Embrace Your Rawsome Self

By Guest Blogger   |  10Comments|

A few years ago, I was introduced to a friend of a friend who happened to be a vegan. As a recently enrolled student at The French Culinary Institute, where meat and dairy reign supreme, I was in awe. I could never be as motivated and devoted as him, I marveled to myself. The idea of removing all animal products from my diet seemed like an impossible mountain to scale.

Fast forward three years later, and here I am, not only a proud, life-loving vegan, but a raw one at that. As it turns out, living on an animal-free and health-conscious diet is just about the easiest thing I’ve ever accomplished. After following a vegan lifestyle for close to two years, I felt a calling to take my lifestyle and health to a higher level. It is, after all, really easy to reach for the not-so-healthy vegan snacks. You’ve been there, right? The cupcakes, brownies, nachos ? I’m getting tempted just thinking about it. I wanted to go further and reach higher.

So what’s the deal with raw? Any fruit, vegetable, nut or seed is on the table in whichever way you choose to serve it. Nothing can be cooked above 118 degrees and your food is always unprocessed. The skinny is that every single whole food contains its own specific enzymes that may help us digest and absorb the nutrients in that fruit, vegetable, nut, etc. How amazing is that? By cooking the food, those very helpful, hardworking enzymes are broken down. When we don’t get these enzymes directly from the source (aka: raw food), we may develop digestive problems, nutrient deficiencies and sad immune systems.

While many people grimace at the idea of seemingly fussy parameters, it truly is the simplest approach to your health and diet. Breakfast can be as easy as a green juice or a sliced fruit salad, and a snack is as foolproof as a mixed nut trail mix with dried fruits. If you’re a foodie like I am, fear not. Raw food can also get pretty, crazy gourmet. I’m talking layered lasagnas, chocolate parfaits and spinach spanakopita, here. You can honestly eat what you want, when you want, for the first time in your life, and feel great and be at your healthiest.

Crossing over to the raw side can be an intimidating thing. Not only are you experimenting with new ingredients and “un-cooking” techniques, but your body is also getting used to the new lifestyle you’ve so consciously chosen for it. Simple recipes should be your calling card for the first couple of weeks. Transition slowly and choose to go raw until dinnertime, or aim for 75 percent raw foods each day. You’ll notice the difference almost immediately, and experience a lightness and clarity that will motivate you to keep on trucking. I like to refer to the following recipes as gateway goodies to a raw diet ? dishes that take a matter of minutes and will leave you feeling like a superhuman.

This classic soup is a great, refreshing choice during the summer months, and also makes an elegant appetizer for a dinner party or main course for an al fresco lunch.

Chilled Cucumber-Mint Soup

Serves 2 entrée portions or 4 appetizer portions

-2 hothouse cucumbers, peeled
-1 avocado
-½ clove garlic, sliced
-1 scallion, chopped (both white and green parts)
-1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
-2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
-½ teaspoon sea salt
-ground black pepper to taste
-olive oil (optional)
-sliced fresh mint for garnish

Place the first seven ingredients in a blender and cover with cold filtered water. Blend until the soup is smooth and creamy, and add more water if you prefer your soup on the thinner side.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer, then pour into serving bowls. Top with freshly ground black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and thinly sliced fresh mint to garnish.

For breakfast, dessert or both ? this smoothie is whatever you want it to be. Fortified with the superfood of superfoods, cacao, anyone can be won over by this decadent treat.

Cacao Super-Smoothie

Serves 2

-2 ripe bananas
-¼ cup pitted dates (soaked for two hours)
-1 ½ tablespoons raw almond butter
-2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
-½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
-pinch of nutmeg
-almond milk

Place the first six ingredients in a blender and cover with almond milk. Blend until smooth, about one minute. Toast to your rawmazing self, then drink up!

If you prefer a thicker, milkshake-like consistency, freeze the peeled bananas first.

Cristi Young is a New York City-based writer and chef who is inspired by love, books, vegetables and chocolate. She can be found dishing about health, wellness and cooking on her blog, where all appetites for life are welcome.

Photo credit: Luke Chan

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10 responses to Embrace Your Rawsome Self
  1. Kasia said on May 1, 2012

    Cristi, I sooo agree with you! I became a vegan a year ago and it was the best, the most radiant and the easiest thing I’ve evere done in whole my life! Not to mention other benefits of going raw :-)!

  2. I found that going vegan has presented me with a wider variety of cuisine and flavors. I also look for a whole new set of places to eat out at – I would have never sought out a vegan restaurant before! It’s a lovely culinary world. I also love raw foods, especially my beloved kale chips <3

  3. I love eating raw! Only thing is that my husband and family eats meat, so I’m not labeling myself with vegan or rawist, I eat what is put in front of me (of course not sugar, processed foods, red meat and other foods that aren’t food) and love those days and weeks where all I can play with my dehydrator and only eat raw!

  4. Mary said on May 1, 2012

    I just went vegan a month ago and fell off the wagon during my vacation last week so it’s challenging again at the moment! I’m having trouble tuning out the naysayers even though I know it makes me feel good and balanced. I think what makes me hesitate about going raw is that I love brown rice! Anyone have any tips? I suppose I should form solid vegan habits first for a stretch and then maybe incorporate some raw meals?

  5. Great post, Cristi! I, too, am a raw foodist (an alkalarian raw foodist at that), and totally support your message. Eating raw is so incredible for your body, and you in know way feel deprived. As a holistic anxiety coach/motivational speaker/self-help writer for young women struggling with anxiety, a major part of my job is to direct my clients and followers to adopt a more raw, plant-based diet. Eating this way truly feeds your mind, and when that happens, everything else falls back into balance. I actually just had a guest post of mine published by Elephant Journal titled “How to Be Raw in a Cooked World.” Check it out if you can. Our thoughts are so similar; it’s crazy!

  6. Judy said on May 4, 2012

    Thank you, Christi, for a simple, motivating blog. Giving the guideline of “75% raw until dinner time” so your body can transition slowly is super good advice, and makes it seem so “possible”. I’ve always tried to change too abruptly when the body is not well enough to handle such a change. I shall try again using your guideline!

  7. The soup sounds divine!!!
    I went to your blog and it is lovely. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thanks for the love! I’m so happy this resonated with you all. Judy, 75% raw is a fantastic start! It’s a day-by-day commitment–listen to what your body needs. Elizabeth, I hope you’ll do some recipe testing and report back! Visit again soon :)

    Stay healthy and happy!

  9. I would like to attempt , the vegan lifestyle; however I have systemic yeast (which means it is in my blood and digestive track). I cannot have grains, nuts, pasta, any form of sugar (honey, agave,) even spelt is not good for me. Basically I can have vegetables and organic meats. I can have coconut milk, water and beans. Sometimes I can have quinoa. Any ideas Cristi of some yeast free receipes?

  10. Hello Cheryl! A yeast-free lifestyle can be challenging, but definitely not impossible! How about a coconut milk-based curry over broccoli, carrots and chickpeas? A hearty bowl of black bean soup with diced tomatoes and scallions would also be delicious. I will post a yeast-free recipe on my site this week for you:)