Raw Food 101: RAW RAW RAW
by Christy Gibbs Kendrick
“Simply put: less work, more yield.”
First, let me tell you that local homegrown foods were part of my childhood. I am lucky to live in the house I grew up in, which is the place my father was born, and which his grandfather built in the 1830s. My dad was a third-generation cranberry grower, and we grew up as 4H members: raising sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, and rabbits; growing vegetables; and learning to prepare good food. Most of it was fresh and meal items were not from a box or can – unless Mother had canned it herself!
So, my roots are anchored in good farm-raised food. That’s where I begin. We were taught to clean our plates and rewarded with desserts (also home-made). I was “plump”– pleasantly for awhile, but as I got older, even more so.
Finally, at my heaviest weight someone told me about a place that served all uncooked, or raw, vegetarian meals in a campus-like setting, with a study course to help you discover how and why this kind of nutrition could help you achieve optimum health. In 1990, I went to the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego. Eating the raw vegetarian meals there and taking all the classes, I lost weight in a fairly short time and felt better in many ways. People kept asking me what was I doing, because I looked different. What an awakening!
Public awareness of what raw food is about is still unfolding. Some of us have experienced a fantastic, tasty “raw food” medley, including many foods prepared, minimally, in a variety of ways. Others still ask, “Do you mean sushi or salad?” and think that is the extent of raw food choices.
What Is Raw Food?
Raw or live foods are foods that are whole and unprocessed: not cooked (i.e., not heated above 110 degrees F). The reason for this is that temperatures above 110 F denature the enzymes that are present in natural live foods–enzymes that help you to process and extract the most nutrients and benefits from that food. Enzymes are responsible for all metabolic actions in the body, including digestion. Fresh raw foods are loaded with enzymes for easy digestion and absorption. When we eat processed foods, the body must compensate by producing additional digestive enzymes. According to Jennifer Cornbleet, “Cooked, processed foods (depleted of most enzymes and some nutrients) and flesh (meat) foods require more energy from the body to yield less energy for the body. Live foods require minimum energy from the body, to give maximum energy to the body. Simply put: less work, more yield.” So we eat raw foods because we can extract more nutritive value from them; because it’s less work for the digestive system to process them; and because they offer more taste, more vitamins, and more minerals … more of all the good stuff!
I interviewed Erin Carpenter from White Gate Gardens in Duxbury. Motivated by a friend with health challenges who was adhering to a raw food diet and experiencing tangible improvements, Erin decided to pursue a raw food diet plan for herself. Her goals were to lose weight and feel better overall. Hearing testimonials about raw foodists discovering weight loss to be a side effect of their diet, and inspired by the idea of one’s body seeking its proper weight, she was spurred on.
Carpenter had been battling “the last 10 pounds” with exercise, yoga, calorie reduction, exclusion of all sugar, and more. She also felt like she was coming up short energy-wise over the course of a normal day, so she made the commitment. Erin attended some raw food potluck events, where her fellow participants were very supportive. She also got to sample some great raw dishes and was given recipes to make them at home. Owning and operating an organic farm put her in a good position to have many raw food basics right outside her kitchen door. Her first step was to plant a fresh greens and herb garden, from which she was able to pick and eat greens in a very short time.
Erin’s “raw food bible” became Living on Live Food by Alissa Cohen. Daily staples included salads, nuts, avocados, raw granola, and lots more. She kicked her coffee habit by switching to decaf and then later to tea. The first, most noticeable, change was her skin–her facial skin became softer, smoother, and more “glowing.” And she did lose weight!
Carpenter admits that a lot of planning is required to adopt a 100% raw diet, but she maintains that any increase in your consumption of raw live foods will benefit you. The more you implement raw food, the more benefit you will gain. Eating fewer additives and preservatives, and more nutritious food, has got to be better for you.
I am not 100% raw, but some of my favorite raw foods include: my granola, asparagus soup, “Raw-some spaghetti,” spring rolls, spinach apple soup (recipe below), shaved beet salad (recipe below), Not Tuna Paté, and a recipe from Erin that I really liked: Mock Salmon. Some of these recipes appear below, and I would be happy to share others. On an “all raw” day, I might eat the following: granola with or without home-made almond milk for breakfast; banana as a morning snack; a “loaded” salad (i.e., every raw vegetable that you have on hand) with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette for lunch; a few raw almonds and raisins for afternoon snack; and the “Rawsome spaghetti” for supper.
If you want to try to eat raw, it is important to set an achievable goal for yourself. For example, try being all raw for one day or one weekend. Often, I am asked if I feel deprived by eating this kind of diet. Emphatically, I answer “No!” You will be surprised at the variety of satisfying recipes available and the sensational tastes and flavors–from appetizers to fancy desserts–all using raw food. (See book list below.) You will discover that food is much more flavorful when served at room temperature instead of cold or hot. But if you must warm a soup, for instance, here’s what I recommend. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, put the soup in the double boiler bowl, and place it over the boiling water. Put the lid on the pan and remove it from the stove, letting it sit for 5 minutes. It should not be heated above 110 degrees F. You can be a raw foodie and eat local too. It’s simply a matter of checking on what’s available locally and then researching a recipe for it, or creating on your own. The only rule is that you don’t cook it! Some of the seasonal vegetables available in the spring in our region include pea shoots (also called pea greens), asparagus, lettuce, spinach, green onions, and beets. The recipes included here highlight some of these ingredients.
Raw Food Book List
1) Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People by Jennifer Cornbleet
2) Living Cuisine by Renee Loux Underkoffler
3) Living on Raw Foods by Alissa Cohen
White Gate Gardens
687 Union Street
Duxbury, MA 02332
Optimum Health Institute
San Diego, CA & Austin, TX