Sometimes when people hear the term raw foods, they assume it means a pile of cut up raw veggies minus the dip. Or worse yet, a spinach salad, hold the dressing. In reality, the world of raw food is a cuisine all of its own. It’s complete with decadent desserts, filling main courses and hearty breakfasts. It has snacks galore, lunches that are to die for and so many awesome appetizer ideas that you can share with friends. But starting off, if you aren’t familiar with raw food, it can be daunting to read the recipes and prepare the items. It seems like a lot of steps involving soaking this and dehydrating that, pureeing this and spiralizing that. The truth is though, that anybody can add raw foods into their diet with relative ease and minimal extra equipment. Doing so allows you to maximize the health benefits of the foods you are eating, giving you an increased dose of enzymes, more nutrients and a huge dose of antioxidants. If you’re new to raw foods and ready to give it a try, start with these 5 ways to add raw foods into your diet:
1) Make spiralized veggie noodles
You’ve probably seen the growing spiralizer trend all over Pinterest, but the truth is, you don’t need a spiralizer to take part. In my early raw food days, when I had a minor obsession with zucchini noodles, I used to use a carrot peeler: just peel the zucchini like you would a carrot and you’re left with thick, fettuccine like strands of glorious zucchini that are ready to be dressed up with pesto or tomato sauce.
2) Get familiar with your food processor
I use my food processor and/or blender multiple times a day. Whether it’s for a smoothie bowl, nut milk, nut butter or a creamy raw hummus, the food processor opens up a whole new world when it comes to enjoying raw food. Have a look on the web for some inspiration of what you can make in your food processor, and most importantly, just start playing around! Let your imagination run wild, because when it comes to raw food, anything goes!
3) Start soaking
Nuts, legumes, seeds, grains, whatever floats your boat! Soaking softens the product, making it easier to puree, if you are using it for something like a sauce or raw dessert, but it also helps make it easier to digest. Many products, like nuts and legumes release a lot of their phytic acid upon soaking – this is part of the cloudy, gluey, like substance you may see in the soaking water. Phytic acid can sometimes be hard on our digestive system leading to unpleasant gas and bloating during digestion. Many people who experience otherwise negative symptoms when consuming unsoaked legumes, find soaking them eliminates all of their discomfort.
4) Buy more fresh herbs
If you are used to cooking food, you are probably used to throwing in a handful of dried spices or herbs into your dish and reaping the flavor benefits. While you can still use those in raw cooking (they are simply dehydrated), the flavor yield won’t be near as strong since you aren’t going to be adding heat. Instead, get familiar with the flavours and uses of fresh herbs and start to add them to your kitchen instead. Their flavours are much more intense, and they go perfectly in raw dishes. I try to sample a new fresh herb every week or two, and always have a couple of different varieties in my fridge.
5) Get saucy
In my opinion, one of the biggest components of raw cooking is the sauces. The right sauce can take a mediocre raw dish to an exceptional raw dish that leaves you wanting to come back for more. It’s a great way to infuse flavor into your food and still give it that creamy, hearty, satisfying punch we have come to know from many traditional cooked dishes (think spaghetti and meatballs, pesto pasta, cheesy broccoli). My suggestion is to find your favourite sauce base and use that to create all your saucy creations. Some people like cashews, or other nuts, but I’m a huge fan of lentils and beans, and miso is great for adding depth of flavor to your saucy creation!