Why You Don’t Need to Cook to Eat Healthy

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

August 29, 2012

  • The best cooking is no cooking at all
  • A few raw food surprises
  • The next best cooking methods

You may have heard of the latest diet craze – raw food. Which is pretty much what it sounds like – eating foods in their raw, uncooked form. The theory is that cooking depletes food of nutrients, and raw food is healthier, easier to digest, and better for you. Some raw foodists go so far as to claim it is how we are “supposed” to consume food.

Now, like any food fad, eating raw has its fanatics. People who only eat raw food. Or who think that cooked food is worthless. Clearly, I’m not one of them.

But it is true that raw foods are chock full of vitamins and minerals – especially if the food is grown organically. And I do think that eating raw food more often would do most of us a lot of good. Maybe not 100% of the time. But something between 20%-50% sounds about right to me.

And there’s certainly no better time than the summer to experiment with raw food – especially during the hot streaks we’ve been experiencing, when a hot meal isn’t particularly inviting.

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But for many of us, eating a salad, and maybe a bowl of gazpacho, is our entire repertoire of raw food. And if you don’t mind eating raw fish or meat, there’s sashimi and carpaccio. But how much of these items can you eat without getting bored?

Well, you might be surprised at how many variations of raw food there are, and how easy it can be to increase the amount of uncooked foods you can fit into your diet. In this issue, I’ll explain some of the benefits of eating uncooked food, and give you a few ideas to expand your raw repertoire…

Raw fruits and vegetables are rich in digestive enzymes, high in water content, and filled with nutrients. Cooking foods can diminish some of these properties – especially in fruits and vegetables.

Also, eating more raw foods will help you to have a more alkaline, rather than acidic, diet. Many people report losing weight when they eat more raw foods. And perhaps more important, they report having more energy.

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You might be surprised at how much energy it takes to digest your food. But when you are eating more food with live enzymes, along with juices and smoothies that are easily digestible, you free up energy for other uses.

What scares many people away from trying raw food – beyond the usual green salad – is the idea that it’s difficult and time-consuming. I suggest you to try a few of my suggestions below and see for yourself – because this is a myth.

If anything, tossing together raw foods can be faster and easier than cooking. And during this time of year, cooler, too.

The biggest challenge is getting started. Most of us grew up concocting meals according to the food pyramid we learned in school. Meat, starch and a vegetable on every plate. But when putting together a meal of raw food, focusing more on color, texture, and flavor can deliver a delicious, nutritious meal.

Smoothies and Juicing: Getting creative with juicing is a great way to get more raw foods into your diet. And you might be surprised what you can turn into a delicious smoothie! Don’t be afraid to experiment. Throw in some kale with your strawberry-banana smoothie. Toss a few beets into your berry smoothie. Try blending a cucumber, some lime and a few sprigs of mint. The combinations are endless. Usually a good blender is all the power you need for a smoothie. A juicer can be more expensive. But if you find you enjoy juicing and are going to do it regularly, it’s a worthwhile expense.

Soups: In the same way that hot soups and stews are great in the winter, raw chilled soups are perfect for summer. If you have a high-powered blender or food processor, you would be surprised what you can make. Ripe avocado makes a great base for cold soup. You can blend in a few carrots until smooth, and top with green onion. Or add in chopped tomatoes, onion, cilantro, fresh lime juice and a dash of cayenne for a more textured soup. Use plenty of fresh herbs, or spices such as cumin, coriander, and cayenne, to pump up the flavors.

Adding Crunch: Dehydrating your fruits and vegetables will give them a different texture and flavor that will make raw concoctions more interesting than the usual salad. You can also use grains without cooking them first. Try sprouting (instead of cooking) quinoa (click here for directions). Then, add in some crunchy seeds such as unroasted sunflower seeds or crushed raw almonds or cashews, chopped veggies of your choice, fresh herbs, and either squeeze in some lemon or vinegar. And to get a really big crunch, wrap your concoction and eat in raw collard green leaves – like you would a burrito!

With raw food in its craze phase right now, it’s simple to find recipes online or source a cookbook for more ideas.

If you were going to go 75% – 100% raw, you would need to invest some time and effort into it. But my suggestion is to simply have one raw meal a day. Or possibly eat raw one or two days of the week.

And when you want to apply a little heat, but still get most of the benefit of eating raw, try these cooking methods…

Even a diehard raw foodist will heat some foods. Live enzymes can survive up to 104-118 degrees Fahrenheit. And some foods are healthier when cooked. Like tomatoes, which contain 3-4 times more lycopene after they’re cooked.

You can still preserve most of the nutrients in your food if you lightly steam or gently toss your meal in a wok. Neither method requires much cooking oil. It only takes a few minutes for foods to soften. And if you add fresh herbs, use lemon or broth, the flavors mix very quickly.

Personally, I found that the best part of eating raw more often is how much more flavor I enjoy in all of my food. Once you get used to the full, raw flavor of fresh fruits and veggies, you might even start to crave healthier meals more than a cheeseburger and fries.

For most of us, our tastes were formed around the Standard American Diet, and change can be difficult. Eating raw can help re-set your taste buds, and make eating healthy more pleasurable. When you’re eating what you love, it gets much, much easier to do, all the time, not just when you’re trying to stick with a diet.

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