Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, and Ellen DeGeneres are just three of many gorgeous celebrities who swear by a raw and living diet. Consisting of 50 to 80 percent raw fruits, veggies, sprouts, and nuts, this diet has proponents claiming to see weight loss and other health benefits from the more nutrient-dense foods. Is this approach to eating all hype, or can you actually improve your health by eating more living foods?
Raw and Living Foods: What You Need to Know
The average American doesn't even come close to eating the recommend 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to sports dietitian Lindsay Langford. So, virtually everyone can stand to benefit from a more balanced diet, including both raw and cooked vegetables. However, nutritionist Dr. Joanne Mumola Williams cautions that a raw vegan diet can lack certain "critical vitamins" including B12, Vitamin D, and DHA. Mumola Williams writes that "adding raw food to any diet" has health benefits, but it's wise to take a balanced approach to eating a wide array of foods unless you're prepared to consult with a professional and integrate supplementation.
If you're considering moving toward a raw diet, always consult with your physician or a registered dietitian. Raw foods contain a lot of water, and meeting your recommended daily calorie intake can be a challenge. Dr. Michael J. Glickert has seen improvements in his patient's health on a raw diet but always recommends gradual lifestyle changes in his practice. If you're considering integrating more living foods and raw recipes into your diet, here are 10 simple ways to boost your fresh fruit, veggie, and sprout intake:
1. Drink smoothies for breakfast.
Not a morning person? No problem. Making a smoothie packed with fresh fruits and veggies is a delicious and really easy way to start your day. Urban dwellers likely have access to at least one smoothie and juice restaurant during their morning commute, which solves the problem of having to clean your blender.
If you're interested in making your own healthy smoothies for breakfast, check out the classic "Green Monster" recipe by food blogger OhSheGlows. This spinach, nut butter, and banana blend is surprisingly sweet and filled with protein.
2. Carry fresh fruit.
Are you guilty of occasional trips to the office vending machine in the middle of the afternoon? Food writer Allison Micco combats sweet cravings by carrying apples, bananas, and other easily transportable fresh fruits with her throughout the day. A piece of citrus in the morning can curb midafternoon desires for chocolate.
3. Buy a spiralizer.
A vegetable spiralizer could be the next great addition to your kitchen. Swapping out pasta noodles for spiralized zucchini "zoodles" or strips of cucumber gives you a satisfying, light addition to almost any dinner or lunch. Best of all, these handy tools are incredibly cheap and can often be purchased for less than 10 bucks, like this version from Amazon.
If you're feeling adventurous, I recommend the 15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta from OhSheGlows. It's a rich, raw alternative to alfredo sauce!
4. Make raw condiments.
You would be amazed at how easy it is to whip up your own batch of pico de gallo, guacamole, or pesto. Fresh salsas are an easy way to consume more veggies, and they're an incredibly impressive contribution to a dinner party or potluck.
5. Embrace micro-greens.
Micro-greens aren't just a foodie trend. Researchers have found that baby wheat grass, alfalfa leaves, and other tiny greens can have four to six times more nutrients than their mature counterparts. Ask for a shot of wheatgrass in your next smoothie or juice, or pick up a tray of living foods from your natural grocery store to add to salads.
6. Make massive salads.
Salad doesn't have to be a boring side dish. Work to integrate more massive salads in your daily lunch and dinner routine. You may be amazed at how satisfying salad can be with a variety of raw veggies, including cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and avocado. Boost the protein content of these raw foods by adding sesame seeds, tahini-based salad dressings, hard-boiled eggs, a variety of cheeses, or grilled proteins.
7. Grow your own sprouts.
Even apartment dwellers can get started growing their own alfalfa, broccoli, and mung bean sprouts at home for less than $10. These living foods are packed with nutrients and water, and make a delicious addition to smoothies, wraps, soup, sandwiches, and salads.
8. Pack raw snacks.
Many raw and living foods can make satisfying snacks. If you're short on time or money, buy healthy snacks in bulk and package them in sandwich bags at the beginning of each week. Dried fruits, raw nuts, and seeds can be great ways to boost your energy and nutrient intake.
9. Precut fruit.
Eating tons of fruits and veggies on a tight budget can be time-consuming, due to the time required to wash, cut, and prep living foods. Dedicate a few hours each week to precutting fruit for a daily fruit salad or snacks, including pineapples, melon, berries, and other foods that will store well for a quick fruit salad.
10. Visit your farmers market.
Many advocates of eating raw foods believe in eating local, organic, and in-season produce as much as possible. A weekly trip to your farmers market can be an affordable way to stock up on fresh fruits, veggies, and other raw treats. As a bonus, you'll be supporting your local economy!
Do you try to eat more raw and living foods? What are your favorite ways to eat more fruits and veggies with limited time or a limited budget?