Boomers who participated in the “back to the earth” movement of the 1960s and 1970s counterculture were very aware of the benefits of unprocessed, uncooked organic produce.
However, many of us forgot raw food (other than carrot and celery sticks) as we joined mainstream culture and introduced our kids to corporate fast food via McDonald’s as well as “home cooked” fast food out of frozen bags and boxes.
Now we are an obese nation addicted to easy, sweet, fluffy, fatty, salted overcooked prepared food.
The good news? There’s nothing easier than eating raw, or “living” food: buy organic, wash, slice (or pluck, in the case of sprouts) and serve.
Proponents of the raw food lifestyle tend to be super enthusiastic, some may say fanatical. You only have to look at celebrities like Sting, Angela Bassett or Demi Moore to see the benefits they get from raw foods. But hearing talk of enzymes and acid and alkaline body balance can be overwhelming to newbies.
The important thing to remember is that cooking food causes chemical changes in the food itself. That in turn creates acidic toxins that can contribute to diseases like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Cooking also destroys the live enzymes that aid in digestion and health.
You don’t have to be a fanatic to begin changing, however. Even purists at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach – a mecca for healing with raw food -- aim for an 80/20 percent proportion of raw food versus cooked food rather than 100 percent. If you have seen Anthony Hopkins lately, who was at Hippocrates last year, you will see a new man. Coretta Scott King was a regular guest at Hippocrates. Even Hollywood’s new generation – Ellen Page from Juno (now filming a Woody Allen romantic comedy) – has been to Hippocrates to boost the raw food lifestyle.
People who are addicted to or abusing a substance such as drugs and alcohol start with detoxing – i.e. withdrawing - from that substance. Many people start their raw foods diet by detoxing as well, to rid the body of “poisons” and impurities from cooked and overprocessed foods as well as pollutants in the air and water. This is the best way to begin.
But don’t let that be a stumbling block. The important thing is to eat better, which you can do by incorporating more raw foods into your daily diet. Nowhere is it written you have to cook your vegetables and slather them with butter and top with salt. You’re probably already buying broccoli, carrots, and salad greens. Expand your repertoire with green beans, peas, squash, and sweet potatoes and eat them raw. Add sprouts – sunflower, alfafa, clover, chickpea, and lentils (carried in many grocery stores now or you can grow these yourself).
As you add more raw foods and eliminate more cooked foods, your taste buds and energy level will change.
To jumpstart a raw food lifestyle, start reading books like Going Raw: Everything You Need to Start Your Own Raw Food Diet and Lifestyle Revolution at Home , by Judita Wignall, or Eating in the Raw: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Slimmer, Feeling Healthier, and Looking Younger the Raw-Food Way, by supermodel Carol Alt.
If you really want to commit – or if you have a health problem like insomnia or are struggling with cancer – consider a 1 to 3-week stay at Hippocrates Health Institute, which attracts guests from all over the world (they also offer a 9-week Life Change program). A Hippocrates buffet might include Walnut Tacos, Stuffed Avocados, Broccoli Salad with Garlic and Oregano and Sweet Potato Ginger Arame Salad.
The key to a raw foods diet is taking responsibility for your health. “We teach people how to heal themselves here,” says Hippocrates co-director Anna Maria Clement. Books and health programs provide tools and support, but you have to do it yourself.
Join the discussion on raw food in our forum.
Judy Kirkwood is slowly incorporating more raw foods, but has yet to eliminate chicken and fish.