I’ve been asked several times recently by friends (particularly my new friends at the Inspired by Jason Vale group on Facebook – come and say hello, by the way; new members are approved very quickly as our leader Donna is very on the ball!) about where to begin when you’re interested in raw food.
In fact, the conversation off-Facebook often starts with another question – something along the lines of “what exactly do you mean by raw?” – so before I go into sharing all the resources I’ve collected over the past year, let’s quickly touch on the principles of eating rawly.
My understanding of the basic principles of a raw lifestyle (try not to think of it as a diet, because that’ll put you off before you even start) is that it’s fundamentally to do with the way our bodies use food, and about energy. What follows is a very simplified explanation – there are links below for those of you that really want to understand the science behind a raw lifestyle.
Whenever you eat food, your body has to use energy in digesting it. Energy that could be better used elsewhere, like doing your work or housework, or even functioning on a basic, healthy level. Some foods are easier to digest; others, much harder – so the amount of energy used in digesting foods can vary.
We’re often told by scientists and health experts, through the media, that fruit and vegetables are really healthy. They contain all sorts of essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need in order to function. It’s quite widely known by now, I think, that overcooking vegetables kills a lot of these nutrients and you end up pouring them down the drain in the water the veg has been boiled in, which means they’re going to waste and you’re not getting any benefit from them (hello, Mum). So, we’re told to only lightly boil – or even better, steam – our veg.
What we’re usually not told in the mainstream media, however, is that food also contains enzymes, which help our bodies to digest the food once it gets into our systems. And heating foods above about 115F (or thereabouts) destroys these enzymes, making food harder to digest. And thus, our bodies waste precious energy on the digestion process, instead of using it to fuel our work, our play, and our bodies’ natural healing processes.
When we talk about a raw lifestyle, then, we’re talking about a much healthier approach to what we eat (which in a raw lifestyle is usually vegan, though some people do eat raw dairy products), which involves eating food in as close to its natural state as possible, so that the enzymes can do their jobs and we can enjoy feeling energetic and alive. Jason Vale devotees will recognise the phrase “low human intervention foods” – this is the type of food that’s best for you, on the whole.
Does that mean raw foodists only eat salad?
A raw approach to food, in my experience, forces you to be really creative with your food (unless you’re happy eating nothing but salad, in which case I admire you and pity you in equal measure ). If you’ve visited this blog before, you’ll know that I don’t eat raw all of the time; I like to eat raw and cooked food (in fact there’s not much I won’t eat, as long as it’s not overly processed). I enjoy cooking, most of the time, and I like to create meals that are as enjoyable to make as they are to eat. But I’m very easily bored, so believe me when I say that if eating rawly involved nothing but salad, I would not be doing it. I mean, I enjoy the occasional salad, but too much of anything very quickly becomes boring, so I like to really experiment in the kitchen.
If it’s not all salad, what do raw foodists eat?
Basically – raw versions of whatever you eat, a lot of the time! Raw foodists have learned to be super-creative with their ‘uncooking’, and some of the links I’ll share towards the end of this article will point to raw chefs of amazing talent, whose creations are not just healthy but look and taste absolutely amazing. Imagine having cheesecake for breakfast; if it’s raw cheesecake, you can do that without even a shred of guilt, because the ingredients are all in as close to their healthy, natural state as they possibly can be – and of course, a raw diet eschews processed sugar and bad fats (using natural sweeteners and healthy fats instead), so they’re naturally helpful towards maintenance of a healthy weight.
Here’s a few creative things I’ve seen and tried, since I’ve been interested in raw food:
“Spaghetti” made from courgettes, parsnips or carrots
- “Noodles” made from kelp (a type of seaweed)
- Creamy desserts and cakes made from nuts, seeds, fruit, coconut oil and other amazing ingredients you’d never think could be used to make such amazing creations
- Chocolate that’s good for you and helps you lose weight!
- Milk and ice cream made from nuts and seeds
- Biscuits, breads, wraps and crispbreads made from seeds
- Mayonnaises, dips and sauces made from nuts and seeds
- Quiches made from nuts, vegetables and nutritional yeast
- Cheese made from nuts, probiotic capsules and nutritional yeast
- Felafel and burgers made from nuts and seeds
- “Crisps” (“chips” if you’re from the US) made from dehydrated leafy veg
Seriously – the list is endless. These are just a few examples of the amazing things I’ve seen. A little ‘alchemy’ is involved – understanding the properties of the raw ingredients, how they behave under certain conditions (like blending, soaking, dehydrating etc), and how they interact with each other – but this is very quickly learned by just following a few recipes written by someone else.
There are special techniques and equipment involved, which you may not have heard of before, but again these are easily learned. For example, it’s best to soak most nuts and seeds before eating them. This is because they contain “enzyme inhibitors” which prevent the seeds/nuts from rotting before they have a chance to sprout. This makes them difficult to digest – which possibly explains why, when you’ve eaten a couple of slices of seeded bread, you’ll notice the seeds sometimes come out the other end looking exactly the same as when you ate them! By soaking nuts and seeds, these enzyme inhibitors are washed away, meaning our bodies can efficiently digest the food without using up our precious stores of energy.
Speaking of energy – I’ve heard it said several times that even a 50% raw diet can add 2-4 hours of energy to your day. Every day. Imagine that!
I don’t want to turn this into a gigantic tome about the many raw food preparation techniques that are used, or about all the different types of kitchen equipment raw foodists use; these are for future articles, which are on my list of articles to write for Forty-Something Fatso over the next few weeks.
No. What I want this article to be is a very quick introduction to the principles of a raw lifestyle, and an opportunity to share some of the many links I’ve bookmarked over the past year, which will help readers to explore raw in more detail if they feel they’d like to do so.
So let’s move on to a list of resources, which will include experts, chefs, courses, where to shop and sources of useful information. Here goes:
First up is a lovely lady I connected with on Facebook last year, Rebecca Kane – I absolutely adore this lady, she really is one of the ‘good guys’ of this world. Rebecca’s website is Shine On Raw, and through this website she’s shared tons of wonderful recipes, ebooks and articles about raw food and food preparation techniques. Rebecca is just about to launch a 30-day program for people wanting to learn about raw food. If you sign up to this course you’ll get your hand held by Rebecca throughout the 30 days, with a fantastic range of course materials including a recipe book, individual recipe cards, information about techniques and equipment, and a community area where you can connect with fellow students. This course costs £97 but if you’re among the first 30 people to sign up, you’ll only pay £67. Click for Raw Food Deliciousness.
Another very lovely lady – who I’ve not had any personal contact with, but who I follow avidly on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere – is Kate Magic. Kate has over 20 years’ experience as a raw food expert, and if you want to know anything at all about a superfood, Kate’s your gal. Kate spends a lot of time teaching raw classes all around the world – it is my dream to attend one of these, one day, in some beautiful sunny far-flung place! Kate is also co-owner of Raw Living, a highly ethical company selling superfoods and other healthy products. Raw Living is my preferred supplier of superfoods, because Kate and her business partner Chris are sticklers for quality and I absolutely trust their judgement in this area. If Kate has OK’d a product, I trust it! A very useful resource for the raw curious is the ‘where to start‘ page at Raw Living. There’s also a fantastic FREE ebook you can download there – just register your email address and it’ll be sent to you. I found this book extremely useful when I was starting out, because it explains so much in such a small space, and contains some wonderful (and simple!) raw recipes you can get started with.
Juicing is an important part of a raw lifestyle, and when it comes to juicing I can’t think of anyone more knowledgeable than Jason Vale, the Juice Master. As well as being an absolute guru in the field of juicing and a highly accomplished author and addiction expert, Jason is a truly delightful man with an infectious smile, an off-the-scale bubbly personality, and an army of women all around the world that would drop their drawers for him in the bat of an eyelid. Or is that just me? Jason’s website is an absolute wealth of information, and is also a good source of healthy equipment, foods and supplements. He also personally answers many of the questions on his Facebook page – he is everybody’s friend and is the least up-their-own-arse person I think I’ve ever encountered anywhere!
If you want to be a bit adventurous and try out some gourmet raw recipes, look no further than Russell James, The Raw Chef. Some of his recipes are seriously astonishing. His raw carrot cake is beyond wonderful. He also personally replies to comments on his website, is very approachable, and very nice (are you seeing a pattern yet? Raw foodists are lovely. It’s all the good food that goes into their bodies. Seriously). Russell is the master of turning everyday ingredients into works of art. His website is well-stocked with amazing recipes, and there are others that are harder to find, like this macadamia cheese recipe that I accidentally stumbled across on Google (definitely one to bookmark – I still haven’t got around to making this yet, but I fully intend to!)
Finally, on my list of raw foodists that I really, really pay attention to (other raw foodists are available, by the way) there’s queen of the smoothies, Alynn Davis of Raw Dazzle. Alynn is very sweet, highly energetic, and if her Facebook page is to be believed, she pretty much lives on smoothies (I’m sure she doesn’t, but she sure does share a lot of superfood smoothie recipes – usually accompanied by an exclamation of “YEOWZA!” – she’s that kinda gal!) Alynn is a very experienced raw chef and teacher, and you can ask pretty much anything about raw food on her Raw Dazzle page on Facebook and she’ll know the answer. Alynn very kindly writes articles about raw and healthy living for one of my clients, Marigot Health Retreat, which I share with the Jasonettes on Facebook from time to time.
So, these are the main people I follow closely on social media and whose websites I visit regularly for inspiration and information. I highly recommend following them all!
Now onto stuff I’ve bookmarked. This will include a variety of subjects, like why coconut oil is amazing, where to find great raw recipes, and so on. Hope you find them useful!
I have quite a collection of links about coconut oil – here are the best ones:
- Health benefits of coconut oil
- 160 uses for coconut oil
- Why coconut oil is good for you
- Coconut oil for weight loss
- 151 awesome uses for coconut oil
- Have Raw Cake and Eat it (which is the name also of her signature cake, which is delicious)
- Uncooking 101
- Ooosha (a few free recipes, a free ebook, and some ‘premium’ ebooks that are pretty expensive)
- Shine on Raw (direct link to recipes section)
- Raw Living (direct link to recipes section)
- Crazy Raw Vegan (I adore her raw granola recipe)
- The Rawtarian
- Sweetly Raw
- Superfood recipes and herbal blends (Indigo Herbs)
Raw techniques, info, guides etc
- Getting started with raw and superfoods (Detox Your World)
- Guide to soaking and sprouting nuts, seeds and grains
Where to shop
- Raw Living
- Healthy Supplies
- Detox Your World
- Have Raw Cake And Eat It
- The Raw Chocolate Shop
- Aromantic (make your own natural beauty products – excellent selection of essential oils)
- Enaissance (essential oils and natural food flavourings)
- Indigo Herbs
- Naturally Good Food
- Goodness Direct
- Coconutty (coconut products including young green coconuts delivered to your door)
- Real Foods
- Eco Green Store
- Ethical Superstore
- And last but not least, don’t rule out Ebay and Amazon – I’ve had many a bargain from both, including kitchen equipment, healthy ingredients and even water keffir grains!
Hope you’ve found this article useful. If you’d like to know when the next article is published, you could subscribe to the RSS feed or like the Raw Curious UK page on Facebook.