January’s Nutrition Challenge: Raw Food Diet

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.

32 Comments

  1. Given my disdain for cooking, you’d think I’d be all over the raw food experience. :)

    Lovelovelove both of today’s exercises! I impressed the heck out of a guy at the gym with my ‘leg raise’ push-ups. LOL

    The back extensions are great for those times when I’ve spent too much time at the computer and am feeling all “compacted”. When I first started doing these, I found it difficult to maintain my balance. My trainer at the time suggested placing the backs of my heels against the baseboard of the wall, which served as a sort of brace or stabilizer. Worked like a charm!

  2. Raw Foodists sometimes have the tendency to become a cult! I do not, however, feel a raw food diet is bad because of this. I eat a high percentage of my diet as raw whole foods, at least 80-90%, and think there are many advantages to this. The cooking of food has some interesting historical effects on the development of the human species, crooked teeth as only one of them. One never sees a wild animal with bad teeth :-) I don’t have “the answer,” but it’s difficult for me to feel that some cooking of our food is a problem. I understand that having a health problem can be very motivating to finding a solution. That’s all I got :-)

  3. This is an exciting challenge, and I’m really looking forward to reading about your experiences.

    I ate a high raw diet in the summer (when I taught less and had a lot more time), and I really enjoyed it. I never set out to only eat raw foods but ended up eating very few cooked foods. In the fall, my life got more hectic, and I found myself eating more and more cooked foods. I also started to want to eat cooked foods more. But my percentage of raw food right now is still a lot higher than a year ago.

    And you are right with people often falling into extremes when it comes to raw food… I find that somewhat difficult…

  4. Wow – cannot believe that you are willing to go without hot stews and soups for the next couple of months. Good luck with the challenege. You got to let us know how you are able to procure enough raw food this time of year to have nutritious meals.

  5. Cammy- That’s such a great idea with pressing your heels against a wall. A little extra coordination is very useful for these kinds of exercises! And with the kind of lifestyles that most people lead, back exercises are SO important to prevent injury.

    Dr. J- I think that there’s benefits to both eating raw and to eating cooked food. It’s important as with everything to have a healthy balance, after all. Nutrition can play a huge huge role as the solution to our health problems, too!

    Steve- Really? That’s interesting! It seems as though a lot of people find that eating raw can reverse health issues. Whether it’s the raw aspect, or because they’re eating healthy/whole foods that aren’t processed, I guess we won’t really know.

    Andrea- I used to feel SUPER strongly about certain ways of eating. I thought that vegetarianism was unhealthy. Heh. It’s amazing what you can learn when you start doing research and trying things out for yourself, isn’t it? I prefer to experience it and THEN formulate an opinion one way or the other, these days.

    Asithi- Month, singular ;) I’m loading up on the soups and stews on these last few days of December, hehe. Unfortunately much of the food I eat WILL be imported so that it’s raw, which won’t do so much for the carbon footprint reduction, BUT eating even less meat than I already do- and not needing to use the stove/oven/microwave/toaster- will certainly cut down on my energy expenditure by an enormous amount, I’m sure.

  6. I can’t wait to see how you do with this challenge! I think the most challenging part of eating raw for me would be missing the warmth of food. I feel so selfish saying that, but that is truly why I eat soup so often (and oatmeal)! I think I’d be surprised, though, because some of the raw foods I see on blogs look heavenly.

  7. Cathy- There will be some interesting new raw foods to taste-test, indeed :)

    She-Fit- Yeah, going out WILL be problematic. I think the only place I’ll be able to go is a sushi restaurant for sashimi. Or a place that serves really good salads? Heh. Yay for saving on money by not going out to restaurants!

    Mary- Thanks! Hope that it works out for your friend (and for me, hehe).

    Holly- I completely agree with you; going without hot food will be TOUGH. That’s why I’m not giving up tea. I can’t imagine a life without tea :D It will be strange not being able to have stew/soup/oatmeal. Or the boyfriend’s tasty cooking. Ah well, I suppose I can last four weeks!

    Maggie- It’s sure to be an adventure!

  8. I had a friend to tried the raw food diet, but I think dropped it because he just didn’t have the time to keep up with the shopping and preparing. Be careful, buying fresh foods every day can get expensive! I think I agree with you about the mixture of raw and cooked foods. I wonder, would sashimi be considered raw food?

    Hope you’re having a great holiday season!

  9. I had some friends who tried this when it came around to the city we lived in a few years back. One friend lost a lot of weight and become nutritionally malnourished. It was so strange – I’m not sure what she missed, but it took her a while to get back to normal after she started eating a more rounded diet.

    I applaud you for trying this and am looking forward to seeing how you find it. You know so much about nutrition that you will do great!

  10. Julie- They ARE great! But doing 400 of them (eep) is not so much fun. Heh.

    Melissa- I figure if I like salads and apples (and I do)… I’m all set ;)

    Meg- I think that sashimi is raw food. Isn’t it? It’s raw fish. I mean, a sushi roll wouldn’t be raw because it has the cooked rice and all, but if you just get plain sashimi without the extras then I don’t see how that wouldn’t count… and I’ll be living off of the cheaper raw foods like bananas and bulk carrots. Hopefully I won’t turn orange again from ODing on carrots. Tehe.

    Diane- That’s a HUGE HUGE part about this challenge- I definitely do NOT want to become deficient in any nutrients. I’ve been doing my research for months now to make sure that I’m fully prepared to get all the right micro AND macro nutrients in my diet.

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  12. Ah, Sagan, I can never understand you…you’re always taking on some challenges, that I would never be able to partake! Haha, I guess I’m those people who just wants to live comfortably. But good for you to live life fun and excitingly! I’ll just live vicariously (lazily) through you!

  13. Good luck! YOu did fantastic with the vegan challenge, and I’m curious to see how the raw diet works for you. Will it be more or less difficult? I don’t know! They both sounds hard to me. Good for you for taking it on (I don’t think I could, nor would I want to, to be quite honest). I try to eat raw as much as possible, but living with a guy makes it hard!

  14. Wow, good luck with the challenge! I look forward to reading about your adventure. I would never say never, but I don’t see myself taking the raw food path exclusively; I’m too fond of the variety offered by cooked foods. I have tried some prepared raw food products from Whole Foods and enjoyed them. There was the cheesy dehydrated kale, and they used to have these kale-cilantro crackers made with flax and sesame seeds (but I haven’t seen them in awhile).

  15. Sagan, my step-sister went to a natural healing clinic for her breast cancer. They put her on a totally raw food diet and brought her back in for periodic check ups. Since she has been on the raw food diet her cancer has gotten smaller each visit. She says she feels better and certainly looks better, but as you say, it could just be because she is eating healthier.

  16. I was on a raw food diet exclusive for nine months in 2007. I did great for the first five or six months then I started to have physical symptoms that this was probably not the right diet for me long-term. When my moods swings got so bad, that I was considering anti depressants, my hair was falling out by the clumps an my periods got heavier and extremely painful (they were not before), I decided to give up veganism for a while. My diet is still about 75%+ raw most of time, but 100% raw, 100% vegan isnt really for me. I wish it was – I loved it at the time – it just didnt love me.

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  19. After you wrote this I went and read up a little (I confess in my head I was scoffing at the idea) but it seems there are some benefits to this kind of diet so I’m really looking forward to hearing how it goes for you. I myself just love the process of cooking and preparing foods too much to even consider doing it without a bit of heat – I like the sizzles, pops etc. Best of luck and happy new year.

  20. Tracey- It will be fun coming up with creative meals!

    Sophia- Tehehe. I AM rather crazy :D

    Gina- I think that’s key: you have to WANT to do it. Pretty much every challenge I’ve done so far, I’ve enjoyed. And certainly every one that I successfully completed, I enjoyed. And I think that’s a good representation for what life should be for each of us, as well.

    Pubsgal- I’ve tried making kale chips in the oven before and I hated them, but I’m looking forward to trying a couple new kale chip recipes in the dehydrator, to see if I’ll like them now… we’ll see!

    Steve- That’s fantastic. It’s AMAZING how much we can do when we change our nutrition habits.

    Carla- Sometimes our bodies just don’t want to do what we want to, heh. It seems to be the case for many people that raw food is great for short term, but it can be harder on the body for long term.

    fd- I scoffed at it until a few months ago, too. And I definitely know what you mean about the sizzles and pops! I quite like that as well. I guess I’ll get used to the roaring whir of the food processor/blender ;)

  21. I’ll be joining you from Monday! I did it in August (which was winter here) and it wasn’t all that hard. I guess I was about 99% raw, meaning that there may have been one or two items that I didn’t know wasn’t raw. The biggest thing, for me at least, is to keep it simple.

    Good luck!

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