The Raw Food Diet

Think a raw diet means living on apples, carrots, and celery sticks? There is so much more! The last few years have seen an explosion in the popularity of raw food. You can keep it simple with smoothies and salads, or go gourmet with garden burgers, pizzas, enchiladas, cakes, and cookies. Almost anything can be adapted. While it won't taste exactly liked the familiar cooked dish, it will taste much fresher and leave you feeling satisfied.

Eating food in its natural state preserves more of its vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. You will also avoid some toxic substances such as acrylamides, heterocyclic amines, nitrosamines, and AGEs that can be produced by cooking your food. People experience many benefits from eating more raw foods, including increased energy, better digestion, clearer skin, mental clarity, weight loss, and a younger appearance.

So, what is the raw food diet all about? It's fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, not heated above 118º F. It's food in its natural state — no chemicals, preservatives, additives, coloring, etc. Food the way nature provides for us. While I use the term "diet" to describe the raw food way of eating, I don't mean "diet" in the sense of something to go on and off of. I look at it as fuel for your body, as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Does that mean you have to eat an all-raw diet to get the benefits? No! And also, just because it's raw doesn't always mean it's good for you. You can overdo raw desserts and snacks, just like anything else. I believe the key is starting slowly. Making changes that you will stick with is much more effective than doing a 30-day raw cleanse and then going back to old habits.

Eating more leafy greens is something that almost everyone can benefit from. One easy way to do this is with green smoothies. Green smoothies are made from about 1/2 fruit and 1/2 leafy greens, blended until smooth. To get the most nutrition, vary your fruits and greens, and don't get stuck in a rut of using the same ones over and over. I have a few recipes on my website. Once you get started, you'll come up with many of your own favorite combinations.

Another easy way to add more greens is to always include at least one large salad during your day. You can prepare your own salad dressings for the week and then toss it with greens and your favorite chopped vegetables when you're ready to eat. Steaming is one of the healthiest ways to cook food. Add some steamed sweet potatoes to your salad to make it more filling. The possibilities are endless!

Chewing your food thoroughly is also key in getting as much nutrition as possible out of it as part of your new raw food lifestyle. A couple of mantras to keep in mind: "Your stomach doesn't have teeth," and, "Chew your juice and drink your food."