First published in Franklin Journal
It’s difficult for me to share my “health crisis initiated” food journey. However, stories connect people and as many people are having food related health issues, it seems important to summon the courage to share. We often believe (all of the time?) that we are alone with whatever problem we have no matter what that problem is. The truth is this is rarely (never?) the case.
There are many diet options, of which Paleo, Atkins, Gluten-free and Leaky Gut are a few. I know people who have explored one or more of a growing list. We are all searching for the magic wand to being healthy through food. Through my journey I have concluded that it’s best to eat as close to season as possible, eat food that is grown in my region when possible, and eat as close to the original version as possible. Indigenous peoples use this criteria as their eating guideline, because they know it’s good for the person and it’s good for the planet. Following this criteria led me to a diet called the “raw food diet” and while I don’t follow it strictly, it has become my natural diet. With some exploration of food combinations, you will never be bored with the options! What better time to explore the role of raw food than when here in New England we are planting new crops of vegetables and the farmer’s markets are becoming laden with fresh options!
Meeting with a nutritionist is a recommended first step when changing eating habits. I chose to use this option to fill in knowledge gaps, as I have a significant, informal food nutrition background. I also read extensively and worked with holistic healers. There are some raw food followers who say invest first in a dehydrator.While I greatly respect this advice, I couldn’t eat dehydrated foods and frankly, if you’re going from eating anything and everything, I think detoxing first with fresh juiced veggies and fruits is the way to go. With this in mind, the first investment should be the best juicer you can afford. So, my first step to “eating raw” was buying an Omega J8006 (it also makes raw nut butters). I began juicing any fruit or vegetable that wasn’t nailed down and was otherwise unable to eat. This juicer was pricey, but I regarded it as I would any health insurance purchase. I have found it to be effective extracting juice, leaving little waste and minimizing heat application. The first two criteria are fairly obvious. The third criteria is perhaps, less obvious.
“I don’t know why people cook the life out of their food. By the time they’re done, it’s not worth eating.” Yes, mom. You were right. Again. Heat hurts food. Keep food at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and food can last almost, indefinitely. Heat breaks down food and causes cooked food to spoil more quickly. Think of the texture of cooked vegetables or fruits. They become limp, because heat has broken down their fiber. If we’re eating vegetables and fruits for fiber, it doesn’t make sense to destroy their fiber prior to eating. Heat causes loss of natural color, which serves as a visual of lost nutrients. Finally, heat causes loss of 50 percent of proteins, minerals, and enzymes. Enzymes help break down our food and convert it to energy.
Some vegetables contain carbohydrates (think glycemic index), which when heated increases their sugar content. Carrots and parsnips come to mind. I love a springtime parsnip! The sweetness is divine and is further enhanced with cooking. Remember, I am not a strict raw food consumer. However, when watching sugar content for addiction or calorie control, this is an important factor.
My journey eating raw food hasn’t been easy. In partnership with a spiritual journey, it has necessitated a great deal of trial and error. In truth, previous to my health crisis, I would have been dragged up a hill before I embraced this diet change. Now I believe, when we are eat mostly raw and organic foods, we detox our bodies and become more alert and spiritual. So, if you decide to go this route, be kind to yourself. Unless you have a “cold turkey” personality, take this diet change a step at a time.
I’m still exploring causation and correlation of eating raw food, particularly raw food that is grown close to home, to and spiritual growth and intuitive healing through food. I know from experience there seems to be at least a correlation. Intuition has enabled me to add foods that don’t hurt me and has worked in partnership to heal. Spiritual growth has been a bonus. If you want to try incorporating more raw food in your diet, I suggest reading, talking with specialists, and starting with breakfast, as it’s easy to navigate. Trust your gut. It isn’t hard to eat raw food, it’s hard to not eat cooked food. You’ll be a pro in no time!
I’d enjoy hearing about your experience.