I discovered raw food in Montreal, a city of beautiful, quirky people. My introduction happened through Meetup.com’s monthly raw food vegan potlucks. For $5 and a homemade bowl of salad, you can fill your plate with endless innovative culinary options. I tried raw key lime cheesecake, several kinds of hummus, delicate seaweed salad, and cacao truffles with fresh strawberries. The time and creativity that went into these dishes amazed me. What’s more, they were delicious! Everything was fresh, and I could taste the distinctive flavors of each starring ingredient—lettuce’s buttery crunch, blackberries’ wildness. Because raw food is low-calorie, there was no guilt in going for seconds. I left every month feeling bouncy and energized, full but not weighed down.
What’s so great about raw food? Eating raw preserves vitamins (especially B and C) and minerals in vegetables that are often eliminated at high temperatures. It cuts your calorie intake dramatically, which is useful if you’re prone to eating more food than your body needs.
Raw vegetables also help you feel full longer, so you may not want to eat as much. A raw diet also minimizes fat and sodium. If you tend to chow down on salty, fatty snacks, a dose of raw could be the perfect thing to balance out your eating habits!
The most common argument made for a raw diet is that cooking destroys enzymes which are beneficial for immunity and digestion. Some of these same enzymes dissolve in your stomach, and there’s no conclusive evidence to raw foodists’ claims of eliminating toxins through their food choices. In fact, certain vegetables, such as tomatoes and carrots, include nutrients that are easier to absorb when cooked. For these reasons, medical practitioners acknowledge the benefits of integrating more raw food into your diet while keeping some cooked dishes on the menu.
A huge benefit that raw eating does offer is that it’s plant-based, a factor that studies have shown to lower your risk for chronic diseases. These range from heart disease to diabetes, from Alzheimer’s to various types of cancer, so upping your fruit-and-veggie intake is no laughing matter. Raw food proponents also claim to have more energy and feel younger. They share stories of disappearing acne, migraine elimination, and enhanced mental clarity. Amazingly, some long-term advocates and practitioners of a raw diet look 20 or more years younger than their calendar age. These people live exclusively off raw food (and happily so), but even a little can make a difference. I certainly left my raw potlucks feeling revitalized!
Peppers maintain all their sweetness, avocados keep all their richness, and your meals acquire a delightful crunch.
Because raw food involves a limited pool of ingredients, creating new recipes encourages you to forage outside your comfort zone. Raw food consists mostly of plant-based ingredients. Most of us incorporate just a few kinds of fruits and vegetables into our everyday menu planning. Through raw recipes, you’ll discover a whole world of seeds, flours, and edible vegetation out there, just waiting to be eaten. You’ll find yourself mashing different types of nuts together to make a pizza crust, or slicing zucchini up into “pasta” ribbons. Ingredients are put to improbable uses, making raw cuisine the Dr. Seuss of the culinary world.