Due to an increased global consciousness about the sustainability and safety of our food supply, and concern over the rising incidence of obesity, interest in raw, locally grown produce is on the way up.
And, so too are the number of choices available to you to partake in this delicious option to the pre-packaged, highly sugared, chemical concoctions we sometimes call food; all while losing weight and increasing your energy level.
So, what is raw food?
Raw and Living Foods are foods that contain enzymes. In general, the act of heating food over 116 degrees Fahrenheit destroys the enzymes in food. In fact, the enzymes start to degrade in as little as 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Most cooked food is devoid of enzymes. Living and raw foods have enormously high nutritional value compared to foods that have been cooked.
With the growing demand for healthy options, raw restaurants such as Leaf Organics on Washington Blvd., offer quick, fresh, healthy raw, vegan, and cooked meals that are both affordable and fast for time-pressed patrons. There are also living food cooking workshops popping up all over the place, including one with Gisele Bundchen’s personal chef at Culver City’s GODA Yoga later this month. And the menu – well, there isn’t a kale leaf in sight. Spaghetti pomodoro alfredo with brazil nut parmesan? I’m in.
Before you pull out that pre-made pizza, or sloppy-joe packet, take a minute to click on your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and have farm-fresh, local, organic produce delivered to your door. Or take in one of the many Farmer’s Markets such as the Culver City Farmer’s Market held every Tuesday on Main Street downtown.
But—I hear you say—I don’t know what to do with all that lovely, fresh produce. No worries! Eating raw doesn’t mean you have to live on carrot sticks and celery. There are a growing number of books with information about raw recipes including Eating Alive, The Sunfood Diet System, Skinny Bitch, and I Am Grateful. Just Google “raw food books” and you will get a list of 16,098 on Amazon alone!
Why is raw so much better for you?
Getting deeper into the raw food methodology means understanding the principles of sprouting, fermenting and food combining. It’s all about achieving an optimal acid-alkaline balance in your body’s system when the food is metabolized. For example, to maintain good health, it is absolutely essential that our intestines maintain an alkaline environment with a pH of 7.0 (neutral), or above. This allows the pancreatic, and other intestinal enzymes, to function optimally and aids the body in raising the digestive pH to 7.4, allowing for the absorption and use of nutrients by the bloodstream.
When you eat a lot of acid-producing food such as meats, dairy, white breads and flours, preserved and packaged foods, or caffeine-containing products, your body slows down and utilizes its natural buffering system to bring the pH up to a normal level. When you create an alkaline environment, such as by eating green vegetables, low glycemic index fruit, beans, legumes, and whole grain pastas, breads and flours, the body is not taxing its buffering system and operates more efficiently. Because you are not using up energy digesting large amounts of acidic food, but instead releasing beneficial nutrients and enzymes into your body, most times you will see an increase in energy, weight loss and mental clarity as a by-product.
But beware; a raw food diet is not a no-food diet or a some-types-of-food-only diet. To maintain optimal health, you need to eat from all of the available food groups and vary your diet. Too much alkalinity, just like too much acidity, can create disease.
For raw food aficionados, eating this way is not what we traditionally consider a diet. Going raw is about a lifestyle that embraces more than just losing a few pounds in anticipation of swimsuit season. It’s a holistic way of looking at food and understanding their connection to it. It’s about respecting what they put into their bodies and realizing that because the body’s metabolic processes are chemical in nature, everything they ingest has an effect on their mood, energy and longevity.
Recent statistics show that childhood obesity, and obesity in general, is on the rise with 21-25% of our youth considered overweight or obese. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey studied the contributing factors to obesity and found that less than 10% of people suffered from a hormonal or genetic cause. The remaining 90% was attributed to environment, exercise, lifestyle, and eating habits—in other words, factors within our control.
Our food supply is in rough shape. Even if you don’t believe all the media hype, the packaging on the majority of pre-made foods reads like a chemistry class. And I’m always amazed at the number of ways companies can come up with to say the word ‘sugar’. If you just stop to think about it, we weren’t designed to process and eliminate a toxic mess of chemical soup.
Maybe these raw foodies are on to something. I’m going to give it a try.
Jana Williams is the president at Koala Crossing, a Culver City communications firm helping small business in the health and wellness industries get noticed. Contact me at [email protected] and like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/koalacrossing.