The process of digesting food is the most complex job our body does, and it has to do it several times a day. It is so complex that the body’s process of healing pauses when food is digesting. When we eat a simple, easy-to-digest diet of raw foods, our body has more energy to fight pathogens, rebuild tissue, and detoxify. Fortunately, plant based nutrition is becoming more accepted into the mainstream. It seems that almost every day a new study comes out about the benefits of raw foods. Here are a few of the basics that are important to know as you dive in. Excerpted from Going Raw: Eveything You Need to Start Your Own Raw Food Diet and Lifestyle Revolution at Home by Judita Wignall, @2011 Quarry Books. Reprinted by permission.
Raw Sources of Protein
One of the biggest concerns people have about following a plant-based diet is whether they will get enough protein. The good news is that all plants contain protein, especially green leafy vegetables. Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, parsley, collard greens, arugula, and so on are composed of 35 to 50 percent protein.
Other good-quality sources of protein include hemp seeds, chia seeds, goji berries, cacao, almonds, bee pollen, spirulina, blue-green algae, chlorella, pumpkin seeds, sprouts, sprouted grains, sprouted wild rice, and vegetable powders. Eating a variety of foods every day can provide a sufficient amount of protein. If you are an athlete or are pregnant, you can easily increase your protein intake by taking measures such as adding more hemp seeds to your salad or smoothie or eating a small handful of almonds.
Raw Sources of Calcium
Green leafy vegetables are a great source of bioavailable calcium, as are unhulled sesame seeds (or raw tahini), kale, collards, broccoli, bok choy, endive, kelp, and figs.
For proper calcium absorption, be sure to get adequate sunlight exposure every day (about ten to fifteen minutes a day) or take a vitamin D3 supplement.
It’s also important to eat foods that contain silica and magnesium, such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, apples, oranges, cherries, cucumber, onions, beets, celery, almonds, bananas, figs, buckwheat, and cacao. These foods assist in building up and maintaining bone density. Magnesium and silica can also be found in horsetail and nettle tea.
Raw Sources of Iron
The body handles iron from plants slightly differently than it handles iron from meat. Our bodies
will only absorb as much plant-derived iron as it needs and will eliminate the excess. This is a good thing. Iron toxicity can cause free-radical damage and is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, and an increased risk of heart disease.
Iron-rich foods include pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, kale, romaine lettuce, kelp, broccoli, bok choy, and herbs such as basil, thyme, dill, parsley, and oregano.
Raw Sources of B12
B12 is an essential vitamin created by bacteria and cobalt found in the soil. Grazing animals are a good source of B12, but because of mineral-depleted topsoil, animals and humans are becoming B12 deficient. Farmers fortify their animals’ diets with B12 supplements, and if you’re a vegan or vegetarian a good supplement is essential, too. I suggest a transdermal patch or a sublingual supplement of methylcobalamin, the most bioavailable form.
B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, memory loss, anemia, depression, and irreversible nerve and neurological damage. We carry a three-year supply of B12 in our livers, but it’s important to supplement before it’s too late.
How Raw Should You Go?
You don’t need to be a vegetarian or vegan to go raw, nor do you need to be 100 percent raw to reap many of the diet’s benefits. Any amount of raw food is beneficial, but try to aim for a 50 percent raw diet to feel a notable difference. Think about it this way: If you add just a smoothie to your morning routine and a salad before lunch and dinner, you’re already there!
- Here are more plant-based nutrition tips.
- Find more raw recipes and tips by Judita Wignall.
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