Kellie Ann Murphy had always tried to eat well. But there were times when a stressful job and a hectic work schedule had her reaching for another cup of coffee or making food choices that were not the healthiest options.
Five years ago when the then-vegetarian suddenly gained weight, her doctor discovered nodules on her thyroid gland. Instead of surgery and a panoply of medications, Murphy opted for a nutritional approach. She researched the benefits of becoming a raw-vegan, eating only uncooked foods or those cooked at very low temperatures that contained no animal byproducts. Within a week, she said, she lost seven pounds. By the time she returned to the doctor three months later for a follow-up visit, she was 45 pounds lighter and the nodules on her thyroid were gone. That was enough to convince Murphy of the healing power of food.
However, her new beliefs were soon tested when her husband of more than two decades was diagnosed with a brain tumor and required multiple radical surgeries. The devastating news could have been enough to send Murphy back to her old eating habits, but a friend kept her on track, bringing her raw meals during the first 10 days she spent at her husband’s side in the hospital.
“If you knew me, my old M.O., I would have been in the corner of the hospital room with chocolate cake and coffee,” Murphy said, but “I totally stayed raw.”
The way of eating kept her clear-headed, energized and able to sleep well even during the most stressful times of her husband Doug’s illness. Murphy continued to study the benefits of a raw diet and prepared foods for her husband that she thought would help his body cope with multiple surgeries, rounds of antibiotics and radiation treatments. Because he experienced extreme weight loss, Doug ate some cooked foods, Murphy said, but he also consumed the organic juices and raw foods she made. That made a world of difference, Murphy believes.
“My husband was supposed to live a year. They didn’t even think his quality of life for that year would be very good. He lived 3½ years and his quality of life was very, very high,” she said. “He was walking the dog at Agua Caliente Park after two years and all of his hair grew back. His doctors really believed his high quality of life was due to him eating a lot of raw-vegan food.”
Murphy took the lessons she learned while caring for her husband and turned them into a career. She is a certified raw-vegan personal chef and a health coach.
What is raw “cooking?”
“Anything is still considered raw if it is cooked under 118 degrees. I make a granola and it’s under 118 degrees. I do fake bacon. I make it out of zucchini and that’s for 8 hours at 105 degrees and it gets really crispy and believe me it does not taste like bacon at all, but if you are trying to look for that crispy-salty and you season it in a certain way and dehydrate it, it is really tasty.”
Do you have a favorite dish you like to make for clients?
“Lasagna. It’s hard for someone else to make it, that’s why they like me to make it. The noodles are zucchini, the ‘meat’ is walnuts. It’s made with fresh tomatoes plus sun-dried tomatoes, and the cheeses — one is a cashew cheese and the other is a macadamia nut cheese. That’s something people seem to love. I make that for dinner parties.”
Do you have any tips for people who want to try eating raw?
“My first thing would be to make their biggest meal lunch and if they were trying to include a lot of things is make a huge salad for lunch, but take off the salad dressing — no ranch, no thousand island, no bottled. All they really need is cold pressed olive oil and Himalayan salt with maybe a half an orange squeezed on top. People are blown away when they can taste the vegetables. Use a huge variety — arugula and the herb mix from Trader Joe’s and just take a peeler and peel a carrot over it. You don’t have to chop everything. Just peel a zucchini and maybe chop up a little celery and throw some organic pomegranate seeds on top and maybe throw on some raw sunflowers seeds. People will be amazed how having a big salad in the middle of the day will change their life.”
What about people who want to eat more healthfully, but don’t want to go 100 percent raw?
“I never tell anyone to go 100 percent raw. I say if you can, go 75 percent. I have a niece who eats really well, she is Raw Till 4. Raw Till 4 is when you make your breakfast, your lunch, your two snacks all raw and after 4 you have your cooked meal.
“Go ahead and eat cooked food, but don’t eat processed food, don’t open a box.”