Healthy, Satisfying Ways to Introduce Raw Food into your Diet
Extreme diets come and go with the seasons, just like fashion crazes and music trends.
But unlike most dietary fads, the positive effects of raw nutrition have been proven both by scientists and survivors of serious disease. Incorporating a diet high in raw foods can lower inflammation, prevent vitamin deficiencies and even defend against cancer, explains Medicinal Foods’ Sky Kubby.
Such benefits have helped celebs, athletes and nutritionists get on board with raw foods — not necessarily as a diet, but with a definite emphasis on introducing a little more raw foods into what they eat every week,
If you’re ready to dip your toes in that water, here’s the easiest way to incorporate fresh, plant-based food into your diet without going hungry.
As with all dietary changes, the first step in eating more raw foods is education.
Yuri Elkaim, a professional fitness and nutrition coach, explains that raw food “retains vital nutrients and natural enzymes that our bodies need to process food.”
Raw food also helps you stay away from unhealthy foods that can potentially cause illness and disease. While animal products are staples in the modern Western diet, Rawmazing.com founder Susan Powers says, “there is an increased association with eating animal products and diseases such as certain cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, degenerative brain diseases, and obesity.”
And while true raw foodists go to the extreme to achieve such benefits — eliminating everything that’s cooked, processed and deemed remotely unhealthy — eating more raw foods doesn’t have to be complicated.
You can positively impact your health by doing something as simple as adding raw olives to your salads. As raw food proponent Matt Monarch notes, a cup of raw olives will deliver 20 percent of the vitamin E you need each day, and they’re rich in good fats that will keep you feeling full while nudging your metabolism to run a little faster.
In fact, getting started is easy with proper tools and the right mindset.
Getting Started With Raw Food
If you’re serious about eating more raw food, transforming your kitchen is the most important first step.
Nutrition and lifestyle coaches Paul and Yulia Tarbath of Rawsome Healthy suggest cleansing your kitchen of sweets and other unhealthy foods. But don’t purge everything that isn’t raw, or you risk sacrificing other healthy foods, particularly the foods rich in protein.
Whether it’s meat and fish, or vegetarian staples like beans and tofu, registered dietitian Jessica Cording says a healthy diet should source about 20 percent of its calories from protein-rich foods.
The next important step in your raw food journey is having the right tools. The Raw Chef Russell James says that a high-quality cutting board and knife are the two most important things to invest in. He also recommends having a heavy duty blender on hand to make smoothies, sauces, soups and other raw food fundamentals.
Achieving Your Raw Food Goals
Everyone has their own health goals when it comes to eating more raw foods. Whether you’re battling an illness, want more energy or are simply seeking better health, nutrition blogger Tiasha Slana recommends writing down these goals and keeping them handy.
On days when you’re feeling less enthusiastic about a lunch heavy in fruits and nuts, you can reference these goals for a boost of inspiration.
Fighting Unhealthy Cravings
Significantly reducing your intake of sweets, refined carbs and other addictive food can result in serious withdrawal symptoms. But as Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo notes, this is an opportunity for reflection and growth. Introducing raw food, she says, allows people to confront their addictions, cravings and emotional attachments to food.
One way to confront your cravings and desires is to plan meals ahead of time. Kathy Smith, a New York Times bestselling author and healthy living coach, touts the benefits of food preparation when trying to get more raw food into your diet.
It may not be possible to plan every single meal each week, she adds, but planning at least two to three staple meals ahead of time can make the transition much easier.
Raw Snacking is a Healthy Change Anyone Can Make
On days when you just can’t fight the craving, indulge in a raw food snack instead of one filled with sugar and refined carbs. Whole food snacks sweetened with natural foods like coconut can be a great option when you can’t shake your sweet tooth.
Take raw snack company Sejoya, for example. Chef Sequioa Cheney started the company after curing her own diabetes with a raw diet — so you know her company’s snacks are on the right track for your health.
And even when you do reach for, say, a donut when the craving hits, don’t sweat it.
“No one is perfect and the lifestyle is not a goal or destination,” vegan cookbook author Julie Piatt says. “If you fall off the wagon, brush yourself off and begin again.”
4 Tips for Choosing the Right Foods
Because you won’t be wholly eliminating all non-raw foods from your diet, what you eat and how you start depends on your goals.
Start With Breakfast for Maximum Impact
For those seeking detoxification, eating a fruit-based breakfast will aid in cleansing the body after a night of fasting during sleep, says Mizpah Matus, founder of Raw Food Solution.
If you’re hoping to improve digestion, chef and author Kristen Suzanne advises pureeing foods into a smoothie. Blending fruits and vegetables aids digestion and boosts energy, especially when consumed in the morning.
Make Simple Swaps
Additionally, you can add raw food to the meals you already eat. Nutritional therapist Eat Naked suggests swapping cooked legumes for sprouted legumes in your lunches and dinners.
Using sprouted beans on top of salads, or as the base for homemade hummus, are just a couple of easy changes you can make.
If you’re afraid of foods tasting too bland or plain, consider spicing up your raw food with nut and bean-based sauces. “It’s a great way to infuse flavor into your food and still give it that creamy, hearty, satisfying punch we have come to know from many traditional cooked dishes,” says nutritionist Laura Peill.
Biologist and raw food chef Jennifer M.S. Robertson also suggests incorporating add-ins like nut butter, nut milk and protein powders to smoothies and other dishes keep you fuller for longer. (We have a very tasty pumpkin oil that goes nicely in smoothies, too.)
Regardless of what you’re eating, it’s a good idea to start gradually.
Veg Kitchen recommends eating 100 percent raw just one day a week to get started. One day a week is an easy commitment, and it helps you recognize changes in your own energy levels.
As Amanda Brocket, founder of The Raw Food Kitchen, says, “This allows you time to experiment with how your body feels on raw food, and as you begin to see and feel the benefits, and as you become more alkaline, the need or desire to include the old addictive foods in your diet falls away.“