Getting Started on a Raw Food Diet
For those who may not know from previous posts, 3 years ago I founded a raw vegan food delivery business in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Cocina Verde). Since then I’ve had many people come to me interested in a cleaner, healthier lifestyle with the raw food diet in mind. However, the majority of people aren’t quite sure how to get started, beyond the pre-made meals they can order from my company on a weekly basis. Whether you are someone who is interested in going 100% raw, 75% raw or just wanting to incorporate a bit more raw into your healthy diet, I’ve put together some tips to support you on your journey.
First off, it’s always good to have a reminder as to why you want to go raw or go "more" raw in the first place. The raw-live food diet consists of fresh unprocessed and uncooked whole plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains, beans and sea vegetables. By preparing foods at a temperature under 110F (44C), you are able to maintain the integrity/molecular structure of the food and preserve the enzymes, vitamins and phytonutrients present in raw, living food.
The benefits experienced by those who eat a primarily raw-live food diet (75% or more) are better health, increased energy, better skin, improved digestion, weight loss, reduced rate of heart disease. Overall, many say that they look and feel younger and that long-term health problems begin to disappear.
Additionally, those consuming raw-live foods only need about 50% the quantity they would normally eat when consuming cooked foods as the body gets the nutrients it needs and feels more satisfied with fewer calories.
Tips for Transitioning to a Raw Food Die. Educate Yourself
It’s extremely important that you understand what you are doing when you start a raw food diet. This type of diet requires pre-planning and a knowledge of which foods you’ll need to obtain all of your nutrients. There are excellent plant sources for 99% of your nutritional needs, but it’s important to learn them and also ensure that you are always eating a varied diet. Many people are following a raw food diet these days, so there is plenty of information online and in books. You can also attend lectures and cooking classes in most cities around the U.S.
2. Learn Your Personal Nutritional Requirements
Not everyone has the same nutritional needs. Some people require more protein than others, some more fats, some more carbohydrates for energy. There are several ways/systems to assess your individual nutritional needs such as metabolic typing, Ayurveda body type/doshas, how fast you oxidize glucose, blood type, etc. There are some questionnaires online that can help you get started, however ultimately learning your body requirements takes time and dedication no matter what diet you are on. However, the wisdom you gain will be invaluable for life and give you the best chance of achieving optimal health.
3. Prepare Your Kitchen and Stock Up
Although not required, there is some kitchen equipment that will make your food preparation easier such as a food processor, high-speed blender, mandolin, spiralizer, juicer and even a dehydrator if you’re interested in making your own crackers, wraps, pizza crusts, bread and sweets. Although you certainly don’t need to own all of these items to begin a raw food diet, they are helpful for quick preparation and making foods to have on hand when you’re hungry (a very important step to ensure success at the beginning of your transition).
4. Go Slow
There are very few people who can go to a 100% raw food diet overnight. For most it is a gradual process of incorporating more and more raw foods over time. As you begin to experience the benefits, it will naturally become easier. Be forgiving with yourself and view your health and diet as a lifelong journey.
5. Consider Supplements
Early I mentioned that a plant-based diet can provide 99% of the nutrients your body requires. However, B-12 and possibly Vitamin D3 (if you don’t get regular sun exposure) should be regularly monitored and/or supplemented if necessary for those who are 100% vegan. Even though there are plant-based sources of B-12, they have recently been discovered to be analog forms that can block the absorption of the human active form our bodies need. Your best bet is to supplement with methylcobalmin patches (placed behind the ear twice a week). Don’t let the need for B-12 discourage you from a raw food diet. The benefits of avoiding today’s animal products for outweighs the extra effort required to obtain Vitamin B-12 in alternative ways.
6. Know How to Integrate
Take the time to plan for restaurant outings and dinner parties. Rather than isolate yourself from social outings, know which restaurants offer something that works within your diet. One trick is to eat something before going out to ensure that even if you find very little on the menu, you’ll feel satisfied and able to enjoy the social experience. It’s also important to learn how to respond to questions from friends and family who may not understand why you’ve chosen to change your diet or simply don’t share in your commitment to health and wellbeing. If in the end, you feel like eating something that’s not part of the "diet", don’t punish yourself. Just by eating this way the majority of the time, you are already doing wonders for your health and energy. A slip here and there won’t have any long-term impact. Be kind to yourself.
7. Create a Support System
Find others who are on the same path as you, share your experiences and support one another. A support system is important for anything you commit yourself to in life whether it be your diet or something else that interests you.
Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.