What does raw-vegan food or diet signify?
Raw food implies live food that is natural, and can be chewed, digested, absorbed and perfectly assimilated, just as it was prepared by nature. It nourishes and balances, and adapts perfectly to the physiology of our digestion.
All food consumed is vegetarian, either raw or which has not been subjected to temperatures exceeding 42° C (some people prefer to operate at a maximum of 38° C, some allow up to 48° C, whereas I opt for 42° C maximum). This is in order to preserve food enzymes intact because as these die, food begins to decompose and devitalise, with consequent loss of nutrients and vitamins.
Enzymes are essential for life and basic to our body chemistry; they are known as “the sparks of life”, and are found in all living beings. Dr. Edward Howell demonstrated how the absence of enzymes in cooked foods robs metabolic enzymes from the body. Live foods thus allow us to maintain our enzymes, because they possess the particular enzymes able to collaborate extensively with the digestion of that specific food.
The main benefits of eating a balanced raw vegan diet are:
- This diet is very alkalizing and depurative
- It helps to reverse the ageing process, as foods with a high content of antioxidants and enzymes are consumed, which have the capacity to revitalise and regenerate the body.
- The body takes better advantage of the nutrients in food: vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fibre, enzymes and phytonutrients, many of which are altered or destroyed during the cooking process.
- It promotes the digestive process and stimulates the production of beneficial bacterial flora.
- It is detoxifying: raw foods have great depurative power.
- It improves immune system and cell function, raising our defences.
- When accompanied by regular physical exercise, it helps maintain ideal weight.
Is a raw diet or raw food the only way to be well nourished and radiant inside and out?
Well in my opinion it is NOT necessary to be strict in this sense, but rather conscious of the how and why of what we cook. From my experience as a consultant nutritionist for ten years and having personally experienced endless diets of all types, colours and smells, I recommend balance, awareness and a gradual approach in terms of transformations. Each person has a unique biochemistry, which is something precious and to which we must pay attention.
We already have many studies which discuss the consequences of consuming dairy products, gluten, and over-cooked foods, causing them to lose all their properties. Every human being in the world must find their own balance. Consuming only raw foods restricts a wide range of cereals and legumes, which also play a very important role in nourishing our cells. Feel free to experiment, document and test, but always with a professional outlook that is scientifically validated.
What and why?
Concerning plant-based or vegan food
A diet based on the consumption of fruit, vegetables, seeds, cereals and algae provides us with all the vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids (proteins), we need.
Vitamin B12 is the exception. This important vitamin is created by bacteria that are found in fertile soils and that pass into the digestive tract with the consumption of unwashed plants and greenery. Due to the use of fertilisers and chemical composts that make life difficult for these bacteria to survive, humans and ruminants have begun to manifest serious deficiencies. However, it is the case that meat eaters have an easier time, as they metabolize this through the meat of farm animals (usually artificially supplemented by farmers).
Moreover, due to the constant satinisation to which our products are subjected before reaching our table, it becomes very difficult to obtain. Thus, in any case it is advisable to take supplements in order to ensure no risk of deficiency.
Did you know that fruit is the only food that we do not need to elaborate with anything at all to make it delicious? Have you stopped to think? Are you able to drool over a lettuce without imagining a dish? Are you able to salivate, when observing how a cow grazes? Are you able to anticipate fresh fruit, imagining the moment when you are going to bite into and enjoy it?
Raw fruit is our physiological food par excellence. It provides us with energy (in the form of carbohydrates), which are quickly digested, they only take about 20-30 minutes and their nutrients quickly reach the cell membranes. They have the power to dissolve and drag away other metabolic wastes and also leave no remains. They are fast food and totally clean. And when they are ripe, they are totally alkaline.
Fruit provides us with minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, amino acids and best quality water.
They purify, oxygenate, alkalise and provide us with minerals. In them, we find all the necessary amino acids that our body needs to build the much-debated and required proteins. They also provide us with chlorophyll, whose molecular structure is practically the same as that of the haemoglobin in our blood (the only difference refers to one molecule of iron in our blood, versus one of magnesium in the chlorophyll of plants). This very similar composition makes chlorophyll a perfect regenerator of our blood, as well as transporting oxygen to our cells and tissues. It also acts as a chelating agent, causing heavy metals and toxic waste derived from a bad diet and pollution, to be expelled from our cells.
Fats are necessary to our health. Among other things, they protect cell membranes from oxidation, lubricate joints, help keep our skin hydrated, and protect the immune system. But they must be good quality and consumed in moderation. Superheated fats should be avoided, as much possible, as they are badly damaged and form prolific free radicals.
The best sources of fats are dried fruit and seeds, avocados, olives, coconut oil, olive oil and avocado (or any quality oil, adequately bottled and protected from sunlight). However ideally, they should predominantly consist of those derived from dried fruit, seeds, avocados and olives, as these represent original sources and have lower risk of rancidity than oils.
If we desire good health and energy, we must pay particular attention to the amount of fat we consume, because despite being necessary, we do not need large quantities to fulfil our daily requirements. Besides, these are foods that we find difficult to digest.
Likewise, very briefly that we must pay special attention to procuring Omega 3; the best sources of omega 3 in a vegan diet are:
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
A spoonful of any of these seeds daily is enough to procure the recommended amount.
This is an essential mineral, to which we may easily manifest deficiencies. Women are particularly susceptible, due to their loss during menstruation. This is easily found in a vegetarian diet, but we must try not to consume together with provisions such as coffee or tea, as these inhibit its absorption. In contrast, vitamin C aids its absorption.
What plant foods are rich in iron?
- Green leaves
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
If we do not consume dairy products, will we suffer from calcium deficiencies? Myth. I will not elaborate here about how bad for us milk is, if you want you can read this in another article, and you will also find numerous articles and documentaries on the internet.
But if I’m going to ask you, whether you really wish to improve your health, avoid dairy products altogether; especially those from cows. If at this moment it is very difficult for you to avoid them, reduce them as much as you can and choose those from goat or sheep, as at least we can digest them a little better.
Which plant foods are rich in calcium?
- Sesame seeds
One of the great myths of our society, and one of the big questions that all those who do not consume animal products often have to answer is; how do we get our proteins if we do not consume animal products?
Proteins are made from amino acids. There are 23 amino acids, 15 that our body is capable of manufacturing and 8 known as essential (meaning that our body does not generate them, so we have to ingest them in food).
Amino acids are the basis of all life processes, as they are absolutely necessary to all metabolic processes.
Their most important functions are:
- Optimal transfer of nutrients and
- Optimal storage of all nutrients (that is, water, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and vitamins).
In fact, when we consume an animal product such as meat, the body first has to break this into amino acids, in order to rebuild the proteins. However, when we eat plant foods rich in amino acids, the body builds proteins from amino acids. How do we know this? The body eliminates an unnecessary step in the construction of proteins when it takes the amino acids directly from vegetable sources.
All amino acids are found abundance in seeds, dried fruit, cereals, vegetables, fruit and bean sprouts. And contrary to what is believed, it is not necessary to consume complete proteins at each meal to fulfil requirements; these can be consumed throughout the day. Thus if you follow a varied diet, in which these foods abound, you will have covered your needs.
We find amino acids in: seeds, cereals, vegetables, fruit, mushrooms and algae
Good sources of amino acids are:
A few plant foods contain ALL the essential amino acids, and are thus considered, complete protein):
- Chia seeds
If you think you may have a deficiency or when you are travelling, you can take very concentrated supplements such as hemp protein.
(These are not strictly a food group, but they deserve special mention because of their innumerable benefits)
These represent small health triggers (nutritionally speaking). Their enzymatic richness, chlorophyll, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and trace elements make them complete foods.
When we germinate a seed, its enzymes are activated and generate a series of transformations:
- Vitamins are synthesized.
- Complex proteins are transformed into simple amino acids, making their protein content easier to assimilate.
- Fats are transformed into fatty acids.
- Starch is converted into simpler sugars that require less effort on the part of the digestive system.
- Vitamins (C and E) and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and magnesium) increase.
- If we let them sprout until the first leaves appear, chlorophyll forms, which is very similar to haemoglobin. The chlorophyll carries oxygen to the cells and is very detoxifying and regenerative to the body.
- The acids and toxins that naturally accompany the seed decompose.
Thus, here is an example to give you an idea:
In lentil sprouts, germinated for about 4 or 5 days, their soluble fibre (which helps regulate insulin levels, increases by 300%) and vitamin C can multiply by up to 600% in just 5 days in wheat shoots.
These are the different food groups:
- Starches: cereals (corn, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, rice, quinoa…), tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes …), root vegetables (beetroot, turnip, carrot) and courgettes and chestnuts.
- Fats: avocado, olives, coconut, oils, dried fruit purees
- Proteins: dried fruit and seeds (nuts and sesame, hemp, chia, flax seeds …)
- Vegetables: all green leaves and vegetables that do not contain starch
- Fruit: (this is divided into three groups):
- Acidic: tomatoes, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, sour apples, pineapple, kiwi, strawberry, pomegranates…
- Semi-acidic: apple, plum, nectarine, apricot, peach, cherries, blackberries…
- Sweet: pear, papaya, dates, bananas, custard apple, persimmon, figs, grapes, mango, carob…
- Melon and Watermelon: these are considered to form a separate group due to their high water content. We do not recommend mixing these with anything.
- Other acidic foods: vinegar, fried tomato and alcohol.
- Others: legumes and mushrooms (due to their complexity and difficult digestion)
How do you combine these foods with each other?
As a general rule, follow these four points:
- Be aware that vegetables and green leaves combine with everything.
- We must choose a single concentrated food for each meal (starch or protein), as due to their complexity, it is better to combine these only with vegetables.
- Always eat fruit on an empty stomach.
- Desserts of all kinds should be separate from meals
Likewise there are a series of general guidelines to take into account:
- We should not eat, if we are not hungry, or if we are tired or stressed.
- Always eat fruit on an empty stomach or combined with green leaves.
- Make fruit and raw leafy vegetables the principal part of your day to day regime. Let your salads be immense and the rest of the serving accompaniments.
- Do not eat excess fat and starches.
- Do not drink in abundance before and during meals (because this dilutes the gastric juices).
- Include fermented foods in our meals.
- Do not snack between meals. Always allow time for digestion.
- Chew and eat consciously.
- If you are going to consume cooked food, always accompany it with abundant raw vegetables (double the amount) before and during. By this simple trick, we ensure that the “impact” of foods that are body finds harder to assimilate, is dissipated.
- If at lunch time you decide to include some cooked food on your plate, my recommendation is that you choose starches or fats such as avocado and leave the proteins and more dense fat (puree made from dried fruit) for dinner.
- Add bean sprouts to all meals.
- Try to make 1 or 2 meals a day from raw food only, offering a good rest to your body.
With this in mind, remember that we are what we eat but we are basically what we digest. Therefore for the purpose of promoting digestion and assimilation of food and avoiding fermentation and resulting toxicity, ideally the day should be organised with a gentle start. Little by little, add food and combinations that require more digestion time and end the day with limited consumption, as when we go to bed, our body will no longer need the same energy, as it needed during the day. By setting up a long fast until the next day, our organs such as the liver will repair themselves and be prepared for the next day.
Carlota Portella Santillana
Diploma in Dietetics and Human Nutrition
Bachelor in Food Technology
Graduated Chef from Hofmann Hospitality School