This is a list of things you might come across on a raw food diet or in raw food recipes. But are they raw? Some raw recipes in books or on-line or even at raw vegan restaurants have items that are not in fact raw. While in the grand scheme of things does it hurt to use a small amount of ingredients that are not raw in a recipe even if its just consumed a few times a year? Not likely, however for people aiming for a diet as close to 100% raw as possible it is nice to know if what you are eating is actually “raw”.
As an aside, a refresh of the definition of raw varies. Some people say 118, 115, or 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Personally I seldom dehydrate things and when I do, I dehydrate at 105-115, just to be conservative. Other than food I dehydrate myself, and a few nuts here and there everything I eat is fresh.
Below the raw “foods” covered below are split into sections: Liquids, Dried Foods, and Other.
ALCOHOL: I don’t even drink (never have, never will do drugs) so this doesn’t apply to me. However, some people coming to the raw diet may have consumed alcohol in the past and are curious about alcohol and its place in the raw food diet. The only raw alcohol I know of is red wine however it likely will have sulphites( some which form naturally), I guess you could get an organic red wine, but I stay steer clear of beer and booze! I will also mention Kombucha, which contains about 0.05% alcohol content. I don’t consume kombucha, I don’t consume fermented foods (talked about below) nor do I consider alcohol to be a healthy habit. Alcohol is a poison and kills cells, should this be something consumed by those on the path for health? When on raw foods drugs like alcohol will have a much stronger effect on you and most raw fooders avoid alcohol, but none the less I felt that it needed to be mentioned.
HONEY: Unless specifically labelled ‘unpasteurized’ honey is not raw. I personally do not use honey because I don’t consider it vegan, I leave the bee vomit for the larvae! I prefer using dates or other fruit to add sweetness. Considering how CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) and the mass death of bees is so prevalent I think we need to save the bees and not use them to harvest their honey. You can also use agave but it is highly processed (addressed below).
AGAVE: Named after the root of the plant which it comes from, agave is a highly processed syrup. The sap of the agave is not sweet and needs to be processed to hydrolyze and break apart the long chains of carbohydrate into simple sugars. During processing, temperatures can reach 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit. An excellent article written by John Kohler can be read here:http://www.living-foods.com/articles/agave.html
MAPLE SYRUP: 40 cups of sap is boiled to produce 1 cup of syrup so its not raw.
JUICE: Bottled/frozen juice is pasteurized. Make it fresh!
TAMARI: This is a highly processed product, and while it can be found unpasteurized I do not consider it to be part of a healthy diet. Try drinking a litre of it! If you cannot make a meal out of one ingredient should we really consume it?
VINEGAR: Apple cider vinegar is the only unpasteurized vinegar. I have known many people have teeth issues with too much vinegar, and vinegar is diluted acetic acid at 1 part acetic acid at 19 parts water. Acetic acid can be found in most labs in a bottle with skull and crossbones. Vinegar can overstimulate the thyroid. I don’t use vinegars.
BRAGGS: This is not raw or living. Braggs wont reveal the process they use but from my research it seems that heat and hydrochloric acid is used in the processing and that salt and glutamic acid(MSG) is formed during processing. Just avoid these potent liquids!
NAMA SHOYU: This potent “flavour enhancer” is organic and unpasteurized – a living food! (cooked soy beans are used- but the end product is raw) But just because it is raw does not mean its healthy! Leave it on the shelf at the grocery store…
VANILLA EXRACT: Vanilla beans are soaked in ethyl alcohol + water in the extraction process, plus sometimes heat is added. Use raw dried vanilla beans for flavour.
OILS: Many oils are heated during processing. Look for unrefined, cold-pressed or stone pressed extra virgin oils. I prefer to use whole food fats such as avocado, nuts/seeds, coconut instead of a processed fat. Oils are 100% fat, and a little goes a long way! I do not consume oils:) Oils go rancid much more easily than their whole food counter parts – eat whole foods!
ALMONDS: As of sept 2007 almonds grown in California are pasteurized with steam or irradiation. Organic almonds are steamed for a few seconds. if you soak and sprout an almond you will know it is raw. To get truly raw almonds search on-line or fine a direct grower.
CASHEWS: Like all nuts in the grocery store that are labelled ‘raw’ it is just because they are not roasted. They are exposed to high temperatures via steam, varying with whoever shells the cashews. You will pay a pretty penny for truly raw cashews that are opened with special tools (opened manually). If cashews are not opened properly a toxic, caustic resin on the shell spoils the nut. This is something to consider if cashews should be eaten entirely(in my opinion), Other nut trees grow the nuts. A cashew tree grows the cashew fruit which looks like an upside down red bell pepper with the cashew nut hanging out the bottom, exposed. Take the fruit and bite it, but the cashew nut is covered in a leathery soft shell that is very tough and contains toxins. almost like nature is telling you not to eat cashews. These nuts are very expensive due to their extraction process, and are highly addictive! I do not consume them, save for a few times a year if they are in a dish at a pot luck or at a restaurant.
NUTS: As I mentioned with Cashews, most nuts in your grocery store(unless you are shopping at a place that caters to raw foods) are roasted or blanched. If they have a coating or are salted they are not raw. Also, if a brazil nut or macadamia nut has a slight yellowish to it it is because it is rancid. real raw nuts go bad in a few weeks, in nature we would eat a few nuts during the small season and not eat them at any other time. We couldn’t save them, and they are a lot of work to crack manually so we wouldn’t eat lots and lots(like most raw fooders). Raw nuts such as almonds are like an apple when fresh, and raw nuts like a macadamia are very soft like a nut butter when raw. Truly raw nuts in stores are soaked and then dehydrated at low temperatures to extend shelf life. Essentially the same process as conventional nuts but the temperature is monitored and never goes above 105. I consume a very small amount of nuts and seeds, and if I am going to eat fat, I prefer avocado or coconut…or durian!
DATES: Dates are one of my favourite fruits! Great for quick calories and easy snacking for long distance bike rides or runs. If dates are labelled “pitted” they are likely steamed in the pitting process. I prefer to order fresh dates on-line, they are super fresh and not like the much drier dates found in the supermarket.
DRIED FRUITS: Dried fruits sold in stores are dried at high temperatures and often have sulphites and or sugar added. Banana/plantain chips are unripe and fried in oil. Steer clear of these and opt for fresh fruits! If you do decide to eat dried fruits, dehydrate them yourself as they can be good for camping or canoe trips..hiking etc where weight can be an issue. Dried foods – dates, nuts or any other fruits you choose to dehydrate stick to the teeth and can cause issues. Limit all dried fruits and make sure you brush your teeth after eating them.
SEAWEEDS: Nori is a sea vegetable which can be purchased in thin sheets for making sushi. The dark purple/black nori IS raw. Green has been toasted. Other types of seaweed include: arame, dulse, laver and kombu. Because the seas are polluted I do not eat very much seaweeds, and those that I do eat are from a good source. Look for companies who test their seaweeds for toxins etc, and sun dry the seaweed.
CACAO: Often considered a superfood, cacao is really full of toxins. We should eat the cacao fruit, and not its seeds or ‘beans’, which is what cacao is made from. Some of cacaos toxins include: caffeine, theobromine, theophyllin, tannin, oxalic acid, cannabinoids, and aflatoxins. This is best avoided and raw carob powder is a great replacement. Carob is a fruit, and it is dried and ground to a powder. It has a similar, sweeter tasting chocolatey flavour.
NUTRITIONAL YEAST: Yeast is grown in mineral enriched molasses, then the grown yeast is pasteurized, killing the yeast. Not raw.
OATS: Some raw fooders eat oats, only steel cut and scottish oats are raw. Rolled oats are steamed. I dont eat oats, or any grains.
OLIVES: Olives that come in a can are cooked. Olives are soaked in brine so I like to soak them to remove some of it, but I only consume olives a few times a year as they are so salty and I really don’t feel well eating too many of them. I may eat some at a pot luck but that is about it. Olives are picked before they are ripe and are not even palatable in that state, so they are soaked in brine. You can buy real raw olives on-line for a considerable amount of money. Olives are ripe when they are shrivelled like a prune, but it takes a long time to get to that state. This type of real raw olive can only be bought on-line or in some specialty store.
SALT: Many salts that are sold are baked, bleached and or have added iodine. Celtic sea salts and other sun-dried salts are raw but use them sparingly, or best not at all!. I use things like celery or tomatoes to add salty flavours. Think of it this way, if you drink sea water you get dehydrated. Drink enough and you die. When you consume sea salt(dehydrated sea water) the water in your body mixes with the salt and turns to sea water(essentially). The average north american eats 1/10th the lethal dosage of salt which is approx 1 g per KG of body weight. The Chinese used to use salt to commit suicide! There is a difference between Sodium Chloride and Sodium(found in foods, a vital nutrient).
FERMENTED FOODS: When foods ferment toxins such as acetic acid, alcohol, and ammonia. When fruit starts to rot and ferment we throw it out!
MISO: Started with cooked soybeans, and then fermented for about 3 years, tell me how you feel after you eat an entire tub. This salty concoction is best avoided:)
SPICES/HERBS: Spices are dehydrated at high temps or are irradiated. If you care, get them from a good source or grow your own. Fresh is best, or dehydrate your own.
FROZEN FOODS: You can freeze nuts and seeds and they will still sprout (they freeze in cold climates during the winter and still sprout). Veggies and some fruits are usually blanched before freezing to kill enzymes that cause deterioration so they are not raw. Fruits such as berries, bananas, peaches, plum, nectarines, apricots and tomatoes can be frozen and are still raw although there is a loss of some enzymes. I do eat frozen food, such as banana ice cream if I have too many ripe bananas, as well as some frozen berries which I occasionally purchase. Freezing your own foods is best. Go pick some local berries and freeze them to have throughout the entire year. A side note: eating too many frozen foods can damage your intestinal bacteria and cause low levels of vitamin B12. I don’t eat very cold foods too often, but will thaw frozen berries or add some frozen fruits to a smoothie containing mostly fresh fruit so that it is not too cold.
WILD RICE: This is a grass seed which is processed at 200 degrees to remove husks. Not a raw food.
As you progress through your raw foods journey, you will find that you feel best eating fresh foods:)