Embrace Your Rawsome Self
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
-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.
-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
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