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Why go raw? - Flavour First 2014

The raw food movement is taking off, but is consuming only uncooked food really the ultimate in healthy eating? Determined to detox, Juliet Kinsman enters the world of salads and smoothies.

This raw food thing should be a doddle, I thought. Just eat everything cold, right? Quick and easy. And I love steak tartare. Don’t be a twit, I hear you cry. OK, so I realised the philosophy of the raw food movement wouldn’t roll quite like that. The unspoken rule being that it’s not just how you prep it, it’s what you eat – hello, sprouts and seeds rather than uncooked sirloin.

Now surely the point of any modern diet column is to reveal the most significant benefits of an eating trend beloved by slimming slebs… So on your behalf, dear knowledge-hungry eaters, I researched why raw-food experts are so committed. Most will have us believe that any other way of eating is slow suicide. But, even at entry level, the nutritional advantages seem clear and sensible: the most significant being that the cooking process nukes do-gooding enzymes and much-needed vitamins. The trick is to make sure that you are getting enough protein, vitamin D and essential fats without the usual staples – replacing cooked meats and pasta or rice with nuts, vegetables, dried fruit and smoothies as your regulars.

Giving it a go…
To get properly raw fooding, I bought a state-of-the-art food processor, an industrial-grade juicer and a maxi-strength dehydrator… Nahhh. I totally cheated and signed up for a Raw Fairies’ five-day delivery service. The founder, Anya Ladra, is a celebrated raw-food chef, and she recommended the five-day Glow Cleanse juice fast. The plan includes six 500ml drinks a day, including fruit smoothies, nut milks, green juices and agave syrup-enhanced lemonades, with one raw meal for lunch. My rationale was that after a week of this commitment I’d be a raw-food proselyte who wouldn’t even consider poisoning her freshly detoxed system with vulgar cooked fare.

Raw Fairies’ five-day Cleanse
I confess that I was hoping there would be dishes along the lines of imitation lobster thermidor, made cunningly with raw vegetables. In fact, a typical dish was a small salad, featuring leaves, maybe a little grated beetroot and a dressing. While I could have guessed that a salad was a good example of raw food, the fresh juices and carb-free lunches were delicious, nourishing and vitamin-packed (I’m looking forward to the invention of a smartphone app to measure this precisely).

This approach was focused on detoxing rather than being an inspiring introduction to a whole new way of eating. What was really noticeable was that, while I wasn’t munching on much that was solid (and definitely nothing that was cooked), I never felt hungry and the whole thing was surprisingly satisfying.

The cost…
Now here’s the bite: Raw Fairies’ diet costs £399. Tell that to your mates over a pie and a pint at the pub and their minds may boggle. But if you do the maths and calculate what goes into lots of those drinks – imagine that you bought all the organic broccoli, spinach, courgette, watercress, cucumber, romaine lettuce, parsley and kale required for one juice, say – you’d see that all those ingredients would set you back a pretty penny. Then, of course, there’s the hassle of juicing it all. Take into account daily delivery to your door and each just-squeezed top-quality juice works out at just over a tenner – a snip if you’re a supermodel, say.

The reason most folks give this a go is that they hope it will help them shed weight, and look healthier – and I can testify that I definitely felt lighter and fresher. Thankfully, I don’t have to feel bad about not going the whole hog since, according to the nutrition therapist Ian Marber (formerly known as the Food Doctor), one serving of raw food is enough at every meal. You still need carbs and proteins. So I’ve decided at least to inject my diet with more rawness in the future, and have ordered a Nutribullet, a clever food extractor which not only juices fruit and veg but also liquefies it all, so you get more fibre. So at least I can feel smug about one health-boosting fresh raw juice a day. Before I eat that supersized serving of spag bol.

Don’t think a life of salads can make you happy? For lots of easy-to-follow recipes, get Anya Ladra’s book, Raw Food Detox.

Why go raw? - 21st October 2014 - by Juliet Kinsman - Flavour First