Here at The Institute for the Psychology of Eating we do NOT endorse or promote any particular diet or nutritional lifestyle. We do highly encourage that each person openly explores the wide variety of nutritional approaches and dietary strategies that are available to them. We see nutrition as an ever changing journey. We believe that a healthy relationship with food and a well functioning metabolism is possible when we can each be open to what works best for ourselves, and others. We believe there’s a nugget of wisdom to be found in just about any diet that’s been designed with care in mind for people and planet.
The paths that lead someone to discover and become curious about a Raw Food Diet are many. Perhaps you’ve been vegetarian or vegan for years and feel this is the natural next step. Maybe you’re drawn to the spiritual aspects and feelings of connectivity promised by this lifestyle. Or you’re suffering from health complications and have heard that everything from obesity, bad skin, low energy, chronic fatigue, digestion, and diabetes can be helped, or even reversed, by adopting a plant-based raw vegan diet.
So what is a raw diet exactly? The most prominent version of a raw food diet is plant-based and free of animal products, in other words, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. There is a widening circle who also include honey, raw milk, meat and fish (think carpaccio or céviche) to their raw menu, according to their beliefs. Generally speaking, however, eating raw means ingesting whole foods in their most natural and unprocessed form, and this includes the fact that to be truly raw, it cannot have been processed by heat above 105 degrees.
So why go raw? Proponents of this way of eating explain that food is its most alive and rich in enzymes in its raw state. It can be incredibly healing, detoxifying and nourishing. And it’s one of many options when exploring the 3 Levels of Diet. For those who’ve experience the benefits of this way of eating, they describe improvement in their energy levels, digestion, decreased anxiety, better sleep among many others.
That said, you must also be prepared. Unless you’re living in the tropics, this may not be a convenient way to feed and nourish yourself. And it truly requires you to be dedicated to natural, organic, fresh foods, if you want to experience the full spectrum of promised benefit. You need to be aware of how this will affect your life throughout the seasons, and in social situations. This is a lifestyle and with any lifestyle change, it can impact all areas of life, including your relationship with yourself, and others. What happens if you attend a gathering with only cooked foods, or you might need a snack in a pinch but only have gas stations to choose from – what to do then? Long-time adherents say that proper planning is the key to success.
Ready to dedicate some time to exploring a raw plant-based diet? Here are five helpful tips to keep in mind when going raw.
1. Know your reasons for going raw.
If you’re diving into the world of raw foods, you most likely have at least one reason for making the change. Is it for weight loss? Is it for longevity? Is it for energy? Maybe it’s for glowing skin? Whatever the reason is, be willing to learn as you go. You may find that the more dedicated you become and the better your begin to feel, your reasons may change. And that’s okay. Our understanding of the world evolves and changes as we grow and transform. You also might find that to feel your very best, you will need to be more diligent about getting enough calories per day, to avoid tanking your metabolism, or relying on roughage. Be willing to educate yourself around an entirely new way of seeing food and the world. If you’re doing this for one reason, be it skin, weight, etc. such one-minded thinking can not only be a discouraging distraction, it can also be stressful on the mind and body. Here at IPE we always want encourage everyone to become intimately aware of their own body wisdom, and to listen closely to the messages that come up. For instance, eating raw might result in weight loss, but it is not a weight loss diet, this is not its ultimate goal. Vibrant health, and longevity are the selling points, which is a good place to start because a longer, healthier life means more time with family member and loved ones.
2. Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t.
One of the most challenging hurdles most new raw foodies must overcome is the glaring and intimidating list of “no-no” foods. Most restaurant meals are cooked, unless you ask otherwise, and they generally come smothered in processed oils or sauces certain to not be raw-approved, and therefore might come as an obstacle for dinner outings with friends. There’s no rules about how raw one has to be to derive benefits. If you want to stick with the raw diet 100% ask the waiter if he can provide you with a large raw salad with oil and lemon, or another modification of something on the menu. Better yet, call ahead to the restaurant to see how they can accommodate you in a tastier way. Ultimately – embrace your choices and your options. Be willing to make it work in your favor and don’t get caught off-guard.
3. Equip your “un-cooking” kitchen.
If you want to keep your meals tasty and creative, you will want to learn the ropes of “uncooking”. You can make juices and smoothies at any time of the day for a quick nutrient-rich snack, but one cannot live on fruit juice alone. Like any new culinary enterprise, there are tools for the job. And no chef would be worth his salt if he showed up without his prized knives. Likewise, even for the raw food kitchen, there are some key instruments worthy of including to make the experience easier and provides the most options for creating new dishes:
- a dehydrator: this is going to be your oven, it magically concentrates flavor and provides the best method of altering textures for a “cooked” taste.
- a spiralizer: this can turn any vegetable or tuber into a huge bowl of noodles.
- a food processor: this takes the place of many saucepans, but it’s a great way to combine ingredients into sauces and “creams”
- a blender: while this may seem redundant with a food processor on the counter nearby, blenders are the king of smoothies, and smooth velvety purées
- a juicer: green juice is a powerful way to start the day
The most important thing to equip your raw kitchen with however, are all manners of good foods. Make sure to use spices and fresh herbs in your tasty dishes. Don’t be afraid to experiment – this is part of the fun of becoming a gourmet raw foodie. There’s an incredible abundance of raw food recipes and un-cook books to spark up your heat-free kitchen and provide delicious and satisfying options, for you will, no doubt, come to discover that “un-cooking” your dinner is quite unlike any other cuisine.
4. Be balanced.
This goes for both the mind and body. In regards to a balanced mind, do not attempt a raw diet if it makes you unhappy, stressed, or tired. Feed your mind, soul and heart with your plant-based foods so that you may become more satisfied and whole. If the case is that it in fact does the opposite, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean raw is too hard for you, it simply means it’s not for you. Do not neglect your mental well being and peace of mind, for it’s just as hungry for nourishment as the belly. In order to have a balanced body, make sure you are consuming enough protein, carbohydrates and fats. Fruits and vegetables will provide most of your carbohydrates, while nuts, seeds, coconut and avocados can give you efficient fat fuel. Lastly, while protein exists in many raw plants, as well as nuts and seeds, be aware of deriving enough. Trying to eat low-cal on a raw food diet is often a recipe for disaster when it comes to your metabolism. As an added bonus, however, the enzymes in raw foods will enable your body to process and use protein even more effectively.
5. Embrace the non-diet mentality.
Diet isn’t really one of those words that exemplifies long-term. Lifestyle on the other hand, does. There are so many who begin a new way of eating and believe that will only do them any good if they can follow it to the letter of perfection. But life is messy. It makes us feel, move, and change. So as you begin your new adventure, be aware that feeling like the new kid in the crowd can sometimes leave us with the feeling that we must. be. in. control. If you’re ready to go raw, then go raw! Play and feel into the conversation you can have with your body. Be joyful and pleasurable. Don’t use raw foods to restrict yourself, be intuitive when it comes to macronutrients, food intake, meal timing, people’s opinions, or anything else! This goes for any change in food choices. You are the most educated in your own body and what makes you feel amazing, and what makes you feel less than stellar.
If you want to adopt a raw lifestyle, develop more than just a strong love for fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Use raw eating as a way to create a passion for creativity and bio-individuality while simultaneously expanding your love for real food. Live your life Raw, open, authentic and with awareness. Leave the diet nonsense for good and pursue true health for the Whole eater: body, heart and soul.
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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