No matter what your health condition is, raw food is beneficial. With that being said, not everyone is suited to be 100% raw. Many people have to build up to being raw since it is very cleansing and some body types do not seem to be suited to an all-raw diet. In Ayurveda, body types such as the Vata body type, do not do well with an all raw diet since it is very cooling, therefore, if you are a more sensitive, have a weaker body type, or are someone going through health compromising conditions, consult with a holistic practitioner for guidance.
In the meantime, check out some raw restaurants in your neighborhood using my Restaurant Guide, or get started with some cookbooks from Raw Chefs Matthew Kenney, Russell James and Matt Amsden. Finally, you can even go to Raw culinary school at Matthew Kenney’s certified schools in Oklahoma and Santa Monica or get signed up for his upcoming online school!