So, if you read my welcome to my blog post, you’ll know that I’ve dabbled into raw food diet on and off for some years now. Raw food diet simply means eating food in it’s natural state (unprocessed, uncooked food). Heat destroys the nutrients and enzymes in food and raw foodists usually don’t heat food above 118 degrees Fahrenheit (about 48 degrees Celsius). Enzymes and nutrients in food are essential for healthy digestion and to prevent chronic diseases. Most people switch to a raw diet to loose weight, cure illnesses and allergies, or for beauty reasons. The unique thing about the raw diet is it helps you achieve your ideal weight (when done properly). In this case, if you are overweight, you loose the excess weight and if you are underweight, you gain weight till you reach the ideal weight for your body (It is sometimes used to treat anorexia).
The raw food diet is not a new phenomenon. Prior to modern culture, our ancient civilizations ate healthy balanced diets. Admittedly, this diet included fish, meat and cooked foods but they also consumed lots of leafy vegetables in their raw form. Our traditional health system was also based around natural herbs for healing. There were no chemical fertilizers or pesticides to contaminate the foods and no bioengineering to alter our foods (e.g genetically modified (GMO) foods). Over the years, our food has gotten more chemicals in forms of additives in processed foods and biotech in agriculture, reducing the nutrients in the foods we consume. When eating raw, it is important to eat organic food as much as possible to avoid a build up of toxic chemicals in your body from the chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in treating crops.
Some people choose to do a raw, vegan diet which is a plant-based diet that also involves no cooking but unlike regular raw diet, raw vegans shun all animal produce like dairy and eggs. Foods are either eaten fresh, dehydrated with low heat or fermented. Since all animal produce is eliminated on a raw vegan diet, raw vegans sometimes need to take supplements to prevent deficiency in some vitamins and minerals like vitamins B12, D and omega 3 fatty acids.
There are lots of articles out there on the pros and cons of a rawfood diet. While rawfoodist believe cooking food makes it toxic and difficult for the body to digest, causing a myriad of health problems while uncooked food provides the body with living enzymes and proper nutrition, doctors believe that some foods need to be cooked to release their nutritional benefits for example cooking tomatoes increases the antioxidant lycopene and cooking carrots increases the beta carotene. Also, cooking certain vegetables can reduce the chemical that inhibits absorbtion of important minerals in the body.
When I did the raw food diet, I noticed my energy level improve dramatically. My skin was clearer and more radiant, my stress was gone (I was really happy and felt my body come alive). My brain was super charged, and I had clarity of mind. Some other changes I noticed were:
Detox: When you first go raw, you are bound to get detox symptoms which is the process of your body eliminating toxins. This elimination can happen through your liver, skin pores or your bowel movement. As a result, you’ll feel worse before you start feeling better. The degree of your detox depends on how much toxins have been harboring in your system. I experienced slight headaches and tiredness when I first started. That was my body’s reaction to the clean foods going into my body and the toxins being cleared from my system. At a point, I had a white mucus like discharge coming out of the inner corners of my eyes (eewww! TMI? …just painting an honest picture of my experience). I assume it was gunk being cleared from my eyes. Not sure but my eyesight improved greatly.
Beauty: Did I mention that raw diet slows down the aging process? Yes, it promotes collagen production, clears up acne and blemishes giving you healthy radiant skin! Your hair will also benefit from this diet. I personally didn’t notice any change in my hair but my skin looked clearer and youthful. Indeed people who follow a raw diet are known to look 10 years younger than their actual age. You can see some amazing transformations here, here and here.
Positive Emotions: I was under a lot of stress at home and work. The first thing I noticed was that I was really calm and peaceful through out the day. I also felt really happy (woke up happy and went to bed happy). I attribute this calmness and the stable mood I had to the stabilizing effect of a raw diet on blood sugar. I was a classic example of “hakuna matata” (no worries)! On the flip side, raw diet has been known to trigger depression and emotional stress in some people. This arises from using comfort foods in the past to mask emotional issues. When you switch to a raw food diet, these comfort foods are no longer a part of your diet and as a result, the pent up emotional issues resurface and have to be treated. Either by dealing with the cause directly or seeing a therapist.
Energy: I had been suffering from chronic fatigue and I suddenly found myself with so much energy I was ready to bounce off the walls. I had to contain my self from the sudden impulse to engage in physical activities (and I got a lot of them through out the day). I had more energy than I knew what to do with.
Sleeping: I could sleep minimum 3 hours and wake up feeling like I had slept for 7 hours straight. Before starting the diet, I would wake up after 7 hours sleep feeling really tired and lethargic, feeling like I hadn’t slept a wink the entire night. One simple explanation is our body uses up a lot of energy for digestion and sleep is required to replenish our body energy. Since less energy is required digesting raw food, it therefore means that your body will require less sleep to replenish its depleted energy.
Mental Capability: I was processing things faster, my brain was working faster, I felt it could do anything. I had better mental clarity and better focus on my goals and tasks. I’ll be first to tell you I’m no Einstein but this diet gave me great mental solving capacity.
Funky Smells: Genetics has been known to play a role in body odor and certain foods can increase body odor. I noticed I didn’t need deodorant as much and no halitosis (funky breath) to contend with the entire day, my breath was fresh as air.
Being Nigerian, meat and fish have always played a HUGE part in my diet and I’m sure you’re curious as to how I managed on a raw diet. Well, for starters, I’m not a huge meat eater. I like meats and fish but I don’t feel the need to eat them with every meal (Nigerian diet sacrilege… I know). So, it was fairly easy for me to switch to raw. It was also important that fruits didn’t dominate my entire diet as the sugars in fruit can make you gain weight. The key is to find a balance and ensure you get most of the vitamins and nutrients your body requires and at the right amount need. My first rawfood experience was a detox experiment hence I didn’t go 100% raw. The only foods I had that weren’t raw were rolled oats (quaker oats) and sardines (for whenever I craved fish, meat or some salt). That being said, here’s a run down of what I mostly ate on my raw food diet.
Things I would eat:
Fruits: Oranges, bananas, pineapple, sour-sop, pawpaw, mangoes, lemon & lime, watermelons, apples, pear, tangerines, avocado
Veggies: Moringa leaves, bitter leaf, efo leaves (spinach), carrots, fresh chilli pepper ( I love chillies), tomatoes, cucumber, cabbage, lettuce, parsley, beetroot, celery
Grains and seeds: Rolled Oats (e.g regular Quaker oats), unprocessed sesame seeds,
Nuts: Raw almonds, raw walnuts, unroasted and unsalted cashew nuts
Dairy: Natural unsweetened yoghurt preferably, nono (kindirmo) which I got from Fulani herdsmen
Sweeteners: Honey, dates
Oils: Olive oil, coconut oil
Spices: Ginger, garlic, black pepper, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, cinnamon
I eliminated the following from my diet:
Tea and Coffee: I’m a huge tea drinker and a caffeine junkie. Since I was on a raw detox, I had to eliminate all stimulants from my diet
Table salt: I was unable to find natural salt so I cut out salt completely (please note that our bodies do need some amount of salt so eliminating it completely is not advised. Rather, look for natural healthier alternatives)
With rawfood diet, there is no restriction on how many times you should eat and at what quantity. You can eat as many times as you feel like during the day and night. Only, don’t overeat. Always stop eating when you start to feel full.
Here are a few tips on starting a rawfood diet:
- Research: I can’t harp enough on this! Each body is different. Research the pros and cons of a raw diet to find out if it’s for you. Also, discuss with your physician if you are considering this diet especially if you have pre-existing health conditions.
- Have an end goal: Are you going raw to improve your health? To loose weight? For detox? For clear skin? What do you hope to achieve with your raw diet? Deciding this will allow you measure the success of your raw diet and this will help keep you motivated.
- Decide how much raw you want to go: Some people start with 30% raw and go up to a 70-100% raw lifestyle. Going cold turkey (100% raw) at once is possible but tough to do.
- Plan your meals: this is really important to keep you on track. Have a meal plan and prepare some in advance to make it easier for you.
- Find markets where you can buy your food supplies in bulk (buying locally available, seasonal fruits and vegetables is cheaper)
- Be patient
- Be determined
There are a whole lot of elements to consider on a rawfood diet and as with anything health related, you should consult with your doctor before making dramatic diet changes. There are tons of information out there. I will link some articles below for anyone interested in reading further about rawfood. As with all things diet related, the trick is not to overdo it. While I got immense benefit on my rawfood detox. I also believe in cooking certain foods. Personally, I like 70% raw and 30% cooked diet. Right now, I am on a regular Nigerian diet aka Standard African Diet (SAD).
What are your diet goals? What diets have worked for you in the past and what were the pros and cons? We look forward to hearing your experience good and bad. As always, stay beautiful!
let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food – Hippocrates