Mabel • High Raw Foodist (~70-80%)
I am usually working from home running a boutique design studio and playing with my kittens. For fun and relaxation, I like to work on a tiny food garden out on the balcony and assembling raw food at home.
Jason • Guest Chef
Wildlife Photographer & Urban Gardener
Natalie • Guest Chef
Founder of Minx Cakes & Minx Raw Chocolates
Safi • Raw/Live Foodist
Kamau • Raw/Live Foodist
How I Started: The 31-Day Raw Challenge
I was inspired to try raw food mostly from Natalie raving about it, and embarked on a 31-day all raw challenge in the July of 2012. She always tells us how amazing it is, so being slightly (ok maybe incredibly) skeptical, and being in a steady relationship with corresponding weight gain, my partner at the time and I decided to give it a try.
We purchased a lot of groceries, read blogs about it, and tried it out. One guy wrote about how he ate 19 bananas in 1 day without any increase in blood sugar. (??? Not sure I believe that one either, but I liked thinking and laughing about the ludicrousness of it.) The first week was great, it was fun and interesting, and the challenge was part of the fun – to read up on recipes and come up with our own, and to go to places in SF that specialized raw food, such as Judahlicious out in the Sunset near Ocean Beach.
The 2nd week was fine too. Everything seemed okay, other than being surprised by the sheer immense volume of food that we would be ingesting to get our bodies a similar amount of calories that we’ve easily gained previously from dense foods like pastas and breads. We did this for the first two weeks and it seemed marvelous, and wondered how people can hold full time jobs in addition to eating raw, because it seemed like we were just eating constantly, or preparing food for the next meal. It was a its own full time job. Thankfully we both worked from home, so our colleagues weren’t aware that we were living as pandas stuffing our faces with greens throughout the entire day, essentially nonstop.
Then, the 3rd week hit, and it was the worst. Our bodies were tired, exhausted, and sore. I felt like I was combatting the flu, and experienced all the flu-like symptoms of fatigue, body aches, with weak spaghetti limbs. I would get headaches, and would feel better after I eat… we joked about how we’re just “raw hungry” – except it was like fighting a strange flu that can be temporarily cured by eating an avocado. I entered osmosis with the couch that week. I’m not sure that I believe all those “detox” diets and packages out there, or am not even sure that process really works that way. But if I had to guess, this was the detox week.
Now, at the 4th week with light at the end of the tunnel, my body adapted to the raw diet. My metabolism was able to adjust so that I no longer needed to eat voraciously, nor I did feel the need to fantasize about the next meal. Life felt like it would be doable, because I no longer felt like I needed to put everything aside to support this raw food diet. I can balance work life again and just eat 4-5 times a day instead of once every couple of hours.
Time to Celebrate!
After the 31 days, of course we celebrated right afterwards with all of our fat food. I think I tried to eat Beretta’s truffled risotto and Anthony’s Toffee Chip cookies and Dandelion Chocolate all within the day, if not the next two days. I’m sure I had some Toni’s pizza as well. I do regret that I had not written down the details of my gorge-fest, because it was all my favorite dishes in SF that were ridiculously tasty, and as fat-full and carb-full as you could ever wish for.
You’d think that eating cooked food again would be the most glorious two days, but while my mouth celebrated, my body revolted. I felt sick, bloated, and disgusting in the evenings and came down with a slight fever. My body rebelled, maybe from the shock of all these cooked foods (still vegetarian though), and so I started to eat a mix of raw and non-raw meals. I would spend the next 6 months noticing how I felt after each meal, consistently felt a lot more energized after a raw meal. A cooked meal would be satisfying in the first half of consumption, but I would soon afterwards feel bloated and tired. Surely, food that should give me energy and sustenance shouldn’t have the opposite of effect of making me slow and groggy.
Inspiration for This Blog
Actually, it was not willpower or intelligence that got me into the habit of eating raw vegetarian, but simple laziness. I’d like to think of it as efficiency, to compliment myself. In January 2013, 5 months after the 31-day raw food challenge, my partner and I separated and I moved out to a new apartment to live alone with 2 apex predators. Now I would be left with cooking and cleaning up after a meal, which I didn’t enjoy – it just didn’t seem very time efficient to spend 30-45 minutes cooking, 20 minutes eating, and then up to an hour cleaning afterwards, especially if there are pots and pans to scrub.
Raw food came to the rescue. It was quick, simple, and cleanup was also so easy. I never had to scrub pots and pans again, and the kitchen was almost always immaculately clean because all I had to do was put food in the compost, load the dishwasher and wipe the counters. Quick rinse of the knife and cutting board, and never had to worry about cleaning the stove either. My favorite side effect from this was the the cabinets never got greasy, not even the top of them as I touched to wipe them when moving out two years later.
I started to make raw food, enjoyed what I ate, and then kept a photo journal of my meals and the ingredients using Path. Mostly it was for myself, so that I could keep the inertia of eating a raw diet, since my traditional Chinese parents thought that I was going to go anemic or die from eating this way. (It’s totally fine, they had a similar reaction 9 years ago when I became fully vegetarian.) A photo journal and Google Calendar notes kept me honest with myself about how much raw I was eating per day, per week, and then per month. I jumped on the quantified self bandwagon. Also, I was pretty sure I would not recall the ingredients for each dish so this would be a way to record it.
About the same time as I’ve been using Path for a year, Jason started his wildlife photography business, started photographing the wildlife in Golden Gate Park, and was creating two websites. It looked like a lot of fun so I wanted to make one too, but of what? I don’t particularly like to post my personal thoughts online (that’s what a journal is for), and I didn’t feel like there’s anything I’d like to share with an unseen audience… except DIY raw food.
I’ve always thought that raw food would be very complicated and time-consuming – the prerequisites to even begin is to own a Vitamix, a food processor, and a dehydrator. Well but wait a minute, that’s silly! Raw food is much simpler, because it doesn’t involve cooking – I call it “assembling.” I was thinking that “eventually I’ll get there, if I really get into raw food,” so to start I’ve only been making simple raw recipes, where the only tools needed is a knife, a cutting board and a blender.
It’s been two years, and I realized that raw food can be made without the fancy equipment or multi-hour commitments. For the most part, other than juices, smoothies, and soups, you don’t even need a blender, so everyone can start with the tools they currently have. You can make very healthy, nutritious raw food quickly and easily, with very simple tools. This is what I wanted to share with the world.
Why Do I Eat Organic Raw Food?
There are a lot of scientific studies and articles about the benefits of eating organic, raw vegan food, and I will post some after I do some research. For now, here are my personal anecdotes. Be a believer or a skeptic, but the only way to really know whether it is true is to try it yourself and catalog your own experience, and how your body feels. Here goes:1
Younger, clearer skin • Call me vain, that I’m doing this for looks rather than my health, but it’s compelling enough of a reason for me. My face somehow looked noticeably younger, cleared up a bit, and my hands looked younger too. I grew up with “combination” skin type, which means oily in some places and dry in other places on my face, ack! I had great skin in my teens, but broke out consistently in my 20s, probably from stress and habitually touching my face during stressful moments. I think I had a light bacterial infection on my forehead because it would become itchy and bumpy – the more I scratched it the more those bumps would spread – it was definitely not acne. I also developed eczema on my cheeks somehow, and my face would become red and uncontrollably itchy. My skin isn’t flawless now, I especially break out on my chin now from Kamau’s wet nose rubbing it (not sure why that makes it break out, but it stings once he touches me and it breaks out the next day), but eating raw food generally made my skin dryer and less prone to breaking out, and I just moisturize with organic cold pressed coconut oil once a day.2
Restful Sleep. There is a dramatic difference between eating cooked vs. raw when I wake up the next morning: when I eat cooked food, the area around my eyes become bloated, which makes me squinty, and I wake up a little tired. I want to go back to sleep and have to use tremendous will power to remind myself that I’ll wake up more tired if I go back to sleep. I cajole myself to sit up and get up. Conversely, the next morning after eating raw all day, when I wake up, I feel refreshed, and I’m up. It’s not an “oh joy and enthusiasm! I am ready to take on the world and start the day! (ok maybe 20% that), but mostly I just feel like cool, I slept and now I’m done doing that. Now I want to do something else.3
Toned Body. I do virtually no exercise except typing, mousing, walking, and some slow moving qigong once to twice a week. If work is busy, which it often is, I literally do zero exercise. If I eat raw food exclusively 4-5 days in a row, my abs would be flat with a light 4-pack. If I eat cooked food and worked out for an hour everyday, I might get the same result. It’s kind of nice to eat as much as I want, and be athletic and toned. This is also a very easy way to shed weight, if that is something you’re interested in doing. I’ve always been slender and athletic, but lost about six pounds since I started eating mostly raw. Last time (okay, the only time) I had a body composition analysis done on one of those fancy machines where they measure you like you’re a bag of salty water, was May 2013 so I’ve been eating high raw for only 5 months. I had a BMI of 16.5 and 11.3% body fat. Of course we should all exercise, for better physical health and sleep and mental acuity, but, this is a lazy shortcut. Genetics matter too of course, but as we all know, just having the genes themselves isn’t the only thing, what also matters is genetic expression. Food affects genetic expression.4
Sustained Energy & Mental Acuity. I feel energized after I eat raw food, not slumpy and tired. Ever heard of people who wake up from a nap tired? They’re doing it wrong. When we feel tired after a meal, it probably means we did it wrong. It’s not an exhilarating high like what runners would get, but having a sustained level of energy throughout the day makes the day that more productive, while simultaneously relaxing (because most things will simply not stress you out – you’ll have physical, emotional and mental energy to handle whatever life throws at you). There are no peaks and valleys to a typical day like I would with heavy meals, where I have difficulty concentrating from hunger, and then fatigued afterwards from digesting heavy foods. My mind simply feels clearer and sharper.4
Improved Immunity. I haven’t really gotten sick since I’ve started eating high raw in the last 2.5 years. There were two instances where I felt mild symptoms of a cold, like more mucus, a small dry cough, and then a slight runny nose, and then it was over. Before, my symptoms would really kick my butt (ok, face), and I would be blowing my nose nonstop for a good 3-4 days until my nose was Rudolph-colored. And then on yet another occasion, an ingenious flu virus rotated through several members of my family but skipped me or I didn’t succumb to it. I’m not saying that this means I’ll never get sick, but my intuition was that I now have a stronger immune system to combat colds and flus, and so they affect me less drastically.6
Reduced Toxins Load.
When you are eating raw, organic produce, you are not consuming preservatives. Live food will perish within a few days, because it is alive. Most processed foods don’t perish… because they are already dead. Sodium benzoate is a primary ingredient for most preservatives, and it functions by making it so the mitochondria in cells cannot uptake oxygen, thus oxidizing the cell. Um, knowing very little about human biochemistry and save what I recall from my high school biology classes, I am going to venture that I think I need my cells to take in oxygen. Just sayin’.
No GMOs & Pesticides. By eating organic, without going into the potential health hazards of eating GMO foods that have been injected with viruses (how do you think those genes get inserted? If that doesn’t in itself alarm you…), you’re avoiding pesticides and thus reducing additional toxic load into your body. Think about it – pesticides are poisonous, that’s why they kill. They don’t kill you straight away cuz you’re a gajillion times larger than a caterpillar, but that doesn’t make a slow killing poison safe.8
Spend Less Money. This may be difficult to fathom, but your food bills will be cheaper at the grocery store, and even cheaper at farmer’s markets, because you’re not buying pre-packaged, processed foods where they have to charge you for the packaging, marketing department, and the bonus list of un-pronounceable synthetically chemicals, additives and preservatives. There are companies who make packaged raw foods, while that does make it very convenient and the transition easier, those products are costly. I will often get these because I cannot get enough of kale chips, raw chocolates and chocolate tarts, but you’ll be surprised at how cheap your weekly food costs are if you only purchase plant-based produce (not even eggs and dairy) and don’t eat out.
Get In Touch!
We would love to hear from you! Write us if you have recipes, raw food ideas or gardening tips you’d like to share.
We want to inspire more people to adopt a raw food lifestyle, and need your help! Write us if you’d like to be a guest writer or guest chef on Raw Food SF.