Since I see spring as an invitation for fresh beginnings, I decided a few years ago to take advantage of the season by trying a dietary cleanse. I had been vegan for years, but there was room for improvement with my diet. I was hoping to boost my energy, get my glow back and trim down a bit as well.
While researching various cleansing diets, I found former super-model Carol Alt’s book: “Eating in the Raw: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Slimmer, Feeling Healthier, and Looking Younger the Raw-Food Way.” She has retained her vibrant beauty over time, which she attributes largely to raw foods.
After reading similar books, I decided to try a 30-day “raw cleanse,” consuming only fresh fruit and veggies, raw juices, and sprouted nuts and seeds. As the weeks passed, I felt so much better that I lost all interest in processed and cooked foods. Now, four years later, I remain devoted to this healthy lifestyle.
Consuming a raw, plant-based cuisine has improved the health of my digestive system, strengthened my immune resilience, helps me look and feel energized and vibrant and keeps me at my healthy weight—among many other benefits. What could it do for you?
Here are a five things I have learned along the way:
1. Educate yourself
Researching the raw foods approach ahead of time was hugely valuable, and I continue to seek out new books, blogs, and videos on a regular basis. I am continuously inspired by various raw food chefs and authors such as Aaron Ash, Renee Loux, Megan May and Stacy Stowers to name a few.
2. Ease in—and stay a while
I think the best way to go raw is to transition gradually, especially if you are used to cooked, refined and/or processed foods. Not only will you feel more comfortable as your system adjusts to this new way of eating, you will also be less likely to experience “detox” side effects, such as headaches and/or mild gastro-intestinal discomfort which may result from a rapid shift to large amounts of fiber-dense raw produce.
Instead, simply add a colorful salad, green smoothie, or fruit platter to your menu each day as you phase out heavier cooked items. Taking it slowly will increase the odds that you will stick with raw foods over time.
3. Stay stocked with staples
Get into the habit of keeping your fridge and pantry stocked with fresh, versatile, plant-based staples so you can create a wide range of meals and snacks quickly and easily. Here are some ideas:
- Fruit: Oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, grapefruit, mango, papaya, bananas, apples, berries, grapes, currants, figs, etc. Explore whatever is currently in season. Also, stock your freezer with berries, mango, and ripe, peeled bananas for shakes, sorbet and raw vegan “nice cream.”
- Veggies: Lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, corn, peas, celery, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, avocado, jicama, sweet onions and fresh herbs. With all produce, choose organic whenever possible, especially with the “Dirty Dozen,” which refers to the most pesticide-laden fruits and veggies.
- Nuts & Seeds: Raw almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts and pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, chia, flax and hemp seeds. Stockpile these nutritional gems for nut and seed milks, dressings, salads, entrées, parfaits, shakes and more. Enjoy them raw (opposed to roasted or blanched) as heat damages the healthy oils they contain and detracts from their nutritional value.
4. Develop anchor meals
Anchor meals and snacks can be life savers with a raw food menu. One example is a filling entrée salad with protein-rich hemp seed dressing. Miso soup is another great staple, especially in winter. It’s simple to make with unpasteurized miso paste, which is a tasty, fermented food with many health benefits.
If you wish to stay fully raw, be sure to use warm (not boiling) water when blending the miso, then mix in chopped carrot, beet, kale, or whatever veggies you like and top with hemp seeds. Raw nut and seed butters with sliced fruit and veggies make delicious, hearty snacks too. For a wider range of ideas, check out this delicious raw vegan 3-Day Meal Plan.
5. Embrace healthy fats
While I avoided fats for years, going raw taught me to embrace the right fats for optimal health and a trim bod. Raw food expert Natalia Rose says in her book “The Raw Food Detox Diet” that “a good fat is a raw fat, whereas all other fats are damaging.”
Cherie Soria, author, chef, and founder of “The Living Light Culinary Institute,” recommends avocados, raw nuts and seeds, olives, raw coconut oil, cold-pressed olive oil and hemp seed and flax seed oils. Eating healthy, raw fats in moderation will help you look and feel great, and thrive long-term with raw foods.