Bare naked foodies: The raw-food craze and its value
A celebrity-inspired raw-food revolution is upon us writes Joanna Kiernan, but is that healthy glow really worth having to carry a handbag full of veggies?
For many people the raw food diet can seem particularly extreme. There are many factors to contend with; the social awkwardness of not being able to eat out, the veritable treasure hunt for healthy foods in many shops, which almost always results in just the one bereft looking head of lettuce left on the shelf and then there are the initial detox mood swings.
Yet eating more, if not all raw food makes a lot of sense, in a way that a lot of other diets do not; you have the promise of better skin, hair, nails, improvements to your digestive system and sleep, and you may even lose weight to boot.
Kate Middleton is believed to have begun eating raw in order to return her figure to its former glory following the birth of Prince George last year and continues to have one "raw only" day each week.
The habit might go some way towards explaining the 32-year-old Duchess' slender, size six frame, strong healthy hair and radiant skin.
Former Miss World, model and nutritionist Rosanna Davison eats approximately 90-95pc of raw food at this time of year.
"Raw foods keep their live enzymes and vitamins, whereas cooking can denature much of the enzymes, vitamins and other nutrients in foods," Rosanna explains. "For clients I see with weaker digestive systems, I would often recommend that they eat a simple green salad dressed with lemon juice before a cooked meal to boost their digestive enzymes, which can become depleted with age and a diet deficient in certain nutrients."
"Raw foods contribute the enzymes for digestion that your body would otherwise have to produce itself, so they're easier on your system," Rosanna adds. "I definitely find raw food easier to digest than cooked and I rarely eat a fully cooked meal without some raw veggies before it. However, for some people, it can still be difficult to digest raw foods and some vegetables are better lightly cooked. Broccoli, kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts, for example, can be much more beneficial when lightly steamed. Other vegetables like tomatoes, develop higher levels of lycopene when cooked, though lose some of their vitamin C. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut squash are also most beneficial when cooked and can take high temperatures."
However, Rosanna cautions against eating too much of the one thing.
"The problem with a fully raw diet is that it can often be high in fat as a lot of nuts and avocados are eaten," she explains. "While these are healthy fats, we don't require them in excessive amounts. Raw diets in winter in Ireland aren't always feasible either as people may find that their body temperature drops without cooked food."
Andrea Baines is a raw foods lifestyle enthusiast, teacher and blogger. Since adopting the raw food lifestyle in 2010 she says her life has changed dramatically.
"I started because I was a bit of a chocoholic at the time and I tried a raw chocolate cake and was just blown away when I tasted it and found out what was in it," Andrea explains.
"It really took my interest because I had considered myself to be quite a healthy person, so when I heard that this was a healthier way to eat chocolate I wanted to know more."
The raw chocolate cake inspired Andrea to investigate raw food further.
"I started by just introducing green smoothies every day, then I got into juicing and started eating more salads and a few other raw dishes, like raw soups and marinated vegetables," she says.
Before Andrea discovered raw foods, she was on medication for an underactive thyroid and had put on weight because of the condition. Andrea was also suffering from adult acne, which began when she was 38, and she had also suffered from severe period pain since she was a teenager. She is now free from all of these ailments and says she feels younger than ever as she approaches her mid-40s.
"Literally within two or three months my health had just completely changed, my energy levels came up very quickly, the acne completely cleared up and I was able to come off all the medication I was on," Andrea explains. "Two or three years down the line I started teaching other people; friends and family were asking me, 'How can I eat raw food, make it simple and integrate it with our lives without it taking over?' That's how I started the blog TheRawVision.com and now we are doing juicing and blending classes."
Andrea has noticed a huge shift toward the raw lifestyle in Ireland. "When I first started it was hard to find some of the ingredients, so I was hunting around the various health food shops, but now they are practically everywhere it is so easy to find," she says. "The demand for good quality, healthy fresh food has increased dramatically over the last few years. It's much easier than it was four or five years ago."
Andrea now eats up to 80pc raw food, but she says balance and finding out what suits you, is key to the raw food lifestyle. It should not be an 'all or nothing' scenario.
"It's not necessarily about eating all raw, if you are high raw like I am, then most of the food you eat is naturally vegan because you are eating mostly plant-based fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds," Andrea explains. "But you also just increase the amount of raw food that you eat, so that doesn't mean you have to be vegan or even vegetarian, a lot of people still eat meat and fish."
"The way that you can be successful with raw foods is to just find a balance that works for you. If you can increase the raw foods in your diet to at least 50pc of what you eat, you will notice a difference," Andrea adds.
Niall Fennell owns Nua Naturals, an Irish company, which imports and sells organic raw foods and super-foods. Niall says that the entire raw area has seen a huge surge in demand over the last three years.
"It's been a whirlwind but an amazing one," Niall explains. "Without doubt the market is growing exponentially, as are some health trends, but one of the big ones is raw food. I guess people are just going back to their roots. It's a huge trend in the United States now too, where you can see them especially really bucking against the fast food world. People want real whole foods. Health food stores and speciality stores are our core business, but we have seen adoption by some of the more adventurous supermarkets too recently, so it is becoming main-stream in a way."
Niall understands that raw food can seem scary to those who know very little about it. "Raw food is essentially just an apple or a salad, it can be as simple as that, or you can make some really interesting crackers or cakes or whatever you want from raw food as well," he says. "It depends on how devoted a raw foodie you are. People that enjoy raw food within their diet have a much more enjoyable time than people who go completely raw too. Completely raw is totally possible, but it can be challenging."
A huge challenge to the lifestyle is the fact that it limits what you can eat in normal social settings.
"Eating out can be difficult," Niall concedes. "When you are in a society that hasn't adopted it fully yet, that's always going to be the challenge. So it's all about preparation really and being comfortable enough in your own skin to ask for something different and not feel like you are a sore thumb sticking out. Or worst case scenario you may need to fill up before you go and then just get a small salad," he laughs.
Recipe: Raw Chocolate Tart
You will need:
9-10” tart dish with removable base (or similar pie dish)
Ingredients for the base:
200g / 2 cups Walnuts
200g / 2 cups Golden raisins
50g or 1/2 cup Desiccated coconut
Pinch of salt
Ingredients for the filling:
6-8 Pitted Medjool dates
(if you can’t get Medjool and your dates are quite dry, soak in a little water for an hour beforehand)
180 ml Agave syrup / maple syrup
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Large ripe avocados (they must be a little soft to the touch)
40-60g Raw cacao powder / or cocoa powder
1 tbsp Melted coconut oil
Fresh raspberries or strawberries
1 tsp Raw cacao/cocoa powder
Put the walnuts and desiccated coconut into the food processor and “pulse” a few times until the walnuts break down into large crumbs. Add the raisins and salt and process on full power until the mixture sticks together when pressed between your fingers.
Transfer this crumbly “dough” mixture to your tart pan and spread evenly around with a spatula, pressing into the fluted edges with your thumb and index finger to form the crust. Leave this to set in the fridge or freezer while you make the filling
Wipe out the bowl and blades of the food processor with kitchen towel, then add the dates, agave and vanilla and process into a thick paste, scraping down the sides periodically with a spatula.
Slice open the avocados, remove the pit and spoon out the flesh directly into the paste and process again into a smooth and creamy consistency. Again, you may need to scrape down the sides.
Melt the coconut oil gently over a low heat and add to the food processor along with the cacao. Continue to process into a smooth consistency. Taste test to see if you need to add more cacao to your liking.
Spoon the chocolate filling into the crust base and spread evenly with a spatula. Transfer to the fridge to set for at least an hour to ensure you get a nice clean cut when serving.
Top with fresh fruits such as raspberries or strawberries and a dusting of cacao powder. This dessert will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days.
For more recipes and insight into the Raw Food Lifestyle visit Andrea Baines’ website at www.therawvision.com
Health & Living