Raw living foods or ‘sunfoods’ include all fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds in their fresh, unprocessed state. The benefits of the raw lifestyle abound: mental clarity, increased energy, weight-loss, better digestion, greater immunity, glowing skin and more. Yes, it even makes washing dishes easier! Yet perhaps the most astonishing thing about eating raw is that you can trust every bite.
Eight years ago, when I began eating a primarily raw vegan diet, it wasn’t because someone said it was healthy or fashionable, but because it tasted and felt so good. I remember sitting down to enjoy my first intentionally raw meal- red and green cabbage salad with avocado and orange-ginger dressing. Looking down in awe at the vibrant beauty of fuchsia and olive green dancing in my bowl, I decided to ditch the fork and scoop up the goodness with my hands. Suddenly the thought arose ‘Every single bite of this is good for me!’ It wasn’t long before a huge grin had planted itself on my face, spread from ear to ear and blossomed into a cackle, then rolling thunder clouds of deep belly laughter. It was over, I was in love. I felt as though I had discovered water. In a sense, I had discovered water- the most nutrient-dense hydrating water I could have possibly imagined.
Ever eat a meal and feel so thirsty afterwards that you could drink 10 glasses of water? Well, when food is cooked, one of the first things to go is the water; this is why we feel dehydrated after eating a plate of pasta. When eating raw, less water is required because foods straight from the earth naturally contain plenty. Eating living food high in water may become more important as the water supply on our planet changes.
You know how good food can smell cooking in the kitchen? Well, that’s because all of the nutrition is being released into the air! When food is heated above 120 degrees, the oxygen, enzymes and water are destroyed making the minerals harder to digest and forcing the body to use its own enzyme reserves for digestion. These enzymes would otherwise be used for repairing cells and eliminating waste.
There are three classes of enzymes: food, digestive, and metabolic. Food enzymes are present in all raw foods and are what make fruit ripen. Digestive enzymes are excreted in the digestive tract and break down food. Metabolic enzymes are responsible for the healthy function of our organs, tissues and cells. When the foods we consume are devoid of enzymes, the body must use its own digestive enzymes. When the digestive enzymes are depleted, the body must pull from its reserves of metabolic enzymes and this is one of the factors that contribute to degeneration, weak immunity.
Raw foods contain ample amounts of minerals, vitamins and nutrients in the perfect bio-available, easily assimilated form. Nature has an unquestionable intelligence, when you eat foods directly from nature, you take in that intelligence into you.
There are physical, emotional and spiritual reasons for over-eating. On a physiological level over-eating is simply the body’s way of saying, ‘Uh, excuse me. What did you just feed me? Was that supposed to be nourishment or something? Well, I didn’t get anything from it! Maybe you need to eat a little more?’ When food is cooked, the molecular structure of the food changes and the digestive tract does not always recognize it as food. The brain’s epistat, responsible for checking blood for nutrient-density, can’t identify enough nutrients so it signals the body that it still needs more. Processed foods lacking in minerals and enzymes and can be highly addictive. An obese person’s body is actually starving for nourishment and the cure is not counting calories or dieting, but self-love, education and returning to a mineral-rich, plant-based diet.
On an emotional level, what we are most hungry for is love and human connection. It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ a food is for us, chances are if mom or dad fed it to us as children, we associate that food with a primal feeling of comfort and being cared for. When we deny ourselves of these foods, it can feel like we are depriving ourselves of love. Simply being aware of our ‘food imprints,’ slowly but naturally transforms our associations with being loved.
Remember that you can be eating all the best foods known to man, but in the end it’s only what you digest and assimilate properly that actually becomes nourishment. The key thing to understand with digestion is that your body has to turn everything you eat into liquid. It takes 2 cups of digestive juices a day to assimilate raw foods; it takes an average of 2 gallons of digestive juices to break down cooked foods. It takes 90% of the body’s energy to digest food. So the next time you feel like sleeping for a week after eating lunch, this could be why.
The most common question I hear asked about a plant based diet is ‘Where do I get my protein?’ With the right education, it is possible to receive plenty of protein from a plant-based diet. The collective belief that in order to be healthy, we must get our protein from an animal source is not necessarily the bottom-line truth. Spirulina is the highest protein food in the world with 90% absorbable protein, more than meat, fish or eggs combined. Green leaves, hemp seeds, bee pollen, and blue-green algae also contain protein. So do nuts and seeds.
The truth is, however, that protein is not the key to a healthy body. The building blocks of proteins – amino acids are what is needed. When the body receives protein, it has to break it down into amino acids and reform those acids into new proteins that our bodies can use. When you eat plants high in amino acids (which is all plant foods), you save a ton of energy on digestion and metabolic process, leaving you feeling lighter and with more hours in the day to follow your true meaning and be creative in the world. Less need for naps = more time for joy!
People often ask me, ‘If I eat raw, do I have to give up all the foods I love?’ My answer is always, ‘Of course not!’ This is about abundance and returning to what is most natural, so try adding things in, instead of taking things out. Everyone can benefit from starting the morning with a superfood smoothie and enjoying a bright green salad each day. Just doing that will make a difference. At the beginning, as the body adjusts, it can be more challenging. There is no magic pill. Slowly add life-giving foods to your plate, rather than depriving yourself of anything. The body craves what we give it. By inviting more nutrient-rich foods into your diet, your body will naturally ask for more of them over time. Before you know it you’ll be craving the smoothie bowl for breakfast, having forgotten how you used to fill your plate with sausage.
Mother Nature has provided us with everything we require to thrive. Taste, texture, color and beauty- it’s all there with raw living foods. It feels good, it tastes good and it is good! Now when you hear the word ‘raw food’ the first thing that comes to mind might be a pile of celery sticks. I invite you to consider that after a little experimenting you may think of macadamia cheese balls rolled in fresh-ground pepper spread over live sesame-olive bread instead. Remember, there are no rules. Everyone can be an artist in the kitchen- especially with raw foods. The refinement happens to the degree that you are willing to play.
The Sunfood Diet Success System by David Wolfe
Conscious Eating by Dr Gabriel Cousens
Raw Family by Victoria Boutenko
Ani’s Raw Kitchen by Ani Phyo
RAW: The UNcook Book by Juliano
The Detox Miracle Sourcebook by Dr Robert Morse