Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why I Love Raw Food

Summer is long past, and we are still raw.  I love it.  Why?

*I feel fabulous.  It used to hurt to stand up in the morning.  I used to have to take the stairs one step at a time, gingerly putting weight on my feet.  I was puffy and swollen.  My joints ached.  Now I can skip down the stairs in the morning, and there's no pain.

*I no longer need an entire pot of coffee in the morning to get going.  I rarely even drink caffeinated tea anymore.

*My husband is doing much better and has cut down his medication.  He is looking good!

*My youngest son has lost excess weight without dieting.  He's grown taller and looks to be the perfect weight for his height.

*I'm going to need new clothes soon.  The other day I reached into the back of the closet for a favorite dress that had been too tight, and now it's too loose.

*We have so much flexibility - we can be on The Garden Diet, or we can be 80/10/10, we can fix a raw gourmet meal if we want, we can drink green smoothies or eat a pile of bananas!

(or, if we want to, we can have a non-raw vegan meal if we want to.  Why not?  Who says it has to be all or nothing?)

*I"m experiencing a sensation of "heart opening" or "spiritual awakening."  It's hard to explain, but it's an increased feeling of serenity, more compassion for our fellow beings, more appreciation for the world, greater feelings of connectedness, acceptance, awareness, contentment and joy.  I feel more able to identify my needs and ask for them.  I'm more accepting of myself and my own value, so it's easier to speak my truth.  I'm less anxious, calmer, and more loving.

*I love that this is not a rigid lifestyle.  Every bite is a choice.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Information about the Raw Lifestyle

This the second post in a series of posts about things a person needs to go raw if they are new to the lifestyle.  The first thing you need is a reason.  I listed a couple of reasons here but of course every person's reasons will be personal and individual.

The second thing I think a person needs to go raw is information, particularly about nutrition.  If everything you've ever known about nutrition can be summed up by the Food Pyramid it may be time to go back and do some research.  I used to think I knew how to be healthy by eating foods that included animal products.  I'm only beginning to learn how to get sufficient protein by eating plants, which is actually much easier than one might think, and how to get enough nutrients like vitamin D and B12.  I also think that oral hygiene and dental care is extremely important on a raw food diet, especially for those people who eat a lot of fruit.  It's important to get enough calcium and phosphorus in the diet and to clean the teeth properly.  Calcium and phosphorus are found in greens such as kale, chard, spinach and dandelion greens, and I believe that for most raw vegans an optimal daily diet includes greens. 

So far my two favorite books about the health benefits of raw foods are:

"Becoming Raw, The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets" by Brenda Davis RD and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD
"Green for Life" by Victoria Boutenko

I like these books because they contain solid science.  Lots of people will go on about how raw food has "life force energy," and that's fine but it's not for everyone.  It's good to know that there is some scientific fact behind the lifestyle. 

Another good resource is well- known nutritional expert Dr. Michael Greger M.D.  Currently he is offering regular informational vlogs which can be found on, which is funded by the Jesse and Julie Rasch Foundation.  He also has a channel on Youtube.

Speaking of, it's a very good source of information concerning the raw food lifestyle.  Some of the people on youtube make what I think are some pretty outrageous claims, but that doesn't mean this is not a good lifestyle choice.  I just think that these are the opinions of some very passionate people, and leave it at that.

Here is an interesting article concerning the science of raw food:

"Ted Talks" about food, diet, health and the environment are a good information source:

There are plenty of documentaries that might be helpful to people who are interested in a plant based diets or the raw vegan lifestyle.  Here's a short list:

These are not necessarily raw, but about the benefits of a plant based diet:

Forks Over Knives

These documentaries focus on the raw food lifestyle:
Supercharge Me!
Fat Sick and Nearly Dead
Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days
Vegan 2 Raw Vegan
Heal Yourself 101
May I Be Frank
Food That Kills
The Raw Natural

These are about how our health and the health of our planet is being systemically harmed by the major food, agricultural and chemical industries and related government policies:

Food, Inc.
The End Of The Line
Dirt!  The Movie
Food Fight
Killer At Large
King Corn  
Super Size Me
The Garden
The Future of Food
The Real Dirt On Farmer John
Vanishing of the Bees
Queen of the Sun
Food Matters and Hungry For Change

Finally, I think testimonials can be very helpful.  A lot of people will say that raw food worked for them and can describe how it transformed their lives on a personal level, but they can't explain the science.  These stories experiences can be valuable as the science, in my opinion.

One of the best testimonials comes from Dave The Raw Food Trucker.  His story is incredible.  He was morbidly obese and had diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular problems and kidney problems.  Any one of these issues could have killed him.  He healed himself completely with raw foods and green juices.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Latkes: What To Do With Potatoes

It can be a challenge to find recipes for potatoes in the raw vegan world.  It seems that most raw vegans don't eat them.  Apparently, the enzyme inhibitors are in the skin, and they contain solanine if they are green, so as long as they are peeled and not green they can be eaten raw.

We like potatoes, and we keep getting them in our weekly Bountiful Baskets order, so we've been trying to figure out how to use them.

My husband found this recipe for raw garlic and lime potato chips.  We tried the recipe and didn't like it because we found it tedious.  Each potato chip had to be sliced paper thin, then dipped in lime juice, sprinkled with garlic and laid on dehydrator screens to dry.  I found that if every chip wasn't done exactly right, it tasted like the type of dehydrated potato you might find in a box of packaged processed scalloped potatoes.

I scoured the internet and my budding collection of raw recipe books, and I found one recipe for raw potato latkes here.  The OP said she hadn't tried it, so it was risky, but it was worth it. 

Here is my version.

Spinach and Potato Latkes

2 cups Brazil nuts, soaked for 8 hours, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsps South African Smoke Seasoning Blend, (from TJs)
freshly ground chili pepper to taste (optional)
the juice of 5 small lemons, (next time I want to try limes)
1 cup filtered water, more if needed to make the blender go
1 cup pine nuts soaked 2 hours
1 10 oz bag cleaned spinach
3 leeks, cleaned with roots and green part removed, loosely chopped
one bunch garlic chive flowers, (optional)
6 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
paprika for sprinkles

Blend Brazil nuts in a high speed blender with lemon juice, water, minced garlic and salt.  Blend until the mixture turns well in the blender with no lumps.  If it won't turn, add water a little at a time until it does.  Add the pine nuts last, processing just enough to distribute them and break them up a little.  In this mixture, plenty of the pine nuts were left whole, which was nice.

Pulse the spinach, leeks and garlic chive flowers in a food processor until chopped fine.  Place in a bowl and stir in the nut mixture.  Run the potatoes through the shredder blade in the food processor, and stir into the mixture.  Add any additional seasonings at this time, keeping in mind that they shrink as they dry and the flavor is concentrated.

Drop by spoonfuls on a Teflex sheet.  I think an ideal size is about 2 tbsp.  Flatten them slightly so that they are like pancakes.  Sprinkle each one with a bit of paprika.

Dehydrate them at 112 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 hours, or until they easily slide off the Teflex without sticking.  Place them on the dehydrator screens and continue drying for at least 4 hours or until they are crispy. 

 This one was a success, and we will definitely make it again.  Next time I might try to grate the potatoes more finely, and experiment with the flavors.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sources and Purveyors

This is just a short list of websites that sell products that are useful to raw vegans.  I have not tried all of the vendors listed.  I'll be adding to the list periodically, and if you can recommend any good sites that provided quality, value and good customer services, please let me know.

Lou Corona's website:

nunaturals stevia

I don't know if this is a good company to buy from, but this looks like a great poster:

Reasons To Go Raw Vegan

I want to do a series of posts specifically targeted at helping people go raw.  The first thing a person needs to go raw is a good reason.  Going raw is not convenient. A person can't keep doing what they've always done if what they've always done is to eat the Standard American Diet.  There are no raw drive through restaurants.  I don't want to discourage anybody.  What I'm saying is the reason to go raw needs to be stronger than the pull of the SAD.

I've gone over my reasons in previous posts here, but other people have different reasons.

 Wyn Matthews spells it out nicely here:

One of the reasons he gave stands out as one that anyone can relate to regardless of their values.  That reason is self preservation.  Here is a link to the video by the respected Dr. Gregor of,  It's worth watching.

My biggest reason is my boys.  Two of them are not yet grown.  A little over two years ago, my younger brother died suddenly of a heart attack.

This morning when I arose, I lightly trotted downstairs to make our morning smoothie breakfast.  Three months ago I was taking each step painfully, one at a time, pausing between each step, gripping the handrail tightly so I wouldn't fall.  That alone is a good reason for me.

Another reason Wyn gave for going raw is a bit more complicated.  It has to do with the meat industry and it's impact on the planet, human health, and animal cruetly.  When we think about the business of turning cows into beef, we think of cattle happily grazing in meadows, eventually ending up in slaughterhouses where we hope their death is quick and painless.  We don't want to know otherwise, because if we know then we are responsible for the choices we make.  But what if the reality is worse than you can imagine?

A few years after "Earthlings" was released, a good friend suggested that this is a "must see" film.  At the time we were discussing vegetarianism.  I mentally filed the film away but didn't see it.  So when I saw the clips on Wyn's blog, I ordered it from Netflix.

At the very least, this movie will make you think about the impact the meat industry is having on the planet.  It's a very hard hitting film, with images that are hard to see.  Once you see it, you can't unsee it.  I've looked and not found an intelligent argument against the points made in the film.  I've never been in favor of animal cruelty, and I hope that most educated people aren't.  The really sick part is that when we buy these meat products, we are participating.  We may not know that we are participating, and we may not want to know.  But the grownup thing to do is to know, and then live according to one's own conscience.

Here's another good article about ethical veganism, "Why Are Few Spiritual Teachers Vegan?"

Wyn also mentions the films "The End of The Line," and "Genetic Roulette."  To that list I would like to add "Forks Over Knives."

Edit:  March 20, 2013 -   Recently a long-time raw vegan speaking at an event said that in fact raw veganism is the easiest diet in the world.  The only thing you have to do is cut a piece of fruit and eat it.  He has a point.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Review of The Garden Diet

My husband and I just finished the "28 Days Raw Transition" program with The Garden Diet.  I'd like to share how we liked it, and what it did for us.

There are so many raw vegan recipes available online.  When we first began our raw journey over the summer, I had focused on finding raw alternatives to our accustomed SAD (standard American diet.) Those recipes are often a bit complicated or required hard to find ingredients.  Although enthusiastic about raw food, I was sometimes discouraged by the amount of work involved.  This is because there are few raw convenience foods - no raw bottled salad dressings or packaged sauce mixes and certainly no frozen entrees.  I served several complex raw meals that took the entire day to prepare, (longer when dehydration time is taken into account) and a couple of the more successful meals made it to this blog.  I'm not sorry we went through this phase in our transition.  It was an important part of it.  I'll be making those types of meals again from time to time, but they aren't for every day.

The Garden Diet menu plan provided simple recipes that I could make as quickly as any SAD cooking mom could fry a pound of hamburger and open a cardboard box  of dry noodles and seasoning packets.  Often the meals were much quicker to make than the old "TV dinner in the microwave" routine.  The ingredients were mostly very easy to find, and there were readily available substitutions for those that weren't.  Simple can be very tasty and satisfying.

The great thing is that after 28 days, now I have a repertoire of quick, easy recipes that my family loves, and the confidence that I can keep this up without a lot of extra effort.

One of the ways in which The Garden Diet helped us was that it included complete menus.  I didn't have to worry about whether I was providing my husband and I with enough daily nutrition.  The menu plans in The Garden Diet were like "training wheels" that gave me the confidence to know that I could provide my family a healthy raw diet.  Shopping lists were also provided, which saved us time.

The Garden Diet also helped to re-educate us about our food.  One of the things that was hurting us when we ate the SAD was the size of our meals.  A "real meal" consisted of a salad, meat, starch, and a vegetable.  Sometimes we also had bread, dessert and some type of beverage.  We were eating ourselves to death a meal at a time.  When we switched to the raw lifestyle, I was trying to replicate those tastes and sensations with raw food.  We quickly learned that raw food is more nutrient dense and so we needed to eat less of it, but we were still making things way too complicated.  I was trying to serve too many courses.  During The Garden Diet, it was such a revelation the first time we sat down to a mono meal, which was a large bowl of one type of ripe, raw fruit.  Another revelation came the day of the water fast.  I honestly did not know that I was capable of going a whole day without food when surrounded by so many opportunities to eat.  I learned that I could not only do it, but would benefit from it as well.

Now I can serve my family twelve-ounce glasses of blended fruit and vegetable smoothies for dinner without feeling like I am depriving them.  Instead of starting a meal with a salad, often the meal IS the salad.  What a concept!

Before, special occasions and events were centered around food.  We had trained ourselves to expect food indulgences at those times.  Now, while we still make delicious raw vegan treats for special occasions, and I plan to make a raw feast now and then, we take joy from the moment and the love in our family without making it all about food.

The program also provided exercise programs, a collection of positive motivational articles about the raw lifestyle, an online community with supportive like-minded people, a place to write in an online journal, and daily happiness exercises.  For those who chose to participate, there was an optional study group based on the book, "A Course In Weight Loss."

The program wasn't strict or rigid.  If you didn't want to do the water fast or participate in cleansing week, they just suggested that you repeat another menu from the plan.  By the last week, I was varying the menu, using the food that came in our Bountiful Baskets order rather than shopping for what was on the menu for that week.  If we were hungry between meals, we simply ate more.  Since the food was healthy, whole, raw, nutrient-dense, lacking in chemicals and unprocessed, you couldn't go wrong.

If the individual needed to gain weight they offered tips for that too.  I was able to serve the meals on the plan to the entire family, and make additional healthy options available for our growing children.

I've lost 8 pounds in the 28 days, compared to the 5 pounds per month I was losing just by eliminating most cooked and processed food, animal-based food and alcohol during the previous three months.  I'm happy with the 8 pounds, and I know it might have been more if I had exercised as much as I intended to.  However, this is just the beginning.  Next we are doing the 21 Days Raw Cleanse offered by The Garden Diet.  Whether the rest of the weight comes off during this program or whether it takes a year, it doesn't matter to me.  I'm happy with the process.  I love how great I feel, and how loose my clothes are.

This wasn't a radical crash diet.  This was a lifestyle adjustment. After the 21 Days Cleanse, we will begin the process of fine-tuning our eating habits for maintenance and the changing needs of our bodies.

During this 28 days, I've looked honestly at myself, my spouse, and the way we live our lives in this family.  There are hidden gifts in our struggles, and I've come away with strong feelings of gratitude and optimism for the future.

Changing the way we eat has been empowering and that change is leading to more positive changes.  I can't change the entire world but I can change MY world.  This has brought deep feelings of peace and joy.  Switching to the raw vegan lifestyle is just one of many positive changes we are either making or plan to make in our lives.