Among the core ideas behind the raw food diet, which practitioners prefer to call ‘the raw food lifestyle’, is the belief that other than a few genetically inherited abnormalities, there is only one illness: toxemia. The theory is that toxemia, an “uncleanness” of the blood and tissues, is caused mainly because of poor diet and lifestyle.
According to Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram, founder of the US-based non-profit cooperative Rawfully Organic, it is toxemia that manifests into all other disease conditions that arise in the body.
And so what the raw food lifestyle aims to do is not load the body with toxic residue, allowing the body instead, to clean its blood, tissue and organs and thus eliminate the need for most medicines.
In fact, a glimpse into raw food websites will tell you that the human body reacts to cooked food or food heated above 47 degrees Celsius the same way that it reacts to foreign pathogens.
The only way to overcome this, say experts, is by including more raw food into the diet as a lifestyle choice.
Is the diet nutritious?
According to fullyraw.com, a raw food diet “is made up of fresh, whole, unrefined, living, plant-based foods: fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, which are consumed in their natural state, without cooking or steaming. People who adopt this diet are often referred to as ‘raw fooders’ or ‘raw vegans’.”
Image courtesy: Anjali Sanghi; Multipurpose dip and dressing with green lettuce or kale salad.
“It is very easy to incorporate fresh raw foods into any kind of lifestyle you presently lead. You can start by making a list of fresh, ripe fruits, vegetables, greens, sprouts you like; see what is locally and seasonally available and stock them; and eat a good serving of your favourite fruit or salad before your cooked meal,” suggests Anjali Sanghi, president and founder trustee, Indian Raw Vegan Foundation.
But before you begin, she cautions, it is important to bust the myths that have developed around raw food. One of the biggest myths is that a raw food diet does not provide sufficient nutrients for the body.
“People feel that a vegetarian diet does not include enough proteins. Sprouts are therefore an important part of the diet, they contain the potential of the entire plant so they are most nutritious and full of vitamins. They are 30 to 40 times more nutritive than the actual vegetables weighed pound to pound. Unless you are a body builder, you don’t need more protein,” explain Keren and Jeffrey Paquette, two Canada-based raw food chefs who currently work out of the Art of Living International Centre in Montreal.
They recommend a visit to the doctor and some self-study to understand the effects of a raw food diet on the body and to build the right approach based on the individual’s constitution.
What can you eat and how?
“It is important not to mix raw and cooked foods as they are digested differently. Do not have fruits in or as your dessert or sweet dish. Do not eat raw foods which you don’t like or which don’t suit you. Do not mix fresh fruits and vegetables with any animal products including milk, curd, cheese, and cream and try not to make complicated recipes in the beginning. Keep it simple. Just cut as many bananas or mangoes or tomatoes or cucumbers you like and have them to your heart’s content,” says Anjali.
Image courtesy: Abhiram Viswanathan; Raw food diet pizza.
Though you can begin with simple salads, or follow the beginner’s recipes out of websites, you will find that you can gradually move on to making your favourite cooked foods using raw ingredients. You have recipes for everything from raw food pastas to pizzas, sandwiches, cakes, even brownies and ice-creams.
“At the same time we have seen that a lot of people start out with the diet and feel so light that they want to eat more nuts and heavy dishes to feel more full. Many start to eat raw food but don’t eat enough calories so they start feeling hungry. These are common mistakes. That’s why it’s important to learn more through books and through the internet. There are so many resources now, it wasn’t like that even five years ago,” says Keren.
Proceed with caution
All three raw food experts agree that it is not necessary, though it is gradually possible, to follow a 100 per cent raw diet.
“Raw foods alkalise the body, reduce acidity, keep the acid-alkali balance of the body maintained, provide enzymes that aid digestion. But changes in diet have to be customized according to your body type, nutrient requirement, lifestyle, and health conditions including allergies and deficiencies. Anyone with a high protein requirement , for instance, can’t be switched to a raw vegan diet,” explains Dr.Ankita Dhelia, who is also a certified Craniosacral Therapist currently pursuing her master’s degree in Osteopathy.
“I would recommend beginning with a 75 per cent raw diet including non-starchy vegetables and fruits, sprouts, sunflower and sesame seeds, raw yogurt, fresh cold pressed juices, smoothies, leafy greens, coconuts and fresh herbs with 25 per cent lightly cooked food— steamed whole grains and pulses or water-sauted vegetables, and then making a gradual transition to 100 per cent raw. Also, raw food must be organic and free from pesticides and microbes,” she advises.
This is why, cautions Anjali, it is useful to learn more about food combination and sequencing so resultant side-effects can be avoided. “This will also help you to learn how to create simple, quick, filling, nutritious, delicious raw recipes from locally available, seasonal ingredients.”
Benefits of going raw
As you adopt a more ‘high raw’ diet, she explains, you will experience, multiple benefits from enhanced clarity of mind, more positivity, higher fitness levels, increased immunity, higher energy levels, better digestion, and freedom from addictions.
“Raw food will help in weight loss, gain skin texture, reduce chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It will help supplement the body’s mineral and vitamin reserves, boost disease-fighting phytochemical uptake, enable lightness in the body, and cultivate awareness on what suits the body and what does not,” adds Dr. Ankita.
Image courtesy: Anjali Sanghi; Raw vegan burrito
“You will learn to be more sensitive to the world around you. And you save on the thousands of litres of water wasted and pollution that is generated by meat and other cooked meals,” concludes Anjali.