I haven’t felt deprived about giving up most things for a vegan lifestyle, but there have been a couple that were difficult to leave behind. Macaroons are one example. Then one day when a friend gave me the book Raw Food: 100 Recipes to Get the Glow by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis. I have to confess that my first thought was “Isn’t being vegan enough? Why do I even need to be thinking about raw food too?”
Over time I’ve come to enjoy reading this book and trying some of its recipes…including one in particular, macaroons. The authors introduce us to the idea of raw food by saying this, “It’s easy to spot a raw foodist in a crowd of people living on the Standard American Diet (SAD…an appropriate acronym). Just look for the unusually clear skin, glossy hair, and shinning eyes.”
That said, it doesn’t really sound enticing, does it? Eating only plants. Raw ones at that. I’ve read several books and listened to presentations by experts who say that humans were meant to eat cooked food. Heribert Watzke is a food scientist who spoke recently at TED about this very thing. He believes that humans should be called “coctivores” rather than omnivores. Coctivore derives from the Latin word coquere which means “to cook.” In other words, a coctivore is someone who eats their food cooked.
It’s how most of us grew up, eating cooked food. Bread, pasta, pizza, hamburgers, etc. These are staple foods of that standard American diet.
But raw foodists believe that cooking food depletes it of its nutrients, and most importantly its enzymes. If you think about it, as Watzke points out, we are the only creatures on the planet that cook our food. It’s one of the things made possible by having opposable thumbs. However, raw foodists believe that 118 F is the temperature beyond which foods begin to lose their natural enzymes and damage to the metabolic structure occurs. Eating foods depleted of their natural enzymes requires our bodies to provide its own enzymes to digest it.
This is why raw foodists will use a dehydrator that cooks foods at very low temperatures over several hours. Take, for example, my favorite macaroon cookies. Matthew Kenney offers a recipe for raw macaroons that suggests cooking them in a dehydrator for 12 – 24 hours. That’s a long time to wait for cookies.
And that’s the thing. Eating raw food does require time and planning. But the benefits can be many. As Matthew and Sarma point out in their book, they no longer suffer from “food coma” after eating a big, heavy meal. Other noted benefits of raw diets include:
- Weight Loss – Well-know raw foodist, Ani Phyo, comments that she lost 15 pounds when she converted to a raw food diet. Philip McCluskey can attest to this as well. Phillip lost over 200 pounds after switching to a raw food diet.
- Increased Energy – the one thing I noticed consistently from one raw foodist to the next, is their description of increased energy when eating raw foods. Sarma says, “Eating only raw plant foods is entirely amazing. It can give you so much energy; it’s like a natural version of Ecstasy, and you never crash.” Famous former super model, Carol Alt, agrees. She says “because I eat raw, my physical body is rarely tired these days!”
- Reduced Food Cravings – Matthew Keeney comments, “The most remarkable thing during our first go at raw food was that we did not crave other foods.”
- Improved Digestion – getting your allotted servings of fresh fruits and veggies has its benefits.
- Glowing Skin – Victoria Moran states in her Huffington Post blog that even strangers comment on her glowing skin which she attributes to her high-raw food diet.
This much we know is true, all of us can benefit from eating more raw fruits and veggies in our daily diet. Whether you choose to jump on the 100% raw food band wagon right now or just dip your toe in the water, books like Kenney and Melngailis’ Raw Food help you know that doing so doesn’t mean only carrot sticks and salads. Eating raw can translate into delectable dishes like Chocolate Banana Shakes, Spicy Thai Vegetable Wraps with Tamarind Dipping Sauce, Golden Squash Pasta and Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart with Vanilla Cream. I for one am ready to give these dishes a try any day!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite and simplest recipes from the Raw Food cookbook, macaroons. I don’t have a dehydrator (yet) so I adapted this recipe slightly and I now call it Chocolate-covered Vegan Raw Macaroons. You don’t have to be into raw food or even vegan to enjoy them, but it never hurts!
Chocolate-covered Vegan Raw Macaroons
1 ½ cups almond flour, (raw almonds ground in a food processor for 15 – 20 seconds)
3 cups coconut flakes, dried, unsweetened
½ cup agave nectar, (or maple syrup)
? cup coconut oil, (found in most health food sections)
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup chocolate chips, dairy-free
1 tablespoon coconut oil
- First of all, do not preheat your oven. Isn’t that nice for a change?
- Second, place the almonds in a food processor for several seconds until you’re left with a fine consistency. Matthew recommends straining the mixture through a strainer to separate out the courser pieces, but I happen to like the course pieces in this recipe so I just use it all.
- In a large bowl, combine the almond flour and remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.
- Use a small ice cream scoop or your hands, spoon out rounded balls of the coconut mixture onto a tray or plate. Place the plate in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
- Mix together one cup of dairy-free chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and warm over very low heat.
- Dip the refrigerated macaroons in the chocolate and set them out on waxed paper until the chocolate hardens. I speed up this process by putting the waxed paper on a tray and sticking the chocolate-dipped macaroons in the fridge.
- Once the chocolate is firm, place the macaroons in an air-tight container and keep in the fridge or freezer.
- Enjoy them while they last!
Note: If you’d like to make a chocolate version of these macaroons, simply replace the almond flour with 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder.