Raw! Raw! Sis-Koom-Bah!

7 Jun

Today was my last day on the raw foods diet.  I decided to cut the week a day early in the interest of keeping the other weeks even (and moving on from this expensive trial).  I will have 8 days to dedicate to each remaining level of dysphagia.

Sins to confess:  None!  For one whole week, I was a saint! 😉  I admitted up front that I wasn’t going the 100%! route, so I’ve nothing to divulge.

What I ate my last day on the raw foods diet:

*Breakfast: ~1/2 lb red seedless grapes, 6 oz container of blueberries eaten on slices of banana (2 bananas total)  Yikes!  Sugar high…

*Snack: 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

*Lunch: 1 peach (or nectarine…I couldn’t tell), ~1 lb strawberries (that’s right folks, almost an entire container!), 2 kiwis

*Supper: Lots ‘o salad! with cucumbers, carrots, chives, romaine lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeneos, bean sprouts, radishes, spinach, leek greens, fresh herbs & greens mix, green peppers, celery, mushrooms, & pea pods.  Woo!  Going wild on my last raw supper! (Derek participates in a bimonthly “cook-off” with friends.  The theme for this week’s gathering was salads, so I was able to attend!  In 2 weeks, it’s pizza.  Mechanically altered pizza?  We’ll see how that one goes… )

*Bedtime snack: 2 giant heaping spoonfuls of almond butter (So nummy!)

Binges: Fruit and fat…but all totally justified and allowed on this diet 😀

Lessons Learned:  Overall, I found the raw foods diet to be less difficult than I expected.  I kept waiting for insatiable hunger to sneak up on me, but it never came.  I can think of a few reasons why this might have been the case.  For one thing, I tended to eat more throughout the day.  I did a lot of snacking.  I prefer to eat 3 squares a day with an occasional mid-morning snack, so constant munching felt a bit out of the ordinary.  I also ate a LOT of water & fiber packed foods and fat.  All of these can help a person feel more satiated.  Finally, I was so worried about not consuming enough calories that I often tracked ’em!

My digestive system wasn’t too impressed by the abundance of sugar, fat, & fiber (surprise, surprise!), but I actually figured out a way to lessen the discomfort.  Among the raw foods community, there’s a lot of talk about proper food combining.  The mentality behind these rules is based on the ways in which different types of foods are digested.  For example, one of the biggest sins is eating fruit for dessert (I thought this was healthy?!  Damn you diet world and your contradictions!)  Fruit is said to digest very quickly (within 30 minutes to 1 hour).  The expectation is that other foods that take longer to digest will block the fruit and allow it to ferment, causing gas and bloating.  In any case, I did find my stomach to be far less bloated when I followed food combining rules by keeping my fruit meals and fat meals separate.  You don’t have to be a raw foodist to benefit.  For more info on food combining, check out the chart on this blog: http://feelingfitwithdana.blogspot.com/2010/04/reader-request-food-combining.html

Overall, I found the mini-raw foods experiment to be a worthy endeavor.  It was nice to just rinse off a bunch of fruit and call it a meal.  No dishes!  Sometimes, it took half an hour to eat though, and the cost was pretty insane.  Plus, I’m still not on board with the idea that if it it’s raw, it’s amazing for you.  Various toxins and dangerous microbes are destroyed by cooking (and this is a good thing!)  In the book  Coffee is Good for You: The Truth About Diet & Nutrition Claims, the author (Dr. Robert Davis) reports on a woman who was hospitalized for eating lots of raw bok choy.  Bok choy contains compounds that have the potential to harm the thyroid gland in large amounts, but these are denatured by cooking.  This doesn’t mean that a person should never eat raw bok choy.  It’s just an illustration of the potentially ideal nature of a mixed cooked and raw foods diet.  I’m not here to tell you how to eat, so if you find that a raw foods diet suits you, so be it.  A guide that you may find useful is the book Becoming Raw.  It’s written by 2 registered dietitians:  Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina.  For a frank discussion about common pitfalls of a raw foods diet, check out this site: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/troublesh/troubleshooting-1a.shtml  As for the rest of us, taking on the habit of enjoying a humongous salad or pounds of fruit for a meal (if able to do so) wouldn’t be the worst habit we could incorporate into our daily routine. 😉

Bonus! Recipes!:

There are a lot of really cool raw food recipes out there.  Some of the ideas I find most intriguing include grating a jicama for “rice”, making pie crusts with ground almonds and dates, and using a spiralizer to create squash “pasta”.  During my 6 day experiment, I stuck with whole fruits, vegetables, and a couple of store-bought seed & nut products (mostly out of laziness).  I have tried some fun raw food recipes in the past, however.  Check out the plethora of raw food cookbooks (@ your local library!) and/or raw recipes from the interwebulars (I know that’s not a real word.)  Here are 5 of my favorites to get you started:

#1. (100% Raw) Smoothie from the Black Lagoon (Aren’t I clever? ;-)) – Makes: a bunch!  Share with a friend, save some for later, or be brave and drink it all in one sitting.  If you pace yourself and are used to consuming a decent amount of fiber, it shouldn’t be too much of a shock to your system.

Tip: I find smoothies to be more refreshing & enjoyable if they are ice cold.  To achieve this result without ice, use frozen berries and/or prefreeze your banana(s).  Make sure to peel those suckers & store them in a freezer-friendly container.  Trying to remove the peel when the banana is already frozen is not fun (Learn from my mistakes!)

*1-2 medium bananas

*6 oz fresh/frozen blueberries

*1 cup destemmed dinosaur kale (any type will do – I just think dino kale is the coolest sounding and looking 🙂 )

*1-2 cups destemmed collard greens (about 2 large leaves)

*~1 cup water

*1/2 tsp spirulina (optional)

Dump all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  There might be some smaller pieces of greens in your finished product so be weary of the possibility of needing to chew a little as you chug.  This particular recipe is food combining friendly, but feel free to play around with the amounts & types of greens to find a sweetness level you find satisfactory.  If the idea of buying collard greens & kale is foreign and frightening to you, use baby spinach instead (or buck up and give ’em a try! ;-))

#2. Coconut Breakfast Cakes (Makes 4 pancakes/servings)

Last summer, I started getting curious about raw food recipes and came across Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen cookbook.  I found an interesting (& tasty!) gluten-free pancake recipe.

Created by Ani Phyo (raw foods chef):

*3 cups flax seed meal (You can grind whole flax seeds yourself using a coffee/spice grinder.  Grind 2 cups whole flax seeds for proper yield.)

*2 Tbsp liquid coconut oil

*1/2 cup real maple syrup (not technically “raw”)

*1/2 tsp sea salt

*1/4 cup water

Mix and form 4 balls.  Flatten into pancake shape.

#3. Cheater’s Almond Milk

I don’t trust big companies who use “natural flavors” in their almond milk.  Plus those versions are not raw.  I prefer to make my own.  To make almond milk at home, you usually have to go through a number of steps: soaking almonds overnight, possibly removing the skins, blending and straining.  Phew!  Hence the need for a “cheater’s” version…

I believe I got this recipe from Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourles.

Blend 3 Tbsp raw creamy almond butter with 2 cups of water.  Store in an airtight container in fridge for up to 4 days.  Shake before using.  Voila!

(This milk might still be a bit gritty for drinking but works great as a topping for cereal or as an ingredient in recipes calling for milk/milk alternatives.  Otherwise, for proper straining, use a “nut bag”.  I still haven’t acquired one of these and instead use a clean white dish towel or layers of cheesecloth.  If you want it to be sweet, you can add some raw honey, raw sugar, or dates to the mixture before blending.  You can use this same recipe with pecan, walnut, cashew butters… Mmmmm)

#4. Vegan Melted “Cheese” – From: Eat Smart Eat Raw by Kate Wood (@ least I think that’s where it’s from)

This is tasty on raw and cooked foods alike!

*2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

*2 oz ground flaxseeds

*1 Tbsp raw tahini

*2 Tbsp water

Mix in bowl & add water until you’ve reached the desired consistency.

#5. Pad Thai (Serves 2) From: Raw Food for Real People by Rod Rotondi

This dish was awesome when I made it!  So fresh tasting and delicious!  (Just make sure that your digestive system is up for the job!)

For the “Noodles”:

*2 medium mangoes, julienned (cut into thin strips)

*1 medium bell pepper (not green), thinly sliced

*Meat of 3 medium young coconuts, thinly sliced (I’ve tried working with whole coconuts, and it sucks!  I just used dried coconut and it still turned out delectable.)

*1/2 tsp sea salt

*Juice of 1 medium lemon (~1/2 cup)

*1 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil

[Side note: some raw foodists avoid green peppers, because they are unripe by nature.  Green peppers are the prequels to red, orange, and yellow peppers.  Betcha didn’t know that! (Okay, maybe a few of you did.)]

Toss all ingredients together and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes.  Meanwhile make your spicy nut sauce:

*1 cup nut milk (see above)

*2 Tbsp nama shoyu (substitute tamari/1 Tbsp miso paste to make gluten free)

*1/4 cup cold-pressed olive oil

*1/4 cup grated dry coconut

*1-1″ piece peeled fresh ginger

*1 medium clove garlic

*1/4 cup chopped dates

*1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (~1/2 cup)

*1/2 tsp sea salt

*1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

*Finely chopped walnuts & chopped fresh cilantro for garnishing

Blend until smooth.

Pour any excess liquid off of “noodles” and toss with spicy nut sauce.  Top with garnishes.

Sources are mentioned throughout this post, but if you would like additional information, just let me know 🙂

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