Food & Fitness

The Raw Food Challenge Begins!

Welcome one and all to the Raw Food Challenge! I like the idea of doing this challenge in January. Although it might be one of the colder months of the year, somehow a good health challenge always makes the time pass quicker and makes life in general more interesting. Also, I don’t know about you, but I certainly indulged a great deal over the holidays, and I’m ready to clean up my nutrition and be a Superhealthhero. At least for January. After that, most people lose interest in resolutions etc. anyways, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Kidding, of course. Health is a lifestyle choice, not a passing fad. Be that as it may, sometimes we need a little jumpstart to keep motivated, and eating raw might just be useful for that.

I have compiled several questions-and-answers that I have had about raw food, that others have posed to me, and that I have found cropping up from other sources during my raw food research. Here’s to satisfying curiosity!

1. What’s wrong with cooked food, anyways?

As far as I’m concerned, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with cooked food. From the raw foodist point of view, however, the notion is that cooking destroys the living enzymes in food, thus drastically reducing the quality of the nutrient content. Eating raw can also aid digestion when the enzymes in food are still intact. The benefit of eating raw is that there is no way you can eat any kind of processed food, so your diet has the potential to be super-clean and healthy. But this is simply one way in which we can eat healthy, not the only way.

2. So what can I eat if I’m on a raw food nutrition plan? I don’t want to just eat rabbit food!

There are lots of foods you can eat! Any raw vegetable or fruit under the sun, cold-pressed oils, raw nuts, raw seeds, spices and herbs, beans (the dried kind, which you then soak), raw cider vinegar, sprouts, even sprouted or soaked buckwheat or wheat berries (also known as whole wheat kernels). If you don’t want to eat “rabbit food”, you can also eat sashimi (raw fish at sushi restaurants), or you could make beef jerky in a dehydrator. Raw dairy products aren’t legal where I live and raw eggs are generally frowned upon, but to each their own. However, I strongly advise doing plenty of research before eating any raw animal products, as they could be contaminated with bacteria or chemicals.

3. Okay, clearly carbohydrates are a non-issue. But what about protein and healthy fats?

Avocados and cold-pressed oils provide you with healthy fats. Raw beans and seeds generally have a high ratio of protein to fats as well, and sprouts are also high in protein. If we’re eating a variety of these kinds of foods, we’ll be able to get all of the essential amino acids, as well.

4. How can you possibly get all the right amounts of nutrients with this kind of diet?

One of the biggest problems in our society is malnourishment. Young children are even getting rickets, which has been unheard of since children stopped being used in the labour force. This is because they are lacking appropriate nutrition. However, for the most part in our society, we are over-eating. Therefore, we are consuming high amounts of empty calories, devoid of nutrients. I think you see my point: most people going on a raw food diet care about their health, and are therefore going to be doing the research to ensure that their diets are full of a variety of nutrients. Compared to the SAD (Standard American Diet) of fast food and packaged goods (why do we call them “goods”? We should call them “bads”.), this way of eating could be incredibly healthy!

Nutrients appear to be highly concentrated in raw food, which means that we get even more nutrients by eating raw. However, we can also incorporate nutritional yeast and seaweed for sources of vitamin B-12. Because of the high amount of dark leafy greens and other vegetables that raw foodists consume, raw food vegans can have strong and healthy bones despite the lack of dairy products.

5. This way of eating just looks boring and unappetizing. Isn’t it very limiting and restrictive?

If you’re going by the Standard American Diet of packaged and fast food, then yes, this is incredibly restrictive. However, as noted above, there are really quite a lot of things to eat. And you can vary it up by making salads, juices, smoothies, “oatmeal” by combining fruit and sprouted buckwheat in a food processor, “flatbread” made with vegetables and beans in a dehydrator, “pasta” by slicing zucchini or other kinds of squash very thin and making a raw marinara sauce, and even “wraps” using lettuce as your wrap and beans or others vegetables as your filling. We just need to get creative!

6. How are you going to keep your energy levels up?

Once again, this is an opportunity to compare a raw food diet to the SAD: consider that on the one hand, the SAD provides an abundance of caffeine from coffee, astronomically high sugar and sodium levels from processed foods, and a whole slew of empty calories in general. On the other hand, we’ve got a raw food diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. I rather think that the latter would provide considerably more (and longer-lasting) energy.

7. I really like to cook. How can I make that work for me on a raw food diet?

Play around with a food dehydrator, juicer, food processor, or blender! You can make raw food as simple or as gourmet as you like. Considering that most people either don’t enjoy cooking or don’t have the time for it, you can always cook meals for other people. I’m sure they would appreciate it.

8. Is it going to take me forever to prepare food every day?

If you want it to. But it doesn’t have to take you all day. Toss some dried beans in a pot of cold water and let them soak overnight. In the morning, chop up some veggies and add the soaked beans to make a salad. Voila. Most raw food preparation won’t take much time at all if you’re just whipping up a salad or a smoothie.

9. Isn’t all of this “eating raw” going to be incredibly expensive?

If you buy expensive produce like avocados on a regular basis then it could add up. But remember, you’re not eating anything that comes in a package anymore: this means that your grocery bill is basically strictly spent on fresh fruits and vegetables. Amanda, my raw food vegan friend, told me that she spends less money for three people in her family eating raw than when there were just two of them in the family and they ate cooked food.

10. I like grab-and-go snacks. What can I do when I just really want a quick and easy (pre-packaged) meal?

Um, can you get anymore grab-and-go than an apple or some carrot sticks?! That’s what I thought. However, if you do happen to be out and about, and you really need a good combination of protein-fats-carbs but the only thing available is a piece of fruit which doesn’t provide that nice balance of the macronutrients, you’ve got a couple of options. Assuming you don’t have a little packet of nuts or seeds on your person, you can buy a Larabar. Larabars are one of the few store-bought products that do state on the package whether or not they are raw (some of them are, some of them aren’t). Personally I don’t really enjoy Larabars that much because they’re so sweet, but if you’re desperate, the combination of nuts and fruit could be an ideal pick-me-up. Your other option is to make your own versions of Larabars at home, or to make crackers and “trail mix” and keep a little stash in your bag in case of emergency. I believe there are also raw crackers and such on the market, although I don’t think any of that is available in Canada. No doubt Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s would be well-stocked with packaged raw foods, though I don’t have access to either of those stores in my city.

Got any other questions or comments? Do you have any different answers to these questions? You know where to leave them!


  1. cathy

    Interesting. I really can’t wait to read how your month goes. I have to say, the idea that cooking food decreases its nutritional value is a little flawed, IMO (not that you disagree with this). While I agree that we all need a certain percentage of raw food in our diet, but cooking many foods actually increases the bioavailability of many nutrients. I’m sure that I would be flooded with information from raw foodists showing me the flaws in this argument (and I would probably remain unswayed because I can be stubborn like that). Regardless, clearly raw foodists put a premium on their health, and that’s something to applaud. Can’t wait to pick up some tips and recipes to possibly increase the “rawness” in my life!

  2. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman

    I’m really interested in how you view the diet as you go along. I wonder whether you’ll think it’s easier or harder as the month goes by–and whether you get bored of raw foods or find new foods you like. For me personally, I’m a super picky eater so I don’t think a raw diet would work for me. (I think fire makes everything taste better.) Good luck with the raw food month. I’ll be rooting you on!

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  4. Sagan Morrow

    Cathy- All the research contradicts itself, doesn’t it? Some studies out there say that raw increases the bioavailability of nutrients. Other studies say that cooked increases the bioavailability. That’s why I’m all about the healthy balance!

    Tracey- “I think fire makes everything taste better” hehehe that made me giggle. Mmmm fires. Eating raw certainly would be more challenging for a picky eater! Or else it would turn you into a non-picky eater really, really fast ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. The Candid RD

    This is fantastic information. Ok, so I completely agree that this diet will probably cost less money in the long run, but I have a question…what about milk? Is that considered “raw”? And, are you allowed to take a multivitamin? Also, what about juices?

  6. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    Happy New Year, Sagan! You’re certainly starting off with a great challenge! (Too great for yours truly. :))

    #10 jumped out at me. I keep a stash of mini-bags of almonds and clif bars in the glove box of my car. I also generally have a bowl with a few boiled eggs in my fridge, along with yogurt, a variety of fruits and usually some chopped veggies (Yaay-carrots!). It’s just not that hard to be ready for grab-and-go times. Unless we make it so, which I have also done and continue to do at times. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Sagan Morrow

    Dr. J & Biz- Am excited!

    Gina- Milk isn’t raw. Or rather, you CAN get raw milk, but it’s not legal in Canada. Besides, I don’t eat dairy since my vegan challenge (except for cheesecake. Cheesecake is always always an exception ;)). I’ll get into it further next week, but yes, I’m allowing supplements (I’ll be taking calcium powder, a probiotic capsule, and a digestive enzyme capsule most days). Juice counts, as long as there’s nothing added, but it’s better to make it yourself than buy the commercial kind. That’s also a non-issue for me anyway as I’m not a juice fan (I’ll be MAKING it, but I never buy juice anyways).

    Cammy- Chopped veggies are one of the BEST ideas ever, it’s one of those things that we should all do immediately after grocery shopping. I find that I am way more likely to eat the produce before it goes bad if I chop it all up ahead of time. It also helps to chop it up ahead of time to prevent from snacking on other ready-made snacks (ie. chips/crackers/processed junk!). But yeah. Even though I know it’s something I OUGHT to do as soon as I’m home from grocery shopping… doesn’t always mean I actually DO it right away, hehe.

  8. Andrea@WellnessNotes

    Good luck with your challenge! As I said in my comment yesterday, I’m very excited to see how it’ll go for you. I think there are many options when it comes to eating raw foods. In fact, I think I would probably be eating more raw foods and be experimenting a lot more if it wasn’t for life being pretty hectic with work, the teenager, the toddler, and hubby… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Have fun with the challenge! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Happy 2010!

  9. Holly

    This is VERY interesting, Sagan….thank you! Especially interesting about the cost. I’ve also had the notion that eating raw would be more expensive, but then I think it’s also how you utilize what you have. Unfortunately eating junk is cheap (or so it seems!), but somehow I’ve tried to find a way to eat healthy and very little processed food without spending a ton of $$.

    That’s also interesting about Larabars! I only have 3 or 4 that I buy regularly, so I’ll be sure to check if they are raw next time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Tony

    I always enjoy reading about your new challenges. Good luck with going RAW. I could never do it because it’s just a bit too restrictive and making sure you get proper nutrition would require a lot of planning and research.

  11. Sagan Morrow

    Asithi- Certainly! I think I might have a receipt leftover from my first grocery trip so I’ll try to remember to keep all the rest of them, too. And I’ll be sure to post that at the end of the month.

    Andrea- That’s always a problem about starting any new way of eating; you have to have time to experiment a bit. After it becomes second nature, there’s no problem, but for the first bit it always takes a little extra time.

    Holly- It also depends what kinds of things you’re buying. If I bought avocadoes and cashews to eat every day, the grocery bill would really add up! Bananas, on the other hand, wouldn’t be nearly as pricey.

    Tony- I’m glad you enjoy it! I like the planning and research. It’s all part of the fun ๐Ÿ˜€

    Pharmacy Tech- Thanks!

    Hanlie- That’s awesome. I’m definitely going to be going back and reading up on some of your raw food posts.

  12. bhealthier

    Thanks for staying with me! Happy New Year!

    So excited for your raw food month- i need to re-read but didn’t you already do a raw food or was that vegan… hmm

    Hope you had fantastic holidays.
    did you come up with the initials for SAD… that is so creative! i like it. I think incorporating more raw foods is always a healthy move, but I am not one to limit or not experiment with other foods like a good steak or fresh baked cookies ever so often. good luck!

  13. Sagan Morrow

    Mary- Thanks!

    Bhealthier- I did vegan before rather than raw food ๐Ÿ™‚ And I didn’t come up with SAD; I’ve heard it being used in a bunch of different places… but it certainly is a good acronym, isn’t it? Experimenting with other foods is always enjoyable!

    Food Dehydrator- Fruit leather is tasty indeed.

  14. Sagan Morrow

    Westwood- How is it a problem? These are questions I’ve compiled from things that have already arisen as “issues”, for other people and myself. I think it’s good to figure out the answers to these things BEFORE starting any new nutrition plan. I’d definitely rather do my research ahead of time and know the answers to these questions before eliminating all cooked food from my diet!

  15. liz wx

    The older I am the keener I get on keeping things simple. Eating healthily to me includes having plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. But it also means not having too may rules about food. For me it’s about eating a good variety of things, fresh where possible, and avoiding processed food most of the time. I can see the attraction of following very rigid rules for a limited period, in that it forces you to experiment. But for me, the effort involved would outweight the benefits. Good luck though – I am sure you will get the most out of the experience!

  16. Emily

    Liz wx, you said exactly what I was thinking. ๐Ÿ™‚ It sounds interesting…but I’d rather stick with trying to get plain old healthy eating right instead of experimenting with complicated sets of rules!

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