Start a romance with raw food for heart health and new flavour explosions!

In mid 2012, when I was trying to figure out how to change my diet to tackle genetically high cholesterol, I did a tally of my raw food eating habits, and I was shocked at how little raw veg and fruit I was eating. Well actually it wasn’t just the raw food that was missing, the total tally of of veg and fruit I was eating in general (cooked or raw) was way too low! Unfortunately, this is very common. This CDC report from 2009, shows that only 14% of US adults get more than 5 servings a day (2 fruits and 3 vegetables).

While this stat is probably not a shocker to most people, as this item is on most peoples “should-do” lists, it’s urgent that you take it off the “someday” list and move it onto today’s. If you are not eating a minimum of 5 to 9 half-cups of mostly vegetables a day (a small amount of this portion can be fruit), then you are endangering your health. In the Nurses’ Health Study as well as the Health Professionals Follow-up Study – both Harvard-based research projects, those with the highest daily intake of vegetables and fruits had the lowest chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

Not all of your foods need to be raw

Just start with getting more veg in general. It’s a good idea to start thinking about the concept of raw, but I won’t get into it now (here’s a great list of benefits about eating raw). Also, Food Matters, whose excellent documentary I’ve recommended before, is sharing a series of videos this coming week, that you can see for free if you subscribe in the next week. The first one is all about raw food, which will give you an overview:

What key thing did I do to increase my daily veg intake?

  1. Green smoothies were number 1. They’re raw, they’re easy, and they taste great. You can read all about them here.
  2. Make sure you have a salad for lunch alongside your usual lunch (sandwich or soup, etc.)
  3. Have a salad alongside your dinner.

What about pleasure? Doesn’t raw and veg food taste bland?

Veggies are only as bland and boring as your cooking is. They can be sublime. If you keep in mind, that in order to stay healthy, reduce cholesterol, and lose weight, you are supposed to be eating a healthy amount of tasty oils every day, this will impact your veggie cooking straight away (low-fat is not the name of the game, when you are trying to improve your heart health). When you take a steamed vegetable such as broccoli you’ll make sure to add some simple things like extra virgin olive oil, salt, minced garlic / chili flakes, and maybe some tamari soy sauce, so that you end up with an amazingly tasty dish.

One of the best eating habits you can cultivate is learning how to do interesting things with vegetables

Buy a vegetable and salads cookbook in the next 3 days. I have made a list of ones I recommend on Amazon here, or pick one up at your local bookstore.

Vegetables are delicious and highly varied, but it takes thinking about them differently to generate different results to what you do now – and for me, it took cooking from a few cookbooks that showed me interesting, tasty things to do with veg. The Going Raw cookbook I mention below, has some amazing salad recipes that completely changed how I view a salad – salads can be exciting eating!

Try to shake things up by changing up the vegetables you put in your salads – try these salads:

  1. Chop up a tomato, an avocado and small thin slices of red onion – drizzle on olive oil and balsamic and then sprinkle with salt
  2. Shred a carrot, an apple and a beet together – use same dressing as above, or try a different one. Food processor is excellent for this one.
  3. Massage the juice of 1 lemon and some salt into a large bunch of thinly sliced kale with your hands until softened. Add a handful of pine nuts, raisins and a chopped tomatoe. Drizzle with olive oil and black pepper.

My three current favorite veg-centric and/or raw cookbooks are:

  1. Going Raw: Everything you need to start your own raw food diet (amazing salads!)
  2. The Clear Skin Cookbook: This book does what it says – I’ve seen amazing skin results and the recipes are deee-licious!
  3. The 100 Foods You Should Be Eating: Love this cookbook, use it every week – easy and every recipe a flavour winner!

A good heart-healthy habit starts by making a decision

Start consciously planning on eating at least 1 meal a day that is based around raw foods. With time, if you try to move towards at least 50% of your food being raw, you will greatly improve your health, energy and probably your weight as well (if you’re not at your target weight). The motivation for eating more veg and raw foods will build over time, once you feel the results. It’s a feeling thing. I do think you need a mixture of raw and cooked foods, but I can’t shout loud enough about the fact that I feel ridiculously fantastic when I increase the amount of raw food I eat. It’s such an obvious pattern of cause/effect and the benefits are quickly felt, so I urge you to try it – see how you feel after a week.