Raw is what’s ‘not cooked’. This is the meaning of ‘raw’, straight out of a dictionary.
Therefore, raw food is food that is not cooked.
Generally, raw food includes plants, vegetables, fruits, sprouted raw seeds, immature or fresh legumes, dried edible seeds (like pumpkin and watermelon seeds), sprouted grains, plant-based milk (like almond and soy milk), dry fruits (like almonds and raisins), edible root vegetables, raw meats, raw fish and raw eggs.
There has been an uptick in the number of raw food practitioners. In current times there are four categories:
- Those who eat just vegan raw food
- People who eat raw food and include dairy products
- People who eat raw food, unprocessed dairy products and also include raw eggs, fish and meats.
- People who eat raw food exclusively, but might include one cooked meal, for various reasons.
History of Raw Food Diets
Every food essay we read will emphasize the value we get from the food we eat. Although human beings have been changing their food habits through millennia, our simian relatives still eat raw food as do almost all other creatures. Archeological discoveries show us the plant-based menus of prehistoric humans that sustained them, as they left Africa in waves, over time. The rich variety of plants, seeds and aquatic plants, alongside other terrestrial and aquatic fauna, all contributed to the move from African-based to a Eurasian diet.
In fact, alongside this, there is also a strong belief that what distinguishes us humans from other creatures is the way we use fire to cook our food. This is believed to have fueled our unique brain, which in turn has given us so much more, language topping the list of course.
In spite of this, there has always been a strong belief in a niche group of people who believe that cooking food reduces its value. Every time we pick up a box of healthy muesli, little do we know that its creator, Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss physician and nutrition specialist, designed it specially for his patients. He called it a Raw Fruit Porridge or Bircher Muesli – it was not cooked and contained non-animal protein – and this went against popular notions of modern nutrition then.
So, why has the Concept of Raw Food Survived?
Raw food had its place in many diets, but cooked food especially heavy in fats and animal proteins were aspirational as the bourgeois ate that way. It is a fact that such food can lead to bad stomach days, to put things mildly. Frequently. The remedy was eating lean and light, which in translation meant more raw vegetables and fruits.
In the last few decades, with the industrialization of food, more people have access to fat rich meat, but this has led to chronic lifestyle diseases in modern societies. There has been a quiet revolution to reduce fats and meats in diets.
People have been exploring plant based proteins for sometime now, and also increasing their consumption of raw food, via salads, smoothies and juices. The emphasis was on raw fresh food, which has been historically known to be beneficial for the body.
Modern medicine has no easy solution for allergies, immunity issues, arthritis, chronic gastrointestinal problems, diabetes and some skin issues. Raw food practitioners claim that raw food diets go a long way in easing such problems.
About Raw Food
As human beings are omnivores and not carnivores the requirement for meat and fish for survival is not very huge. Raw food has always had its place in a meal, especially in tropical and temperate climates where vegetables and fruits grow in plenty. It’s only in the colder regions and the deserts that finding fresh vegetables has been hard. Even in such places harvesting and dehydrating berries, grasses and other flora has been well recorded.
Here are seven things to know about raw food:
- Practitioners of raw food diets believe that one can fully benefit from the nutrition available in what we eat when the food is fresh and uncooked. Cooking is believed to devitalize food.
- Raw food does not leave you hungry and craving more. Things like sprouts and lettuce can be very filling, even when the raw food diet is at its narrowest interpretation.
- There is no fear of losing out on the variety of food eaten. Eating seasonal raw food in places where there is a good demand for raw food, can be surprisingly interesting.
- Fear of malnutrition can be ruled out, if common sense and good advice is used.
- There is a group of raw food practitioners who believe that by eating raw food, one reduces the burden on the digestive system. This in turn frees up the body to self-heal, thereby restoring balance in body, mind and emotions.
- A body which is more alkaline in nature has a tendency to stay healthy and in balance. Eating more alkalizing food keeps the body from getting acidic, which in turn keeps illness at bay. Raw fresh fruits, sprouts, and vegetables are mostly alkalizing, while food high in salts, sugars and fats are generally acidic in nature.
- Raw egg, fish and meat dishes have historically been part of cuisines; sushi (seafood) being the most popular from Japan. Some of the other raw meat dishes from around the world are: kitfo (beef) from Ethiopia, carpaccio (made from veal, venison or tuna) from Italy, ossenworst (oxen) from the Netherlands, steak tartare (minced beef or horse meat) from France to name a few.
There is a myth that raw food diets make life easier. No-cook meals ought to be easy and less time consuming. Not true. Sourcing ingredients, regular shopping, making interesting meals, growing and sprouting at home – all these activities are time consuming. Just chewing on raw food takes longer!
Original Muesli – straight from the creator Maximilian Bircher-Benner
In a large bowl soak a tablespoon of rolled oats in water for 12 hours. When ready to eat, add some honey/cream. Stir in half a lemon’s juice. Grate in a large apple – skin, core and pits. Sprinkle some walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts. Keep stirring to avoid browning of the apple.
Psssst.. toss in banana slices if you like.
Gazpacho – Spanish soup for the soul
Throw in a ripe juicy tomato, some deseeded watermelon(feel free to throw in the rind), cucumbers, onion and garlic. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a spoonful of vinegar. Salt to taste. Want to add other herbs? Feel free.
Ladle it into a nice big bowl.
Enjoy it cold or at room temperature!
Food is the engine which has brought humankind to where we are today. We have eaten what our parents believed was good for us. As we grew, we morphed our eating habits as per our tastes and belief in what was best for us. In spite of having discovered fire millions of years ago and learning to cook food, we still have large portions of raw food in all our diets across the world.
With this in mind, going on a raw food diet does not seem too harsh.
A word of caution though: if you start on a raw food diet, do so after reading up or talking to others on a similar diet. Try it for a few days to make sure you can handle it well. If uncomfortable, switch back to regular food.
Enjoy your meals!
Author Bio: Sophia Sanchez is a newbie online ESL/EFL instructor. She is a passionate educator and blogs about education on her personal blog. She found her true calling — teaching — while she was juggling writing and a 9-5 desk job. When Sophia is not busy earning a living, she volunteers as a social worker.