The raw deal

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Curious about super-healthy ways to eat — but don't want to feel deprived? First up in our three-part series: how to go raw, without selling your stove

brigitte Mars is her own best advertisement for her book Rawsome! Maximizing Health, Energy and Culinary Delight With the Raw Foods Diet (Basic Health Publications). At 57, the Boulder, Colo.-based herbalist is lithe and toned, with clear blue eyes, smooth skin and luxurious long hair — and an unwavering upbeat attitude. As a longtime holistic healer who's written 13 books about herbs (her latest, The Sexual Herbal: Prescriptions for Enhancing Love and Passion, was published in December), Mars has tried plenty of health-oriented diet plans, including macrobiotics and veganism. When she started incorporating raw foods into her diet in 2000, Mars quickly noticed an increase in her energy and a marked improvement in her overall health — and she's been sold on raw ever since. "I've never seen such great results," she raves.

Raw food helped me get younger, smarter and more beautiful!" "Raw food enthusiasts like Mars extol a diet rich in fruits, nuts and vegetables — foods that offer an incredible array of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients no matter how you slice, dice or sauté them. But when they're served raw — that is to say, not heated above 114° F — they also deliver a benefit you can't find anywhere else: enzymes.
Rah-rah raw

When you heat a food to higher than 110° F, its natural enzymes are obliterated, says Paula Pavelka, R.N., C.H.C., integrative nutritionist and health counselor in Knoxville, Tenn. That's not necessarily a problem, but it is a lost opportunity: "We all need enzymes in order to digest food and to get maximum nutrition from what we eat," Pavelka explains. "With more enzymes in your stomach and intestines, your digestion can operate optimally and you'll improve your health. You might even lose a little weight, since you'll be able to achieve peak nutrition with less food!"

Each of us is born with an abundant supply of our own digestive enzymes, but they diminish over time, according to Pavelka. Some of that is due to the natural aging process, but the depletion accelerates if you're eating the standard American diet. "Processed foods and medications — most notably over-the-counter antacids — rapidly deplete your natural enzyme reserves," she says. When you lose them, they don't come back; the only way to replace enzymes. Pavelka says, is to take them in supplement form (as is often recommended by naturopathic physicians) or eat raw foods.

The health claims associated with the latter path are so impressive that they almost border on hyperbole. Mars, for instance, says a raw diet can help improve (or prevent) eczema, allergies, bad breath, asthma, depression, psoriasis, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, hormonal imbalances and even autoimmune disorders.

Could there be truth to these claims? Yes, says Pavelka, despite a lack of studies in the field. "Most of us don't realize that much of the immune system resides in the gut," she explains. "When you strengthen your gut by adding enzymes to your diet, you enhance your ability to fight off diseases — including cancer."

Of course, no one would prescribe raw foods as a frontline treatment for cancer. But if you're coping with frequent infections or simply feeling more run-down than you'd like, it might be worth downing a little more of the uncooked stuff. "I'm not dealing with colds like when I was younger; my digestion has improved and my skin tone has improved," says Matt Amsden, author of the go-to guide RAWvolution: Gourmet Living Cuisine (William Morrow), who's eaten a 100-percent raw food diet since 1998. "I've got an incredible amount of energy and real mental clarity — it feels like a fog has sort of lifted."
Raw materials

Even if the benefits of raw food appeal to you, chances are you view the diet in one of two ways: boring (endless crudités, salads, and bananas eaten straight from the peel) or daunting (requiring a complete lifestyle upheaval). Truth is, the diet is neither.

The raw food movement has given rise to a whole new kind of cuisine, one replete with its own sophisticated flavor profile, secret ingredients and "cooking" techniques (such as marinating, sprouting, dehydrating and blending) that make the food more digestible and delicious.

And it's not an eat-all-raw-or-no-benefits-for-you kind of thing. Even Amsden, who — as owner of the fashionable Euphoria Loves RAWvolution cafe in Los Angeles — is something of a raw food poster boy, agrees. "There are no absolutes," he says. "You don't have to leave one camp and join another."

That's good news for those of us who would like to rev up with raw foods but can't imagine life without an occasional stew or stir-fry. Here are six ways to do raw right.

1. Keep it simple Raw foods can be as complicated as you'd like them to be — and you can spend hours thinly slicing your own sweet potato "pasta" or dehydrating raw "bread." But Mars recommends making it easy on yourself. Most of her raw diet staples, such as smoothies, can be put together in minutes. "You can start simply with a leafy green salad once a day, tossed with a fresh herb, olive oil and cold-pressed cider vinegar dressing," she says. "Take it from there."
2. Stick with the seasons Spring and summer are great "starter" seasons for raw food novices. "If you want to do a spring cleanse but aren't up for fasting, a few days of eating raw can do the trick," says Pavelka. Because raw foods contain a lot of water and are cooling to the body, they're at their most healing when eaten at their late-summer peak.

On the flipside, eating too many raw foods in the winter can be problematic, says Bill Reddy, LAc, DiplAc, who serves on the board of directors of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. "According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it's detrimental to be eating cold foods when it's cold outside," he says. "It can actually make you susceptible to illness." Pavelka concurs: In cold weather, you need foods that can help warm up your body to stay healthy.

3. Consider your constitution As with everything in life, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healing tradition, cautions that some people just aren't cut out to go raw 24/7.

"I see many patients who feel great after their first month on a raw diet," says Vaijayanti (Jay) Apte, founder of the Ayurveda Institute of America in Foster City, Calif. "But after six months of eating raw foods, they come into my clinic wondering 'Why am I anxious? Why is my skin breaking out?' These are signs of vata disturbance."

Vata is one of Ayurveda's three doshas, the energies that govern human life. In very general terms, they are vata (air and ether), pitta (fire and water) and kapha (water and earth) — and each of us tends to be dominated by one or the other. Especially if you're a primarily vata type (creative, anxiety-prone, thin and cold by nature), you need to be careful not to get carried away. "When vatas overdo it with raw foods, they may get light-headed, lose their hair, become constipated," Apte says. "You have to know when to stop."

If you don't know your dosha, take our quiz at naturalhealthmag.com/ doshaquiz. Or just use common sense, says Pavelka. "Stay in touch with your body's reaction to what you're eating," she recommends. "If you feel like you need to have a piece of salmon — or anything else that doesn't fit the raw profile — honor that craving."

* 4. Plan to succeed The higher your intake of raw foods, the more you need to keep an eye on the big picture. "Plan your meals so you're not falling back on apples and salads," Pavelka notes. "If you're just grabbing whatever is easiest, you can end up missing certain sources of nutrition altogether." In particular, make sure you're getting enough protein — from nuts and legumes — and iron. Eat plenty of spinach, kale and almonds — or consider taking a good multivitamin with iron.
* 5. Go organic According to Amsden, the more raw food you eat, the more important it becomes to go organic. Organic food minimizes your exposure to toxins and maximizes nutrition, he says. Do some sleuthing at your local grocery store — you might have to change your shopping patterns a bit, but the payoff is huge. "It's just easier to live life when you're eating the very best food that you can," he says. "The commitment to organic propels itself."
* 6. Enjoy yourself Raw food, like any food, should make you feel sustained and satisfied — or why eat it? That's the thinking of Mollie Moran, a vegetarian chef who has cooked for rock musicians for the past 12 years, most recently the Dave Matthews Band. Knoxville, Tenn.-based Moran spent years developing the mostly raw food recipes that begin on the next page. But she says her aim has always been quality and taste; the fact that the foods are mostly raw is secondary. "Nutrients still have to be delicious, and beautiful food like this is nourishing on a lot of levels," she says. "Celebration, not deprivation, is what eating is all about." »

Farmers Market Salad

Chef's note: You can make this any time of year without the corn and fresh basil. It's especially tasty if you mix it and let it sit for a while. Extra dressing will last 5 days in the fridge. Serves 6 (Yield: 12 cups)

1 bunch kale, thick stems removed
and leaves coarsely chopped
1 bunch rainbow chard, thick
stems removed and leaves
coarsely chopped
1 red sweet bell pepper, seeded
and cut into a ¼-inch dice
1 yellow (or orange) sweet bell
pepper, seeded and cut into a
¼-inch dice
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
3 ears sweet corn, shucked, lightly
steamed and cut off the cob
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped basil
½ cup red and yellow teardrop tomatoes

FOR DRESSING:

? cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic (about one head), chopped
¾ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper until well combined. Set aside.
FOR SALAD:

1. Place the kale and chard in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing, and gently massage it through the greens for about 3 minutes.
2. Add bell peppers, scallions, corn and herbs to the greens. Add more dressing to taste, and mix until all the vegetables are combined.
3. Garnish the salad with red and yellow teardrop tomatoes.

Per serving: 208 calories, 2 g fat (.3 g saturated), 14 g protein, 44 g carbohydrates, 15 g fiber, 815 mg sodium
Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Chef's note: This dish is best when local tomatoes are at their peak. Heirlooms make the dish look beautiful, though any farmers market tomato will do. If your only option is to buy tomatoes at a grocery store, choose romas.
Serves 8 (Yield: 10 cups)

2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes,
various colors, cored and cut into
¼-inch dice (about 5 cups)
1 English (seedless) cucumber,
peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 small Vidalia or other sweet
onion, peeled and cut into a fine dice
2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and
cut into a ¼-inch dice
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
(cooked option: use 1 tablespoon
roasted, pureed garlic, which
makes for a much smoother flavor)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
? cup best-quality Spanish sherry vinegar
5 to 6 cups Knudsen's Low Sodium
Very Veggie Juice, chilled
2 teaspoons Cholula hot sauce
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion, bell peppers and garlic in a large nonreactive bowl.
2. Stir in salt, pepper, vinegar, vegetable juice and hot sauce. Cover and chill for 3 to 4 hours (or up to 24 hours).
3. Just before serving, stir in olive oil.

Per serving: 142 calories, 7.5 g fat (1 g saturated), 3 g protein, 17.5 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 425.5 mg sodium
Broccolini Salad with Feta, Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts

Chef's note: You can substitute fresh broccoli for broccolini, but just use the florets, not the stems.
Serves 4 (Yield: 5 cups)

1 pound broccolini, florets cut into bit-sized pieces, stems
chopped fine
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons golden raisins
½ cup toasted pine nuts
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Toss broccolini with olive oil and salt in medium serving bowl.
2. Gently mix in golden raisins, pine nuts and feta. Serve cold.

Per serving: 420 calories, 35 g fat (7.5 g saturated), 11 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g fiber, 642 mg sodium
Tropical Breakfast Smoothie

Chef's note: Coconut water is loaded with electrolytes, making it a great summer smoothie ingredient.
Serves 4 (Yield: 5 cups)

1 cup frozen mango
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup frozen peaches
1½ cups coconut water
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons light agave nectar

1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy and smooth.

Per serving: 109 calories, .5 g fat (.2 g saturated), 1 g protein, 27.5 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 96 mg sodium
Watermelon Salad with Spiced Pecans

Chef's note: If you can't find white balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar is a good substitute.
Serves 4 (Yield: 8 cups)

4 cups arugula, watercress or baby salad greens
4 cups ripe red watermelon, seeded
and cubed (one 6-pound melon)
½ small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
White balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Spiced pecans (recipe follows)

FOR SALAD:

1. Divide arugula between 4 salad plates. Top each with watermelon cubes, red onion and goat cheese.
2. Drizzle each salad with white balsamic vinaigrette to taste and top with about 1½ tablespoons of pecans to taste.

Per serving: 235 calories, 16 g fat (7 g saturated), 10 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 139 mg sodium
FOR PECANS: Yield: 3 cups

½ cup sugar
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg white
3 cup pecan halves (12 ounces)

1. Preheat oven to 275° F.
2. Stir together sugar, salt, cumin and pepper in small bowl.
3. Beat egg white with a whisk until frothy.
4. Toss pecans with egg white in a medium bowl to coat. Fold in spice mixture and mix well to make sure all the nuts are coated.
5. Spread pecans in single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes.
6. Remove from oven; stir and spread pecans with a metal spatula. Let cool completely on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container.

Per ¼ cup: 227 calories, 21 g fat (2 g saturated), 3 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 334 mg sodium
FOR VINAIGRETTE: Yield: 1 cup

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons raw organic honey
½ shallot, minced
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake. Use immediately to dress your salad. Remaining dressing may be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Per 2 tablespoons: 141 calories, 14 g fat (2 g saturated), .1 g protein, 5.5 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 2 mg sodium

• Don't miss part two of our series, Daunting Diets Made Doable, in the September/October issue. Next up: calorie restriction. A plan to help you live longer — making the most of each bite.

PHOTO (COLOR): Broccolini Salad with Feta, Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts

PHOTO (COLOR): Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

PHOTO (COLOR): Farmers Market Salad

PHOTO (COLOR)

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By Rose Kennedy

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