I despised vegetables when I was a kid. I grew up in an age when plant matter was confined to tin cans or overcooked and clumped together in a pile of mush. No wonder kids practically staged a coup every time they were ordered to “finish their peas”. The mere mention of string beans or broccoli and I opted to forgo my seat at the dinner table in favor of an empty, angry stomach. As for fruit, I could take it or leave it. I'd snack on an apple now and then (usually doused in peanut butter) but, when stomping my impatient feet in the grocery aisles, I was clamoring for ice cream, not berries.
Uncooked vegetables were reserved for the obsessive dieters, who resorted to them when Lean Cuisine just wasn't cutting it. They were looked at with pity as they sadly chomped on their baby carrots and celery sticks. These raw snacks were otherwise found on the obligatory 'veggie platter' among a spread of chips and dip, to be promptly drenched in the viscous of ranch dressing. Veggies were a punishment, the poster children for pleasure deprivation.
My disdain for vegetation held fast until the culinary and health renaissance of my mid-twenties. It was then that I rediscovered those earthy delights and came to realize that they weren't only edible – they were downright mouthwatering. And I wasn't alone in my epiphany. As with all things, what's old is eventually new again. Over the last few years, the public's outlook on produce has experienced a total overhaul. Across the nation, people are snubbing Big Macs for big bowls of leafy greens. Some radical folks are even going so far as to rip the vegetation straight out of the grown, wash it off and bite right in. It's a return to our, ahem, roots.
A carrot is just a carrot, is it not?
Full transparency: I'm not among the crew who have gone the 100% raw diet distance. I try to make raw fruits and veggies the cornerstone of my diet, but I still frequently dine on cooked dishes. Though, even when it comes to the latter, I make plant-based food the priority. For one week out of every month, I commit myself to doing a sort of detox, consisting of raw salads, juices and smoothies. I find that this balance works for me, but be sure to test out a regimen that best serves your body.
But…what's the deal? Is this 'raw food' diet for real or just the health hippie hype of the week? A carrot is just a carrot, is it not? Not quite. Let's take a look at the science behind these raw morsels:
- It's alive: No, not in the Zombie Apocalypse sense. So-called "live foods" contain a wide range of nutrients. Once the food is heated above 118 degr
ees Fahrenheit, many of those vital vitamins and minerals are destroyed.
- Enzymes: Same deal; heating your food eliminates most of the enzymes. Enzymes are the buggers needed to break down nutrients so they can
easily absorbed by your body.
- Regularity: Yep, we're going there. We're talking bowel movements. Raw food will pack you full of fiber and keep you on the regular. Which, let's face it, we all appreciate.
- Spiritual connectivity: Alright, this one's not exactly scientific. I couldn't resist pulling out the yogi mantra. When you eat freshly picked food from the earth, you do feel – you guessed it – grounded.
Nothing but the facts, Jack. We've established that raw nosh is great for you, but what constitutes a raw diet? The caveat is that you technically don't have to be strictly vegan to follow a raw food diet. Some raw foodies partake uncooked eggs and cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk, but the jury's still out on whether those items are all that great for you. Based on the research I've done and my own experience, I would highly encourage the vegan route. And, sorry kids, but alcohol, refined sugars, and caffeine are a no go. I'm happy to report that the path to a vegan raw food diet is paved with more than carrots and celery sticks. Any fruits and vegetables may apply, so long as they aren't heated above 118 degrees fahrenheit. You can also add sprouts, sprouted seeds, whole grains, beans, and nuts to your raw arsenal. In fact, raw cuisine can get downright creative. A wealth of salads, smoothies, gluten-free pizzas and raw cheesecakes await you.
Now, let me hear you raw-r.
Eva Bloomfield is a Los Angeles-based vegan lifestyle blogger with an (un)healthy appetite for all things vegan and cruelty-free - food, fashion, beauty, travel. She can be found tweeting about all of this and more at @dirtyrttnvegan
Image credit: Angsbacka