It’s been a few months since our last month-long nutrition challenge, which was veganism. To kick off the New Year, we’re going for a brand new month-long nutrition challenge: a raw food diet!
What is a Raw Food Diet?
A raw food diet is a way of eating which includes only real, whole foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees F. This means that most raw food meals are prepared with the aid of a food processor, a blender, or a dehydrator (if they require equipment at all). Raw food diets include natural foods such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Raw food diets are not necessarily vegan, but I believe that most people who eat raw are likely vegan or close to it, if only for practical reasons such as avoiding bacteria in raw animal products.
Why Raw Food for a Nutrition Challenge?
Winter is probably one of the worst times to go on a raw food diet, when hot cooked foods are especially desirable. But ever since I met Amanda, a raw foodist who lives in my city, I’ve been incredibly curious about the notion of eating raw. I attended her raw food preparation class in November, which was a wonderful experience, and I have been perusing the Internet looking at raw food websites/recipes and gathering general information over the past month or so. I don’t want to wait until the summer to go on a raw food diet, even if it does mean I won’t be enjoying stews and soups for the month- because after all, it is only a month-long challenge, and cooked foods will be waiting for me come February (and yes, I assure you, the weather will still be frigid enough at that point for me to be wanting those kinds of foods). Besides, as Hanlie recently wrote about on her blog, food should not be responsible for providing warmth and comfort.
When I started telling people that I was considering going on a raw food diet, the response was generally a horrified expression. I’m amazed at the strong opinions that people have over raw food diets! It seems that most either think raw diets are the healthiest possible way to eat or else the most ridiculous way of eating. Eating raw gets even more flack than eating vegan. I find that intriguing. I do not have a very strong opinion either way about this diet, so I’d like to learn more about it to form my own opinion on raw food.
There are three main reasons why I have chosen the raw food diet as Living Healthy in the Real World’s newest month-long nutrition challenge:
1. Increase my knowledge and understanding of different diets and lifestyles.
I have some reservations about eating raw. Okay, I have a lot of reservations about it. One of the most common statements to support raw food diets is that they are incredibly healthy because the nutrients are still “alive”, so the enzymes are intact and the foods themselves are much more nutrient-dense than if they were cooked. I both agree and disagree with this. There are many nutrients which are destroyed when we cook food, but there are also many nutrients which are enhanced when we cook food, as well. Take spinach, for example. When spinach is cooked, its nutrients are made more bioavailable, which means that our bodies are better able to absorb the nutrients. However, by cooking it, some of the other nutrients are also lost in the process. Therefore, I believe that it is good to get some variety and include both cooked and raw foods in our diets, so that we can get the most nutrients from both of these forms of preparation.
One of the reasons that I embarked on the vegan challenge was to broaden my mind and learn more about a way of eating that I knew nothing about: that is what I also want to do with the raw food diet. I know very little about it, and I am very much of the philosophy don’t knock it ’til you try it. I don’t want to have a strong opinion about whether a raw food diet is healthy or not until I’ve experienced it for myself.
2. Spread awareness about food preparation.
Amanda told me that most almonds are actually heated to a level too high to be considered “raw”. Spanish almonds are the only “true” raw almonds, I believe. I find that fascinating- who knew?! Most of the food we eat has been heated above the raw cut-off point of 115 degrees F. I’m not saying that’s necessarily either a good thing or a bad thing, but I find it very interesting because I wasn’t aware of this at all until a couple months ago. The more awareness we have about the foods that we eat, and the closer we get to the preparation of our food, the better relationship we can have with the food we eat (and the entire process of it), and the healthier we will be because of it!
3. Decrease my carbon footprint.
As with the vegan challenge, I would like to decrease my carbon footprint. Between the travelling I do and the shipping of fancy products such as PB2, my carbon footprint is atrocious. If I can reduce it even a little bit over this month, I will be much happier and I think that the planet will be too.
Going on a raw food diet is going to be a little different than my past nutrition challenges. Raw food is not labelled the same way that “organic” or “vegan” foods are (although there are always issues with those labels, as well, for what can and cannot be considered “organic” or “vegan”). Raw food, in fact, is not labelled at all. In short, we don’t know when we’re eating cooked food.
So I’m going to have to use a lot of guesswork with this challenge. From what I can judge, even most brands of flaked oats are heated above 115 degrees F, but I may incorporate them into my diet on occasion. I think that I will also continue drinking tea, though I may try to cut back a little bit on my tea-drinking and swap it for lemon water. I think that it would be impossible to go 100% raw simply because of the issue that our food isn’t labelled with “raw”. My city is also not raw-friendly in the least. I think there may be one or two restaurants who will prepare a raw food meal for customers, but only if you let them know a day or two before you show up for the meal (besides, obviously, salads or eating sashimi or something like that).
I’m really excited for this challenge and I shall be posting daily what I eat, along with recipes I find/create, information that I come across in my continued research on raw food, and my personal experiences with it.
Do you eat raw? Have you tried it? Will you be partaking in this challenge with me? If you have any questions, thoughts, or advice- or if you just want to give me some moral support!- leave them in the comments
Day 30 of the 200 Reps Challenge
20 Hyperextensions (targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back)
20 Push ups with Single Leg Raises (targets the arms, butt/hips, and chest)
Perform this set ten times for a total of 200 Hyperextensions and 200 Push ups with Single Leg Raises!
For the Hyperextensions:
1. Position yourself lying on your stomach on a stability ball so that your entire torso is resting on it. Your feet should be hip width apart with just your toes on the floor, and your arms should be placed at your sides with your hands on your thighs. Keep your head in line with your torso, so that your torso and head are parallel to the ground.
2. Slowly lift your chest and shoulders off the stability ball as high as comfortably possible; move your head with them (continue looking at the ground the entire time). Your back and head should now make a long, lean line with your legs.
3. Lower your chest and shoulders. This is one rep.
TIP: Move your head in a fluid line with your chest and shoulders to prevent neck injuries. If you do not have a stability ball, you can easily do this same movement on a mat on the floor. Extend your arms out in front of you and above your head to intensify the exercise.
For the Push ups with Single Leg Raises:
1. Get into push up position on a mat, propped up on your hands and toes with your arms fully extended, body parallel to the floor, and legs out straight.
2. Lower your body to the floor as you bend at the elbows, simultaneously raising your right leg several inches off the floor. Hold this position briefly before raising yourself up to starting position. Repeat with opposite leg. This is one rep.
TIP: As always, keep your core engaged and your back straight; don’t let your backs or your hips arch or sag.