Why raw?!

May 2014 Update: These days, I might amend this post to remove the comparison between cooked food and GMO food. Although cooking can alter the molecular structure of food, it isn’t engineered deception. Perhaps the better comparison is to simply state that cooked food has been changed from what it was intended to be and if we don’t have the tolerance to eat the food raw (like a fox can eat raw chicken…) perhaps we should reconsider eating it. All this being said, however, aiming for a higher amount of raw food in our daily lives is a reasonable goal. Not eating anything cooked is an unrealistic goal for many of us….


Original Post:

I’ve had a couple comments from friends recently that have surprised me:  that going to a raw diet is ‘extreme’ and also ‘I couldn’t give up meat’ and ‘what’s the deal with eating only raw food (said with an exaggerated eye roll for good measure)‘.  These comments surprised me because, geez, I thought EVERYONE knew what this was all about.  Guess not! 🙂

So I’d like to explain.  Going to a raw diet is not a ‘diet’ (as in, the goal is not weight loss), it is a life-style.  And like I said to my friend “Like all lifestyles, it may not be for everyone”.  But I think it is the opposite of ‘extreme’.

  • Stuffing a duck with stuffing, putting that duck in a turkey, and weaving the entire turkey in bacon, and cooking the living crap out of ALL for several hours = extreme.

  • Chopping some veggies and making a homemade salad dressing /= extreme.  Es claro? Si…

The purpose of a ‘raw’ diet is not to eat raw food, it is to eat ‘living’ food, or food that still has the capability to give you all the goodness that it can give.  And the goodness it has to give is outstanding; our bodies understand it, our bodies highly desire it, need it, love it.  This is one of the reasons we soak most nuts and seeds:  they have a natural enzyme inhibitor on the outside – soaking removes the enzyme inhibitor and brings the nut/seed back to life and also neutralizes ‘phytic acid’ which keeps our bodies from absorbing important stuff, like zinc, calcium, iron and other minerals.  But I don’t think you’re arguing with me that fresh fruits and veggies are good for us, right?  If you are arguing with me about that, go away.  Shoo.

Then there’s the flip side:  why not cook your food (which is what I think all the fuss is about, right?)?  Carol Alt‘s book has an excellent chapter on the science of  the changes our food undergoes when it is cooked.  I’m going to summarize her statements here, but if you have more questions, please pick up her book!

1. Cooking your food causes it to undergo molecular changes.  A number of examples are provided, such as the by-products of fuels used for cooking (i.e.: grilling/smoking) entering the food, changing the chemical composition and also being chemicals we consume, some of which are carcinogenic, but two examples stand out to me the most because they occur ‘naturally’ when cooking, and not as a result of an external factor, like fuel:

  • Much of the food we eat contains acrylamide, a chemical created by cooking food.  The chemical can cause gene mutations and was found to cause a range of cancers in rats.  Acrylamide is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in many plant based…foods after they are heated. It appears that the chemical, which is used in the treatment of sewage and to create…certain plastics and dyes, is also a byproduct of cooking food at high temperatures.”   Well, then why hasn’t there been some alert about it or something, you ask?  There has been, in 2002.  Click this sentence for more information about the chemical.

  • “Cooking foods bond objects together and they become more solid and stronger.  If your body is set up to read the molecular structure of food, and you change the molecular structure, the body has to change or work harder to get what nutrition it can out of that food.  What does this do to the body, especially since it can take about 1M years to fully adapt to a new diet?”  It is a question answered by the common sense response:  the body has to use energy (up to 70% of our energy, actually!) to both tolerate and extract nutrients from cooked food.  We’re supposed to be eating to FUEL our bodies, not deplete them of energy.

Bottom line on ‘changing the molecular structure’ is that it turns food into something that our bodies don’t naturally recognize.  Our bodies tolerate it, but don’t thrive on it.  A good comparison is this:  If you don’t want to eat GMO food, why would you think it’s OK to eat food that has had its molecules modified through over-heating (cooking)?

2. Cooking food alters the pH of our food.  The body needs to stay alkaline for our health.  “Cooking destroys a lot of the nutrients, disrupts the natural balance of biochemical elements, and makes food more acidic”.  Additionally, we make acid in our bodies lots of other ways:  stress, digestion, etc. but our bodies make nothing alkaline.  We receive all of the “Yin” through our diet, which we can receive through many foods, but mostly through raw fruits and vegetables.  What do you think it means when our bodies are too acidic?  Nothing good, especially over time.  Inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and ulcers just to name a couple off the top of my head.  Another example provided “Throw acid on a car, and it will eat the paint away and through the metal; likewise, acid in the blood, running through your systems will go through your organs and wear your body down.”

3. Cooking food destroys the enzymes: “What are enzymes, exactly?  Enzymes are the protein molecules that facilitate most of the body’s metabolic processes, such as digestion.”  Or, if we wanted to go back to Grade 10 Science class, enzymes are the building blocks of life!  LIFE!!  Enzymes are required for every single function of the human body and heat is the enemy of enzymes.  Anything that has been heated over 115F is either dead or dying, so in cooked food, the digestive enzymes food contains doesn’t stand a chance.  If the enzymes aren’t present in your food, the body has to use its own enzymes to help you digest, taking them away from other vital functions of your body.

4. Cooking food changes the bonds between vitamins and minerals.  “The bonds between vitamins and minerals are super-fragile, and heat affects them immediately.  While not all the nutrients in food are destroyed by cooking, your body faces the Herculean task of trying to absorb nutrients when they are not in the natural state that it recognizes….the best plan of action is to eat foods that are clean and that the body can recognize easily and utilize.”  And, as we all know because we are smart, vitamins and minerals seem to have ‘partners’ or some sort of symbiotic relationship with another vitamin or mineral.  When cooking destroys one, you could actually be losing out on the benefits of two or more because they cannot be as easily absorbed without their partner.  Lots of research has been done on this topic.  20 – 50% of the vitamins and minerals in food is destroyed through cooking.  That’s quite a bit!  (and for those of us who hate to waste time: you are now wasting time to cook and are only getting half the benefit from it.  ooooo, that ticks me off!)

So there it is.  The science of “why raw” summarized in 4 points….but that isn’t “it”…there are many other reasons, including how some of the molecular changes we can inflict on our food makes them not only ‘not healthy’ but even dangerous to our long-term health.

GENETICS ASIDE…yes, my Grandmother drank and smoked a pack a day and died in her 90’s too.  But she also had many years of cleaner country living on me, and quite a bit more fresh air and physical labour at home and at work too.  I don’t think we should rely on genetics to save us from the onslaught of chemicals, convenience, sedentary habits, etc. that we have either purposefully adopted or had thrust upon us in the past 30 years.  There are SOME changes we probably shouldn’t have accepted so readily, like packaged, processed, microwaved diets.

Housekeeping time.

I made this guacamole.  It was the best guacamole I have ever tasted!

Perfection in a bowl! Guacamole in da house!

Perfection in a bowl! Guacamole in da house!

I also made these cookies, but I don’t think my cashew ‘dough’ was as dense as it was supposed to be:  my cookies are gooey…but I’m still eating them because they taste super yummy 🙂  I will certainly be trying these again.

I had wondered if a person could convert to a raw diet on their own, and I can provide this update:  If they have a computer, ABSOLUTELY!  If they’re willing to buy books, YES!  Can you find the products you need?  I live in a city and I have to say I’m about 70% successful.  Can’t wait until summer!  Also: will be setting up my little greenhouse after Christmas and starting to grow in doors:  food, herbs, and will try wheat-grass once I can afford a decent wheat-grass juicer.

No luck yet on getting maca powder.  It’s constantly on order and seems to sell quickly once it arrives.  I’m starting to doubt its existence and think it is some sort of inside joke with ‘in the club’ raw foodists.

I’m starting to add more sites under “Resources” – fabulous sites with great recipes.  I’m on a mission to find the best raw food ‘bread‘ – one that isn’t onion paste….I need SOMETHING other than flax crackers to put all those amazing spreads on.  I’ll keep you posted.


You put the dates in the coconut, and eat them all up….

First off, HELLO to the United States and Australia!  I see I have readers from this far away and I find it exciting!  My Canadian city just got its first snow of the season today.  It’s going to be impossible to find local produce for the next few months.

Oh man, did I ever have fun in the kitchen this evening!  Just two quick experiments to bide some time while my nuts were soaking, both a success and scrumpdillyicious (it’s a word because I say it’s a word)…..

Before I get to the food, I have to post in big bold letters that ALL of the staff at Kardish in Orleans are incredibly friendly and helpful, but I want to send an ultra-loud shout-out to Yvonne, who has answered every question, helped me find what I’m looking for, makes suggestions, and is a wealth of information about everything in the store, and then some…. THANK YOU Yvonne!

First, I was tempted by the sentence “when you are craving sweet stuff…” in Carol Alt’s recipe book.  Just so happens, I DO crave sweet stuff from time-to-time.  Go figure.  So I made coconut date rolls.

So easy, too!  I halved the recipe, so took 2 cups of medjool dates (approximately 13), halved them and pitted them, and soaked them for an hour.  Then I put them in my blender with a food processing blade (although I think  a regular blade would also work), put in half a cup of non-sweetened shredded coconut, and pulsed the blender, frequently having to stop it to push the mixture down, until it was of a thick paste consistency.  Then I rolled into 2 inch logs, rolled those in some more of the coconut, and VOILA!  Done.  These can be frozen, but I had to eat one immediately…..a few expletives escaped my mouth, most of them conjuring several deities whom I thanked for the simple, but most amazing, date.

Coconut date rolls, destined for the freezer. Kicks the butt of any commercial chocolate bar out there.

Next in the kitchen was an intentional experiment:  Zucchini noodles.  I thought it was high-time I tried my spiral slicer, and I want to get an idea of how long a ‘noodled’ soft vegetable will keep (to my standards.  I read about people doing all their meal prep for the week on a Sunday.  I cannot imagine eating something on a Friday that I cooked 5 days previous (and I am certain most of these folks aren’t freezing their concoctions).  I turn green and up-chuck at the thought.  I blame a serious bought of food poisoning for my hyper-picky opinions in this regard).  So I want to see how long these noodles will keep…

I used this….

Spiral slicer with the small noodle blade installed….

To turn this….

Yellow zucchini ensconced on the slicer.

Into this!

Yellow zucchini noodles!

I’m pretty sure I yelled out loud “OMG, that was SO FUN!”  Just on their own, they taste really great.  But to be tested, I can’t eat them all, I have to store them.  I separated them into two containers.  I put an olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar dressing on one, and left the other one naked, and put them in the fridge.  I’ll now check them out  over the next couple days to see how long it takes (sauced and naked) before they are too soft or slimy for me to consume.  The reason why this is all so important is because I’m trying to figure out what I’ll be able to take for lunches,  when I have to do prep, etc.  In short, it’ll help me plan and succeed in the new year when I make my concerted effort to be 80% raw.

Now.  I would love some suggestions.  Tell me what you think would be an amazing raw meal:  a breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Please post here….

Getting Caught Up….

I have a confession:  I’ve been at the raw transformation for about a week now and I have covered a lot of ground in that short period of time.  So I have a lot to offload here so I’m all caught up and can start posting “real time” (as in: weekly or so, when things are relevant).  All my posts will not be this long, I promise.  Pinkie swear.

I’m going to throw in some high level point form activities here…

  • Started to collect free resources online and found a couple promising ones.  I will put the ones I use and endorse under the “Resources” tab on this blog.  Like I said, I have many and haven’t made my way through them all yet, so if you know of one but don’t see it there, feel free to send it to me but understand that I just may not have gotten to investigating it yet.
  • Happened to meander into a book store and discovered Carol Alt‘s “Easy, Sexy, Raw” book.  I cringed at the title, but flipping through it I saw chapters on subjects I needed to know more about.  I bought it.  Best purchase ever.  I have read it cover to cover twice and have learned so much. It will hereafter referred to as “The Book”.
  • Started to go through my cupboards and clean up.  This transition was a good excuse to get rid of a lot of stuff that has been hanging around too long, like old spices, half full packages of soup mixes or ancient icing sugar.  This gave me the opportunity to assess my free space and make note of things I’m about to run out of that I’ll be able to replace with its raw equivalent.  All those vegetable oils and designer vinegars are a good example of that.
  • Assessed my kitchen tools.  I was actually doing pretty well in that department but did make note, based on Carol Alt’s book, of a few tools I would like to have to make a few things a little easier.  For example:  I’m a hand chopper, but anticipate quite a bit more chopping in my future, so I put “Mandolin” on my list of “must haves”.  (Side note: I don’t want anyone to make assumptions about my financial status – my income is average – but I happen to have an itty bit of disposable income at this moment, so I decided to invest in outfitting my kitchen slightly.  The need for some new tools is another good reason to transition to a raw diet gradually.)  All that being said:  the tools are not a “MUST” but they do make life easier.  The purchase of a dehydrator opens up some more options to diversify what you can prepare.  I bought one at Walmart for $45.00  It’s plastic, round, and will work just fine while I decide if this lifestyle is for me.  All the books and sites tout the “Excalibur” brand of dehydrator.  It seems to range in price (in Canada) anywhere from $200 through to $450 or so.  I must admit, it looks pretty snazzy, functional, and large.  I also replaced my cheap blender with a workhorse ($99) and have ordered a spiral slicer ($40) as 3 kitchen stores didn’t know what it was, never mind have one in stock.  I’ll enlighten you as to its purpose once it arrives.
  • Speaking of large dehydrators, and back to my comment about assessing the free space in my cupboards, I don’t have a huge main floor and there isn’t a lot of free space left.  So I’m going to have to get creative in order to find the room for the nut germinating, seed sprouting, and food storage that has to remain functional without creating chaos in my living space.  Stuff is going to be moving all the time, not just shelved and used 5 months later.  To these ends, I cleared out 50% of my “china cabinet” (aka odd glass storage) by putting things in a box and putting that box in my storage room.   Now I have a make-shift greenhouse that is closest to my largest window, but doesn’t get direct sunlight.

Make-shift greenhouse.

  • And I’ve done a grocery shopping.  I went through “the book” (Carol Alt’s) and found some things I’d like to try and attempted to find the ingredients.  I found most of them at Kardish Foods in Orleans (oh, I should also mention that I am attempting to find the majority of what I require in my own neighbourhood.  I want to ensure my carbon footprint stays low, and that this whole experience is convenient for me.  If it starts to get too complicated, I’m more likely to throw in the towel).  They even have raw organic unpasteurized almonds, which were supposed to be hard to find.  They are the only ones that will germinate and sprout.  So YAY FOR KARDISH!

Notable Discoveries:

  • Carol Alt mentions raw wild rice and indicates that it can be soaked and consumed without cooking. No one I have spoken to yet has heard of raw wild rice, which is rice that hasn’t been heated\roasted while being processed.  I’m going to keep hunting for this as I love wild rice.
  • Kardish carries one brand of raw cheese.  This made me frown, so the wonderful woman at the store (who is AMAZINGLY HELPFUL….I must get her name and give her a shout out) told me about a cheese shop in our neighbourhood that she believed carried more.  This is incredibly important to me as raw milk is still illegal here in la-la land and I was concerned about not being able to find enough dairy.  And I love cheese.  Almost as much as I love bacon (sigh).  Well!  Off I went to “Cheddar Et Cetera” at 900 Watters Road (Watters and Trim) and was excited to find that they had over 10 different kinds of raw cheese AND they too were so incredibly helpful, knowledgeable, and interested in what I was doing.  I picked up 5 samplings: Blue, Gouda, and Swiss, among them.  Most of them are local as well.  Total score there folks.  (Oh, and they have WINE, amazing designer oils, the whole place had me salivating).

Cheddar Et Cetera

Where I am now:

I’ve made apple chips, am making a fruit leather.  I’m soaking almonds and pumpkin seeds for use in recipes, and once they are done soaking, I’ll freeze them.  I’m soaking flax seeds so I can start flax crackers tomorrow.  All my produce and fruit are ready to become smoothies in the week ahead.  I have a raw green “superfood” powder, but will finish the vegan green powders I have first.  At over $50 a tub, this will be one of the more expensive ingredients you can buy, so read the label.  Because of allergies, I have to skip the ones with strawberries and have to comb through a lot of fine print to make sure they aren’t present in any form.  Even if you don’t have allergies, you should read the ingredients and compare the quantities of nutrients to other green powders, and also consider other supplements that you may be taking.  Don’t forget that there are maximum daily allowances for some vitamins and minerals that your body stores rather than expels if they aren’t used, such as some of your oil-based vitamins.  Edumacate yourself peeps 🙂

I think what I’m really working towards right now, aside from gradually converting the food products in my house to their raw equivalents, is to get my groove.  I have to figure out what my real essentials will be, how long they take to prepare (soaking, etc), and how quickly I go through them.  I am soooooooo comfortable with a cooked diet, the timing of a meal, what spice to have on hand depending on what I’m planning to cook, I can throw a five item meal together and have everything land on the table in the right condition of cooked all at the same time without missing a beat or breaking a sweat.  I don’t have this same confidence with a raw diet and this will be one of my largest learning curves.

Items I couldn’t find:

  • Raw wild rice
  • Raw chickpeas
  • Raw sesame tahini
  • Spiral slicer

Last point:  Carol Alt’s book obviously advocates ‘as raw as possible’ and I have to be clear – I am going to do my best, but I am human.  No human can do anything 100% all the time, so I think a realistic goal will be 80% raw and I’ll spend some time between now and January trying to decide what food will make up that other 20%.  What would it be for you?  I think I’ll still be cooking tomatoes.  Tomatoes are healthier cooked.  I think I can give up coffee.  Since giving up cigarettes, everything else seems really easy.  Wine, though….hmmmmmmm.  I’ll have to think about that one.  A lot.   Here are a few more photos of my week….talk to you soon!

Raw Cheese!

Raw Cheese! Om nom nom….

Black Breakfast

Black breakfast. Blueberries, swiss chard, banana, red grapes and vanilla chai vegan powder. Despite its ominous colour, it tasted fabulous.


Mix beans sprouting. Look at those cute little tails! Sprouting jars can easily be made, but I bought this one for $9 at Kardish because it had soaking, watering and rinsing instructions. It was easier than constantly having to look them up.