Fearless Vegan

A Raw Foods Experiment
11 March, 2011, 12:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

For those of you who may not have talked to me recently or heard my rants on facebook, I decided to undergo a raw food experiment about a week and a half ago.  Save for an occassional meal, some hummus, and peanut butter, I have eaten almost entirely raw for the last eleven days.

I have always been interested in the raw foods diet, and I believe that it has a lot of merit.  It is true that many fruits, vegetables, and grains lose some of their nutritional value when they are cooked.  It is true that it is the only real “natural” diet.  Before man went and invented fire (and subsequently began destroying the world), all of our food was raw.  There are also lots of other reasons for eating raw, most of them chemical and difficult for me to explain (science has never been my forte).  If you want more resources, check out this website or simply search the web.

My reason in writing this post is not to convince you to go raw.  My reason is also not to tell you I will be permanently going raw and will no longer be baking desserts for Chomp.  I assure you that I love Chomp!, baking, and french fries far too much to ever go completely raw.  (In fact, you should be expecting a recipe post in the next few days as Chef Melanie and I are teaming up for a delicious new recipe we’ve been dreaming up). The real purpose of this post is simply to share my experience, what I’ve learned, and maybe even a few recipes. 

Let it be noted that I do not have the best vegan diet.  As an avid desserts chef and lover of fried foods, I do not always eat very healthy.  That is why I decided to embark on this raw journey.  I have done a few raw diet/cleanses in the past and have always been pleased with the results.  I feel better, have more energy, and have even lost a few pounds every time.  Do you remember how you felt when you first went vegan?  How your whole body just felt better?  That’s how it feels, but even better.  (Do you also remember having to go to the bathroom at least five times more often?  It’s like that, too.)

A lot of people associate raw with impossible or ridiculous or other incredulous words.  And it can be.  But this outlook is just like how many people look at veganism: as a whole lot of negatives; a huge list of things you can’t eat, you can’t consume, and you can’t use.  People look at a raw vegan diet the same way, only the list of “can’t”s gets much longer.  But I’ve realized as a vegan that it’s not about negatives; it’s about positives.  It doesn’t matter so much that you’re saying “no” to meat and animal derivatives because you’re saying “yes” to being healthy and taking care of your body, doing what is best for the environment, saving innocent animals from torture and slaughter, and thinking for yourself instead of doing what the status quo tells you to (or insert other reason for being vegan here).  Adopting a raw foods diet is the same way.  It’s not a list of nays; it’s a bigger list of yays.

In doing this experiment, I’ve learned a lot about my body and the way it reacts to what I eat (just like I did when I went vegan).   I’ve had to learn a lot about what is in the food I’m eating: more than just reading nutrition facts and ingredients lists, but learning about acidity, enzymes, and the way that it reacts in your body.  I’ve also been forced into new ways of preparing food (my microwave and I have been on the rocks for a while, but we have now officially broken up).  Dehydrators and Vita-Mixes can be pretty intimidating (if solely for the price point), so let it be known that I used neither of these things on my raw diet (only a regular blender).
The reason I wanted to share this with you readers is because these lessons don’t just apply to a raw diet, it applies to any.  Not only does learning more about how foods react in your body help you be healthier, but it can also help you explain it to non-vegans (the infamous “but how do you get your protein/iron/B12/magical powers?”).  And learning how to prepare foods a new way is never a bad thing.

Just to show you how easy a raw diet can be, let me share a few of my favourite raw recipes.  My favourite breakfast consists of fresh fruit or a fresh fruit smoothie.  I like to chop up some apples and marinade them in lemon juice (makes them extra juicy, tart, and keeps them from going brown), then add in any other assorted fruits.  You can even add raw nuts or ground flax (it dissolves into the fruit juices, especially citrus, so you can’t even taste it).
For a smoothie, my favourite combo will always be strawberry-banana, but there are so many options that you never have to do the same thing twice.   Start with some juice (or a delicious raw nut milk if you want more of a milkshake). I like to add some fiber and protein, so I throw in some ground nuts, ground flax, baobob fruit powder (a new superfood from the baobob tree that grows in Africa), and/or vegan protein powder.  Then add whatever fruit or vegetables you like, fresh or frozen (though fresh is better).  Top it off with a handful of ice cubes and blend until desired creaminess!
A sweeter treat I’ve found is the chocolate avocado milkshake.  It’s made with almond milk (store-bought or homemade), 1/4 avocado, 1 T cacao powder (to desired chocolatey-ness), 1 tsp. vanilla, and maple syrup to taste.

Lunch typically consists of a big green salad; kale or spinach is my favourite as I love dark, bitter greens.  Toss in some tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts and seeds, and any other miscellaneous item you’re feeling.  I like to make my own dressing fresh too.  Lemon Herb Viniagrette is my favourite, and it’s really easy.  Mix some lemon juice with some extra virgin olive oil, and add in any spices/flavours that you’re feeling: mint, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, rosemary, the list goes on.  This lasts a few days in the fridge, but is best if you make it fresh.

Another good lunch is Cucumber Sandwiches or boats.  Slice a cucumber in half long-ways and hollow out some of the meat on the inside.  I like to stuff it with some homemade raw nut cheese (cashew is a personal favourite), and fresh veggies like tomatoes and chopped kale.  I am consistently amazed with how delicious and refreshing this meal is, and easily modified.  Sub the cheese for some hummus, or omit it completely.  Add in whatever mix-ins you want and have on hand.

Dinner is the meal that was normally when I slipped.  When eating out, it’s very hard to eat raw all the time (I just hate paying ten dollars for a salad), so I tried to eat mostly raw or at least healthy.  Typically I ate some raw vegetable sushi (sometimes you can get it made without rice), more salads, or any other at least semi-whole foods I could get my hands on.

Eating raw is definitely a challenge, but it’s something I’ve really enjoyed doing.  There is no way that I can permanently adapt a completely raw diet, but I have decided to adapt a partially raw diet.  While I will still cook and bake my own food (and bake for my dear Chomp! friends), I will try to eat raw when eating alone or at home and try to limit my non-raw meals to only once a day.  While I do not expect any of you to switch to a raw diet immediately (I told you that wasn’t my intention), I do hope that you think about it.  It’s possible that you eat very healthy as a vegan, and have no need to search out healthier diets.  But it’s also possible that you may need to do an experiment such as mine to improve or realign your dietary habits.

If you ever have any questions about undertaking a raw diet or any of the recipes I mentioned above (or anything else), feel free to contact me about it.  (Although I willingly admit I am not a pro on raw diets.)  But whatever you choose to do with your diet, make sure you do it wholeheartedly, for the right reasons, and love every minute of it.  I know that’s why I went vegan.


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