Brrrrr! It’s getting cold, and so is my food!

Child Eating Snow

Last winter I went 100% raw for two months. People said I was crazy – although I prefer zany and eccentric – they were right.

The cooler months are, for many people, a time your body needs warmth and your digestive system needs a helping hand with lightly cooked foods.

While may raw foodies are happy to continue eating 80-100% raw in winter, many recommend a more balanced 50/50 ratio. That is, a diet of 50% raw food, and 50% cooked food.

So I have dusted off my slow cooker, and I am investigating ways to keep the raw ethos, while eating some cooked foods.

So what is the raw ethos? Well, truth be told, I don’t know what THE raw ethos is, but MY raw ethos is pretty simple.

  1. Eat things that grow in the ground or on trees – plant-based, whole foods
  2. Eat things in their most natural, unprocessed form
  3. Cooking – if at all – should be done slowly and gently and without oil
  4. Eat mostly veggies, nuts, seeds, but small amounts of cooked legumes and rice provide extra sustenance – ideally an 80/20 ratio of veggies to these other foods in every meal
  5. Plenty of raw cultured foods like kimchi and sauerkraut
  6. Using plant-based products without artificial chemicals for cosmetics, toiletries, and cleaners.
  7. Organically and locally grown wherever possible.

One of my favourite winter raw ideas is to add a big, steaming spoonful of vegetable stew or brown rice risotto to a pile of raw veggies. The hot food lightly warms the raw food and you still get the crunch and flavour – and goodness – of the raw veggies.

It is possible to be 100% raw in Winter, like these folk in Alaska – brrrr! However an entirely raw diet is not suitable for everyone. If, like me, you have a weak digestive system, too much raw food can be an added burden. So a combination of raw and lightly cooked food is best.

Michelle Firrisi from Raw Vegan Power Suggests the following tips for raw winter eating:

  • Add a little cooked food to a raw meal.
  • Choose seasonal fruits & vegetables – eating seasonally is what our bodies are designed for, so don’t eat imported mangoes, enjoy the winter cabbage and fruits likes apples.
  • Spice up the heat – Warming spices like ginger, cayenne, cumin and curry, and if that’s too strong a flavour for you, cinnamon, cloves and allspice, really heat you up from the inside, they are also fabulous for digestion. You can also add them to juices and smoothies.
  • Greens, Greens, Greens – greens are grounding, so be sure to incorporate lots into your winter diet.
  • Rich smoothie and raw snacks – for those times when you need something sweet, I keep dates and nuts and bananas on hand. I swear after you have been off processed sweets for a while, dates taste like pure caramel!
  • Warm up your plate – Even a soak in hot water will take the chill off your plate and assure your food is not stone cold.

Ali Washington from Young and Raw says eating raw food does not have to be all or nothing, including a larger percentage of raw food into your diet, whatever that percentage may be, has great health benefits. She also reminded me that in Ayurvedic or Chinese Medicine, warm food is part of the healthy diet, particularly if you have a body like mine that runs cold in winter.

Use you intuition says Sabine from Some Like It Raw. If you are hankering for something warm, don’t force yourself to eat a bowl of raw veggies. A large part of being healthy – in my humble opinion, all of it –  is learning to listen to what your body wants. Your body knows what it needs, so if you crave brown rice – eat it – don’t let eating raw become a fascist regime!

Polly from PollyNoble.com has these rather helpful suggestions:

  • Eat your raw food first as your body takes the most amount of nutrition from the food you eat first, so it’s always a good idea to have a mouthful or two of raw food before eating some cooked food.
  • Keep having a green smoothie or green juice every day.
  • Make your soups in a blender, keeping all the enzymes and nutrients intact, and then warm gently on the stove until warm to the touch. (Raw food is based on not heating over 115 degrees F (46 degrees C) as that’s when food starts to lose it’s nutritional benefits.

Esme Stevens from The Best of Raw Food got her tips from raw foodies in Alaska – brrrr!

  • Raw doesn’t mean your food has to be cold. Make sure your raw food is room temperature, or heat it gently to 42 degrees.
  • Put warm sauces/salad dressings over your raw veggies
  • Drink warm beverages

Adria LeCorte from Healthy Vegas Vegan says consider seasonal eating. Her diet is based on Macrobiotics and the principles of yin (cooling) and yang (warming) foods. In winter, the diet centres on root vegetables and grounding, warming food. Sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, as well as steamed veggies and greens. She says as these foods are grounding in winter, it’s no coincidence that they also happen to be in season. Nature has her intuition too!

Here’s a hearty vegetable soup I make in the slow cooker, and then eat on a bed of shredded raw kale with some kimchi on top. Yum!

chunky-winter-vegetable-soup

Chunky Winter Vegetable Soup

3 spanish onions

3 cloves garlic

4 carrots

1/2 butternut pumpkin

2 zucchinis

2 potatoes

1 large sweet potato

4 yellow squash

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp turmeric

2 sprigs rosemary/thyme/bay leaves

4 tomatoes

Salt/pepper to taste

4 cups vegetable stock (see home-made recipe here)

Chop veggies into large chunks, add with stock to slow cooker and leave it to cook, as slowly as possible, until veggies are soft, usually a couple of hours.

If you – or you kids – like smooth soup, just blend it before serving. I like mine chunky!

So I hope that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Enjoy!

 

Title image here

Soup image here

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day 100. we’ve got the whole world in our hands

world in hands

Last night I was watching a show on iView called redesigning your brain. It’s based on this guy, Todd Sampson, who undertakes brain training for three months while neurologists monitor the changes in his brain. It’s all about brain plasticity. And it’s fascinating.

As I watched, it occurred to me that the brain training was focused on engaging in new behaviours, new habits, which cause the brain to create new pathways or synapses, and then strengthening these pathways through repetition.

I realised that by setting myself this raw challenge, I had embarked on a kind of redesigning my brain. I had made myself more likely to stick to new behaviour because I implicitly accepted that, as a challenge, it would be, well, challenging, duh, right? To challenge myself means being out of my comfort zone, accepting things will be unusual, uncomfortable, new.

I couldn’t do it lazy and eat the same thing every day because I needed to post new recipes. Writing this blog strengthened my resolve by making me accountable to the commitment I’d made.

I knew people were curious about my discoveries – friends, families, colleagues, and people I hadn’t even met, began to share their food and health journeys with me. This gave me faith and courage that this wasn’t some self indulgent exercise, but an undertaking of meaning and purpose.

According to Redesign Your Brain, something as simple as eating a new food each day creates new connections in your brain. (Mine should be huge by now!) The research on brain plasticity shows there is much to be gained by challenging ourselves with new behaviours.

The old thinking about brain cells, that once programmed they were set in stone, has been overturned. Now the research shows that the brain is incredibly resilient, resourceful and adaptable.

But you have to use it. Like all of nature, the human brain is super-efficient and energy saving, so if you only make the same old demands on it, eat the same food, drive the same way to work, do the same activities all the time, your brain doesn’t need to create new connections, so it doesn’t.

It’s fascinating watching the show as Todd’s brain increases in capability, functionality, and effectiveness through simple brain training exercises. And it’s inspiring to know that by changing our diet, or taking a different route to work we can begin to expand our own brain power. How simple is that?

I also read this article about the brain-gut connection and it’s effect on psychiatric disorders, see here. I have a particular interest in the brain-gut connection since my son was diagnosed with autism 8 years ago.

After his diagnosis, in addition to various accepted modalities for treating autism, such as speech therapy, psychology, and social skills training, I also investigated all kinds of alternative treatments.

As a result, he was treated at age 4 for leaky gut. Leaky gut is a syndrome where the intestinal lining has become compromised and both fails to absorb essential nutrients and allows particles to pass into the blood stream that essentially toxify the body.

The treatment for this syndrome was a special diet and supplements. I’m not saying it cured him, but you wouldn’t know he had autism these days. And I always know when he hasn’t been following his diet because the decline in his communication skills is quite dramatic.

All this research supports my gut feeling (excuse the pun) that diet really is vital to all aspects of our health.

I also read a really saddening article today about the state of the ocean. It’s here if you want to read it The Ocean Is Broken by Greg Ray.

I found it especially sad because it doesn’t offer any solutions. In fact the most obvious solution, like, well, go clean up the ocean, could potentially do more harm than good.

There’s a number of factors at play, but the main one was the fishing industry, the massive trawlers that plunder the ocean day and night, keeping only a small portion of what they catch then tossing dead fish back into an almost lifeless ocean.

It’s almost like reading about genocide. Because essentially we are murdering this planet.

It’s easy to get disillusioned, to reach a state of despair over the environmental catastrophe we find ourselves in. It’s easy to feel powerless when politics and activism don’t seem to be changing things, and certainly not fast enough. The logical mind would rightly call the situation hopeless.

Yet there is another perception which I am very open to, because really the alternative is too depressing.

The other alternative, espoused by many people from Albert Einstein, to the postmodern quantum physicists, to Marianne Williamson and Louise Hay, not to mention pretty much all spiritual doctrine, is that we create the world through our perception of it. So that all that is needed for change – even for the scale of change that seems truly miraculous – is for enough people to believe it’s possible. And that’s it.

What? I know. It just sounds too simplistic. It couldn’t be that easy, right? Then I thought about a book I read about quantum physicists when they first encountered wave-particle duality, they discovered that it was totally dependent on the observer (and their expectations) as to whether they saw one “reality” or another.

So if there’s no absolute reality, if the act of observing, interacting, and perceiving the world actually changes its form, then, hell yeah, it’s totally reasonable to assume that what can happen at the microscopic scale can also happen on a massive scale  – a change in human consciousness could change the physical environment. See more here on wave-particle duality.

Phew! I know a tangent when I see one! My point is…

So 100 days. Who would have thought that I’d still be eating raw? Not me, that’s for sure!

I said at the outset I would try eating raw and see what happens. So what has happened? Probably not what I thought would happen – I did have some lurking notion that I’d end up looking like Miranda Kerr. That hasn’t happened. However plenty of positive (and mostly unexpected) things have.

I love green smoothies, I feel like a clean, green machine. I never thought I’d honestly say that. It’s hard to explain, like a sensation that my body is running efficiently, that it’s not clogged up with processed and “filler” foods. I have developed a real respect for real food, as made by mother nature and just how perfectly nourishing it is.

I feel connected to the earth, I’m making ethical choices by eating fresh, locally grown, organic, plant-based food. Ethical because it leaves a smaller carbon footprint than buying processed and imported food; it financially supports local farmers; and it ensures there will be the option of organic food for future generations by making organic land use sustainable.

The top 13 things I most love about going raw (so far)…

1. Feeling clean on the inside

2. Eating the way nature intended

3. Reading about nutrition

4. Discovering like-minded friends

5. Trying new foods

6. Switching to organically grown food

7. Respect for my body and the earth

8. Eliminating toxins in cleaning products, make-up, toiletries

9. Giving up pharmaceutical pain killers

10. Being a positive role model for my son

11. Growing my own food

12. Not using the microwave

13. Reawakening my intuition

That last one sounds very woo-woo I know. But there’s something about feeding your body with raw, natural foods and eliminating toxins that opens up the mind/body/spirit connection. It is also a by-product of choosing an eating regime that is outside of the norm, so you have to learn to trust yourself.

In short making a commitment to eat raw, to change one thing in my life, has changed my whole life. And so it can be with the world. From little things big things grow.

Although it’s hard to believe something as simple as what we eat can change the world, the reality is our food choices have an impact on our carbon footprint. Eating a plant-based, locally, organically grown diet ensures we are not contributing to the destruction of our environment through over-fishing and unsustainable agricultural practices.

One person can’t change the world. But maybe someone will read my blog and make a small change, and they’ll influence someone else to change a little and so on. And maybe Marianne Williamson will get elected to the US Congress and even politics could change. If we believe in it, anything is possible!

Now for some food. After all that pontificating, how about the recipe for this super-simple, but insanely delicious salad dressing?

satay salad

The best salad dressing ever!

1 tbsp tahini paste

1 tbsp Braggs Amino Acid Sauce

1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Whish with a fork in a cup or jar. Pour on salad. Be amazed!

Thanks for following my raw journey!

Day 44. Step away from the grief bacon!

tiramisu 2

Raw Tiramisu by Naked Treaties

Kummerspeck. Literally translated as “grief bacon”. It’s a German word for the weight gained as a result of emotional overeating. A friend who loves discovering new words posted it on Facebook the other day. I’d never heard of it. I have long admired the German language for it’s outstanding vocabulary, its ability to nail a sentiment which would take a paragraph to describe in English. Schadenfraude is another favourite of mine (the word not the sentiment!)

So why am I talking about Kummerspeck? Because I have it. A good 2-3 kilos of it gained while I was overseas. Now the weight itself is no big deal, I know it will come off after a few weeks of my usual eating and exercising routine. What interests me is the phenomena of emotional overeating.

To my surprise I found eating raw food whilst away was not impossible. My friends were most accommodating, there were many food options when eating out. Despite all this I found my eating degenerated over the two weeks. My rock bottom was the 27 hour journey home (three 7-hour flights and transfers). I ate the entire time.

I learned long ago to be kind to myself when I fall from grace. I have no interest in berating myself unduly – it is unhelpful and self-destructive. My interest is in observing patterns of behaviour and learning from them.

I had not intended to eat 100% raw whilst away, so I don’t feel that I “failed”. What I do feel, is that I saw the link between emotional duress and eating.

Travelling for 27 hours overseas, plus all the packing, organising, checking of passports and tickets, money and credit cards, not to mention trying not to lose my child in busy airports, well, lets just say it was testing to my preferred state of calm.

Now, let’s just get this straight from the outset, calm is my preferred state of being NOT my natural state – which is more like anxious, worried, fearful, and a tad paranoid. It takes a lot of learned techniques; mindfulness, meditation, affirmations and Bach flower essences for me to stay even remotely calm at the best of times.

I’m an anxious person. I can say that now but I didn’t know this for the first 35 years of my life. I thought life was just really, REALLY scary. At one stage, I discovered alcohol made the scary feelings go away and I used that a lot, too much in the end. Alcohol is not an effective treatment for anxiety or depression. It is a little like – to steal someone else’s analogy – beating yourself on the head with a hammer to cure a headache, yes, it’s a distraction but it really only exacerbates the problem.

After I gave up alcohol I was left with my anxiety 24/7. Only I didn’t know I had anxiety. So I just attributed the feeling to various events in my life. I’m feeling anxious because I’m pregnant, a new mum, going back to uni, going back to work, money problems, relationship problems etc. There’s always some external thing to attach anxiety to.

It was only when I found myself at a happier, more settled place in my life that I realised the anxiety was still there. It ebbed and flowed but it never really went away. I saw that my mind would create dramas to be anxious about. Sometimes there were really worrying things happening in my life, but other times I could lose sleep over thinking that I hadn’t bought enough holiday souvenirs to give my family and friends. (Yep, true story from about a week ago!)

Alongside this anxiety was an unhealthy relationship with food. It can go either way with me. When my anxiety is very high and the adrenaline is really pumping, I can’t eat at all. However, low-level anxiety brings on a desire to comfort eat. How do I know when it’s comfort eating? If I’m eating for any reason other than hunger. In retrospect I can see I “comfort” ate for most of my trip, but it really became obvious when I couldn’t stop eating on the return flights home. I mean no one is continuously hungry for 27 hours, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I had a fantastic time in England, and I ate really well, and mostly raw, most of the time. I also ate when I wasn’t hungry because I felt out of routine, out of control, and out of my comfort zone.

To be honest though, anxiety was only part – albeit a large part – of the eating equation. I also noticed a sense of “treating” myself, of not wanting to “miss out”, and not wanting to stand out or be different. It’s hard enough being the person who doesn’t drink alcohol, never mind also asking for food that’s gluten free, dairy free, vegan, sugar free, and raw. I realise I felt embarrassed to speak up about my lifestyle choices. I lacked commitment to myself and my decision to eat raw food.

So now I’m back home. Extremely jetlagged, a little bloated and pudgy.

The good news is that I discovered I didn’t like the way I felt eating processed foods. As soon as I got home I went shopping for fruit and veggies at the organic food shop. I had a craving for mushrooms so I made this amazing salad. I call it my jetlag recovery salad. I also treated myself to some pre-prepared raw crackers and a very decadent slice of raw tiramisu. The tiramsu was made by Naked Treaties, a Byron Bay cafe who now supply to selected health food shops and cafes http://nakedtreaties.com.au/wp/ Their desserts are delicious! I haven’t tried making tiramisu yet, but I’ve included a couple of recipes I’ve found below.

And my nut bag has arrived.  Say what? It’s a special muslin bag to make nut milk and cheeses, so that’s the next raw adventure!

Inspired by my friends’ veggie garden in England, I have bought seeds to start my own.

Funnily enough my lapse into Kummerspeck has strengthened my resolve to eat well. Sometimes it is only by falling off the wagon that it becomes apparent how much better it is on the wagon. The comparison made me realise I was onto a good thing. But it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect either. I want to find balance, a way of living that is pleasurable, healthy, and effortless. Here’s to that journey!

The Bounce-back from Jetlag Salad

photo-81

4 mushrooms, sliced

1/2 capsicum, sliced

1/2 cup thinly chopped kale

1/2 cup mixed sprouted beans

1/2 avocado diced

100g tempeh sliced thinly

1 tsp chopped ginger

1/3 Braggs Amino Acids

1/2 chilli chopped finely

Mix ginger, Braggs and chilli in a small cup or jug. Add tempeh and stir to marinate in dressing. Add to the remaining ingredients in a bowl, mix and serve.

This serves one person so multiply the ingredients by the number of people you are serving.

Raw Tiramisu Recipes:

http://uncooking101.com/site/raw-food-recipe/stars-stripe-raw-tiramisu/

http://samaritanoftheheart.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/raw-vegan-tiramisu-this-is-to-die-for.html