Updated, December 2014: as we are approaching the start of yet another new year, full of new resolutions for healthier, cleaner eating, I thought that this would be an excellent post to reflect on and feature. Please enjoy!
If you are a personal friend or happened to catch some of my previous posts, you already know that once upon a time I had a month-long marketing internship at a raw food company. Despite what wise cracks I might have made in private, my experience wasn’t all bad. Working there opened my eyes more to the world of raw and organic foods as well as gave me a first-hand look at what it takes to start and grow a small business.
It has been several years since that experience, yet lately I have found that I have grown even more raw-curious. I don’t expect that I will completely give up cooked foods, but I decided that I will make more of an effort to incorporate more raw, whole foods into my diet. I don’t think this should be a problem – I love vegetables, fruits, and going to the farmers market on the weekends, anyway – but time might be. Along with this, I am also making a conscious effort to drink more water and limit my caffeine intake, which got out of control a few weeks ago and I’m trying to get back in check.
I know some of you might be asking, so what, exactly, is “raw food“? Raw food is food that is not cooked – duh!, that’s a given! To elaborate a little bit more, it is a temperature thing. Any food that is kept under 104 degrees Fahrenheit is considered “raw”, although I have heard that anything under 118 degrees Fahrenheit is OK too. Temperature aside, there are three main arguments that I have heard in favor of consuming raw rather than cooked foods:
- Raw foods are more nutritious than cooked because enzymes are “killed off” in the cooking process (baking, steaming, grilling…) and produce food that is “dead”, or useless, in terms of nutrition. Since living foods are in a natural state, they retain their enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and other good stuff that our body needs.
- Raw foods are easier to digest.
- The cooking process can adds extra carcinogens and toxins that contaminate the food. Grilling over charcoal is an example. Charcoal briquettes typically contain wood byproducts and other additives to “bind” the ingredients, but some brands use waxes and petroleum solvents to bind or allow them to burn easily.
Raw food diets can be extensions of common diets that we are already familiar with. A raw vegetarian might allow him/herself to eat raw dairy products while a raw vegan would exclude all animal products, including honey (depending on the person). There are even raw omnivorous (a “standard” diet for many that includes meats, vegetables, nuts, fruits and seeds — just entirely raw) and carnivorous (only meat) diets where sushi, sashimi, tartares, and ceviches would most-likely be included. Like all diets, raw food diets can be adapted from person to person to exclude or include things per the individual’s taste or dietary needs.
Aside from a good set of knives, a high-speed blender and a food processor are two essential kitchen appliances used to make many simple raw food meals. Creamy-tasting, but often creamless, purees can be made with a high speed blender, and fresh gaspachos or salasas made with a food processor. Other gadgets, such as a spiral slicer or a food grater attachment for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, could also be used to expedite the process of chopping and cutting, especially if making zucchini “noodles” for a salad or mock pasta dish.
Many raw food chefs experiment with making “normally” made foods, like crackers, out of raw ingredients so they imitate the real thing. For some of these recipes a dehydrator might be needed, which can vary in price and functionality. For someone like me, who is not completely committed to a raw lifestyle but still interested, there are tips and tricks to get around not using a dehydrator that might be worth checking into.
Essentially, I just gave you the “elevator” version of what raw food and the raw food diet is, but there’s more to it! If you want to learn more about the people, brands and lifestyle, it might be worth visiting the following pages:
- Carol Alt – supermodel and raw vegetarian.
- Ani Phyo – raw vegan chef.
- One Lucky Duck – online raw food store with affiliated cafe and restaurant located in New York City
- Navitas Naturals – superfood products that I have seen available at Wegmans and recipes, many of them raw, that use their products.
Or, as we all know, Google knows everything, so that would be a great place to look, too!