What is raw food? What is living food? How does it differ from what we normally eat? Discover why there’s more to raw food than simply eating uncooked vegetables, the key elements that it’s vital to include in a raw food eating plan – and why that makes it so wonderfully healthy!
There’s more to raw food than not cooking.
The sad fact is that years of nutritional neglect and too much stress means most of us have a digestive system that would freak out, if we were to suddenly switch to nothing but uncooked veggies.
We don’t have enough digestive enzymes or ‘friendly flora & fauna’ in our guts to be able to do justice to raw veg, let alone seeds, nuts and pulses.
So if you’re thinking about embarking on a raw food journey, it’s essential to make sure you understand the vital elements you need to include in your diet, to be able to digest what you’re munching.
Gimme Enzymes, Man!
Enzymes are the little-discussed missing link in a consultation with most nutritionists (no offence to those who are up on their enzymes, but you’re a rare breed!).
We have all heard about vitamins and, more recently, minerals. But the body has a much harder time absorbing these, if it’s missing the enzymes that Mother Nature kindly put in the food, to help us digest them.
[Hiromi Shinya explains this much better than me in his enlightening book: The Enzyme Factor]
Unfortunately, cooking pretty much destroys digestive enzymes. In fact, they don’t like going much above 40 degrees Celsius.
Raw vegetables contain abundant quantities of their own enzymes, but we need a little help, to build up our reserves and do them justice. That’s why fermented foods (sounds gross, I know, but just remember that beer and wine are fermented 😉 ) play such a critical role when you’re converting to raw food.
These fermented foods are ‘living foods’, with so many helpful enzymes going spare that they give our digestive system a wonderful boost and help us get the most from our raw meals.
Fermented foods include:
- Apple cider vinegar (with the ‘mother’)
To benefit from their enzymes, it’s essential that they’re not cooked in any way – or pasteurised before sale.
You Can’t Eat Pulses Raw
Pulses (dried lentils, beans, etc) cannot be eaten raw. But most people find them difficult to digest, when cooked. Remember the old school playground rhyme?
“Beans! Beans! Good for the heart.
The more you eat, the more you…” 🙂
That’s because the proteins and carbohydrates in beans and pulses are difficult for the body to break down, causing trapped wind and worse, for some unfortunate people.
[William Davis M.D. describes this process – and the problems it causes – in his whistle-blowing book: Wheat Belly]
The brilliant news is that sprouting the pulses not only overcomes those unpleasant side effects, but turns the pulses into nutritional gold – living food.
The benefits of sprouting pulses include:
- You’re eating a truly ‘living’ food, with all the nutrients and life force readily available and easy to digest.
- The sprouting process effectively ‘pre-digests’ the carbohydrates and proteins in the pulses, making it easier to absorb the nutrients.
- They fill you up more – a tablespoon of dried mung beans, sprouted for 3-5 days, will easily fill you up (and more!) as part of a meal. However, cook them for an hour and you’ve got a couple of forkfulls of food.
- It’s quick and easy – you don’t have to spend 2 hours, hovering in the kitchen, while you cook them.
- The high water content from these sprouting seeds helps keep you hydrated.
Don’t Drive Me Nuts!
Seeds and nuts aren’t great to eat raw. But cooking them can cause their natural oils to oxidise (free radical nightmare!), as well as damaging their nutrients.
So what can you do?
You need to deal with the enzyme inhibitors that Mother Nature cleverly put in the seeds and nuts, to stop them sprouting before their season. If you eat them while they’ve still got the enzyme inhibitor in them, it’ll be much harder for you to digest them.
Sorting the enzyme inhibitor is easy to do:
- Soak for 4-8 hours (depending on the seed / nut).
- Drain – throw away the soak water.
- For nuts, you can eat them as they are – they’re so much more creamy and less bitter like this.
- For seeds, you can either eat them as they are (e.g. pumpkin / sunflower seeds) or sprout them for a few days.
They’ll keep in the fridge for a few days, so I always have a few on hand.
Mind Your As & Bs
That’s Alliums and Brassicas, to you and me.
Most of us, at least early on in our raw food journey, have a problem digesting raw vegetables from the allium and brassica families. These include:
- Brussels Sprouts
But all is not lost! These super-healthy foods can be ‘uncooked’ very easily.
To avoid the symptoms of abdominal bloating and stomach ache, here are two easy options:
- After chopping your veg, put it in a bowl and cover with hot water.
Cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes or longer.
Drain and use.
This helps to soften the vegetables, making them easier to digest.
It’s part way between raw and steamed, so some nutrients and enzymes will be compromised. But it’s better than full-blown cooking and certainly better than having to avoid them completely!
- Chop your veg and then marinade for about half an hour in a sauce containing plenty of enzymes, such as miso with raw tamari and olive oil.
Brassicas, in particular, benefit from having the dressing massaged in – time to get your hands dirty!
It’s close to zero effort, considering the benefits it gives you. Plus it’s simply delicious!
So there you have it – a whistle-stop tour of the key elements you need to include in your raw food eating plan, so that raw food will actually be good for you!
As I often tell people, there’s more to raw food than eating salad. 😉
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