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Excerpt from "Raw Basics: Incorporating Raw Living Foods Into Your Diet"

by Jenny Ross

The following excerpt is taken from the book RAW BASICS: Incorporating Raw Living Foods into Your Diet Using Easy and Delicious Recipes by Jenny Ross. It is published by Hay House (July 2011) and is available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com.  

What Is the Living-Foods Lifestyle?

Living or “raw” foods are those that have not been heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the commonly agreed-upon temperature when plant-based ingredients begin to break down and lose essential vitamin and mineral content, as well as enzymes. Pure and simple, raw foods are natural foods in their natural state. In addition to the breakdown of enzymes and nutrients, many modern-day cooking methods actually create by-products during the heating process that have been found to be toxic.

Raw foods are primarily plant based. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains are the basis of this culinary lifestyle. In addition, living-foods enthusiasts oftentimes make use of high-grade minerals and other superfoods as a way of restoring balance. Juicing is an effective alternative-health remedy and is currently being used in several cancer-treatment centers worldwide, with incredible life-enhancing results. A high-nutrient-density diet goes a long way toward maintaining overall health, and living foods are at the top of the scale in terms of nutrient density and purity.

Living foods are not a new idea; in fact, many would counter that this is the oldest notion of how to eat. The Bible contains several references to living-food preparations; early texts discuss the heating of plant-based ingredients and “cooking” using the energy of the sun. In many ancient cultures where longevity of life was enjoyed, there was also a focus on fresh, living foods.

This style of eating can help you reach and maintain your health goals, for three main reasons:

1. The living-foods lifestyle encourages a very low-toxin diet, with a focus on the function of every food and how it is helping you achieve health. With living foods, there are simply no fillers, preservatives, or unneeded additives that do not benefit your body in some way. As a result, the living-foods diet is largely alkaline forming. Disease cannot live in an alkaline environment; it must have a toxic acidic one to thrive. Picture the pH test strips from your high-school chemistry class. On the pH scale, 14 is totally alkaline, 7 is neutral, and 0–6 is acidic. The body should be anywhere from neutral to moderately alkaline to prevent disease.

2. Raw foods constitute a plant-based diet, which has been proven to maintain strong vital organs and bodily function. Overall health has been shown to drastically improve in direct relationship to how much plant-based eating you’re doing. From providing essential proteins, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins to detoxifying the body where necessary, this eating style serves to keep you in balance.

3. Living foods have the power to heal the body by reintroducing essential vitamins and minerals, as well as enzymes—the catalysts that break down food into a usable state. With a diet rich in enzymes, your body isn’t overwhelmed with the breaking-down process (called assimilation) and has time then to go about the business of maintaining a vital system and promoting health.

Whether you’re looking to move into a more energetic space, restore overall wellness, achieve a vibrant lifestyle, or find alternatives to processed foods and their associated health conditions (ulcers, indigestion, headaches, chronic fatigue, and depression have all been linked to diet), living foods could prove to be a very viable option for you . . . and even serve to heal you completely.

Trying the living-foods lifestyle, even if for only one day or one meal a week, will start to give you an idea of what is possible. Keep in mind that this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Choosing to add even one more component of living nutrition to your daily eating plan will begin the process. The best choice you can make for the health of your body and mind is to take control of your diet one bite at a time. Go back to the basics of health, and add in more of the good stuff.

What Is the Good Stuff?

No matter what your current diet, it’s easier to add something new—more of the good stuff—instead of being focused on what to take away. Deciding which items are right for your body or are important for nutrition can be a challenge. Here is a list of questions to consider when evaluating whether a food selection really constitutes the “good stuff”:

· Where did this food come from?

· Can it grow from a tree? (Picture a tree full of cheese puffs or Oreo cookies and you’re on the right track.)

· What is the health benefit of eating this?

· How was this food prepared?

The golden rule in choosing good, nourishing food is finding items that are local, fresh, organic (without pesticides), and grown from a healthy vital plant of some sort. In general, this includes all fruits and vegetables in their natural state, nuts and seeds, grains, herbs and spices, superfoods, and products minimally processed from any of the above-listed items. These are all whole foods.

A nice raw nut, for example, makes a fantastic raw butter. But if you roast the nuts, then add iodized salt and some preservatives, you’ve just created a product that could very well be hazardous to your health. The average jar of peanut butter contains unhealthy levels of saturated fats and iodine, along with bleached white salts that are toxic in the bloodstream.

Really, what you have to consider when making choices at the grocery store are the following questions:

1. What is the food product itself? It should be fresh, organic wherever possible, and a whole food from a plant source. Tomatoes and avocados are perfect examples of fresh, whole foods.

2. How has it been treated? If it has been cooked, there could now be many toxins entering into the picture. To make a cooked product shelf stable, a preservative of some sort typically must be added. Preservatives act the same way in the body as they do in the food itself and can be easily stored for years, blocking your absorption of important nutrients, until released during a cleansing process. So although a tomato is a good choice, tomato sauce in a can is probably not. The can contains harmful metals, and the contents have been processed and may include up to 14 different unnatural ingredients just to increase shelf life. Look into the ingredients list, and also the processing. If it’s not very “vibrant,” then it does not equate to vibrant health for you!

3. Where does it come from? Processed crackers, for example, come from a box with a side label that lists 10 to 20 ingredients you may have never heard of before (enriched flours, dioxides, and so on). Bags of potato chips line the shelves, and while it is very tempting to reason that a potato once came from the earth and is therefore “natural,” don’t take the bait. You know that fried oils are not natural; that ground potato flakes, which are the starter for many brands of commercial chips, are treated with chemicals to alter how they look; and that preserving agents are anything but wholesome.

4. What are its health benefits? Food should taste great, but it should also be functional. Ask yourself what you’re getting out of every bite. Food is fuel; you want top-notch ingredients for top-notch performance.

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