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The Raw Deal

Liza Grant Smith

   The pitch for a raw food diet is fairly straightforward and persuasive.  
Tostadas from the Darbster - West palm Beach    Enzymes are the life force of raw or living food, helping us digest food and absorb nutrients. When we cook food (heat it above 104-118 degrees), we denature the enzymes. This means our bodies will have to work harder by producing more enzymes, which can leave us feeling tired and heavy. Plus, it is believed that our bodies can produce just a limited amount of enzymes. Once the supply is finished, organ function will lessen and we will experience accelerated aging.  
   Secondly, raw diets tend to be alkaline diets. When you eat a diet high in acid, found in processed foods, sugar, meat, dairy, etc., you are consuming acidic toxins faster than your body can eliminate them. They begin to back up and disrupt your body’s delicate acid/alkaline balance, a major cause of excess weight and disease. With an uncooked diet, the body can naturally detoxify and stay healthy.
   The promised payoffs of eating primarily raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, sprouts and seaweed? Everything from having more energy, clarity of mind and an improved immune system to weight loss, improved digestion and better skin.
   Despite the benefits, some find many reasons to avoid adopting a raw diet. Here are some of the myths dispelled.

Concern No. 1
It’s not going to taste good.
   Perhaps no one has better disproven this preconception than chef Christopher Slawson. Early last year, Slawson opened Christopher’s Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens that launched without a stove or oven to underscore his dedication to living food. The menu is varied (tacos, lasagna, vegetable sushi). His signature Sun Burger is a veggie burger with avocado, zucchini bacon, cashew cheese and a bevy of towering fresh toppings.
   “It’s focusing on fresh, organic, plant-based ingredients in an artful and creative way,” says Slawson of his menu. “You can create a lot of pâtés and sauces and flavors with spices and organic fruits and vegetables. There’s so much flavor already behind those components that you don’t have to do much.
   “Now we have customers who come here because they love the food, not because it’s raw or it’s vegan,” Slawson says.
Flax and tomato sandwich - Darbster - West Palm Beach - photo by Diana Rmirez 

Concern No. 2
It will never stick because I will continue to crave all the foods from my old processed-food life.
   As it turns out, this is a two-fold concern. Cravings have both a physical and emotional component.
   In terms of the physical, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that poor food choices over the years have corrupted our taste buds. We are born with a balanced instinct about food, so the things our body needs are what taste good. However, the more processed food we eat growing up, the more confused our body gets.
smooties - raw food guide - rumors and myths of raw food answered   The good news is that we can reset our body’s natural instincts. Taste buds are replaced every 10-14 days. As old cells die and new ones are born, the pores adjust to the shape of the molecules being consumed. Committing to a diet that includes a lot of raw food allows taste buds to once again operate at their maximum potential.
   Having adopted raw foods into her diet, yoga instructor Sara Lerner has experienced that firsthand. “Your taste buds become so heightened that sugar, or things that are sugary, doesn’t have any satisfaction or charge to it,” she says.
   “Once you start to get really clean, your body does a shift, almost unconsciously moving away from allowing these cravings,” Slawson says. “If you’re used to eating high-end ingredients and you put a Dorito in your mouth, you’re going to think it tastes very foreign and your body is not going to enjoy it.”
   Emotional cravings can be more difficult to overcome, but many raw food enthusiasts claim you don’t have to fight them.
   Dina Marie Lauro, a raw/vegan chef, has made a career of teaching people how to create sneaky substitutes.
   “People still crave carbs and all the other stuff, but you learn other ways. You can make cheese out of nuts. I teach a class on desserts and make an ice cream out of blueberries, bananas and a little stevia and nut milk,” Lauro says.
   Perhaps Lauro’s biggest processed food imposter success has been with Chunkie Dunkies, her line of gourmet raw/vegan cookies, which will soon be carried in Whole Foods stores.

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February 2015