For about a week now I have been lazily anticipating a blog post where I summarize all of the wonderful benefits I’ve experienced on the raw food diet as well as some challenges I’ve faced thus far. The weather in Denver has been particularly cold and dreary over the past few days and I could not find the motivation to put my food down, roll over and open my laptop to type this summary (clearly the most profound benefit of this diet has not been an increase in energy levels). As I arrived home from work this morning and began stuffing my face with some zucchini noodles covered in a delicious raw marinara sauce I had made, I decided that it’s about time I get to work on telling you all what the deal is with all this raw food mumbo jumbo.
As you may already know, I have been following a whole foods, plant-based vegan diet for over a year now and I have only good things to share. Much of my life up until this point was spent in search of optimum health and I am here to tell you that the magic lies in plant foods. Over the past year I have experimented with many different variations of the vegan diet, taking note of what makes my body feel its best. With full confidence I can say that raw foods have always treated me well, and a diet consisting of mostly fresh fruits and vegetables in the form of smoothies and salads is one that I keep coming back to. In recent months I have begun to question how I might feel if I put the potatoes and rice down (don’t cry, Callie, don’t cry) and commit myself to a month of eating fully raw. You can find out more about week one here. For now, I will be sharing my experience in weeks two and three.
My very favorite thing about the raw food challenge so far has been discovering new foods. In all of my research on plant based foods over the past year, a few key ingredients seemed to pop up in nearly every recipe, often deemed staples of the vegan diet- ingredients so revolutionary, one may even be tricked into thinking they were eating something cheesy or held together with eggs. A lot of these ingredients never appealed to me, as I was just fine eating fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately after all, there were moments in the beginning of my raw food experiment when I realized that my food was missing something (sugary gluten-filled carbs perhaps?), that I was getting bored (and hungry) eating bananas and apples at all hours of the day. I finally decided it was time to expand my resources and try some new raw vegan foods. I won’t go into great detail, but I will say that this is how I discovered the wonders of kelp noodles, nutritional yeast and most importantly, my precious dates, which will forever hold a place in my kitchen cupboard (and my heart). I never believed that these roach-like dried fruits could be so tasty, but I have purchased several pounds in the past few weeks and I keep going back for more.
My addiction story began like any other, starting with just a single date, spiraling out of control to the point where I began spending countless hours of my free time googling “dates in bulk” to find the biggest bang for my buck, and purchasing date nectars and other date products to feed my desire for everything I eat to taste like dates. Recently, my brother came to visit me in Denver for the first time, and setting aside all that there is to do in the city, I dragged him to the nearest health food store on a Saturday night and we purchased some of every type of date they had so that we could sample and rate them in order (my idea of fun). I have raved about these things to the point where my girlfriend called my local Whole Foods all the way from Puerto Rico and had them specially deliver a fuck ton of dates to my doorstep on Valentine’s Day. This is true love if I’ve ever known it (Me and the dates, I mean).
This leads me to my next point of Becoming a gourmet raw chef. Yes, this is a self declared title. But I swear, if you have never tried raw vegan brownies (made of dates, of course) or raw spaghetti and sauce, then you must do so immediately. I have said it before, I am no genius in the kitchen. But raw food is pretty simple in that literally nothing has to be cooked. Most of the “cooking” involves mixing or blending together different flavors and textures to mimic that of cooked food. It is fairly easy but allows one to be creative and find the perfect combinations through some trial and error. I have made a few recipes from the internet and have recreated some raw dished I’ve tried in restaurants (hello beet ravioli with cashew cheese). These past few weeks of eating raw have truly inspired me to experiment with food. I am fairly certain that any cooked (or non-vegan) recipe can be made into a spectacularly delicious and healthy raw vegan masterpiece and I am determined to try it.
Learning to prepare gourmet raw foods has been a blast, but sharing healthy raw foods with others has been even better. When my brother came to visit, we attended a raw vegan pop up dinner at Vital Root, a local plant-based restaurant. My brother, a chef himself, has been known to pass judgements about vegan foods (cooked or not) and you should have seen his face when he tasted the raw pesto. It was so exciting to see someone so skeptical of the vegan diet consider ordering a second helping because it was just that good. I often worry that a vegan future for our world is just wishful thinking, but it is moments like these that give me hope. Vegan food is the most healthy, sustainable, ethical and delicious food that there is. It is the only food that there is. Sharing this lifestyle (especially raw veganism, an even more healthy and sustainable option) with others has become one of my greatest passions in life and I am eager to continue spreading this message. I am already looking forward to preparing a raw vegan dish on my family vacation in April. Vegan or not, I know they will love it just as much as I do.
Yes, yes we know, Callie. Raw foods are healthy, sustainable, ethical and delicious! But how have they made you feel? Well, if you must know…
This is a complicated answer. I do feel more motivated to be active and have taken up running again after a few months off. I also feel healthier in general because I have cut out all processed foods and added sugars. I feel that I have slept much better and am more awake in the morning. I have not, however, experienced anything so unbelievable it defies all laws of nature as many raw foodists would have you believe, but I would like to point out that this is only month one and I am still experiencing a lot of trial and error.
Eating raw vegan is no easy feat. It takes a lot of will power to say no to some of your favorite foods or sip on a fruit smoothie when it’s thirty degrees and snowing outside. Being social can also be tricky, as it is nearly impossible to eat out in restaurants and can be awkward to tell others about your new lifestyle.
Over the course of these past three weeks I have had a few slip ups where I just genuinely craved peanut butter and had to have it, or was out with friends and decided I’d have a taste of their non-raw dinner because it just looked so good. I have certainly eaten too many dates in one sitting only to spend an entire yoga class in corpse pose because I couldn’t move my limbs and I have suffered some severe hanger because I forgot to bring a raw snack with me to work or to the store. Although I did stay 99% raw, it was not always easy or enjoyable. Additionally, I have noticed that eating raw entails eating a lot of food in order to receive sufficient calories. There were times when I just didn’t eat enough and later helped myself to several handfuls of nuts which I’ve also realized, do not make me feel my best when eaten in excess. While I don’t regret these decisions, my body has learned from them. I hope to make my final week of Fully Raw February the healthiest and most enjoyable week so far as I apply all of the information I have learned in my first three weeks raw. I do believe that raw foods have healing properties and will truly make me thrive if I let them, but I still have some experimenting and learning to do.
As my last few days of raw food approach, I question whether or not I will continue exploring this lifestyle in March. Although it is a very dynamic and challenging lifestyle to sustain, it has definitely initiated a habit of eating raw foods that I hope to adhere to throughout my life, even if I am not eating 100% raw foods all the time.
Stay tuned for my final thoughts on the raw food experiment and updates on whether or not I will continue eating fully raw in the months to come.