There are some misconceptions around raw foodism that give it a bad name and may stop people trying it. Here, Shazzie, best-selling author and TV presenter for Sky TV's Raw Kitchen, dispels the myths so you can start eating a raw foods diet with ease and confidence ...
I've seen the raw food movement grow, fragment and eventually settle into being accepted as a healthy food choice in our culture.
So, let's get straight into clearing up those misconceptions.
#1 We evolved to eat cooked food
99.9 percent of the world’s population follow a raw food diet, which they’ve evolved to eat over millions of years. The other percentage, let’s call them humans and their companion animals, eat cooked food.
We haven’t evolved that way, because we haven’t been cooking food long enough to create an evolutionary shift in our bodies. Naturally, then, our bodies function optimally on raw food.
If you’re still questioning raw foods, consider the following:
- If you can’t eat food raw and unprocessed (like kidney beans and potatoes), ask yourself "Is this food designed for humans?”
- Watch food as it’s cooking. See the water disappear, the colours fade and the textures change.
- Compare how your body feels when you eat raw food compared to when you eat cooked food? Which meal makes you more energetic, more alert, happier? Which food sedates you and makes you tired?
Ask yourself if you’re as healthy and happy as you could be. If the answer’s no, then add superfoods, such as algae and marine phytoplankton, into every meal – they contain essential fatty acids that contribute to optimal brain and hormone functioning.
#2 You have to eat all raw food or it won't benefit you
Most people who get into raw food don’t eat a 100% raw diet for various reasons.
The great news is that you can receive many of the benefits of raw foodism without the dedication that’s required to be entirely raw: just eat at least 51% in weight of raw food at every meal.
Why does this work? Because that magic number allows your body to recognise enough of the food to digest it, rather than attack it.
When you eat cooked food, your body doesn’t recognise it: it causes leukocytosis. This is where white blood cells are released into the stomach to deal with the “invader”.
Your body doesn’t know the difference between cooked food and a virus. Having leukocytosis many times a day is the reason why our bodies can end up in a terrible auto-immune self-attacking state.
Imagine the lift from your body’s load if half of your food was raw and you didn’t suffer from leukocytosis.
Knowing this, we can now easily choose to create better health for our whole family. Just remember the magic number: 51% in weight of raw food at each meal.
Easy. Easy. Easy. Sweet potatoes, buckwheat pasta, steamed vegetables, hummous, wild rice and sprouted breads are all great choices for you if you choose to eat some cooked food. ￼
#3 You have to be a vegan to be raw
There are raw foodists who eat insects, meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey, and other animal products. Raw doesn’t mean vegan or vegetarian.
If you aren’t vegan or vegetarian, then eggs are better than animal milk, fish is often better than land meat and bee pollen and honey are good nutritional choices.
Take care with raw animal products as they can be loaded with pathogens. You could use a Zappicator on any raw animal food before you eat it.
I haven’t ever felt the need to eat animal products in 30 years, but it is really a personal choice.
#4 The raw food diet is boring and restricted
When you start eating raw foods, you’ll find foods you’ve never encountered before. You’ll naturally start eating more variety than when you ate a normal diet.
Asian markets, specialist raw food web sites, farmer’s markets, raw food recipe books and pot lucks help you find your way into the magical world of raw food abundance.
Our meals are based on the following foods:
- Fruits, dried, fresh or frozen, especially wild
- Vegetables, dried or fresh, especially wild
- Seed sprouts (alfalfa, broccoli, radish, onion, sunflower, quinoa etc)
- Living micro greens (buckwheat, sunflower etc)
- Herbs and spices, fresh and dried, especially out of my garden
- Nuts and their butters (cashew, macadamia, pecan, hazel, walnut, brazil etc) • Seeds and their butters (sunflower, sesame, hemp, flax, chia etc)
- Ancient grains, soaked or ground (buckwheat, amaranth etc)
- Sea vegetables, often dried (nori, sea spaghetti, kelp, dulse etc)
- Algaes, sometimes frozen, powdered or compressed into tablets (AFA algae, spirulina, chlorella etc)
- Superfoods (raw chocolate, maca, goji berries, Incan berries, wheatgrass, aloe vera, algae etc)
I sprinkle superfoods onto all our meals, without fail. I usually have between one and three pints of green juice a day.
And yes, I do have an issue with cleaning the juicer, even now.
#5 You will become deficient if you eat only raw foods
You can be deficient in nutrients on any diet. The SUKD (Standard UK Diet) is low in phyto-nutrients, B12, EFAs, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and water.
The nutrients to watch out for on a raw vegan diet include vitamins B12, D and K2, choline, iron, calcium and essential fatty acids.
It’s particularly important to consciously add these to a pregnant mother’s and growing child’s diets.
Please note, as a raw food veteran and respected author of five books, I do not recommend the high-fruit unsupplemented raw food diet.
In the short term it’s great for cleansing your body, but in the long term, you can become deficient in the above nutrients. It varies from person to person, because we all have different starting points.
It becomes a real issue when these people reproduce and their unsupplemented raw vegan children have stunted growth and crumbling teeth. Not all raw food diets are equal.
The raw food diet that has lots of greens, superfoods, semi-sweet fruits, live foods and supplements is the only one I recommend for both adults and children.
#6 You won't have enough energy to live on raw foods alone
On the contrary, cooked food is incredibly hard to digest, as your body faces the challenge of unravelling all the unrecognisable molecules created by cooking food.
When you eat raw food, you’ll feel:
- Increased energy ￼
- Weight loss (or gain if you were too skinny)
- Diseases disappearing
- Reversed ageing and staying young looking for ever
- Happiness, and an increased positive outlook
Raw foods are cleansing, energy-giving, full of life and help people avoid disease associated with the Standard UK Diet (SUKD) and Standard American Diet (SAD).
People who eat a high proportion of raw foods have a tell-tale glow that is the envy of all their friends.
#7 Raw food is too expensive and complicated
Your health doesn’t have a price. Eating raw can be expensive, but if you’re resourceful it doesn’t have to be.
I know people from all walks of life who make raw foodism seem easy simply because they love the benefits it brings. I also know people who use every excuse under the sun to not eat raw foods, even though they say they want to.
Money is just one of those excuses; if you want to eat raw, you will. Here are some tips for eating raw food on a budget:
- Grow a huge variety of sprouts on your windowsill
- Plant some fruit trees
- Grow greens in your garden or in tubs
- Garden share: find like-minded friends, pool your resources and pool your harvest
- Visit the market at the end of the day when fresh food is often reduced in price
- Set up an organic distribution service for yourself and likeminded friends, then buy at wholesale prices
- Work in exchange for food
In UK households around a third of all purchased food is thrown away. We rarely throw food away. Here’s how we save and recycle it:
- Make pancakes out of leftover smoothies in the dehydrator
- Make fruit leathers and dried fruit pieces in the dehydrator to store our harvests for future months
- Dehydrate spring leaves and make green superfood powders for future months
- Make soups out of leftover salads and vegetable meals
Any wasted food gets composted, and then recycled back into our land.
How to start
So there you have it: the basics of what to eat when you want to eat raw food, and what to expect when you eat it.
I do hope you’ll try it. It is revolutionising our relationship with food, as a culture. So where do you go next?
Try going raw for a weekend. I’ve put together for you a great course that’s full of recipes, lots more info, and a whole weekend’s raw food plan (with photos so you know what your food should look like!)