As a food writer, I’ll admit that I live a life of pure gluttony. And because I have been blessed with a great metabolism, I rarely ponder the effects food has on health. But I recently heard about the raw food diet, and I was curious to learn about this culinary trend and how people actually follow it.
The diet is exactly what it sounds like: eating raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and other foods in their unprocessed, uncooked forms to preserve essential vitamins, enzymes and phytonutrients. Raw food chef Jennifer McClelland explains that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing diet. “Some raw foodists choose to include raw meat, such as sashimi or beef tartar, in their raw diet. Others prefer unpasteurized dairy products, which include all the enzymes and nutrients lost in the pasteurization process.“
Still sound tough to follow? I think so, but Jennifer remains enthusiastic despite the challenges. “Raw food can be found in every country. There is a growing presence of organic farms in Beijing, and that is a huge blessing. Eating raw food can be gourmet, but it can also be easy—personally I enjoy big salads and milkshakes (made from nut or seed milks). Probably the biggest challenge is eating out.” For this, Jennifer opts for salads at Element Fresh and the all-you-can-eat salad bar at Sizzler for RMB42. But most of her meals are made at home, and you can learn Jennifer’s raw recipes in one of her classes taught around China.
Beijing-based nutrition coach Olivia Lee does not eat strictly raw foods, yet she says her diet “has more raw foods in it than 20 years ago, [and] a large percentage of it uses raw ingredients whenever possible.” However, the realities of China’s food safety issues limit how much one can do with raw food. Some produce like raw freshwater fish is simply impossible, while raw milk and cheese isn’t available here, she says.
“I would rather see my clients do their best with what is available in Beijing to eat a nutritious, well-balanced and -portioned home-made meal rather than give up entirely and eat out every day,” says Olivia. Instead of going completely raw, Olivia has easy suggestions for a healthy diet that keeps nutrients intact, such as lightly steaming vegetables, and simply chewing your food well. “If you want to get the nutrients you eat, the first step is making sure it is fine enough for the other steps in the digestive process to work upon.”
They say you are what you eat, and I’m lucky that I haven’t turned into a blobby hodgepodge of my favorite foods, but at least now I have some healthy tips—raw or not—that I can apply to my diet.