This month we review two books emphasizing the raw lifestyle. One by two registered dietitians focuses on the nutritional needs of raw foodists. The other by a renowned raw food chef instructs readers on the simple techniques of creating delicious raw preparations.
Click here for a review of Raw Food for Real People.
The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets
By Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina With Rynn Berry
Book Publishing Company, 2010
The New Becoming Vegetarian
The Raw Food Revolution Diet
In the opening chapter of Becoming Raw the authors write, "Our goal in writing Becoming Raw was to assist you in the task of designing a raw or mainly raw vegan diet that is not only nutritionally safe and adequate but also optimal. It is our hope that this book will provide the information that you need to construct a diet that will nourish your body and soul."
The authors confront some of the major questions surrounding the raw vegan lifestyle. Will raw disciples be able to satisfy their nutrient requirements, especially protein and calcium, iron, and B12? Are raw foods like sprouts safe to eat? Do enzymes in raw foods provide health benefits? Does cooking food destroy its nutrients and even make it poisonous? In examining these questions the authors turn to their voluminous research to arrive at the information in the book.
For example, in a section titled The Raw Report: Scientific Evidence to Date, they offer evidence of the health benefits of a raw diet. They present the latest research to support their contention that "Raw vegan diets may very well provide the most effective therapeutic dietary treatment for chronic disease that exists today."
In Why Raw Rocks they show how the phytochemicals and antioxidants in raw foods are beneficial and how harmful fats, refined carbohydrates, sodium, and animal protein damage the body.
Their focus on fiber encourages readers to "RESPECT YOUR ROUGHAGE" and reveals the numerous benefits of fiber in the diet. The World Health Organization recommendation is a minimum of 25 grams of dietary fiber daily, while the average person in the United States ingests only approximately 15. Raw foodists, on the other hand, average close to 50 grams of dietary fiber daily.
Is fat a friend or foe in the raw food lifestyle? The authors explain the answer could be both. Some experts like Dr. Gabriel Cousins recommend an intake of between 10 to 20 percent calories from fat, but many others are more liberal on fat intake.
From their research the authors conclude, "Concentrated fats and oils are among the least nutrient-dense foods in the diet, providing very few nutrients (apart from essential fatty acids and vitamin E) and a lot of calories. These foods may crowd out more healthful foods, making it challenging to meet recommended intakes for many nutrients, especially those that are already marginal in raw vegan diets. For this reason, an upper limit of calories from added fats and oils is suggested, with lower intakes being preferable."
Davis and Melina do focus on the good fats, those present in whole foods like avocados, nuts, olives, and seeds. They point out an absence of studies that negate the health aspects of these natural foods, but so many that verify their nutrient and antioxidant benefits.
One chapter is devoted to the The Great Enzyme Controversy. The authors examine these five key points in the theory that food enzymes are critical for optimal health.
The authors conclude, "Raw food offers many advantages, and food enzymes are among them. There is good evidence that food enzymes play a positive role in health and digestion, although the role appears somewhat different, and less critical, than what proponents of the food-enzyme theory have suggested."
In one chapter of the book historian Rynn Berry provides a historical account of the raw-food movement in the United States, beginning with pioneers like Sylvester Graham and including luminaries like Bernarr Macfadden, Herbert Shelton, Norman Walker, and Paul Bragg.
Although there are many books with raw recipes, the authors chose to include 50 pages of recipes that reflect "a cross section of eating styles." Readers will find directions for smoothies, cereals, salads and salad dressings, soups, and desserts. The recipes or recipe ideas came from a number of chefs and cookbook authors. A detailed nutritional analysis is included for each recipe.
The book ends with a Glossary and an impressive list of 977 references to support the information presented. The numerous charts make this book a valuable continuing resource. A must read is Top Ten Tips for Optimum Health on a Raw Vegan Diet.
You don't have to be a raw devotee to benefit from reading Becoming Raw because so much of the nutritional information applies to everyone. Anyone who contemplates going raw will find this volume an essential guidebook for achieving success in this lifestyle. For those who have thumbed through numerous diet books to take off extra pounds, this well researched work clearly provides an optimal solution. The authors state it succinctly when they write "A well-designed raw vegan diet can be viewed as the ultimate weight-loss regimen."
Raw Food for Real People: Living Vegan Food Made Simple
By the Chef and Founder of Leaf Organics
By Rod Rotondi
New World Library, 2009
The book's introduction emphasizes three major points about raw food.
Rod's interest in food began in his family's home kitchen where everyone joyfully gathered to prepare meals. He remembers vividly his grandfather who considered growing vegetables for his 13 children simply a way of life. His family's extensive travels to Europe broadened his culinary awareness and sparked his interest in different cuisines. Living and working in Morocco, Tunisia, and Jerusalem opened more avenues to fascinating dishes he added to his cooking repertoire.
He urges the reader to rediscover and bond with nature and consider growing even a few items in pots or a window box. Stressed is the importance of buying organic produce whenever possible.
"Human beings are the only animals on Earth that cook their foods," he writes. He mentions that humans evolved from our earliest ancestors who thrived on a diet of unadulterated raw foods. Fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and greens were foraged in the wild.
Featured in the introductory section are four sizeable sidebars contributed by respected practitioners in the raw food community: Brian Clement, PhD, LN, NMD, Compton Rom Bada, Robert O. Young, PhD, and Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, MD, MD(H). Each contributes an essay on a valuable feature of the raw diet.
While some people can embark on a new regimen all at once, many benefit from a gradual approach and learn that dealing with food addictions may occasionally include indulging in that food but with a fully conscious awareness.
The book includes a section on basic equipment for the raw food kitchen: a blender, food processor, paring knife, chef's knife, cutting board, strainer, and some bowls. For more specialized endeavors a juicer, dehydrator, salad spinner, and spiral slicer are desirable. Essential is stocking the pantry with basics like herbs and spices, legumes, nuts, seeds, and produce. The reader will find plenty of handy hints for tasks like cutting corn and opening coconuts. In peeling lemons, Rod suggests leaving as much of the white pith as possible because it contains the valuable bioflavonoids that enhance the effectiveness of Vitamin C.
A whole chapter is devoted to sprouting and includes a helpful chart detailing soaking and sprouting time, rinsing guidelines, and the yield the sprouted item produces. The section on dehydration covers crackers, croquettes, pizza, and breads like Artisan Herb Bread made from squash, carrots, buckwheat, seeds, lentils, nuts, onions, and seasonings. In this section Rod describes his first encounter with dehydrating foods while living seven years in a Bedouin village in the Sinai desert. The Bedouins would form small hummus patties and place them on a rock in the sun to dry. By the end of the day, the patties were dry enough for the next day's travel.
For a great breakfast start, he suggests recipes for Nut Mylk or Coconut Mylk and then creating a smoothie from 13 tempting choices like Berry Refreshing or Mudslide Slim. Other breakfast options focus on cereals made with sprouted oat groats or buckwheat. Even the recipe for Groovy Granola is accompanied with variations like Tropical Granola or Choco Granola.
A banquet of recipes for feasting on raw appetizers, soups, entrées, and dessert offers an explosion of innovative dishes like Cashew Kreme Cheeze with variations on the theme. For a raw Thanksgiving feast complete with raw Cranberry Sauce, and Mashed Taters, he offers a recipe for Love Loaf.
Making salad THE meal is easy when the leafy greens are accompanied with some sprouted seeds, Holy Moly Guacamole, and Sprouted Chickpea Hummus, which is one of Rod's prized recipes. Other possibilities are Caesar in the Raw Salad, a bowlful of crisp romaine bathed in deliciously flavored Caesar Dressing, or the Potatoless Salad with Lemon Dill Sauce.
Mainstream desserts like baked cakes, cookies, and pies take a back seat when raw delicacies like Brownie Bars, Raspberry Vanilla Cheezecake, and Cushy Carrot Cake come to the table looking lusciously inviting, especially when topped with fluffy Whipped Kreme.
The last chapter, Raw Food for Real Kids, is in collaboration with his wife Jeannette in an effort to share their experience of raising a child on raw food. While the chapter is brief, it does offer an informative glimpse and covers breastfeeding, infant years, and toddlerhood.
Graphically pleasing, the book is printed in two shades of green ink with green shaded chapter headings and featured foods. Making effective use of color, recipe titles appear in white on a deep green background, giving the book attractive visual variations. Tucked into the center of the book are 16 dazzling full-color photos beautifully styled and inviting enough to stir the appetite. The last photo features a smiling Rod Rotondi serving a dish of colorful Pizza Pizzazz Abbondanza.
Raw Food for Real People is a sneak peak into the passion author Rod Rotondi forges with raw food--food he considers the most natural way of eating for humans. The well-conceived original recipes are elegant and downright delicious, yet truly easy to prepare. This beautiful volume proves that in raw cuisine it is possible to recreate a variety of tastes and textures without adulterating food. Rod clearly demonstrates that raw food cuisine, while not yet in the mainstream, is beginning to forge an impressive place in the culinary world and in many households