By Brenda Richter
Whole fresh foods are ideal because they are closest to their natural form and are in a state in which the nutrients are at their best. Whereas, processed foods and cooked food often include preservatives, low-grade quality foods or fillers and food that has been modified from its original state, which results in a loss of nutritional value.
The same is true when one considers the shelf life of our foods. The longer food sits on a shelf—in a bottle, in a box or bag—nutritional value decreases. It isn’t just the nutrient value that is compromised by a long shelf life or processing foods—we also lose the valuable enzymes in our foods, which are important to digestion.
When you eat foods that lack living enzymes, your body has to work to create them, and this, in turn, drains your energy levels because then your body has to work to create enzymes, which also causes stress. Enzymes are present in whole foods, not processed foods.
Sometimes people say to me, “You eat like a rabbit”—eating rabbit food, that is. What people do not realize is I am eating easy-to-digest foods that contain enzymes and food that contains the best nutrient value, while tasting great, too!
Oftentimes, people in North America grocery shop with the idea, “I can do more with my dollar by getting more food with less money.” Yet, this often involves choosing foods with empty calories that offer little value in terms of nutrition. Nutrient density describes the ratio of calories to the nutrition your body gets from consuming them.
Choose foods with high nutritional value, and you will notice how much better you feel. In raw foods, you do not need to be as concerned with the caloric value of the food you eat because once your body recognizes quality, nutrient-dense food, you receive a signal that you are satisfied and, therefore, are less likely to overeat. By continually feeding your body quality, nutrient-dense foods that you need and the body requires, food cravings subside. Food cravings are a sign that it is not getting sufficient nutrients.
Eating nutrient-dense foods reduces stress and allows the body to conserve energy that can be used as fuel and building blocks. Helpful hint: focus on including nutrient-dense foods, not what you are excluding because once you eat enough foods, you will not have room for the bad ones, and you will not feel deprived.
Whole raw foods are not only nutrient-dense with living enzymes, but they are easily assimilated, which provides you with the greatest amount of energy with the valuable minerals and vitamins once the food has been digested.
There is always some debate about almost every subject. In raw foods, some of the concerns, or should I say “myths,” with a plant-based diet are the lack of calcium, B12, iron or protein when compared to a meat-eater’s diet. Be aware, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and protein are all found in plant-based food sources and are more bio-available and easily absorbed.
Plant-based calcium sources include: leafy greens like kale, chard, arugula or romaine lettuce, almonds or tahini. For iron: legumes, quinoa, spinach, leafy greens and pumpkin seeds. For B12: Red Star Nutritional Yeast, chlorella and miso.
Fiber-rich carbohydrates (vegetables!) are the foundation of a stress-reducing diet that will enable you to feel your best. Green, leafy vegetables are most important but also include a variety of leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Try cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, red cabbage, brussels sprouts, turnips, bell peppers, (not green, as these are unripe peppers), carrots, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, yams and sea vegetables (like dulse, kombu and wakame seaweed). Dulse flakes are great to sprinkle on a salad!
Raw foods are more than plain vegetables and pieces of fruit; imagine chocolate mousse,
“not” tuna pate, or zucchini noodles marinara all made exclusively from fresh fruits, veggies or natural fats like avocados, nuts or seeds. Check out my class, Forget Cooking. Go to myrawenergy.com or call (815) 543-1207 for more details.
Brenda Richter is a graduate of Living Light Culinary Arts Institute, where she received her certification as a Raw Culinary Arts associate chef and instructor. She’s passionate about sharing the living foods lifestyle with others, and teaches raw culinary arts classes in the Rockford area.
From the Mar. 3-9, 2010 issue