I celebrated my birthday about two and a half weeks ago. Yay! Happy birthday to me!
I had decided to give myself an unusual sort of birthday “present”; something to celebrate and honour life and health. I had decided to go raw – i.e. to follow a raw vegan diet – for a whole year!
But recently, I’ve had doubts about that decision…
The Raw Diet
If you’re unfamiliar with the raw diet, it essentially consists of eating raw (i.e. uncooked) fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. If oils are consumed, they are natural and cold-pressed, which means no transfats or hydrogenated oils. Some simple staples of the raw food diet include salads and Green Smoothies — which are AWESOME!
There are actually quite a few different variations of this way of eating. The variation I tend to follow – at least for now (as I may decide to experiment with another variation sometime during the course of this year) – would probably not be considered “100%” raw, and I’m fine with that. This is because I still intend to include ingredients which may not be considered raw in certain foods I prepare, such as wheat-free tamari, nutritional yeast, and maple syrup. The Raw Chef Russell James includes some of these in some of his recipes, and since he’s a self-proclaimed Raw Chef even when using these ingredients, I intend to use them too!
I also intend to consume fermented foods on occasion. I’m not sure exactly how often I’ll be eating such foods, but I’m going to allow them on my “okay to eat” list of foods.
Speaking of fermented foods, I’m also going to allow myself wine (and possibly sake as well).
Is Wine “Raw”?
There is a fancy gourmet restaurant in New York City called Pure Food and Wine. Any alcohol they serve is in the form of either wine or sake, as sake is often referred to as rice wine.
So, does that mean wine is raw? Well, I suppose it depends how you define “raw”. It’s certainly not a fruit, nut, seed or vegetable… but wine is derived from fruit, right? It’s essentially fermented fruit juice.
Although there are many reasons to not consume wine, there are also many reasons to consume wine. My reason is mainly that I really enjoy a good glass of wine, and seeing that I’m giving up nearly all of my vices for the next year, I thought perhaps I’d at least allow myself a glass of wine in social settings now and then. I’m a foodie at heart, and a glass of wine can certainly compliment many raw dishes, such as raw lasagna, pizza, nut-cheeses, or a rich chocolatey dessert.
Is a Raw Diet Healthy?
I’d say that depends on what you eat, and how much.
One can certainly obtain all the essential vitamins and nutrients they need from eating whole, unprocessed raw foods. I know from past experiences that my body thrives on plant foods, especially fresh fruits and veggies!
There’s been some critique as of late of the raw food diet, and how it can be unhealthy or dangerous. My opinion is that sure, that can be the case if you eat a pound of nuts and oils every day! But seriously people.. use your brains! *Balance* is the key!
There are some raw food recipes and creations that I LOVE, and they may be quite high in fat, but that’s not going to stop me from eating such dishes from time to time. But I’m certainly not going to eat foods like these every day.
Something a lot of people may not realize is that some foods which you might think are raw actually aren’t – at least not technically.
Take orange juice for example. If you buy orange juice from a grocery store, it’s not going to be raw. Why? Because it’s pasteurized.
The process of pasteurization involves heating a food to a specific temperature for a definite length of time and then cooling it immediately. This process slows microbial growth in the food. It’s done to preserve the shelf-life of your food while it ships from the manufacturer to the grocery store, where it will wait sitting on a shelf waiting to be bought. And then, once you buy it and put it in your own fridge or cupboard, there it sits even longer.
So why is pasteurized food considered “bad” by raw foodists?
Well, the main reason lies in the pasteurization process. When food is heated to high temperatures, many of the good enzymes found in that food die. The food is no longer “alive”.
If you drink a glass of pasteurized orange juice and compare it to a glass of fresh squeezed organic orange juice, I’m sure you can tell there’s a huge difference. The fresh OJ will taste vibrant and alive in comparison to the pasteurized OJ (that may be from concentrate, too).
While it will be my aim to generally avoid pasteurized foods, I’m not going to put them on my “to avoid at all costs” list. If I’m out and about, say at a friend’s place, and they happen to have OJ available but no fresh fruit (and I forgot to bring my own fruit along with me for whatever reason), I’ll likely be okay with accepting a glass of orange juice! Personally, I don’t want to be *too* hard core about this… not that there’s anything wrong with being hard core! If you want to be hard core raw, then all the more power to ya!
Additionally, many natural, non-roasted nuts and seeds that are sold in stores that we might think are raw, are technically not raw! Why? Because they’ve been pasteurized!
100% raw nuts and seeds are often pretty expensive, and I personally do not have the budget to purchase such items on a regular basis. That said, I’m going to be okay with including some pasteurized food items in my diet when I’m eating raw.
Steamed Vegetables vs. Raw Vegetables
I was debating whether or not I’d allow myself lightly steamed veggies and still consider myself to be “raw”.
I know from past experiences that I don’t digest certain foods very well in their raw and natural state, such as cauliflower and broccoli (and I think cabbage, too). I do think these foods can be very good for you, but for me, when I eat them raw, I often experience uncomfortable digestive issues. That being the case, I figure I have three choices:
1) Just live with the discomfort and eat these raw veggies anyway.
2) Completely omit certain raw veggies from my diet.
3) Keep these foods in my diet, and lightly steam them first before consumption.
I think foods like cauliflower and broccoli (or broccolini, which I prefer) have a lot of nutritional value to offer, most of which won’t get absorbed in their raw state due to my crappy digestive system. So, after giving a fair bit of thought, I’ve decided to be alright with lightly steaming these types of veggies while eating “raw”.
(FYI: I put “raw” in quotation marks because, technically, it’s not 100% raw! The raw community often refers to this way of eating as “high-raw”, meaning that a very high percentage of your dietary intake consists of raw foods in their natural, uncooked and non-pasteurized form.)
Will I Ever Eat Cooked Food Again?
This is easy for me to answer: Yes. Yes I will.
When I started writing this article a week or two ago, I had originally intended to eat raw — well, mostly raw — for a whole year; and already I’ve changed my mind.
As I mentioned near the very beginning of this article, I’ve recently had doubts leading me to question my decision to go raw for a year.
One of the main reasons I wanted to eat raw for a year was because I wanted to “get in shape” and lose weight, and I believed a raw diet would help a lot on that path. Of course, establishing and maintaining an exercise routine would be very important as well, but I thought eating raw would help a lot, too. It certainly has in the past, anyway.
Another reason I wanted to go raw for a year was because I usually feel amazing when following a raw diet. …At least, that’s been my main experience during my previous 30-days raw experiments.
However, after eating raw for these past 17 consecutive days or so, I just was not feeling that raw “high” that I had gotten used to feeling in the past. I actually felt tired! And instead of feeling really joyful, I’ve even been feeling more on the down side. I wouldn’t say I’ve been feeling “sad” or “depressed”, but definitely not as happy as I usually feel while I was eating cooked vegan food earlier in the year.
My body definitely felt off. I wanted cooked food. My body seemed to want cooked food for some reason. And since I was not experiencing the benefits I usually feel after eating raw for 2+ weeks, such as that raw emotional “high”, clear mindedness, and weight-loss, I decided to re-incorporate some cooked food back into my diet after all.
Thankfully, I’m glad to report that my mood has already improved a lot after reintroducing some cooked food back into my diet!
Something’s Not Quite Right…
I think the raw diet is great — if done properly… and it’s very likely I just wasn’t doing it quite right this time ’round. But honestly, it’s hard for me to say how. But it’s more likely something’s just not quite right with my body right now.
I somehow found myself on this site: What Your Poop and Pee Are Telling You About Your Body. Sounds a little “eww”, I know, but it serves up some very useful and practical information.
One thing the site tells you is that healthy turds should look like a torpedo and should be easy to pass. Well, this hasn’t been the case for me in quite some time. And if my turds aren’t healthy, I’m likely not very healthy right now, either. As of late, I’ve been experiencing everything *except* what I should be experiencing!
When I feel healthiest, my “#2” is exactly how it’s described above… but I’ve also noticed it’s coincided when I’ve combined a balance of steaming certain veggies, consuming a high amount of raw food, and also consuming some cooked (and always vegan) food in my diet.
Who Does Number 2 Work For? 😉
I think for the raw diet to work best with my body, I have to first resolve whatever issues I have with my digestion and elimination systems.
This may sound completely contradictory, but it seems when I eat a lot of high-fiber foods (i.e. only fruits and greens), I actually seem to get constipated!
Not too long ago, I tried a 7-day raw detox where I only ate fruits, greens and a small amount of veggies for 7 days without any source of fat at all – no seeds, no nuts, no oils, nor other overt sources of fat such as avocado. Salt was also avoided. And, believe it or not… I was constipated! You’d think with all the fiber I was consuming, it’d be impossible for that to be the case. Right? Interestingly, I had the mental clarity that often comes along with the raw diet, but I felt constantly bloated due to the constipation, and hence my energy was kinda sucky during that week, too.
Food, Glorious Food! …Vegan Style!
Perhaps once my digestive issues are resolved, I’ll start up the ‘raw for a year’ experiment once again. Or, perhaps I’ll decide to simply stick with a high-raw diet, including some cooked vegan food in my diet, too.
Time will tell.
In the mean time, I’ve decided to continue to prepare and enjoy a variety of both raw and cooked vegan dishes… and I plan to share these creations here with you, too!
…Stay tuned for some delicious recipes, photos, and tips, such as these delicious Raw Vegan Nori Rolls that I made last night! Yummers!