We make a case for adopting nutrient-rich raw foods as part of a balanced diet
Imagine zucchini noodles in a pad Thai sauce with sprouts. Now think of pomegranate and strawberry-flavoured frozen mousse made of cashew butter and coconut. Brings a delicious picture to the mind’s eye, doesn’t it? These exotic recipes not only reflect global food trends, but also represent the ‘raw food’ diet that has taken off around the world.
These recipes are the work of Canada-based couple and former raw food chefs, Keren and Jeffrey Paquette, who helped initiate a raw food menu for Bangalore-based Cafe Vishala. “The theory is that food heated above 47 degrees Celsius begins to lose its enzymes, making it less nutritious and much harder for the body to digest. When you cook food, the reason it smells good is that the nutrients are released into the air,” explains Jeff, who has studied nutrition in Canada. Jeff was running a successful raw food business at Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc, Montreal, before deciding to quit and travel.
The guiding principles of the raw food diet are based on the premise that cooking damages nutrients, making them toxic for consumption. Raw food websites talk about how studies show that the immune system reacts to cooked food the same way it reacts to foreign pathogens. That’s why, they say, cooked food is a major contributor to the lifestyle diseases that plague our time. “Any dish you cook, you can find a way to make it raw. Raw food recipes for pizzas and sandwiches require a dehydrator, which cooks food on very low heat. The bread base in these dishes is made of raw nuts, seeds and sprouts,” explains Jeff, adding, “The slow cooking on low heat keeps the integrity of the nutrition. The dehydrator is also used for food preservation, so you can dry herbs, vegetables and fruits or make chips.”
A sustainable raw food diet, according to most websites, is a balanced mix of fruits for calories, vegetables for minerals and small portions of seeds and nuts for fats. “The most important thing when you change your diet, other than consulting your doctor if you have a health issue, is to educate yourself, because that will inspire and inform you,” chimes in Keren, who previously worked at Canada’s Rawlicious restaurant.
But there’s another side to adopting the raw food diet, and naturopathy consultant, Dr. Suriya Ramesh, points out, “The raw food diet can work out in the long run, but the problem is that your body gets used to it. And at that point, if you introduce anything other than raw food, you will face problems; your body needs to get used to all kinds of possibilities. Plus, accessing organic vegetables and fruits is not easy in India.” She suggests a combination of raw and cooked food, so that the body is primed to handle all types of food, including some processed food without preservatives.
Keren and Jeff suggest one raw food meal a day, with two other cooked meals. Khushpinder Kaur Sangha, fitness enthusiast and former IT professional, says, “I love raw food, but I take it along with regular cooked food or sometimes as breakfast. I eat a lot of salads because they give me energy and are easily digested. But I don’t think it’s practical to stick to an exclusive raw food diet. That, for me, would be insufficient, but it’s definitely important to include a portion of raw food in every meal.”
People take to raw food not only for its detoxifying effects; it also makes the body and mind feel lighter and clearer, paving the way for easy yoga and meditation. It also helps those who are vegan by choice or compelled by health.
What’s important when it comes to raw food, explains Keren, is to resist the temptation to eat heavy. “This may involve a few personal sacrifices, like giving up on sugar and sugar-based desserts. You just have to stock up on fruits and vegetables and eat more fresh food,” she says.
Why include raw food in the menu?
Kuldeep Sahu, chef at Cafe Vishala, that offers raw food options, explains, “We see that a growing number of people are becoming allergic to certain types of food. That’s one of the main reasons why we decided to offer raw food options on our menu. A lot of customers, especially international ones, are used to raw food or a menu with gluten-free breads and vegan options.”