Hippocrates is known to have said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, a powerful statement of wisdom that contains the secret to good health. With all our advances in medicine and technology, it is astounding to see how ill most of us are, especially in the West where diabetes, obesity, heart problems and all manner of illnesses are on the rise.
So how can food heal us? Most of us have inherited from our parents a food lifestyle that we never thought to question. We cook, we eat (or for many families nowadays, we buy, we heat, we eat). But what if there is a better way? A way that helps us recover our health and look and feel ten years younger?
I was first introduced to the raw foods lifestyle when I picked up a copy of Raw Energy by Leslie and Susannah Kenton. A whole new world opened to me as I realised that there are people out there who almost never cook their food and yet what they eat is tasty, varied and in its best form to release its vitamins and minerals. The authors maintain that a raw food diet slows aging, energises at a physical and emotional level and helps the body fight off infections and stress with ease. They give inspiring examples of people like Max Gerson – a physician who cured migraines, lupus (which is ‘incurable’) and even cancer using raw foods – and Ann Wigmore, founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute (HHI). Wigmore was very ill and aging fast when she turned to raw foods in desperation. Her illnesses disappeared, her grey hairs became dark again and she started to look years younger. The HHI has successfully treated numerous people in all stages of illness and taught them how to live a raw food lifestyle.
Why eat raw?
Quite simply, to unlock the powerful nutrients and enzymes that raw foods contain; these are usually killed off at high temperatures and we end up eating ‘dead’ food instead. Even worse, a significant chunk of the population depends on processed food, which is NOT food, merely junk masquerading as food. All the cereals, energy bars, frozen foods and packaged goodies lining the supermarket aisles are the cause of our declining health. And when in desperation we visit our doctor, he is just as clueless and ends up prescribing a ‘pill for every ill’ to treat symptoms rather than address the root cause of the problem.
When we heat foods above 48°C we destroy live enzymes that assist in digestion and health. Raw foods alkalise the body, which helps to flush out toxins from cooked food. Cooked foods build up acidic toxins and can lead to weight gain and disease. Because raw food is nutritionally dense, even a small quantity is more filling than a larger quantity of cooked food. The latter may taste nicer (as that is what we are used to) but all we’ve done is consume empty calories, hence we get hungrier quicker as our body still craves the necessary nutrients.
If you still need convincing, consider this: in the Qur’an, every time Allah mentions halal He (SWT) also mentions tayyib (good and pure), with regard to our food. While we beat the halal drum very loudly, we almost always overlook tayyib – halal pizza and burgers? Ok! Never mind that the condition of tayyib has not been met by a mile. So if tayyib means pure, what’s more pure than food in its raw state? These are very good reasons to try raw foods and see how they affect our health.
Who is a raw foodie?
Anyone whose diet consists of 75% or more raw, live, nutritionally dense, unprocessed foods is considered to be a raw foodie. For the majority, we are nowhere near that goal and many of us will never be raw foodies. But there is no reason why we can’t start the journey and then stay at the level that works for our health. Another way to approach this is to go on a raw ‘diet’ – a 3, 5, or 10 day period during which we consume only raw foods, to detox and renew ourselves – a kind of battery recharge. If we can do so every now and again, we will equip our bodies with the means to flush out the build-up of toxins.
How to begin the journey
Admittedly, most of us will never go fully raw, but we can all incorporate raw elements into our diet and build up gradually. The easiest ways to begin are to:
1. Include freshly made salads as the main item at meal times. Instead of taking a huge helping of steak and creamy mash, try to reduce the cooked food on your plate and increase the amount of salad. With so many varieties of salad to try, I am sure there is something out there for everyone, even those who dismiss such foods as ‘rabbit food’.
2. Make fresh juices a daily part of your food intake. This means buying a powerful blender or juicer; the former will pulverise all the fibre as well, so you can drink your juice or smoothie consuming all the vegetable and fruit; whereas a juicer will give you a lighter drink, but you will miss out on the fibre. Instead of having processed foods like cereal or rich foods like fried egg and buttered toast for breakfast, try to begin the day with a vegetable smoothie; it is filling, tasty, and won’t leave you feeling sluggish. Aim to drink at least two glasses each day, or go on a juice fast one day a week, consuming nothing but vegetable juice all day long. Most people find the thought of drinking a vegetable juice revolting; I did too until I tried it – it was delicious! Sweetened only with fruit, it was satisfying, filling and helped me achieve way more than the recommended five-a-day (often I was doing 12-a-day!).
3. Go nuts – snack on nuts and seeds instead of crisps and biscuits and you will find that you never experience the midday energy drain that is common to most people. Make your own raw snacks that are super delicious and good for you and you’ll never reach for a candy bar again.
Recipes to tempt
The naughty: chocolate truffles
• ¾ cup cocoa powder
• 2 cups ground raw almonds
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1 tbsp organic coconut oil
• Pinch of sea salt
Mix ingredients into a bowl. Take small amounts and roll into balls. Freeze till firm. These can be served straight from the freezer and make great energy snacks. Feel free to experiment with other flavours and additions.
The nice: cucumber smoothie
• 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
• 1 cup mint leaves
• 4 cups fresh pineapple
• 3 cups water
• juice of ½ lemon
Simply blend all the ingredients together and enjoy.
A raw food journey may seem daunting, but like anything else in life, it only gets easier the more you try it. Make small changes and add to them as you gain in knowledge and confidence. Above all, do what works best for you in your quest for better health.
Based in Berkshire, Safia A. is a mother of two with a background in graphic design, interior design and creative textiles. She loves painting, writing, reading, and baking; and is keen on a healthy lifestyle, with raw foods, yoga and tae bo at the top of her list. Her work has been published in various Middle Eastern magazines and newspapers.