A few years ago I saw my sister after not having seen her for about a year. But was this really my sister? My sister had always been pretty–but this creature was now thin, glowing, vibrant in an otherworldy way. It was like a chorus of angels were following her around and had become her soundtrack. What happened to her, I wondered, and can it happen to me too?!
What happened to her was that she had discovered a raw food diet. In a nutshell, she was eating nothing cooked. No pasta, no rice and beans, no steamed broccoli. Not even tofu (which is made from cooked soybeans). Most raw foodists are also vegan and aim for a high percentage of organic food. No wonder my sister looked so thin and radiant, she had been eating nothing but fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts! I seriously couldn’t imagine this happening to me anytime soon.
The premise behind the raw food lifestyle is that heating food above 116F degrees destroys important living enzymes and other nutrients. Proponents of raw food believe that by preserving the living elements of food that we eat, degenerative disease is prevented, aging is slowed, energy enhanced, and emotional well-being is boosted. On an intuitive level this makes sense to me; by putting nothing but vibrant, pure, living food in your body, your body reflects vibrancy, purity and vitality. But if you are slightly hedonist in your appetite (read: me), can you actually live like this?
Well, I tried it. I wanted to feel like my sister looked. So my husband and I did a Lent of sorts and gave up the heat for 40 days. What a learning curve. While my husband could sit down to a mountain of raw kale for dinner, I just couldn’t. I dug into raw food cookbooks, and I bought a dehydrator–a nifty way to get an almost cooked feeling where you can concentrate the flavor and alter the texture of food, without heat. I was soaking nuts (to activate enzymes and calm down enzyme inhibitors), sprouting grains (to make them digestible), I learned how to make mincemeat out of obstinate young coconuts (one of the staples of raw food cooking for their great dairy fat-mimicking texture). We started fermenting some things (another raw way of “cooking”) and juicing other things. I figured out what vegetables are great raw (beets) and which ones aren’t (potatoes). I lived without coffee (a truly astounding feat), but gleefully realized wine was raw.
The pounds fell of my husband, they just dripped away. For me, not so much. After our 40 days I was at the exact same weight! I think I am probably the only person to have ever gone raw and not lost weight. But then again, I may have been a bit over the top: While my husband was eating piles of greens, I was eating dehydrated macadamia nut “crackers” topped with cashew “cheese” and coconut butter, rich chocolate tarts and ice cream! I managed to consume even more calories than usual. Leave it to me. I also run a lot and was definitely overcompensating for protein and carbs, but still!
The truth is, I didn’t really do it to lose weight. I wanted to glow, feel energized, hear angels. And I have to say, I felt fantastic. My body felt clean, I had energy and I felt strangely refreshed. To be considered a true “raw foodist” you need only consume 75 percent raw food in your daily diet (although many rawists are strictly 100 percent raw). I know many people that have no problem maintaining a high level of raw food diet.
But personally, as much as I enjoyed the challenge and learning a new cuisine, I just love to cook with heat too much. And since I am a distance running enthusiast I couldn’t seem to satisfy my carb love. That said, I definitely eat more raw food now (I never cook beets anymore) and I think everyone should give raw food a try. Don’t believe me? See how Green Girl felt when she discovered raw food. For more about the science behind the lifestyle, visit Raw Food Life, or check out my go-to raw food book, Raw Food, Real World.
You can also start here with some of my favorite raw food recipes right here at Care2:
Jicama & Orange Salad
5 Favorite Raw Vegan Salad Dressings
Raw Corn Salad
Not Tuna Salad
Rich, Delicious Chocolate Tart
Raw Almond Gelato