What does ‘100% raw’ actually mean?

kale chips

Last Thursday, Debbie (my new Excalibur dehydrator) arrived to keep Mac company on the kitchen bench. I filled her nine trays with tomato slices, kale leaves (pictured above), marinated mushroom slices and purple corn & chia crackers (pictured below; recipe to come!) – and everything turned out fabulously.

Since then, I have dehydrated kiwi fruit and presoaked almonds (it makes them extra crunchy, let alone any other health benefits). Oh, and more kale. I am in love with kale chips at the moment. Next, I’ll be attempting raw pizza bases, jerky (not for me) and fruit leather.

Debbie’s arrival heralded the start of 4 weeks of 100% raw food for me. Well, with the exception of a beautiful friend’s birthday dinner on Friday [many happy returns, Annie!], which actually left me lethargic and wheezing at the end of the night. I am not one to cheat on a challenge, even one set by/for myself, so I restarted my 4 weeks of raw at 11pm on Friday night.

I chose 4 weeks for my 100% self-experiment for two reasons: (1) I have 3-4 weeks to go in my raw food coaching course; and (2) other raw foodists have mentioned the fact that it was around the 2-week mark that they noticed a real difference in energy and health – and that’s what I want to experience first-hand.

The content of this post is largely led by the questions I have already been receiving from friends and colleagues. I hope it explains a few things!

chia & purple corn crackers

Why raw?

For me, it’s about attaining optimal health and well-being. I have been suffering frequent colds, flus and a worsening skin condition that remains a mystery in spite of multiple GP, specialist and naturopath consultations.

After many tests and being SCADGY (sugar/caffeine/alcohol/dairy/gluten/yeast) free for 6 weeks across May-July on the advice of a naturopath, I discovered that I did not have candida, the ailment with which I was ‘diagnosed’.

During this 6 weeks, I also discovered an aura of wellbeing and clarity of thought that I had not felt for years – not since I was vegan, in fact.

This made me want more, so I researched a number of different foodly philosophies, such as the blood type diet, Chinese nutrition, Ayurvedic nutrition and raw food. Raw food made the most sense to me and, maybe not so strangely, assimilated well with my ‘type’ for each philosophy.

Although I started with green smoothies and adding more raw content to each meal several months ago, I began eating 80% raw over a fortnight ago, with a commitment to move to 100% raw when my dehydrator arrived. I will still eat honey and pollen, and may succumb to the odd piece of sashimi here and there, so I can’t claim to have a raw vegan diet but it will most certainly be 100% raw.

So what does 100% raw mean, exactly?

Technically speaking, 100% raw means uncooked, unheated, unprocessed and organic. Nothing ingested is heated past 118°F (~48°C) in the preparation, as much as possible. It’s hard to completely control food storage and transport and, as a clever friend pointed out to me, some raw fruit and vegetables are grown in climates that reach higher temperatures at certain points, so I feel that eating 100% raw is a goal rather than a given.

The argument for raw has some compelling points, including:

  • increased energy – the natural enzymes in food begin to break down at 118°F. If your meals are continuously depleted of enzymes, you will begin to feel low in energy because your body has to continually compensate;
  • improved efficiencyeating raw alkalises your body, and a more alkaline body means a more finely tuned system for utlising nutrients and eliminating toxins;
  • better health – this is really what I am hoping for and, by looking after my body better on the inside, I hope that this will shine through to the outside. Of course, eating well is just one (very important!) factor in reaching good health; and
  • a clear conscience – eating raw means knowing where your food comes from and making conscious, present decisions about where it will come from in the future.

When you eat less processed foods and preparing more from scratch, you become aware of exactly what you are eating, as well as the methods, heats and additives used in ‘conventional’ food preparation.

It scares me that there are still so many unexplained additives in our foods, with often detrimental results that are not specifically recognised by medical professionals. Using whole, organic foods and preparing food from scratch means that you can be aware of exactly what is going into your family’s mouths – well, when they’re at home, anyway!

A really inspiring story on eating a raw vegan diet can be found on Barbara’s blog, Rawfully Tempting.

yummy crunchy lentil sprouts

Um, what can you eat?

There really is so much you can eat. It’s just a matter of (re)learning what to do with fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains.

In the last three days, the dishes I have made and/or eaten include:

  • kale chips – kale leaves tossed in tamari and tahini, then dehydrated;
  • zucchini and carrot spaghetti (made using a spiraliser) tossed in a spicy cashew nut ‘cheese’;
  • fruit & nut balls, based on my icky sticky nutty bars;
  • salad of black cabbage [aka “cavalo nero”, “black kale”], walnuts, dehydrated tomato & mushroom pieces, green beans, parsley;
  • tomatoes stuffed with beetroot salad;
  • lots of green smoothies & green juice;
  • chia & purple corn crackers with cashew nut ‘cheese’;
  • raw chocolate cheesecake;
  • raw pizza, made with home-dried olives;
  • coleslaw made with red cabbage, almonds and goji berries (this recipe will feature soon too!); and
  • chia seed porridge with banana and almond milk.

You can get more quick and easy ideas from this Top Chef D.C. article, and I have already ordered my first Matthew Kenney book.

my raw chocolate cheesecake

Doesn’t this take more time out of your day?

Robert from Raw Food Life assures his readers that eating raw takes no further preparation time.

My experience is that it dramatically adds to your prep time for your food and I am already used to making a lot of food from scratch. I seem to be spending all of my spare time researching, planning and prepping food (sprouting, dehydrating, chopping, marinating) out of necessity. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have more than a green juice or green smoothie at each meal [which isn’t all bad!].

There is light at the end of this tunnel. I realise that I am learning many unfamiliar techniques and food combinations at the moment. Once these become routine, it will take me less thought, time and effort to prepare a meal. For now, each dish is a shiny new adventure.

As Rawfood Karen says, while you may need to take more time to prepare your food, the energy you will have as a result of going raw will give you the motivation to keep it going.

I think the prep time also gives you a chance to ‘be present’ with your food, to really think about what you are preparing and why. This is food zen, people!

What will you do after the 4 weeks is over?

The short answer: I don’t know. I’m going to see how I feel at the end of this adventure and I will make a decision from there.

What I want after the 4 weeks:

  1. I want to look my best and feel great on the inside.
  2. I want others to get a sense of my awesome energy before they even talk to me.
  3. I want to be present with my food and aware of what I am putting into my and my family’s bodies.
  4. I want to be in a position to help others with their lifestyle journey.
  5. I want to be someone who can still enjoy a meal at a friend’s house without worrying them with my dietary requirements, and to eat out without having to stress about the fact there are no raw options on the menu.

I can’t see myself eating 100% raw forever, but I may just stay a raw foodist, given the Living Raw definition of “a person who eats 75% or more living/raw food”. I will keep you posted as to how I go.

Thanks so much for reading about a topic that is near and dear to my heart (and health)!

Now I would love to hear from you. Have you ever thought of eating raw? If you eat mostly or 100% raw, what made you choose this path?

H 🙂

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Robbie says:

    Well day 1 of the green dream challenge!!!! I broached the green smoothie with an element of trepidation… but to my surprise – YUMMO – those green smoothies do pack a punch to the unsuuspeting tastebuds.

    Wait till it reaches the far deep dark corners of my body! hehehe

    1. Hannah says:

      It’s true – green smoothies are delicious as well as nutritious. Awesome work, Robbie!

      14 days of starting each day with 2 glasses of water (& lemon if possible) + green smoothie a day is a great commitment – and I know you can do it.

      Please keep me posted!

      H 🙂

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