Eating a diet consisting largely of raw, unprocessed foods is one of the best favours you can do for your body. Food with as little human intervention as possible is of huge benefit to your health. The live enzymes found in raw foods (foods which have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit) help your body and mind remain youthful and vigorous, and can send your energy levels sky-high.
Even a 50% raw diet, it’s said, can give you an additional two hours of energy per day. That’s because raw food is easier to digest than cooked or highly processed foods. Why? Because the live enzymes in plant-based foods help the digestion process; when foods are cooked or highly processed, the enzymes are destroyed and our bodies have to work much harder to digest what we eat, meaning energy we could be using for working, playing or even healing is wasted on the digestion process. So, the less energy we waste on digesting our food, the more energy we have for more important (or fun) activities.
When you think of ‘raw’ food, chances are you’ll imagine plate after plate of boring salad or carrot sticks. While a couple of salad dinners a week in the summer can be pleasant, and the ingredients in each salad can be varied, at the end of the day it’s still salad, and it can easily become dull. And during colder weather, when we crave hot meals to keep us warm, salad may not be the first thing we’ll think of eating.
But increasing your daily intake of raw foods can be done very easily, without touching so much as a lettuce leaf. How? By creating quick and delicious raw snacks and incorporating some delicious ‘superfoods’ that have off-the-scale nutritional profiles and taste fantastic. Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Drink your greens
For a powerful punch of live enzymes and essential vitamins and minerals, you can’t beat a glass of freshly extracted juice.
An investment in a juicer – and it doesn’t have to be an expensive one – is an investment you won’t regret, because you can get a big hit of goodness in a matter of minutes, and you can experiment with ingredients to come up with ‘cocktails’ that suite your palate and keep you interested.
Use organic produce if it’s easily and affordably available – if you’re not able to use organic produce for any reason, make sure you wash your fruit and veg before juicing them.
Ideally, you should aim to include more vegetables than fruits in your juices. Use apples as your base (it’s tastier that way, and besides – an apple a day keeps the doctor away!) and add delicious green vegetables like broccoli stem, spinach and kale.
Juice half a lemon and a chunk of root ginger with your apples and green vegetables, and your juice will taste zingy and refreshing – you probably won’t taste the greens at all.
For information about juicing, recipes and support, search Facebook for Jason Vale Juice Master.
2. Milk your nuts
Raw nuts and seeds (don’t buy them roasted or blanched – much of their goodness is destroyed in the cooking process) are a great way to get more raw into your diet. They contain all sorts of vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids that our bodies rely upon to operate efficiently.
But if eating handfuls of nuts and seeds doesn’t sound very exciting to you, try milking them.
Here’s a quick and easy recipe for making a delicious, versatile milk from raw almonds. You’ll need a blender, and a ‘nut mylk bag’ (they’re very cheap, but if you don’t want to buy one you could improvise by using muslin or cheesecloth); other than that, no special equipment is required.
Soak one cup of raw almonds in clean, cold water for four hours (this removes the nuts’ natural enzyme inhibitors, which if left intact can slow down our digestive process).
Rinse and drain the almonds, then place them in your blender with two cups of cold water, one medjool date and a splash of vanilla essence. Blend until the nuts are completely pulverised, then strain the mixture through your nut mylk bag into a large jug. Keep squeezing the bag to remove as much liquid as possible; ideally the remaining nut pulp should be barely damp.
Kept in a sealed container in the fridge, your almond milk should last up to a week. You can drink it neat, use it on cereal, use it in tea and coffee, or blend it with fresh berries or raw cacao powder to make a delicious ‘mylkshake’.
Don’t throw the pulp away – it can be used in other raw recipes, like healthy raw cakes and brownies (if you’d like some help finding recipes, see the ‘further reading’ section at the bottom of this article).
3. Mix it up
Trail mix is another great way to get a daily dose of raw goodness. Replace ‘naughty’ snacks like crisps/chips, sweets/candy and poor quality chocolate with a handful of home-made trail mix and it won’t take long to feel the benefits.
If you’re going to use nuts and seeds in your trail mix, ideally you’d soak them first to remove the enzyme inhibitors, then dry them out in a dehydrator to make them crunchy again. But a dehydrator can be an expensive piece of equipment if you’re not planning to use it often, so you could just use the nuts and seeds straight from the packet; as long as they’re raw, they’ll still be healthier than crisps and sweets!
You can use all sorts of ingredients in trail mixes. Try combining raw nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds are great) with dried fruit (raisins, chopped dates, apricots, goji berries etc) and some dried coconut chips, which taste fantastic. Avoid banana chips unless you can guarantee they haven’t been fried, which shop-bought banana chips often are – you wouldn’t want to undo all your good work!
4. Be a super-smoothie
Get the blender out again, this time to make delicious, healthy smoothies.
You can make smoothies from all sorts of ingredients, as long as you have some sort of healthy liquid as a base (nut/seed mylk, freshly extracted juice or water would all be perfect – or you could even use coconut water).
For a thick, tropical smoothie, try blending freshly extracted pineapple juice with fresh tropical fruits like banana, passion fruit and mango.
Blend natural yoghurt with fresh berries and apple juice for a delicious ‘drinking yoghurt’.
Combine water, fresh bananas and raw cacao powder with a little healthy, natural sweetener (manuka honey, for example) for a thick chocolate shake.
Or blend freshly extracted apple, lime, spinach and cucumber juice with half an avocado for a healthy green smoothie that’s both tasty and filling.
5. Chocs away!
Ditch the ‘chocolate’ and replace it with chocolate.
The ‘chocolate’ you buy in your local sweet shop or supermarket is so far removed from real chocolate, it’s really not much more than sugar, milk and hydrogenated fats.
Raw chocolate, on the other hand, is good for you. It contains no processed sugars, no dairy products, no hydrogenated fats – just the wonderful nutrients contained in raw cacao, one of nature’s most amazing superfoods. It’s packed with antioxidants and unlike commercial chocolate, which can cause weight gain, raw chocolate actually helps you lose weight.
The darker, more intense flavour of raw chocolate can take a little getting used to if you normally eat milk chocolate – and raw chocolate is more expensive than highly processed commercial ‘chocolate’, which can put some people off. But a little goes a long way, so you’ll find that with a good bar of raw chocolate, it only takes a small amount to satisfy your chocolate craving and leave you feeling happy and energised for the rest of the day (for this reason, it’s advisable to avoid eating raw cacao products too close to bedtime – otherwise you may find it difficult to sleep!)
If you’d like to know more about the science behind a raw diet, learn about healthy ingredients and techniques, and try out some exciting raw food recipes, it’s worth searching online for the following websites:
- Forty-Something Fatso
- The Rawtarian
- Shine On Raw
- Uncooking 101
- Raw Living
- Have Raw Cake And Eat It
- Russell James (The Raw Chef)
- Crazy Raw Vegan
- Sweetly Raw
- Fragrant Vanilla Cake
Just remember that it’s very easy to incorporate healthy raw foods into your diet without having to eat salad – unless you want to eat lots of salad, of course, in which case we say good luck to you!