Thursday, March 10, 2011

How I Finally Got on the Raw Food Bandwagon

I first heard about Raw Foods back in 2005 when I was studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. You can learn more about IIN and my nutrition training by clicking here. One of the unique things about the school is it’s philosophy: there is no one diet that is right for everyone. And so IIN aims to educate its students about a variety of dietary theories (versus other schools that focus on teaching one specific way to eat). Raw foods was but only one of the dietary theories we studied.

For three hours, David Wolfe, the darling of the Raw Food movement, inspired us all with the amazing health benefits of eating raw. For the uninitiated, a raw foods diet consists of unprocessed raw vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). "Raw foodists" believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost their enzymes and thus a significant amount of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body, whereas uncooked foods provide living enzymes and proper nutrition. Proponents of a raw food diet claim that there are many benefits to eating raw foods, including weight loss, more energy, clear skin, improved digestion and improved overall health. Who doesn’t want that??

But it was December, in New York. It was cold. I was pregnant at the time. I just could not fathom skipping soup, or cooked quinoa, or black beans, or tea. Or chicken on Shabbat. Among my other reasons for resisting going raw: I don’t normally eat a lot of fruit. Eating a lot of exotic fruits and superfoods from far away places went against the “eat locally” philosophy. And I felt like I was cheating on my macrobiotic roots. (Macrobiotics is a dietary theory stressing the importance of cooked foods!)

So, I added some raw cacao and goji berries to my diet (not much of a sacrifice-let me tell you!) and that was about as far as raw foods and I went.

Fast forward almost three years: my husband and I are headed off to Miami for a much needed mid-winter weekend getaway without kids. I’m feeling burnt out by winter; run down and frazzled. He buys me a few magazines for the journey, one of which is a raw foods lifestyle mag. All the folks featured in the magazine looked radiant; they were so healthy they were practically glowing. I was totally inspired and intrigued by raw foods, but not yet completely won over.

Fast forward another year and a half. Now we’re living in Israel, enjoying warmer weather year round. The shift to include more raw foods in my diet feels natural, organic, and inevitable. Suddenly, opportunities to learn hands-on techniques for incorporating more raw foods into my diet present themselves. Not nursing or pregnant for the first time in nearly 10 years, I do a major detox, eating mostly raw foods for a month. I start sprouting, pickling and fermenting, and juicing. I make smoothies, soak nuts and seeds and and turn them into nut milks and raw pates. While I would never claim to be a raw foodist, I can say now that I eat a high percentage of raw, vegan, unprocessed food, most of which I make myself. And, I feel great.

This slow acceptance of more raw foods into my diet was the right way for me; perhaps it’s more your style to go full throttle straight away. But for me, the changes I adopted feel right, and more importantly, like they are here to stay. I still eat cooked food, and I’m not at all a vegan, but I’m grateful for the folks who taught me about raw foods the techniques to prepare them simply at home.

In my effort to pay it forward, and share the raw food love, I invite you all to a hands on workshop at my house this Sunday evening, March 13th. Join me at 8:30pm to learn why sprouts are a great first step to eating more “live” foods, how to make sprout in your own kitchen, and how to serve up sprouts so even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy them. Your investment: 55 nis.

Feeling intimidated by raw foods? Click here to clear up any myths about a raw food diet.

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