Hate cooking?

2011-07-15 00:00

THE monthly raw-food get-togethers at Dovehouse, the organic shop and restaurant along the Karkloof Road in Howick, are a great opportunity to introduce people to the concept of eating raw food.

While the idea might sound simple, the application of it can be more difficult than you think.

Shereen Duncan has been hosting her raw-food gatherings every month in an effort to encourage people to eat more fresh food and to discover the benefits of a raw-food diet. She is a convert herself, but she does not eat a totally raw-food diet yet.

“I believe it is a great way to eat and a healthy way to live, but it can be difficult to integrate this way of eating entirely into one’s life. I believe that the more you learn about raw food, the more you can adapt to eating raw food, which is why I began to facilitate these sessions. We share ideas with each other and give tips, and the more we share, the easier it is.”

Promoting organic food and permaculture at their small farm and restaurant, Duncan hopes to teach others about how to improve their health naturally. On a Saturday morning, eight of us have gathered to hear more about raw food and to learn some recipes.

The idea behind the concept is that raw food is healthier than cooked food because none of the essential vitamins or minerals are destroyed in the cooking process. Followers believe that food should be eaten in its most natural state, and food should not be heated above 45 degrees centigrade.

Raw vegans, such as Dr Douglas Graham, believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost much of their nutritional value and are less healthy or even harmful to the body. Raw, or living, foods, have natural enzymes, which are critical for building proteins and rebuilding the body. Heating these foods kills the enzymes, and can leave toxins behind.

So if you decide to become a “raw foodist” you have to decide if you want to eat meat or only vegetables. Most raw-food advocates come from a health perspective and are usually already vegetarian or they have adapted to a mainly organic lifestyle.

Typical foods on a raw-food diet include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains and legumes. If you want to include meat in your diet you can look at sushi, or raw meat that has been dried and cured, such as biltong. Eating eggs and dairy is optional, but few can stomach raw eggs and fermented milk products, which are an acquired taste. While the raw-food diet has emerged in recent times, it is by no means a recent phenomenon. The Aborigines were largely raw foodists, eating raw meat and foraging for fruits and vegetables. The Inuits and the Nenet tribe in Siberia also ate raw meat which they cured, having little access to crops in the harsh climate.

Surviving as a raw foodist is about becoming creative. Most attendees arrived with a plate of food for sharing. I had no idea what to take. A salad? An apple? I settled on my notebook.

Allowing food to be heated (but not scorched) to under 40 degrees centigrade does open up possibilities. Duncan invited us to try a mouthwatering mushroom soup — which was apparently “raw”. The warm soup had a delicious flavour. There went the rule that on cold days all food has to be cold and tasteless.

This was accompanied by falafels and avocado dip. The falafels were not the deep-fried variety but were made from dehydrated nuts and beans and sesame seeds in a dehydrator. The texture was strange but they were tasty.

Each person described their raw offering, exotic salads and sweet potato chips as interesting. A rice and lentil concoction was a little less inviting. We learnt that rice can be steeped in warm water for a few hours and it will swell like cooked rice.

Duncan’s raw-food pizza was a huge hit, tasty and healthy. But the pièce de résistance was the raw carrot cake with faux-cheese frosting.

People at the workshop had converted for various reasons.

Julie Wilkinson lost 17 kilograms in five months after becoming a raw foodist. She now enjoys experimenting with food and flavours and her health has improved dramatically. Her husband, Roger, eats raw food most of the time. Vegan Samantha Rose says she does it as a way of life and also believes it is a way to respect the environment.

Shereen advises people to take the journey slowly and to be creative with food.

“It does cost to convert, as there are certain machines that make your life easier. A food processor, a juicer and a dehydrator make food interesting. But you save in the long run as you don’t need a microwave, a fridge or a deep freeze.

“You eat what you prepare, and it is fresh and healthy.”

Raw Food Benefits:

• SOME raw foodists believe that digestive enzymes in raw foods (such as amylases, proteases and lipases) aid digestion.

• Raw foods include bacteria and other micro-organisms that affect the immune system and digestion by populating the digestive tract with beneficial gut flora. These are generally killed by cooking.

• Raw foods have higher nutrient values than foods which have been cooked, especially if they are organic.

• They believe processed food and convenience food often contain excitotoxins (such as flavour enhancers) which can cause excitotoxicity. Foods with added chemicals, preservatives, additives, colouring agents/dyes of any kind, are frowned upon by raw foodists.

• Raw foodists don’t agree with stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and tobacco.

• Raw foods such as fruits are high in antioxidants and raw foodists believe they help reduce signs of aging.



ON July 24, Dovehouse is hosting a one-day workshop Rawlicious, with raw-food fundi’s Peter and Beryn Daniel, who co-authored the book Superfoods.

Anyone interested in attending should contact Shereen Duncan at Dovehouse for bookings, or to find out more information, telephone 033 330 3554 or check the website: www. dovehouse.co.za

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