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5 Things I Have Learned from Following a Raw Foods Diet

Posted on July 28, 2017 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)



As I see spring as an invitation for fresh beginnings, I decided a few years ago to take advantage of the season by trying a dietary cleanse. I had been vegan for years, but there was room for improvement with my diet. I was hoping to boost my energy, get my glow back, and trim down a bit as well. While researching various cleansing diets, I found former super-model Carol Alt’s book: Eating in the Raw: A Beginner's Guide to Getting Slimmer, Feeling Healthier, and Looking Younger the Raw-Food Way. She has retained her vibrant beauty over time, which she attributes largely to raw foods.


After reading similar books, I decided to try a 30-day “raw cleanse,” consuming only fresh fruit and veggies, raw juices, and sprouted nuts and seeds. As the weeks passed, I felt so much better that I lost all interest in processed/cooked foods. Now, four years later, I remain devoted to this healthy lifestyle. Here are a few things I have learned along the way:


Educate yourself


Researching the raw foods approach ahead of time was hugely valuable, and I continue to seek out new books, blogs, and videos on a regular basis. I am continuously inspired by various raw food chefs and authors, such as Aaron Ash, who wrote Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw, Renee Loux, author of Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods, Megan May, author of Raw Organic Goodness, and Stacy Stowers who wrote Eat Raw, Not Cooked, to name a few.


Ease in—and stay a while


I think the best way to go raw is to transition gradually, especially if you are used to cooked, refined and/or processed foods. Not only will you feel more comfortable as your system adjusts to this new way of eating, you will also be less likely to experience “detox” side effects, such as headaches and/or mild gastro-intestinal discomfort which may result from a rapid shift to large amounts of fiber-dense raw produce. Instead, simply add a colorful salad, green smoothie, or fruit platter to your menu each day as you phase out heavier cooked items. Taking it slowly will increase the odds that you will stick with raw foods over time.


Keep stocked with staples


Get into the habit of keeping your fridge and pantry stocked with fresh, versatile, plant-based staples so you can create a wide range of meals and snacks quickly and easily. Here are some ideas:


Fruit: Oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, grapefruit, mango, papaya, bananas, apples, berries, grapes, currants, figs, etc. Explore whatever is currently in season. Also, stock your freezer with berries, mango, and ripe, peeled bananas for shakes, sorbet and “soft serve.”


Veggies: Lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, corn, peas, celery, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, avocado, jicama, sweet onions, and fresh herbs. With all produce, choose organic whenever possible, especially with the “Dirty Dozen,” which refers to the most pesticide-laden fruits and veggies.


Nuts and Seeds: Raw almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts, and pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, chia, flax and hemp seeds, and raw, unsweetened coconut. Stockpile these nutritional gems for nut and seed milks, dressings, salads, entrées, parfaits, shakes, and more. Always enjoy them raw, as heat damages the healthy oils they contain and detracts from their nutritional value.


Develop anchor meals


Anchor meals and snacks can be life savers with a raw food menu. One example is a filling entrée salad with protein-rich dressing, such as cashew-based Ranch or Lemon-Caper. Miso soup is another great staple, especially in winter. It’s simple to make with unpasteurized miso paste, which is a tasty, fermented food with many health benefits. If you wish to stay fully raw, be sure to use warm (not boiling) water when blending the miso, then mix in chopped carrot, beet, kale, or whatever veggies you like and top with hemp seeds. Raw nut and seed butters with sliced fruit and veggies make delicious, hearty snacks too. Check out dehydrated items as well, such as kale chips, crackers and cookies, still "raw" but tasty and crunchy; they really hit the spot!


Embrace healthy fats


While I avoided fats for years, going raw taught me to embrace the right fats for optimal health and a trim bod. Raw food expert Natalia Rose says in her book The Raw Food Detox Diet that “a good fat is a raw fat, whereas all other fats are damaging.” Cherie Soria, author, chef, and founder of The Living Light Culinary Institute, recommends avocados, raw nuts and seeds, olives, raw coconut oil, and cold-pressed olive, hemp seed and flax seed oils. Eating healthy, raw fats in moderation will help you look and feel great, and thrive long-term with raw foods.


Raw, plant-based cuisine has improved the health of my digestive system, strengthened my immune resilience, helps me look and feel energized and vibrant, and keeps me slender, among many other benefits. What could it do for you? Bon appétit!


Raw Vegan Dessert Essentials

Posted on July 18, 2017 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)




If you follow a raw foods menu, you may rely on salads, shakes, blended soups, and colorful fruit platters—all of which are naturally tasty and nourishing. And yet, who doesn’t appreciate a decadent-tasting treat, party dessert, or the timeless splendor of chocolate now and again? Happily, with the raw food approach, you can indeed have your cake and eat it too. In fact, you may be amazed at how many raw vegan desserts you can prepare from just a handful of highly versatile, healthy ingredients. For example:


Raw cacao


Some might say that any discussion of dessert should start with chocolate—or better yet, raw cacao, which is the purest form you can consume and contains powerful antioxidants like anthocyanidins and epicatechins. With a few additional ingredients, cacao can easily be transformed into chocolate milk, pudding, brownies, candy, ice cream and more. Cacao nibs (nature’s chocolate chips) are also great to have on hand, as they can be sprinkled on shakes, parfaits, and puddings for a crunchy hit of raw cacao intensity. 


Nuts and seeds


Nuts and seeds play a central role in many raw vegan treats. Cashews are especially versatile, as when they are soaked and blended, they become a rich, creamy base for frosting, cheesecakes, and other confections. Walnuts and/or pecans—typically blended with dates—star in no-bake pie crusts, which come together quickly with a food processor. You will also find raw nut butter very useful for treats. Chia seeds are ideal for pudding, as they create a natural gel when mixed with juice or pureed fruit. Nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses as well, loaded with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and in the case of chia and hemp seeds, 100% complete plant-based protein.


Raw coconut oil


According to Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, there are currently over 1,500 studies showing the health benefits of coconut oil, partly due to beneficial fats called medium-chain fatty acids. That’s good news since coconut oil is integral to many raw vegan desserts, especially cheesecakes, as when chilled, it helps to create the firm texture we associate with this classic dessert. While traditional cheesecake is typically loaded with saturated fat, cholesterol and refined sugar, raw plant-based versions—created mainly from fresh fruit, dates, nuts and coconut oil—offer a deliciously creamy, good-for-you alternative. 


Fresh & dried fruit


Fresh, colorful fruit in season—naturally sweet and nutritious—steals the show in most raw desserts. While pies and tarts offer the perfect canvas to showcase vibrant berries or sliced fruit, other recipes, such as puddings and cheesecake fillings, often use blended fruit. Frozen bananas are perfect for creamy “soft serve,” which is easy to make with a high-speed blender. Dates, especially Medjool, are a popular staple for raw desserts as they are very sweet and can replace sugar in many recipes. And dates are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber and support healthy blood sugar levels.


Natural sweeteners


While there is ongoing debate about which sweeteners are best for us, many raw desserts call for raw agave nectar, as well as maple syrup, though it is not technically raw. Some recipes simply suggest a liquid sweetener of choice. Honey is also used, though it is not considered vegan. All of these options, however, are widely considered to be nutritious alternatives to refined white sugar, so choose what you like. And don’t forget stevia, an all-natural, calorie-free sweetener. If aren’t familiar with it, try liquid stevia which dissolves instantly in beverages, blends with anything, and tastes sweet with no aftertaste.


As you can see, you can get a lot of mileage from these versatile components when it comes to creating raw confections. And, as your taste buds tune into the amazing natural flavors they offer, you can happily bid farewell to commercial sweets made from refined flour and sugar, gluten, processed oils, and other additives. You will also be happy to know that you can savor these beautiful, nourishing desserts in moderation guilt-free, as they fill you up without filling you out. Enjoy in good health!



Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

Posted on July 14, 2017 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)



If you (like me) consider a hearty, well-prepared salad as the perfect meal, you will appreciate having an array of innovative dressings in your repetoire. In fact, once you see how easy it is to make delicious versions at home, you won’t at all miss commercial products that typically contain preservatives to extend their shelf life, plus many other dubious additives, like cheap, GMO-laced canola oil, often hidden MSG, etc.


This vibrant vinaigrette is terrific for you and loaded with flavor. It's also quite versatile, as you can vary the ingredients with lemon, lime, or orange juices, different fresh herbs, plus optional additions like garlic, shallots, spices, etc. You can also add a touch of raw agave nectar to tame the tartness if you like. Here is the basic version. It's especially good on salad combinations with a Mexican flavor profile, featuring ingredients like Romaine lettuce, avocado, raw organic corn, olives, diced tomatoes, red bell pepper, etc.   


Ingredients:


1 cup cilantro leaves, packed 

1/2 cup organic, extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice 

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

1/2 teaspoon Pink Himalayan crystal salt 

Freshly ground pepper to taste


Directions:


Place all ingredients in your blender and process until smooth. Feel free to alternate herbs, using basil, parsley, mint or other fresh herbs as you like, or a combination.



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