For the last ten years, my mom has eaten largely a raw food diet, which is based on the premise that eating unprocessed and uncooked plant foods, including vegetables, fruit, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains, beans, and seaweed that are never heated above 116 degrees, can increase overall health and longevity and heal many ailments and diseases that are precipitated and perpetuated by the standard American diet.
(cacao, Sun is Shining, goji, acai, maca)
Ten years ago, this was an even more radical proposition than it is today, when many “superfoods” have become used as marketing tools and even the USDA is beginning to come around to the idea that eating less food and eating mainly fresh food as part of a plant-based diet can seriously curb our disease epidemics. The misconception that the raw food diet is about reducing the number of foods we can eat is based on the fact that most of the processed foods that Americans eat are made up of a very limited number of foods that are not very healthy: corn, wheat, soy, poultry, beef. When we eat a banana or a potato, it’s a single, recognizable species of banana or potato narrowed down from a huge variety of plants boasting different nutritional profiles that have been replaced by a corporate monoculture, supported by government subsidies.
In fact, eating a raw food diet brings to the forefront all kinds of foods that many people are unfamiliar with, or just don’t consider eating as part of their everyday diet. While cooking is never involved, foods are soaked, sprouted, juiced, dehydrated and/or blended to create meals that are exciting as well as nutritious. I’ve had experiences in raw food restaurants that included everything from raw nachos (at Karyn’s in Chicago) and porcini ravioli in truffle cream sauce (at Pure Food and Wine in New York) to tiramisu (Quintessence, NY) and gourmet chocolate truffles (David Wolfe’s Sunfood store in California). I spent a long weekend visiting my parents at San Diego’s Optimum Health Institute, drinking tons of rejuvelac (which recently made an appearance on Bizarre Foods!) and feeling cured of an entire college semester of Coors Light & tater tots. I’ve experimented with making raw food: zucchini spaghetti with raw marinara, bright violet raw blueberry chocolate pie.
While there are obviously still days when I eat the worst of the standard American diet, as attested to by pictures of french fries and chocolate chip cookies - and enjoy it plenty! - having a fluency in raw food and its benefits is a huge asset whenever I want to take a break and push my body’s reset button. I believe strongly in the health benefits of a largely raw and plant-based diet, and whenever I come back to visit my parents, I have a green shake every morning for breakfast. It combines a bunch of incredibly nutrient-rich foods, takes less than five minutes to make and produces immediate positive effects.
- 1 cup liquid base: I tough it out and use partly water and partly tea made from herbs like cat’s claw (supports intestinal and immune health, anti-inflammatory properties), pau d’arco (anti-fungal) and reishi mushrooms (an immunostimulant). If you’re going for tastiness, coconut milk, almond milk or any fresh juice are good choices.
- 1 tbsp maca, for strength & stamina
- 1 tbsp raw cacao, the least processed version of chocolate, for antioxidants
- 1 tbsp Sun is Shining superfood, which includes algae for weight loss and general health, probiotics for digestive health, and a whole bunch of mineral-rich land & sea vegetables
- 1 tsp goji berry powder, for antioxidants and brain health
- 1 tsp acai berry powder, for heart health
- 1 tbsp tocotrienols, for Vitamin E, an antioxidant
- 1 tbsp chia seeds, which include essential fatty acids, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium
- A generous pinch of bee pollen, rich in enzymes, amino acids and phytonutrients
- Our friend Stacy, who travels around the country teaching all kinds of people about the “happy shake,” uses a fresh spinach base and adds frozen fruit at the end. This is definitely a more likely way to attract new converts, and I’d absolutely recommend it for your first shake!
- Blend all the ingredients together in a good-quality blender (a Vitamix is the best) and drink immediately. This is the only breakfast that ever keeps me feeling full until lunchtime, completely energized and actually feeling better about everything. That’s not bad, for a shake.