The Truth about The Raw Revolution

Photo: Nadine Primeau / Unsplash

Long before man discovered fire, there was raw food. We’re not talking just-hunted deer or freshly unearthed mushrooms. We’re talking about a lifestyle option that has been around for longer than anyone can remember, but has evaded us time and time again. Yet, it is never too late to make the switch.

Yes, we want to get healthy! Lia-Sevilla Bernardo – a ThetaHealing® Teacher and Practitioner, Usui Reiki Healer, and wellness coach – walks us through the Raw Food Movement’s need-to-know basics.

“Raw food is predominantly vegan, meaning it is dairy- free and gluten-free,” Lia explains, pertaining to the raw food diet* that has become an increasingly preferred lifestyle option for many people in the country and abroad. At its most basic, there are only three foods one needs to consider when going raw: fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Incorporating these essentials in one’s daily diet – whether uncooked, dehydrated, blended, fermented, steamed, blanched, or poached – is a step in the right direction towards healthy and nutritious eating.

But Lia points out that although there are generalized rules for nutrition, each person needs to take responsibility for their own body. “Know your body and trust your body,” she emphasizes. Because every person is different and reacts differently to consuming different things – one may be allergic to nuts, or may feel more bloated when eating grains – she also stresses that what really matters most is conscious eating. “Be mindful of what you’re eating and how your body reacts to it!”

Easier said than done, we’re sure. To make sure we’re starting off on the right foot, Lia offers up a few tips:
1. There will be a trial and error phase. Embrace it. Now is the best time to ease the body into healthy eating. Get creative and consume anything that is natural and is good for you. If you read or hear about something, try it and feel how your body reacts; if your body reacts positively, continue, and if it makes you feel different in a bad way, avoid it in the future.
2. Fruits, Vegetables, and Nuts! Consuming this triumvirate of raw food gradually each day is enough to get you on the bandwagon to good health. Lia suggests taking a day and trying to only consume fruits and vegetables. “You’ll see a difference in your wellbeing. That’s your body, mind, and soul in balance.”
3. Consume healthy fats. The words ‘healthy’ and ‘fat’ together only sound wrong to the unaware. Healthy fats from avocadoes, and most nuts, are the type of fats the body needs.
4. Avoid ANYTHING processed. Stop cooking with vegetable oil, for one, because, newsflash, there aren’t any vegetables in vegetable oil. Soda, margarine, junk food, non-fat milk, decaffeinated coffee – all processed, and all bad for you. Remember: you’re nourishing you, so you ought to keep it real!

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While the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the word ‘raw’ as uncooked (pertaining to food), let’s get one thing straight: the raw food in the raw food movement doesn’t necessarily mean it is uncooked. It means that the food is consumed in its most natural state, as untreated and unprocessed as possible. Some raw foods are, in fact, heated but only up to a certain degree (40 to 42°C), and mostly in a dehydrator. This helps keep all the healthy enzymes intact.

Here are a few other corrected factoids for you:
1. Sashimi isn’t part of the raw food diet. No. The only seafood remotely close to being grouped with raw food is seaweed (which is high in iodine and good for the blood). While we’re at it, any and all raw meats are absolutely not part of the raw food movement. “It’s all about the fruits, veggies, and nuts,” Lia emphatically repeats.
2. Raw foods pack a lot of protein. Vegans are probably tired of people asking where they get their protein, but as Lia points out, protein can come in many shapes and forms. Many fruits and vegetables pack a lot of protein, as do chia seeds, cacao nibs, and many other locally available superfoods.
3. You don’t have to go 100% raw to get the benefits. 80%, 30%, or even 20% raw is a perfectly acceptable level of consuming raw food, but as Lia continues to emphasize, it’s always a matter of listening to the body, making conscious choices, and taking responsibility for your own consumption.
4. You don’t have to calorie-count on a raw diet, unless you’re in it to lose weight. And even then, you’re likelier to consume less calories while feeling fuller on a raw, healthy diet.
5. Going raw doesn’t mean starving to death. There’s a certain mindset Filipinos have to change. ‘Diet’ doesn’t mean cutting back on your consumption of food, and it certainly doesn’t mean starving oneself. “Starving yourself isn’t being kind to the body,” says Lia. And while we’re at it…
6. Going raw doesn’t mean not getting to eat
cake. “If you eat a piece of cake and run to the gym and time yourself on the treadmill because you have to burn that piece of cake that you ate, you’re taking the joy out of movement and exercise. It becomes an unhealthy obsession to the physicality, when in fact what we’re after is enjoying living.” Of course, anything in excess is bad. Balance and moderation are key.

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“Raw food chefs like Asha Peri (of Dahon Kusina), Mona Lisa Neuboeck (of Mona Lisa Raw), and Chef Margo Lao have really made raw food more accessible and friendly,” Lia shares of how the local scene is faring with the raw food movement. “They take the practice of eating healthy seriously, and teach people to incorporate it in their lifestyles as well.”

What pushes people to make this choice of shifting to a healthier diet, she also shares, could be a variety of things. “Mainly it’s a spiritual or humanitarian reason. Some people just don’t like the idea of killing animals to get a square meal.

“Next is allergies. When the body can’t tolerate things like dairy or gluten, it wants fruits and vegetables instead. And lastly, they are aware of and listen to their bodies.”

If you, dear reader, suddenly have a hankering for a healthy bag of grapes to snack on, we don’t blame you. But if you’re still scared of going down the road of committing to wellness because it might be expensive or extremely difficult to sustain, fear not. Cheap local produce is all the raw food you need. Forget the expensive imported salmon, and kale, and those hard- to-pronounce berries that don’t grow on local soil – get creative with your palengke (public wet market).

Coconuts are at top of the list and one of the best in our local scene, Lia explains, as it is so versatile. Coconut meat, coconut milk, coconut oil, coco sugar – the list goes on. Seaweed, kamote, sayote, eggplants, and turmeric are more examples of what she likes to call ‘wonder foods.’

So the next time you’re thinking of going to the grocery store, consider spending a bit more time in the fresh produce aisle. Choose that fruit or vegetable because your body likes it, and because your body reacts positively to it. And the best thing to remember when moving your plate into the raw? “Take responsibility for your own health and be okay with your body.”

*Pertaining to the food that we eat, not the tailored or fad diets that have cropped up time and again.

Illustration by FRANCINE YULO
Special thanks to GWEN CARIÑO

This article was originally published in the February-March 2016 issue of Breakfast Magazine.