Greetings Everyone - The 2nd in my "Raw Energy" book series was recently published - Raw Energy In A Glass (Storey Publishing, c 2014). As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of raw foods and a strong proponent of the fabulous benefits - to your health, beauty, energy, and well-being - that can be attained by integrating more raw foods into your diet. Many times I get asked, "What exactly is raw, live food?" Some think it's just celery, carrots, lettuce, and apples . . . rabbit food. Others think it's simply premium sashimi or rare steak. And, to quite a few folks, raw foods are those foods that you toss into a salad bowl and eat when you want to lose weight. I've even had several people tell me that they thought ice cream, cream cheese, peanut butter, and frozen orange juice concentrate were raw foods because you didn't have to heat or cook them. That last one makes me chuckle! Well, today, I'm going to give you an interesting and informative explanation of just what constitutes raw, live food. After you read it, I think you'll view raw foods in a whole, new, exciting light!
The star ingredients of a raw food diet are fruits, vegetables and greens, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains, beans, and roots - virtually everything that grows from the earth and hasn't been cooked. The supporting cast is made up of herbs, spices, oils, and nutritional boosts such as raw cacao (raw chocolate), chlorella, bee pollen, spirulina, coconut water, barley grass, and carob powder.
Live foods, technically, are those raw foods that could be planted in the ground and grown into another plant, such as seeds, nuts, beans, grains, and roots. They contain the enzymes and nutrients needed to produce more plant life. To be considered truly raw, the food is never exposed to heat beyond a maximum of 115-118 degrees F. Many raw foodists, though, never warm their food beyond 105 degrees F to ensure the viability of nutrients. Over 120 degrees F and all food degrades rapidly; nutrients are compromised and molecular changes occur. Most vitamins are destroyed; proteins, minerals, carbohydrates, and fats are structurally altered; enzymes are destroyed; color fades (in many cases); and free radicals are created - major contributors to many diseases, including cancer. Cooking a food also dehydrates it and renders its naturally occurring water content virtually de-energized, thus creating a problem of dehydration within the body. A diet high in cooked food necessitates drinking volumes of water to slake your ever-present thirst and replenish the vital fluids lost in the act of cooking. If you consume a diet high in raw plant foods, you'll soon notice that you're not nearly as thirsty and often have energy to spare. In deed a desirable bonus!
Raw food is uncooked, minimally processed, unpasteurized (pasteurization is a method of cooking), and contains an enzyme complex capable of digesting itself and contributing excess enzymes that assist the body's metabolic processes (more details about enzymes in next month's blog . . . ). If it's a plant food (versus a raw animal food), it is loaded with more health-promoting phytonutrients (plant-derived nutrients) than we can imagine and in a form that we can easily assimilate. This is truly a natural food. Now, as an example, let's take a look at orange juice. Most people think of orange juice as a pure, natural food. It's squeezed from oranges that are picked off the tree, right? But, let's examine the standard commercial process involved in making orange juice. First, the fruit is picked by workers in the field, put into trucks, and taken to the processing plant where it's pressed into juice. The fresh juice is then pasteurized (heated to a temperature of approximately 165 degrees F) or flash-pasteurized at an even higher temperature for a predetermined amount of time in order to kill potentially harmful bacteria and extend shelf life. It is then filtered, condensed, frozen, and transported to the packaging plant where it is reconstituted, generally using local municipal tap water, put into bottles or cartons, and sold as fresh orange juice. Sometimes that container of juice contains concentrates from various countries. This is NOT fresh juice or a raw food. Remember the previous definition of a raw food: uncooked, minimally processed, unpasteurized, and containing enzymes.
The vitamin C content of any fresh-pressed juice begins to deteriorate rapidly within moments of pressing. Commercial, processed juices have nothing in the nutrient department to compare to freshly pressed juices, plus their valuable enzyme content is zilch. If you happen to have a juicer at home and can press your own orange juice or live near one of those fabulous juice bars, you can purchase a glass of orange juice that is raw, fresh-squeezed, and nonpasteurized. The way nature intended. Doesn't fresh, raw juice taste incredibly better than pasteurized orange juice? That should be your first clue to the nutritional vibrancy of a food: Fresh, exciting, tantalizing taste that's dramatically better in the raw form!
Let me give you another example of what cooking does to food. If you've ever fried an egg, it's obvious that the composition of the protein is drastically changed by heat. Once the raw egg hits the hot frying pan, the clear, runny albumen (protein) of the egg instantly begins to change to a white, rubbery, drier texture. Egg protein is clearly not the same substance before and after it hits the heat, and neither is the protein of cooked milk, meat, poultry, or seafood. Cooked protein is more difficult to digest due to a loss of the vital raw nutrients, moisture, and enzymes needed for the body to efficiently process it. Raw plant-derived protein is the easiest for the body to digest and assimilate, followed by some raw, extremely clean, animal proteins such as grass-fed beef, organic eggs, raw milk, and raw seafood, eating in small amounts on an infrequent basis.
On a human level, just think of what happens to your skin (a protein substance) when it suffers a kitchen burn. Your raw flesh reddens, puckers, forms blisters, peels, sometimes scars, and, depending on the severity of the burn, many never return to its former radiant, functional self. The raw, live, enzyme-rich keratin or protein that makes up your skin becomes altered or molecularly changed by heat. You now understand how the application of heat permanently alters the structure of a living substance or food.
Raw food is full of vibrant flavor and color, and it is excellent for our health. Raw foods, unlike so many of today's processed and packaged foods, are not fortified with synthetic vitamins and crushed rocks or coral masquerading as beneficial minerals in an attempt to replace a mere handful of the vital nutrients that have been stripped away. One of the beautiful and simply obvious aspects of raw-vegan eating is that the foods are in their natural state, replete with enzymes and bioavailable vitamins, phytonutrients, minerals, proteins, sugars, and essential fats, plus fiber.
No other animal on this planet cooks its food. Man attempts to build healthy cells out of primarily deficient, dead, cooked foods that are lacking in live enzymes, and other raw, easily assimilable nutrients, much to the detriment of his well-being. Yes, we humans can tolerate a diet of cooked foods to some extent, but in my opinion, it is not the best choice for a long life of superior health.
A diet high in raw foods will supercharge your energy level and replenish depleted reserves. Raw food is digested very quickly, usually within 30 to 60 minutes, rather than the hours or even days required to digest many cooked foods, especially cooked flesh foods. This mere fact of energy conservation alone is a major contributor toward the attainment of optimal health - physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
Like you, whether I'm working, gardening, playing, or simply going out for a long walk, I want to have plenty of energy to help me accomplish my goals as well as enjoy my leisure time. Foods that are loaded with unheated, unrefined nutrients and enzymes will leave your body's cells filled to the brim with fuel for the daily chores of life. They contain the necessary nutritional molecular components that actually power the process of anabolism, or construction of new cells - initiating growth of tissues, repairing existing damage, and replacing aged or inferior cells within your body.
Now, do you understand what constitutes raw, live food?? I hope so. Please try to integrate more of them into your daily diet - especially in the form of delicious smoothies, green drinks, raw shakes, and frappes . . . you'll be amazed at the results - often within a couple of weeks!
In next month's blog, we'll discover what enzymes are and why you need them. Until then, my friends, may you be blessed with health, happiness, and peace!
NOTE: This blog was excerpted and adapted from "Raw Energy In A Glass" by Stephanie Tourles (Storey Publishing, c 2014). The information in this blog is true and complete to the best of her knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of Ms. Tourles. She disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information. It is for educational purposes only.