Where do you get your protein from if you don‘t eat meat or dairy products?
This is definitely the most common question that vegans get! But protein can be found in most foods, although some have higher contents than others. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and beans are all foods with fairly high protein content, often between 10-15%, which is the perfect combination. Fruits and vegetables are what we eat the most of but in addition we use various nuts and seeds to make crackers, cheese, cake bases, smoothies, hummus, dips and sauces. So for a raw foodist it is rather easy to ensure enough protein intake and everyone should be consuming more than the recommended daily dosage of protein by eating a typical raw food diet.
But proteins from fruits and vegetables aren’t good enough, so do vegans really get enough protein?
OK let’s take a moment and have a look at what protein is. Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids that are called peptides, connected together with peptide bonds. Each type of protein consists of approximately 20 amino acids, in various orders with various combinations of amino acids. The combinations of these chains vary because of the different roles of the proteins in the body, some become hormones, some haemoglobin, others muscle tissue etc. The amino acids are divided into two categories; those that the body can produce enough of itself are called non-essential amino acids. The rest are called essential amino acids, meaning that because the body can‘t produce enough of them for its own needs, it has to receive them from foods. There are 8 types of essential amino acids and we need them all so our bodies function correctly; if there‘s shortage of one essential amino acid, it slows down the production of a particular kind of protein or brings it to a halt, until the body receives sufficient dosage of that amino acid.
And this is where, in my opinion, the term "perfect protein" leads to the common misunderstanding of "good" and "bad" proteins. The "perfect proteins“ contain all of these 8 essential amino acids and can be found in meat and dairy products. The "imperfect proteins” lack one or more of the essential amino acids and yes, they're the ones that come from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds etc. There is however no difference in the quality of these amino acids and the body makes no difference of whether they come from plants or animal tissue because it can utilise them equally well. Unfortunately, this has led to the misunderstanding that vegans never consume good enough proteins. That could of course happen if someone would limit their intake to one type of fruit or vegetable for the rest of their lives, then they‘d always lack some of those essential amino acids. But no one does that, of course. We eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and seeds, all of which contain different types of essential amino acids and therefore we do consume more than enough of perfect proteins!
From where do you get calcium on a Raw Food diet?
Dark green, leafy vegetables are very high in calcium, such as kale and spinach. Sesame seeds, Chia seeds and Flax seeds contain the most calcium of the seeds and almonds, coconuts (the pulp) are very good sources of calcium too. Most fruits also contain some calcium, in various portions but, surprisingly, citrus fruits have an especially high level of calcium!
From where do you get iron from Raw Food diet, if not from meat?
A number of people don’t eat meat, even though they’re not Raw Foodists, and still get enough of iron from their diet. Almost all vegetables contain iron, especially greens and cabbage, such as broccoli, kale, aubergine etc. We can make all sorts of juices and smoothies from green vegetables if you’re overwhelmed by chewing all these vegetables! Sesame seeds and cashews are also very rich in iron and we use both a lot in drinks and bases for solid foods. Sundried tomatoes and apricots have especially high levels of iron too and I use both quite a lot in my recipes. The best thing is however that pure cacao is very rich in iron so raw food chocolate and raw food chocolate icing are both great treats and great sources of iron!
From where do you get Vitamin D?
Your body needs Vitamin D to process calcium from your food, as well as to reinforce your immune system. Vitamin D deficiency has become much too common in the western world lately and, aside from people’s diets, it is yet another indication of how much our foods lack real nutrition. The human body produces Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight but nowadays, because of the harm it can do in excess, people avoid the sun unless when wearing high SPF sun screen. That can lead to the body not getting enough of the sun rays it needs to produce Vitamin D. Through vegan diet, mushrooms is the only food that contains Vitamin D so I recommend that you take Vitamin D supplements during times when you can’t enjoy the sun without sun block for 20-30 minutes daily, and that you do so regardless of what diet you’re on.
Isn’t it difficult to chew all these vegetables and fruits?
I'm sure it is if you try to get all the nutrition you need only from chunky pieces of vegetables and fruits and that you’d quickly give up then. But thankfully, you don’t need to; you can drink fresh juices or smoothies, eat soup, hummus, pesto and dips, use the pulp from juicing vegetables and fruit for making bread, burgers and such, you can marinate vegetables to soften them up and on top of that, we use the food processor a lot. In most ways, Raw Food meals simply resemble other kinds of meals; they’re not at all about gnawing raw vegetables.
Are Raw Foodists more bloated and gassy than others?
Not that I have noticed! Flatulence is a very natural thing and its frequency and volume varies between individuals. People have different reactions to different foods and there’s so much more than cooked or uncooked vegetables that can cause increased gas. Individuals who make drastic changes in their diets and are not used to eating much of fruit and vegetables in general might notice increased flatulence to begin with but it only takes a little time to allow the digestive system to adjust to the change. Perhaps the digestive tract and the colon are being properly cleansed for the first time because of more fibre-rich diet and an intake of seeds, and that might cause increased flatulence for a while? Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt that the Raw Food diet encourages better digestion, regular bowel function and a cleaner colon, which in return reduces bloating and flatulence in the long run.
Don’t I need to buy a lot of expensive kitchen equipment?
Isn't your kitchen full of equipments already? Most households own a blender and a food processor and that's already a great start to making Raw Food dishes. A juicer makes life a bit easier but it’s very simple to squeeze citrus fruit the old-fashioned way, or use the blender/food processor and then squeeze the fruit out using a nut milk bag etc. A food dehydrator isn't necessary unless you really want to dive in and make raw crackers, bread and snacks and such. It certainly increases the options of food preparations but with a little knack, you can use your regular oven for food drying at low temperature. But look at it this way: if you decide to go 100% Raw, you can sell the oven, the stove, the microwave, your toaster, the sandwich maker and your pots and pans and buy other kitchen equipment instead. ;-) But I do admit, it’s much more fun preparing Raw Food with great equipment and a powerful blender is absolutely at the top of the list.
Can you go out for dinner and parties with food if you’re a Raw Food Vegan?
Nope, you have to isolate yourself and only socialise with other Raw Foodists…JOKE! All restaurants have salads on their menus and usually I can explain to the staff what I eat and what not and get in return a big portion of succulent vegetables. Given notice that a Raw Foodist is to be expected, chefs usually serve me wonderfully appetizing dishes, it only depends on how creative they are and how much effort they make. Sometimes, I have a little something to eat before I go out and I often keep a snack in my handbag, just in case. And when people invite me round for dinner or parties, the hosts are normally very interested in what they can offer for me to eat. In all this time, it’s only happened once that my family was invited to a banquet where there was absolutely nothing on offer that we could eat. Very often I volunteer to bring some dish to a dinner party or a cake for a family gathering, and people are normally very keen to try it. At the end of the day, it’s just a matter of attitude; if you make the decision that your diet won’t be a problem, it won’t be.
Do Raw Foodists have bad breaths, and green tongues?
No, why on Earth would that be?
Do you never miss having warm food and drink on cold winter days?
Not really. I make sure I eat enough to give my body energy to burn, and I keep warm. During winter, we eat meals that contain more of nuts and seeds, which provide more energy to burn. We also allow ourselves to have some tea from hot water, although I never boil it. But when eating Raw, you can still have foods that make you a little warm. If you keep the blender going for a while, it’s inevitable that the motor produces enough heat to make the contents of the jug a little warm and so we can have tepid soups and “gravies” and warm drinks such as spiced cocoa milk which is one of our favourites. Remember, you’re allowed to heat the food up to 46°C, which is quite a lot. Just think about how hot your bath water can be and that’s even cooler, so imagine eating soup that’s 45°C, it’s a perfectly pleasant temperature for soup.
What can you offer your overnight guests and visitors to eat?
Exactly the same food as my family has! Raw food diet is very diverse and everybody can find something they like. In my experience, our visitors are usually just curious about trying our food and willing to taste everything. And then they’re usually pleasantly surprised and impressed by how good it is.
You all must be terribly thin and pale, right?
Does it look like it in the photos and videos? Although my husband dropped quite a lot of weight when he switched to Raw food, he’s definitely not abnormally slender, nor is anyone else in the family. We “fill out nicely” and can’t be described as skinny; both my kids are big and strong for their age. I’d describe us as looking healthy, with good complexion and no dark circles around the eyes. The Raw food has improved the clarity of our skin and the whites in our eyes, since taking up this diet we've never been healthier and we very rarely get sick.
Can people with nut allergy take up Raw food diet?
Absolutely, you can make incredible food using fruit, vegetables, seeds, grains and seaweed.
How do you cope when you crave for a juicy burger and fries, or a pizza, a BBQ steak or a hot dog and a sip of a cold Coca Cola?
I never have those cravings! Once you've cleansed your body from the contents in these foods that cause you to crave for them again (salt, sugar, trans fats etc.), your body doesn't want them anymore. If your meals are sensibly put together and you make sure you’ll get all the important nutrients, steer clear of additives such as refined sugar, your blood sugar and appetite remain stable and cravings become a thing of the past. Apart from anything else, I've already come up with my own version of pizza, which I think tastes much better than traditional pizzas leave me feeling much better after I've eaten them.
Do you never miss eating candy?
I never really want to eat sugared candy. As I explained in my answer here above, you don’t crave such foods (although I find it hard to call candy “food”) once you've ridded your body of them. But I often make all sorts of nibbles, that you could call “candy”, from nuts and sweet fruits etc. Raw chocolate is absolutely delicious and I use chocolate sauce and glaze all the time in cakes and desserts. You don’t have to worry, when eating Raw you still get your necessary dosage of chocolate!
Isn’t it dangerous to feed children Raw food only?
It’s always a challenge to prepare food for children who are growing and developing and in fact a great responsibility for us parents. It’s very important that they get good, daily nutrition which serves the needs of the body. Raw food is therefore well suited, as the nutrients remain intact in the food, ensuring maximum quantities for those little bodies to absorb. It’s important to keep the food well balanced and not get stuck with making the same dishes over and over again. But that goes for any sort of diet as well! I choose to give my children multivitamins too, but I also did that when we were eating cooked food.
Doesn’t it take up an awful lot of time to make Raw food? You must spend most of your time in the kitchen?
To begin with I spent an increased amount of time in the kitchen, I admit. That’s when this was all so new to me and I was learning and developing recipes and ideas of food for the whole family. But once you get the hang of it, it’s no more time consuming than when cooking food. In fact, it often takes less time to prepare a meal because I don’t have to wait for the food to get cooked or baked. When making something that requires drying in the dehydrator, then yes, I need to be organized and start in advance. For instance, when making Anthony’s favourite pizza, I need to start making the base the night before and leave it in the dehydrator. But it’s a good idea to take the time every now and again and fill the dehydrator with crackers and breads, cereal and dried snacks to stock up. And to keep a stock of ready-to-eat pesto, sauces and dips in the fridge saves a lot of time. But I don’t regret the time I spend in the kitchen, that’s when I'm laying the foundation of my family’s health and so is the best health insurance I could ever invest in.
What are enzymes?
They are biological catalysts that help with digesting the food. They’re really the life force in our foods.
Why are enzymes so important?
Because they assist with the digestion and the absorption of our food. If you eat food that is devoid of enzymes, your body can’t utilise all the nutrients from the food.
Is there a difference between Raw food and Lifefood?
Both Raw foods and Lifefoods contain enzymes. However, the levels of enzymes in Lifefood are much higher. Raw nuts and seeds, that haven’t been treated in any way, contain enzymes which are “asleep”, so to speak. We can activate them, or “awaken” them by soaking them in water and ideally allow them to sprout a little bit. And that’s when we've turned them into Lifefood.
What about organic foods?
I try to pick organic produce whenever possible. I feel it’s especially important for the foods that I juice. Mass produced, non-organic products are usually sprayed at various stages with pesticides and grown in soil with synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals that may be toxic and harmful for our bodies. A lot of non-organic foods are also genetically engineered, which is something we can’t possibly know what might do to our bodies in the long-run. Fruit and vegetables that have been transported a long way before reaching the consumers are often coated with wax to keep them looking fresh for longer and have been x-rayed, whereas organic foods are produced without all these harmful chemicals, are not x-rayed or wax coated and, on top of everything, taste better as well as being more nutritious. So for me, it’s part of investing in the best health insurance possible, to buy organic food for your family.
Do I have to go organic if I go raw?
No, you don’t have to. But I do recommend that you choose organic foods whenever you can.