Raw Foods: Natural Body-Boosters
Gone are the days when the word raw—in the context of food—conjured up hippy granola images of unpalatable wilted lettuce leaves and dry, warped carrot sticks. The raw food movement has seen a recent surge into mainstream consciousness. Eating raw has been elevated to chic hipster status—almost like a badge of honor—as more people embrace their raw potential.
So what, exactly, does raw mean?
Generally speaking, raw foods are whole foods that are as close to their natural state as possible: think uncooked fruits and vegetables; fresh and sprouted nuts, seeds, and grains; superfoods; and concentrated green powders (those never heated above 115 degrees). These live foods retain their full enzymatic and nutritional potential, provide an abundance of energy, and help to cleanse the body. Because these foods haven’t been tampered with, you might say they are in “good health”—and eating them will keep us that way, too.
Debates continue on the benefits of an all-raw diet. Some people abstain from cooked food altogether and thrive, but others find they need to eat hot meals to equally flourish. Individual needs cannot be ignored; different things work for different people. Body composition, blood type, stress levels, surrounding climate, and overall health determine what diet is best for each person. Taking these factors into consideration, you may find that an all-raw diet works for you, or you might discover that you need the strengthening and warming effects of cooked foods to maintain a healthy balance.
I have found that the proportion of cooked and raw foods in my diet changes with the seasons and as my own personal needs change. No matter how you choose to eat, eating some raw foods daily—ideally one with every meal—is a great healthy habit to embrace.
EFFECTIVE DIGESTION AND HYDRATION
Enzymes are essential for facilitating every metabolic process in the body from digestion to cell repair. Raw foods that are rich in live enzymes require less energy to digest, so more energy can be used for detoxification and regeneration. The more live enzymes you consume, the more efficiently you assimilate the nutrients from all of the foods you eat; cooking food destroys any enzyme potential, making it more difficult to digest those foods effectively.
The body is about 70 percent water, and the food we eat must first be liquified to ensure proper digestion. Raw foods with high water content, such as the cucumber, tomato, and watermelon, naturally hydrate the body and already contain the water our bodies need to digest them; therefore, they require very little energy to be assimilated.
Conversely, cooking foods—even steaming and boiling—dries them out. Processed and animal-based foods are similarly water-depleted and strain the digestive system. These foods require additional water for digestion, and that water comes directly out of our reserves. If we don’t replenish our bodies with water, it’s common for dehydration to manifest with symptoms such as hunger, sluggishness, and fatigue.
A great strategy to aid digestion and prevent dehydration is to pair cooked foods with raw and hydrating accompaniments that contain live enzymes. Salad or sprouts, a dip or spread, cultured vegetables or pickles, and nuts or seeds are all great choices.
CLEANSING POWER AND INCREASED ENERGY
I previously mentioned that live foods require less energy to digest, so they pass through the body more quickly and efficiently than cooked foods. In turn, these foods help rapidly eliminate toxins, particularly in the liver and colon. When you’re sick, it’s especially beneficial to eat raw, alkaline foods that cool and cleanse the body. Many raw foods also contain an abundance of fiber, and because the body can’t digest it, this carbohydrate is a great internal cleanser. However, fiber’s cleansing properties are greatly reduced by cooking.
Additionally, raw foods help increase our body’s energy levels. Every living organism contains and emits tiny physical units of light energy called biophotons. The foods we eat deliver this energy from the sun to our cells. The more energy a food contains, the greater the potential for energy transfer. Raw foods contain more light, which translates to greater nutrient density. When eaten, the energy contained in raw foods can increase stamina, endurance, and overall vibrancy.
Because live foods are nutrient-dense, contain water and live enzymes, take less time to digest, and have powerful cleansing properties, we look better as a result of eating them. A diet rich in raw foods translates to glowing skin, glossy hair, bright eyes, and strong nails—raw foods, essentially, help us look our best!
Furthermore, these foods can improve mental clarity, vision, hearing, reflexes, and sense of smell. Many people also report increased energy and a better and more stable mood from eating raw. You may also find you need less sleep.
If you are prone to illness, eating raw could also help you fight disease. In his landmark book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Weston A. Price investigated the diets of various cultural groups around the world, including indigenous societies and Western urban populations (Find out more at ppnf.org). He reported that people with a diet rich in raw, unprocessed whole foods enjoyed good health and greater resistance to degenerative ailments. Conversely, people who relied more on cooked and processed foods tended to have higher rates of infection and disease.
CHOP IT, SHRED IT, JUICE IT!
Keep things interesting when preparing raw foods: You can chop, shred, dice, juice, blend, or dehydrate any of these light, fresh foods to mix up your dietary routine. Live foods can be as simple as veggie sticks with pesto or salsa, or you can get creative with leaf lettuce wraps. Quick juices, shakes, and smoothies are great on-the-go, and there are plenty of soup and salad combinations that will fill you up but keep you on a healthy track. You can even make raw pasta with zucchini or invest in a dehydrator to make vegetable crackers, bread, and kale chips.
I’ve found vegetable sushi—using shredded jicama instead of rice—is a delicious raw creation. Puddings and ice creams are both tasty and quick— just toss all of your ingredients into a blender. Cultured vegetables and live fermented foods, such as kombucha and kefir, offer both live enzymes and beneficial probiotics. No matter how you want to prepare them, hit the grocery store, load up your shopping cart, and choose to make raw foods a part of your daily dietary decisions.
Tess Masters is a cook, actor, voiceover artist, and author of The Blender Girl: Super-Easy, Super-Healthy Meals, Snacks, Desserts, and Drinks—100 Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes! You can see more recipes online at theblendergirl.com.