Today is International Raw Food Day! With raw food cafes and restaurants popping up everywhere, it is safe to say that this emerging trend is taking off. Raw foodies claim that a raw food diet can increase energy levels with the promise of long-lasting health. Naturally I have become curious about this seemingly new phenomenon that promises to change your life and did a little research.
What is a Raw Food Diet?
A raw food diet will consists of primarily 75% raw food. This includes lots of vegetables, fruit, seaweed, nuts, seeds as well as sprouted foods such as legumes, seeds and grains (seen in Antioxidant Army). It can even occasionally contain raw milk, eggs, fish or even meat depending on if one is following a vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous raw diet.
Is a Raw Food Diet Better For Your Health?
Generally, the closer you get to following a raw food diet, the less processed you food will be (and less preservative and additive ridden). It will also be lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, white flour and white sugar. There is also the benefit of eliminating damaging by-products of high temperature cooking. Instead, your diet will consist of foods packed full of vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre and enzymes.
Research continues into raw vegan diets as effective therapy for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and peer-reviewed research is also available on rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. With a large percentage of the western world being overweight and obese, a raw food diet could help to eliminate most of the worst offending foods contributing to this.
What Are The Risks of Following A Raw Food Diet?
It is still important to ensure certain nutrient requirements are met such as protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iodine. Studies have shown that adequate protein levels can be achieved when following a raw food (vegan) diet, but careful planning is necessary. See my post on Getting Enough Calcium on a Dairy Free Diet for more information on this important mineral. Pregnant women should be especially careful especially if they choose to consume a raw food diet; raw milk, meat or seafood should be avoided.
The Fundamentals Behind a Raw Food Diet.
Raw foodists claim that cooking destroys food enzymes which are important for health and digestion. Health professionals will argue that the impact of food enzymes is relatively small compared to those released in our body when food is consumed (in our mouth, stomach, small intestines). Our lower stomachs are naturally very acidic, largely denaturing any food enzymes; this may not include probiotics which is a topic to be covered in subsequent posts.
Why Should I Consider a Raw Food Diet?
Remember, you don’t need to eat 100% raw to enjoy the advantages of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet that is rich in raw foods. For some populations, trying to ensure that 50% of each meal is raw would offer tremendous health benefits. This can be as easy as the addition of a salad to each meal. Eating 50% raw also makes it easier for those trying to follow a raw food diet to survive the winter months – you can have your winter warming soup AND a nice raw coleslaw on the side.
Raw food diets also teach us to get calcium for other sources like green leafy vegetables. Also to recognise sprouted legumes as a great source of protein, antioxidants and phytochemicals. And to create desserts based on fruits and nuts rather than butter and refined flour.
Environmental Considerations on a Raw Food Diet.
Please consider food miles. Eating for the benefits of a raw diet doesn’t mean you should be enjoying out of season, or tropical fruit and vegetable all year round. Being prepared and organised is the key. Preserving, canning, fermenting are all ways to enjoy raw foods all year round. Think twice about where that fresh coconut has come from, or those goji berries… Eating locally on a raw food diet creates another challenge, but the benefits are endless!
I thought I would celebrate International Raw Food Day with these delicious Spicy Nori Sticks created at the local Bliss Café. As much skepticism as there is surrounding a raw food diet I enjoy the basis of it and aim to have as many raw snacks, meals, days as possible. These nori sticks will definitely blow your mind, some may even say they taste like a mock pepperoni stick. I’d recommend them as a delicious, spicy and healthy snack option for any occasion!
Recipe for Spicy Nori Stix
Makes 16-20 sticks
Recipe by Bliss Café, Victoria
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Time To Finish: ~36 hours
Equipment needed: Food processor and Food Dehydrator*
Ingredients for Spicy Nori Stix
2 1/2 cups sunflower seeds
2 cups of carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cups brazil nuts
1/2 cup miso
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. dried chili flakes
1 tbsp. turmeric
8-10 sheets of raw nori
*If you don’t have a food dehydrator I would try and do them in an oven. You would have to keep your eye on them but they are worth the wait!
Method for Spicy Nori Stix
Soak sunflower seeds and brazil nuts for 2-4 hours. Drain.
Place all ingredients for filling (everything except nori) into the food processor and process until smooth. I had to do two batches in mine and then mixed them together in a large bowl.
Use a pair of scissors and cut the nori sheets in half parallel to the lines scribed on the sheets. Place the cut nori sheet on a work surface with the rough side facing up and the long edge facing you.
Spoon 4 tbsp. of the mixture onto the half sheet. Smooth mixture into a solid line along the length of the sheet, 1-2 inches wide.
Roll up the nori stick starting with the edge closest to you that has the pate on it. With an inch or so of nori sheet left, stick it together by wetting one end with a little water and the roll should stay closed. Repeat.
Place the freshly rolled nori stix on a dehydrator tray with seam side down. Dehydrate nori stix at 115 degree Fahrenheit for 24-36 hours.
Place in a container and store at room temperature.
Nutrition Information for Spicy Nori Stix
Per 1 out of 20 servings
Saturated Fat 1.9g
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Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.