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Its advocates say this diet phenomenon is nutritious, healthy and energizing,
By Joanne Gallo
Diets can be just as trendy as the styles of the day, quickly losing their allure and appearing dated. But the raw food diet, which consists of uncooked and unprocessed organic food, is no mere fad weight-loss plan. This formerly-underground lifestyle choice, which technically dates back to the dawn of time, has enjoyed a boom in popularity in the new millennium thanks to its makeover from fringe to fashionable. What was once thought of as an austere, stringent regimen for hardcore vegans and environmentalists has gained some serious mainstream cache. Demi does it. Sting swears by it. Supermodel Carol Alt asserts it changed her life.
How extreme can this eating plan be if the rich and famous are so swiftly gulping it down? Can you never eat a warm meal again? Will you get all the nutrients you need? Is food poisoning a serious concern? And what, exactly, is sprouting—and do you have to have a green thumb to do it?
Hardcore proponents of a raw or “living foods” diet eat only fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and seaweeds that have not been heated or cooked above 115 to 120 degrees. More relaxed raw buffs allow meals heated up to 160 degrees, and incorporate very lightly seared meat and fish and unprocessed dairy products into their diet.
“The basis of raw foodism is that life promotes life,” says Jeremy A. Safron, author of The Raw Truth: The Art of Preparing Living Foods (Celestial Arts). “Food fresh from nature’s garden contains a wide range of nutrients and a powerful amount of life force. Raw foodists believe in living as closely to the earth as possible and respecting all life.”
Followers of the diet also say they feel energized because the body does not have to work hard to digest cooked food. They point to the importance of enzymes, protein catalysts that allow chemical reactions—like digestion—to occur efficiently. The bottom line is that raw food has enzymes whereas cooking denatures them, or renders them completely inactive. “Enzymes are responsible for every metabolic process that takes place in the body from digestion to cell repair,” notes Matt Amsden, an LA-based raw food chef whose company, RAWvolution, delivers raw food meals to clients. “When you consume enzyme-rich food, it practically digests itself, leaving you with a surplus of energy to do what you love.”
The Power of Green Foods
Meet some of nature’s greatest nutritional superstars.
by Lisa James
While going green may be the latest environmental trend, it is an idea that stretches back to antiquity in terms of personal health. Traditional medicine practitioners around the world have always turned to green plants for their ability to cleanse, detoxify and heal.
Sadly, many people in our modern age, including many children, are not as well acquainted with green foods as they should be. “Most American children still eat no greens, ever,” says nutrition educator Robyn Openshaw, author of The Green Smoothies Diet (Ulysses Press). That’s a shame; as Openshaw points out, green foods are rich sources of protein, calcium, fiber, chlorophyll and
Here are green foods you should include in your diet. Some, such as spinach and the brassicas, are perfectly at home in the kitchen; others, such as chlorella and spirulina, are best obtained as supplements or as ingredients in protein shake mixes. What’s more, there are whole-food supplements that incorporate a wide spectrum of green foods to help fortify a healthy, well-rounded eating plan.
Alfalfa is a member of the pea family mostly grown as cattle forage
NUTRITION NOTES: Alfalfa contains protein, chlorophyll, iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, along with a number of vitamins; long used as a blood purifier and anti-ulcer remedy; acts as a mild laxative and diuretic
Seaweed includes many marine plants, including dulse, kelp and rockweed
NUTRITION NOTES: Seaweed contains iodine, a mineral crucial for a healthy thyroid (the body’s master energy controller); it is also rich in protein and minerals
Barley Grass is the early vegetative growth phase of a common cereal grain
NUTRITION NOTES: Barley grass contains vitamins B12, C and E, along with minerals
The brassica family include broccoli and its cousins:...
Tiny, Yet Mighty
The blue-green algae known as spirulina is a small organism with big benefits.
By Lisa James
Everyone from research scientists to your mother agrees that the more produce you eat the better off you will be. Those bright colors indicate the presence of nutrients your body needs for optimal well-being.
However, some of the most colorful foods you can consume are not seen on the average American dinner plate—and the individual organisms can’t be seen at all with the naked eye. Spirulina (scientific name, Arthrospira) is a blue-green algae, a coil-shaped bacterium that colonizes lakes throughout tropical areas of the world. Valued as a food source by the ancient Aztecs, and in the central African country of Chad from the ninth century onwards, spirulina is most commonly available in the US as an ingredient in protein drink mixes and whole-food supplements. What’s more, spirulina now comes in forms that have been standardized to ensure consistent nutrient levels.
Spirulina’s nutritional profile is what makes it a favorite in health food stores. It provides abundant, easily digestible protein—between 60% and 70% by weight—and includes a nearly complete set of essential amino acids (protein building blocks that the body cannot create on its own). Spirulina also contains gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fat long recommended by alternative healthcare practitioners for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Spirulina is a good source of iron, a mineral that many people, especially premenopausal women, are deficient in. It provides vitamin B12, magnesium and calcium as well. But the micronutrients that spirulina is best known for are the carotenoids. This family of related substances includes beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A within the body; lutein and its partner, zeaxanthin, best known for their role in maintaining eye health; lycopene, which has been linked with reduced risk for several types of cancer; and astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant. In addition, spirulina contains phycocyanin, a blue pigment that has shown an ability to reduce inflammation and pain in laboratory studies (Anesthesia & Analgesia 4/09).
It comes as no surprise that spirulina has drawn the attention of the scientific community. Studies have documented spirulina’s ability to fight inflammation and infection, and regulate the immune system among other health benefits.
Researchers have long known that spirulina inhibits the release of histamine, a substance that can provoke the miseries associated with nasal allergies. One study found that spirulina “significantly improved” such allergy symptoms as sneezing, congestion, runny nose and itchiness (European Archives of Otorhinolaryngology 10/08).
While restraining an overly enthusiastic immune response, spirulina can also help boost immunity when necessary against a number of bacterial, viral and fungal agents. In Korea, spirulina impr...