By Judy O’Gorman Alvarez
The value of eating more fruits and vegetables is well-known, but a growing number of people believe in forsaking boiling, baking, grilling or frying foods – or even using the microwave – for eating pure, natural fruits and vegetables in their raw form.
“The most obvious reason for the attraction to raw food is that people feel great on the diet,” says Abby Cahn-Anton, Bradley Beach, founder of Super Simple Super Foods, who has been following a raw food diet for 13 years. “They have mental clarity, energy, and a lot of their aches and pains tend to fall away.”
Raw food – or whole uncooked foods – is never processed over 118 degrees, which allows the living enzymes and nutrients in the food to stay alive to aid the body in healing on a cellular level.
Cahn-Anton holds demonstrations about how to eat raw and extols the benefits of a raw food diet. “I think an extremely compelling argument is that humans are the only animal to put fire to their food,” she says. “The benefits that people feel and experience when they transition to a raw food diet gives us all the more reason to consider eating more raw foods.”
Cahn-Anton points out that over the last decade science has proven that the more fruits and vegetables we eat – in raw form – the better off we are. “Even with our pets and livestock,” she says, “those we feed cooked foods have the same diseases that humans are suffering from.”
With a little creativity and ingenuity, raw food followers will not miss their favorite dishes. “I used to love ice cream,” says Cahn-Anton. Now with the help of raw hempseeds, carob, truly raw agave nectar, raw cashew butter, desserts are just as good as she remembered them.
“Many raw food recipe books are complicated,” she says. “I’m really good at making wonderful tasting food that’s quite healthy – and do it quickly.”
Undoubtedly, she says, we would feel better eating less animal products, white flower, white sugar, while adding dark leafy vegetables to our diet.
Cahn-Anton is familiar with the common misperceptions about eating a raw food diet. “People think it takes a lot of time, it’s expensive, or complicated.”
As she points out: Cheap food is so low in nutrition you tend to eat more. “When you start eating real nutrition in a regularly short time, you start to eat less, so then you spend less money on food and supplements,” she says. “You’re spending less on doctors, less on over-the-counter medications … If you start from the inside out and really treat yourself to nutritional food in its original form, you’re more productive and ultimately it really does balance out.”
While studying nutrition, Lisa Testa, a holistic nutritional consultant and founder of Healthier You in Lincroft, decided to try – for three months each – the different types of diets she was learning about, such as macrobiotic, vegan, and even fasting (which she did for eight days). “I didn’t want to suggest a diet I hadn’t tried.”
Her home became a no-cooked food zone for three months when she tried the raw food diet.
Adjusting to a raw food diet was not nearly as difficult for Testa as getting others to accept her new way of eating.
“Eating is a social activity,” says Testa, who has been eating raw for 6 1/2 years. “Although it was originally designed to fuel our bodies, eating has changed to be a gathering and a cultural experience. Now the cultural norms have pushed us to eat differently.”
Relatives in her large Italian family had to adjust to Testa abstaining from the customary cornucopia of pasta and the like while she ate her bowl of zucchini spaghetti (zucchini in spaghetti form) at holiday meals.
Although Testa follows a raw food diet, she does not necessarily preach that way of eating, but instead helps clients to find the way to eat healthy—based on their likes and lifestyle. “I don’t suggest anyone follow a raw food diet unless they have the drive,” she says.
Such followers need to think ahead and organize their meals each day. “You might have a hard time finding fresh fruits and dark greens while traveling.”
Although it seems it might be easier for people who love vegetables to embrace a raw foods diet, Testa points out that even foods you disliked may become appealing. “I never ate mushrooms but after eating raw for two years I started to crave them.”
After your body becomes acclimated to the foods, according to Testa, it will crave what it needs.
The most popular concern among people considering the raw diet is getting enough protein. “The best source of plant-based protein — and iron and calcium — is from dark leafy greens,” says Testa. She recommends a daily green smoothie that is mostly fruit, but contains at least 30 percent greens, such as spinach, kale, or parsley.
A year ago Bill Geier of Middletown was 50 years old, 90 pounds overweight and admittedly had a poor diet. “I was a big fast-food eater,” he says “with a standard, American diet.”
His mother’s recent death prompted him to get serious about getting healthy and he eased into raw foods by adopting a partial plan for three months: raw diet during the day and a regular cooked meal for dinner. But it wasn’t until he adopted the full raw diet, did he see the full results.
Since then, he has lost 50 pounds. “I sleep so much better,” he says. “I feel great and I don’t overeat. I follow my appetite and eat any raw food I happen to be craving.” That may mean consuming a bowl of oranges as one meal, although in the beginning he didn’t believe he could ever have such a craving.
Geier’s family does not follow the raw food diet so he mostly eats meals prepared by Testa, such as his favorites: carrot salad, apple Waldorf salad, dates with cashew butter, and zucchini spaghetti. He starts each day with a smoothie made from leafy greens and various fruits. In fact, it has inspired him to start a new business Raw Generation Juices, which sells juices online.
“I don’t have to put limits on how much I eat,” which Geier says is the greatest benefit of his eating raw foods. “I’ve lost weight on diets before but it never seemed to last … I’ve learned I don’t do deprivation well.
“This works for me,” he says.