The raw food diet: You’ve probably heard of it, and if you don’t understand it, it probably freaks you out.
But maybe you’ve eaten at a raw restaurant, purchased raw kale chips at Whole Foods, or even participated in a raw foods “cleanse” or juice fast. In spite of this, you might catch yourself thinking “I could never do this full time.”
If you mean you can’t give up cooked food forever, maybe you’re right. But if you mean that you can’t learn to add more raw foods to your diet, you’re underestimating yourself. Exploring raw foods just means learning to appreciate a new style of food preparation, one delicious meal at a time.
The main health claim associated with raw foodism is that cooking destroys the natural enzymes in food, and that we’ll all be healthier if we keep those enzymes intact. It’s true that many raw foods retain more vitamins and minerals than their cooked counterparts, but the impact of eating enzyme-rich foods on health is less clear. So while it’s a great idea to eat more raw food, you don’t—as some extreme raw foodists claim—have to eat 100% raw in order to be healthy. You can just add more raw dishes to your daily routine. How? By remembering these tips:
- Keep it simple. Gourmet raw cookbooks and restaurant foods are beautiful and inspiring, but it’s hard for the average guy or gal to maintain that level of culinary artistry at home. Focus on the three S’s:
- Smoothies (bonus points for green smoothies)
And don’t forget the occasional raw dessert!
- Tune out extremism. The raw foods world is, unfortunately, full of alarming health claims. Be selective about what you listen to, and use common sense. Raw foods diets should be balanced and filling, just like any other way of eating.
- Don’t do an overnight 180. Instead, think about simple ways to work raw foods into your existing routine.
When it comes to that last tip, small changes make a big difference. For example, if you’re used to eating hot cereal in the morning, try a green smoothie of 1 banana, 1/2 cup of strawberries, a cup of almond milk, a heaping handful of baby spinach, and a tablespoon of raw almond butter (you can add a serving of hemp protein powder to make this more protein rich).
And always remember that it’s OK to mix raw and cooked foods. If you eat an entirely cooked dinner, you can still enjoy a raw salad for lunch--or just dig into a decadent raw dessert. Balance is the key to maintaining a raw lifestyle over time, and to feeling excited about your options, rather than trapped by the “raw” label.
So if you’ve been thinking about going raw but are worried about the time, cost, or sustainability, remember: Start small. Relax, have fun, and enjoy the energy and inspiration that raw foods have to offer.
Gena Hamshaw is a certified clinical nutritionist and the author of the blog Choosing Raw. When she’s not busy studying pre-health sciences at Georgetown University in D.C., she can be found whipping up quick, easy, and delicious raw meals in her sunny kitchen.