Raw foods
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Do you have to adopt an all-raw diet to get the benefits of uncooked foods? Chef Aine McAteer doesn't think so. Find out why and how to get in on the raw foods movement without making a huge commitment.
I recently saw a bumper sticker on a car that read "Cooking Kills, Eat Raw." If that truly were the case, I would have left a trail dead bodies in my wake, but instead I've left many happy, well-fed and nourished people—and yes, I cooked their food! Well, most of it.

The raw food movement has become popular recently, with many proponents believing that by cooking our foods, we're killing all its nutrients and by eating our foods in their raw, "alive" state, we're going to be rewarded with vibrant health.

I tend to take an intuitive and flexible approach when it comes to food. I love to explore all the different dietary systems out there and take from them that which I feel will work for myself or whoever I'm cooking for. There are many factors that govern my food choices, such as the health condition of the person I'm cooking for, the climate and environment, the availability of fresh and locally grown ingredients, the mood I'm in and the time I have to prepare the foods.

Still, I do believe that including a percentage of raw and very lightly cooked foods in our diet is important—not just to add variety of textures, vibrant colors and flavors, but also for their health benefits.

Health Benefits of Raw Food

Research on enzymes has shown the importance of including raw foods in our diet to support healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients. These raw-food enzymes start the process of digestion in the mouth and upper stomach. But, when food is heated beyond 118 degrees, the enzymes are deactivated. Our bodies do produce their own enzymes for digestion, but it helps when we get them from our foods as well.

Most traditional cultures incorporate some raw, enzyme-rich foods into their cuisines, from raw salads and fruits to raw animal protein such as fish, meats and raw dairy products. Fermenting and culturing food enhances its enzyme content, and you will find that most traditional cuisines will also have some form of fermented food included—for example, pickles and fermented soy products commonly served in Japan, kimchee from Korea, sauerkraut in European countries and yogurt and other fermented dairy products found in many cultures.

Discover the main components of raw food 
Food is our fuel. When we consume foods that are less processed and closer to their live, natural states, they provide a higher quality of energy and vitality so we feel more alive and energized. Raw foods are also high in fiber, which helps keep the body naturally cleansed and aids in regeneration and rejuvenation.

Raw foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables, are also cooling and hydrating, so summer is the perfect time to enjoy a raw meal!

The main components of the raw food diet are fresh fruits and vegetables, sea vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and various herbs, spices and seasonings. Nuts and seeds are soaked to make them more digestible, and whole grains are generally sprouted.

Many people who rely mainly on raw foods use dehydrators to make breads and crackers and to dry fruits and vegetables. Another kitchen tool that is held in high esteem among raw food eaters is the powerful Vita Mix blender. It is used for making raw soups, bean and grain purees and juices that also contain the fiber of the fruits and vegetables.

If you don't feel like making the commitment to a completely raw meal, including a nice salad or cooling soup as part of the meal will give you the benefits of the live foods.

For example, you could enjoy my delicious Creamy Carrot Soup with Cherry Tomato and Corn Salsa as an opening to any meal or as a light lunch. The first time I made this soup, I made it with carrot juice, but not everyone has a juicer and I actually prefer to include the whole vegetable, fiber and all. Blend it well, until you get a nice creamy consistency.


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