I started reading & learning about raw foods a little over 10yrs ago, before all the buzz & before it was the next/latest diet “trend” that all the A-list celebs were raving about & advocating. Beyoncé, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow & many other hot & influential celebrities are all big fans & follow a 50%+ raw vegan diet in their day-to-day dietary regimes. In their cases it was mostly because they found following a primarily raw vegan diet to be more sustainable, ethical & healthy, both for their own health & that of our planet/home. They find they have more energy, improved skin, hair & nails, look leaner, feel stronger & all-round better in every way. It also helps to give you a better, more level, happy/optimistic outlook & on the whole they look & feel younger & sexier, looking more attractive than they did before! What’s not to like/love? Venus (& Serena?) Williams recently announced she’s going on a 100% raw vegan diet to see how this improves/affects her fitness, strength, stamina/endurance in her game (tennis that is!). So, whether you’re wanting to look/feel younger, sexier/more beautiful (both on the inside & the outside) or looking to lose some weight, gain strength/endurance/stamina, build muscle/body build… a raw food diet can most certainly help you to achieve any/all of those things and much much more!
Raw foods are naturally higher in nutrition than cooked foods -think of all those minerals leached out of your vegetables when you boil them, or all the vitamins lost through cooking? Many vitamins are destroyed by heat or light, so as soon as they are cooked at least 50% of them are lost! Lots of minerals are also lost through cooking, so by eating more raw foods, even if it’s only 10% or 20% of your diet you will definitely notice some significant improvements. First things you’ll notice are: a) a surge in energy & a speeding up of your metabolism (raw food keeps all it’s active natural enzymes intact which aid in faster digestion & improved absorption of nutrients, which means less work for your digestive system). b) improved skin tone/complexion & shinier/stronger hair & nails -this is because of your now increased vitamin & mineral intake, all of which add to your body’s ability to get all the necessary nutrients (in their respective adequate amounts) for all the processes your body requires them for!
Also, you need vitamins for certain minerals to be absorbed properly e.g. you need vitamin C to absorb iron properly, you need vitamin D to absorb calcium & magnesium properly… Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E are also found in foods that naturally contain fat e.g. Oats, millet, almonds, walnuts… When cooked, a lot of the fat can be affected negatively, especially the EFAs (essential fatty acids) like omega 3s, 6s & 9s. Omega 3s are especially important because these have heart-protective qualities, help lower the LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol (this is the bad type of cholesterol) & raise HDL (high density lipoprotein), the good type of cholesterol (you want your HDL high & your LDL low!). Omega 3s are destroyed by heat, so it is better tro try & consume it raw/uncooked whenever/wherever possible! For vegans/vegetarians the best sources are nuts & seeds, especially flaxseeds/linseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts or the oils of these e.g. flaxseed/linseed oil (it doesn’t taste v.nice, so use a small amount mixed with other oils like olive oil or rapeseed/canola oil in salad dressings). Cod liver oil is also a great source of DHA/omega 3 oils, but nowadays there is concern that it may have small levels of mercury in it (mercury is the 2nd most potent neurotoxin for humans). Fish are not affected & remain perfectly healthy even with high levels of mercury in their systems. If you are concerned about mercury, google it online, where there is plenty of information about best sources. Simple common sense though would dictate that it is best to avoid eating too much oily/blue fish (salmon, tuna, swordfish…) & if/when eating it opt for smaller fish, as bigger fish that feed on other fish will have higher levels. So go for whitebait, sardines, kippers, mackerel instead… Shellfish on the whole is ok, but again avoid overconsumption if you are concerned. Blue/green algae & other green seaweeds contain high levels of chlorophyll (as do all the dark-green leafy vegetables), a naturally powerful chelator of all chemical & heavy-metal toxins. Spirulina, chlorella, cilantro/coriander leaf & flat-leaf parsley are especially good. So, if you eat plenty of greens with your fish/seafood you can probably eat as much as you like & enjoy great levels of health, so it is not such a big worry -eat fish in salsa verde, or salmon with pasta & pesto!
Now, onto so-called “Superfoods”! What makes one ingredient get classed as a superfood? Well, in my opinion, it is any food/herb/spice/ingredient that is a) a bit exotic/less readily available, b) contains a higher than average level of vitamins &/or minerals &/or micronutrients and c) usually costs a small fortune! Also, you usually only need a small amount to reap the benefits, so when you do splash out, it usually does last/keep for a good long while. Some of my personal favourites which I try to keep a small stock of at home are:
Açai berry powder (an antioxidant powerhouse, great for brain health)
Goji berries (rich in the antioxidant astaxanthin which gives it a salmon pink/red/orange colour, important for heart health, & has many other vitamins, minerals, antioxidants; it is also especially rich in iron, so great for those with anaemia)
Pomegranate (another antioxidant powerhouse -great for the heart… Remember, all things red are great for the heart!)
Chlorella (as mentioned already, v.v.rich in all vitamins, minerals, micronutrients & chlorophyll, as well as a rare nutrient “alpha lipoic acid”, a v.powerful antioxidant, one of the few that can break through the blood-brain barrier that acts like a broom, sweeping away all the clutter & cobwebs! Fantastic for heart & brain health, age-related cognitive & memory impairments e.g. Dementia, senility & Alzheimer’s! It is a “complete food” in its own right i.e. you could technically live on it exclusively & still get all the nutrients you need for good health!)
Wheatgrass powder (another complete food, rich in chlorophyll -so again, a powerful detoxifier)
Barley grass powder (another complete food, rich in chlorophyll -so again, a powerful detoxifier)
Flaxseeds/Linseeds (rich in lignans, a type of fibre that absorbs up to 10 times it’s own weight in water, as well as the richest source of omega 3s than in any other food, by a long long way! Excellent for heart health, the circulatory system -lower yours bad cholesterol & raises your good cholesterol, nervous system, brain, immune system, skin hair & nails; it is also anti-fungal).
Chia seeds (like with flaxseeds chia seeds are also high in lignans, so great for making jelly-like puddings, just make sure to grind/powder them down 1st! Also v.rich in other antioxidants & iron. A veritable power food!)
Millet (although many consider it to be a cereal grain, it is more akin to a seed, containing all the essential amino acids, which you can only get through diet. Non-essential amino acids can be manufactured by your own body. Great as a source of protein for vegans/vegetarians. It is also v.rich in silicon, needed for renewal of your stomach & gut lining, as well as for anywhere that you have collagen in your body -lips, joints, breasts… great for people with arthritis, rheumatism, bowel diseases… It also has an alkalising effect when metabolised by your body. Most fruit & vegetables are alkalising, most cereal grains, meat, fish & shellfish are acidifying… Disease CANNOT exist in an alkaline environment, it can only exist in acidic environments, so it is of paramount importance to do all you can to alkalise your body. Most people eating a SAD -Standard American/Western Diet have an overly acidic system)
Quinoa (also technically a seed, but so similar to cous cous when cooked that again many think of it as a cereal grain. It has a higher amount of absorbable protein/amino acids than steak! So again a superfood and super source of protein for vegans/vegetarians & non-vegetarians alike! Quinoa is also one of the few cereal grains” that is alkalising, so enjoy as much of it as you like!)
Spelt (a great substitute for wheat/gluten-containing grains. There are many breads & pastas out there now made with spelt flour that are commercially available, even in your local supermarket. It does contain a small amount of gluten, however most people can tolerate it well).
Buckwheat (another gluten-free grain, great for crepes!)
Amaranth (again, gluten-free, rich in iron & amino acids -great for bread-making & other cereal grains, biscuits…)
Black rice (gluten-free like all rice, v.rich in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, like in all blue/purple-coloured fruits/vegetables e.g. blueberries, red cabbage ,..)
Wild rice (as for black rice, but wild rice is particularly rich in minerals & micronutrients)
Manuka honey (10+ UMF -Unique Manuka Factor- v.powerful antibiotic, both antibacterial & antifungal, as well as some anti-parasitic action. Quite a strong flavour that’s not to everybody’s taste, but you can use it sparingly. I also find it is often a little sweeter than other honeys)
Maca (use v.sparingly -it is v.strong flavoured & like a v.strong/powerful spice, which helps combat tiredness/fatigue, low libido & boost the immune system)
Lucuma powder (rich in antioxidant, great for your immune system & to combat low energy)
Baobab powder (super rich in vitamin C)
Coconut Oil (I’m sure that by now most of you will have heard of the 100+ health benefits of eating coconut oil/butter/milk/cream! It is antifungal, so v.good for any/all skin conditions & it can be applied topically, directly onto the skin like any cream/body lotion. It is also great as a natural conditioner for your hair & gives it great shine & anti-frizz! Eaten like a food it’s medium-chain fatty acids are very protective for the brain/neuronal & nervous system, as well as giving us that extra insulation/fat-layer to keep us warm in the colder months. It is a vegetable/plant-based oil/fat & because it is solid at room temperature it is higher in saturated fats than most other oils/fats of vegetable origin. However, not all saturated fats are created equal & coconut oil has medium-chain rather than long-chain fatty acids. This means that they tend to be used up for fuel by the body 1st in preference to the saturated long-chain fatty acids, found mostly in meat, as well as the more abundant polyunsaturated fats found in all other vegetable oils & oily/blue fish & shellfish. In fact, according to several studies, the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are said to trigger a fat-burning response in our bodies, whereby the body opts to burn fat for fuel before both protein or carbohydrates. This is something that seems to be singular/exceptional to coconut, which apparently no other food does! So, in theory, you could have a v.high intake (arguably an unlimited intake of fat from coconut oil) & your body would in fact lose weight, burning more calories from fat than you are consuming! This is a fantastic discovery in the field of nutrition & will undoubtedly have a huge impact for people on a weight loss diet all over the world!! One other thing about coconut oil is that it has a v.high smoke point, meaning that it doesn’t burn until you get to v.high temperatures, making it an optimal choice for any/all cooking! It does have a coconutty flavour though, so perhaps it’s best to use it for baking cookies or in Thai-style green curries and other Asian/Indian dishes that call for coconut milk etc… I still prefer to use refined olive oil or rapeseed oil for all other cooking, extra virgin olive oil on occasion, especially when roasting vegetables and garlic! And of course sometimes butter is still best)! So, don’t ever be afraid of your coconuts!
And of course there ar many many more, but these are just a small selection of things I like to have to hand. I like to have gluten-free flour too, not because it’s a superfood, but because I follow a wheat/gluten-free diet. I also do a milk/dairy/lactose-free diet, so I use a lot of soy products, rice milk, almond milk, oat milk & coconut milks & creams when needed as substitutes.
1) Everyday Almond Milk (sweetened or unsweetened):
1cup of almonds (soaked in a bowl full of water for 4-12hrs e.g. overnight, in or out of the fridge)
200-250ml filtered/spring water
2-3 dates (if you want it sweet)
After pre-soaking the almonds, drain well, rinse under cold water and put in a powerful blender (e.g. Vitamix or Optimum 9400). Add 200-250ml of filtered/spring water (cold) to the mix & blend on high power for a good 2-3mins or until you think it won’t be liquidised further (usually the blender will change sound when this happens). If you want your milk sweet add the 2-3 dates in at this point & blend for another minute or so. Then sieve through the finest sieve you can find, or use a nut milk bag “cheese”-muslin cloth (made of cotton). This will ensure a perfectly silky smooth milk as a result. If you miss out this step your milk may end up a bit bitty as some of the almonds won’t be blended/liquidised perfectly, especially if your blender isn’t particularly powerful. Put the milk in a jug & keep in the fridge for up to a week.
2) Green Pesto:
1 big bunch of fresh basil
25-50g of pine nuts &/or cashews
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Parmesan or Granada Padano cheese or vegan hard cheeze (optional)
Put all the ingredients either in a pestle & mortar or in a food processor (depending on how hard you want to work). If using a food processor you can put the stalks of the basil in too, if not stick to the leaves only. Blitz away until you reach the desired consistency -about 20-30 seconds. You may want to pulse the pine nuts or cashew nuts on their own 1st, but careful not to turn them into a nut butter! Job done! Enjoy poured over fresh pasta or on chicken, salmon, any white fish or other tasty foods like roasted vegetables -courgettes/zucchini are a favourite of mine & is also great with a cherry or baby plum tomato and red onion bruschetta -delicious! Adding a drizzle of balsamic glaze or lemon juice is fantastic too!
3) Superfood Smoothie:
1-2 cups of mixed fresh or frozen berries
1/2-1 fresh or frozen banana
1/2 a fresh or frozen mango &/or pineapple
200ml of pressed apple or orange juice (optional), filtered/spring water if not
The juice of 1/2-1 lemon
Honey, maple syrup, xylitol, stevia, demerara/brown sugar or 2-3 dates (to sweeten) (optional)
Any of the following “Superfoods” you like or have to hand: 1-2tsp of wheatgrass/barleygrass/chlorella/spirulina powder, 1-2tsp açai berry powder, 1-2tbsp of lucuma powder, a small handful of goji berries, 1-2tbsp of flaxseeds/linseeds &/or 1tbsp of chia seeds, 1-2tbsp cacao nibs, 1-2tsp hemp seeds or other seeds/nuts of your choice, 1-2tsp coconut oil (or 100ml of coconut milk -use less juice or water if adding this), 1/2tsp of maca powder, 1tsp of baobab powder (or vitamin C powder -you can also use one chewable tablet) &/or any other superfood you like e.g. pomegranate (fresh or juiced), black cherry or black grapes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, black/red/white currants, or add 1-2tbsp of your favourite protein powder (good vegan options are hemp seed powder or soy/pea/rice based powders), or you can add a heaped tbsp of a pre-prepared powder mix e.g. Bioglan Supergreens or equivalent (or make a home-made one!).
Put all the ingredients in a high-speed blender & blitz on high power for 1-2mins or until you have the smooth consistency you like. If you’re using a less powerful blender (you can also use a hand-held one) you may want to sieve it afterwards before serving, especially if you have added any ingredients with small seeds (e.g. blackberries, raspberries or strawberries -blueberries aren’t so bad). Drink & enjoy!
If you drink one of these every day, you will notice the energising/revitalising effects in no time! I would recommend it as a breakfast drink, mid-morning/11s’s drink or night/bedtime drink -remember your body does most of its repair work whilst you sleep & protein is the most important nutrient for cellular repair, so a protein shake at bedtime is a very good idea, plus being in liquid form means easier to digest & better absorption of nutrients, especially all the vital vitamins, minerals & other important micronutrients! But, the point is, drinking this at anytime can only do you a whole lot of good!
Feel free to share/post this on your social media for your friends to see/read & of course do write/e-mail me with requests for recipes you’d like me to post, or about anything else! Enjoy in joy 🙂