Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What Raw Foods Have Taught Me About Cooked Foods

If you are here for 100% fully raw recipes, this might not be the post for you. If you are a person on a path, constantly changing, to find the best version of yourself this may be the post for you.

For the past two years I have been eating a 99% raw diet. Recently that has dropped to about 80%. Some people might find relevance in this, others may not. Some of the reasons for this shift relate to our adjustment to moving to Hawaii. While fruits and vegetables are plentiful year round, we also live in the northern portion of the Big Island, where in winter the selection at the farmer's market shifts a bit to greens, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins, as opposed to the mangoes and pineapples prevalent in the summers and more in the south. The truth is it is expensive to live here, and a $5 pumpkin can be enough to feed my family for 3 days. But this isn't a posting to excuse any behaviors. It is one to help people learn that cooked food doesn't have to be the root of all evil. A plant-based, whole foods diet is another healthy path to explore for those who don't feel that being 100% raw works for them.

While I recommend a raw foods diet for cleansing and detoxing, a whole foods diet can be nourishing and comforting. I would also argue that a raw diet is not always healthier than a whole foods diet. For example, in what way is a cashew agave pie a more healthful option than a plate of lightly steamed spinach? Each has its time and place, so I decide not to live my life by labels or absolutes, but do the best I can and continue to make better choices based off of experiences and obtained knowledge.

Here are some lessons that raw foods have taught me that I have now incorporated into my occasionally cooked diet. I hope you find them useful, no matter where you are on your path to wellness.

1. The only oil which is not harmful to the body when heated is coconut oil. There are countless studies scattered across the internet that all seem to agree on this point. While olive oil, hemp oil, avocado oil, and a few nut and seed oils can be digested properly raw the heating process makes them difficult for our body to take. For some reason coconut oil is one of the magic foods that goes against these rules. It is still a fat, so don't overdo it, but if you decide to cook with oil coconut is the only one I recommend.

2. Steaming is the best way to cook. Again, this is a matter of science. Compared to baking, grilling, broiling, or boiling the one cooking method which keeps food's nutrients most intact is steaming. After steaming you can always add sauces after the fact.

3. Some foods are better for you cooked. If you decide to cook food, look out for which foods might actually be healthier or more nutritious after being cooked. Cooking mushrooms removes carcinogens. Cooked spinach is higher in anti-oxidants. Certain foods like taro leaves (a new treat to me here in Hawaii) are inedible raw, as they have mild poisons which are only removed by the cooking process. Doing your research can help you make better choices as to what you should or should not cook.

4. If you can replace something with vegetables, do it. Just because you are eating cooked food means you dive into a diet of pizza and burgers. A plant-based, gluten-free, vegan diet can be healthy and rewarding. Mix cauliflower into your rice or quinoa to get more vegetables along with your grains. Add zucchini into your pizza crust. Use zoodles instead of wheat noodles. A few changes go a long way.

5. Raw and cooked are not mutually exclusive. The benefit for me of the raw foods diet was that I upped my intake of fruits and vegetables. Just because I am not 100% doesn't mean my plate has to look like it came from Kentucky Fried Chicken. I can have a large salad along with some steamed sweet potato and quinoa, and the next day go back to being raw. Balance is key.

6. Be kind to yourself. Is starving yourself kind? No. Is engorging yourself kind? No. Is guilt, restriction, inconsistency, stress, obsession, or binge eating kind? No. Respect and listen to your body. Not other people. Not society. Not parasites. Your body, telling you what you need. And you tell that body right back that it is beautiful and you love it, because it is the gift of a vessel which allows you to experience this glorious life.