Eating In the Raw

Raw food diets gain popularity

Chef Joni Sare hosts a raw food potluck.

Photograph by Lane Johnson

 While many teenagers live on junk food, Jordan White Springer doesn’t. Out of respect for her health, the environment, and animals, the 16-year-old from Fremont decided a year and a half ago to pursue a raw food diet, and she has been eating mostly raw foods ever since.

“When you first start off, it feels weird,” says White Springer, who plans to make a raw food diet a permanent part of her life. “Then after a while, you get used to it. You find your niche.”

A raw food diet includes only uncooked food or food that is heated to a temperature of less than 118 degrees. The theory is that when food is cooked at higher heat, it loses important nutrients, so a raw food diet results in greater nutritional intake from food.

“It is the most nutrient-dense diet you can possibly have,” says James Hall of Redwood City-based Raw Daddy Foods, a company that sells its raw, vegan dishes, like flaxseed cones stuffed with spicy Thai salad or mushrooms and polenta, at Bay Area farmers’ markets.

Bay Area chef Joni Sare describes a raw food diet as primarily plant-based, using the root, stem, stock, leaves, nuts, seeds, or fruit of the plant to build a meal. Kale chips are a popular raw snack food, as is raw chocolate, which is made with raw cacao, coconut butter, and coconut oil. Sare, who holds raw food potlucks at her Cupertino home, says attendance has doubled since she started. “There is more of a willingness to try [raw food] and see what it is,” she says.

White Springer attends Sare’s raw food potlucks. “You feel alone at first,” she says. “Then you go to one of the events and your mind is blown. You meet people with similar interests.”

Kevin Gianni, author of the book High Raw: A Simple Approach to Health, Eating, and Saving the Planet, says a raw food diet can be defined in various ways. “The raw food diet means a lot of things to a lot of people, but in my opinion it’s 75 percent or more of your calories from fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouts, seaweed, nuts, and seeds.”

Many people choose a raw food diet as a way to detoxify, Gianni says. “The biggest benefit from a raw food diet is giving the body a break. The minimal processing of the raw food diet allows our bodies to naturally do what they were meant to do, which is to easily digest food.”

Not surprisingly, many who switch to raw foods lose weight. Hall of Raw Daddy Foods went on a strictly raw food diet for 90 days and lost 60 pounds, he says.

But a raw food diet does have its drawbacks. “It takes a lot of discipline,” Hall says. “There’s a social aspect you lose, because you are surrounded by people who aren’t on a raw food diet, or when you go out to eat, it can be challenging to find the raw food options you are looking for.”

Gianni believes that the best way to begin a raw food diet is to start out small. “The best advice is to start with one meal a day, for example a smoothie with your favorite fruits and some greens,” he says.

Raw foods advocate Kevin Gianni will be the featured speaker at Eucalyptus Magazine’s Dinner Event at Stillheart Institute in Woodside on August 2, 2011. While guests enjoy a raw food dinner and demonstration by Natural Chef Joni Sare, Gianni will lead a discussion on the merits of a raw food diet. Click here for more details.

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