Benefits of eating whole foods
Why in the world would someone want to eat so much raw and whole food anyway? Three simple reasons:
- Raw food is living food. It is alive with the nutrients and enzymes your body needs to function efficiently. Cooking food destroys the enzymes and nutrition in it, so the body has to draw upon its own enzymes. That's what aging, illness and disease are: a body depleted of enzymes.
- Your body uses much of its precious energy to digest processed food: That's why you feel sluggish after eating a big meal. The food we advocate at Fork in the Road has a high water and fiber content, which makes it easier to digest. When food goes through your system faster, your body rewards you with more energy to work, play and enjoy the life!
- Healthy body chemistry is alkaline. Processed food, sugar and animal products are acid forming. They make your body chemistry acidic, so you're more prone to stress and illness. Raw, living foods are alkaline-rich.
Remember, you don't have to be all or nothing. Even if you keep doing what you're doing and simply add more fresh foods to your daily diet, you'll be taking steps in the right direction.
FAQS: An interview with Sheree About Raw Food
Sheree Clark is a graduate of Living Light Culinary Arts Institute and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. As a holistic health and nutrition counselor, Sheree is passionate about helping others adopt health-promoting life practices. Personally, Sheree has followed a raw vegan lifestyle since 2005. Here, she talks about the importance of adding more raw food to your diet.
First, I think we need to define the term "raw." In addition to meaning uncooked, "raw" is also defined as something in an unprocessed, unrefined state. Most people who call themselves raw foodists (myself included) are vegans, who — in addition to not eating meat or dairy — choose not to consume white flour, sugar or preservatives. As a general rule, raw food enthusiasts also try as much as possible to eat organic produce.
Vegan raw foods are absolutely "safe." I eat mostly from three main food groups: fresh fruits, fresh vegetables (especially leafy greens) and natural fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds. There is nothing risky about these things!
Start by adding more fresh foods to your diet. Drink fresh (not packaged) juices and smoothies. Add sprouts to salads. But beyond that, I would say learn more about the value of raw foods, so you can incorporate them into your lifestyle in a way that makes sense for you. Start slow: you don't have to go 100% raw overnight...or ever, for that matter! Buy a basic raw food cookbook, such as "Raw Food Made Easy" by Jennifer Cornbleet. Google "raw foods," and "living foods" to learn more. I also believe that what you eliminate from your diet can make a big difference. By consciously removing—or at least reducing — packaged foods, meat and dairy, refined sugar and flour, a person can make improvements in their health rather quickly. I would also encourage people to avoid entirely any food prepared — or even reheated — in a microwave.
A main benefit of raw foods is that they have more nutrients and enzymes available for the body to utilize; cooking destroys these valuable resources. There is also a high water content in fruits and vegetables, which helps to keep the body hydrated. Raw foods are more easily digested: they are high in fiber and are pass through the digestive system much more quickly than meat, processed and heat-prepared items. Finally, our health is greatly enhanced when our bodies are more alkaline. Things like stress, pollution, sugar, animal proteins and processed foods are acid-forming; by consuming vegan raw foods we can help restore our bodies to a healthier, more alkalized state.
I suppose if you didn't vary your diet you might run a risk of some sort of a deficiency. And not washing produce might increase your chances of ingesting something you might rather not eat—but beyond that, I can't think of any real danger in adopting a high raw lifestyle.
Probably the main one is societal; it's just not common in some parts of the United States, and that makes it a challenge for people. The lack of convenience may be a barrier for someone just starting out, because it's easy to think "oh, that's just too much work," although in reality it's less involved than traditional cooking in many ways. And after a while it becomes very easy to know how to order in a restaurant or where to find things that you can eat when you're traveling.
Just about anything you can buy fresh can be eaten raw. For example, I eat (organic) corn on the cob in its natural state — with no butter and no salt — and it is fabulous. A green smoothie (containing both fruits and some leafy greens) is an easy and satisfying breakfast. For a "typical" dinner at home I might make spaghetti with marinara sauce (where the spaghetti is simply spiralized zucchini and the marinara is made fresh in my food processor in less than five minutes). When I get a sweet tooth I make truffles out of dates, almonds and coconut, or a wonderful flourless chocolate cake that takes about 10 minutes to whip up.
America is in a very bad state of health. Heart disease, diabetes, childhood obesity...these are treatable and preventable illnesses, and a key lies in what we ingest. For those who have tried "the raw lifestyle" for even a short period there can be major health and well-being payoffs: from reduced symptoms of disease to improved sleep, weight loss, clearer skin and even a better disposition!
For me, adopting a raw vegan lifestyle has been one of the best gifts I have ever given myself. I feel wonderful, I am happier and I have a ton of energy. It was a little daunting at first, because I really had no support or local guidance and I had to go it alone. Now that I am comfortable in the lifestyle — and have adopted the parts of it that are right for me — it is the easiest, most intuitive thing imaginable. It really becomes second nature. But there is one more thing I would really stress, and that is that you do not have to be "all or nothing" about it. Even if you can just cut down on processed flour and sugar, for example, and eat two more servings of vegetables or greens a day, you'll be better off. It is a continuum, not a black and white thing.