Thursday, December 08, 2005

Raw Food: "intuitve eating"

"Karen Knowler, 27, is the co-ordinator of the Fresh Network and the co-author of a new book on the subject, Feel-good Food: A Guide to Intuitive Eating. Over the last decade, she has gradually converted from a junk food diet in her teens to a 100% raw food eating regimen, and says she has never had so much energy or felt so well."

Raw FoodsIt may sound cranky, but the Raw Fooders (as they call themselves), and those who have worked their way up to a diet that comprises 80% raw food or more, swear that the benefits of eating uncooked foods; which include feeling younger, having more energy, clearer skin and an untroubled digestion; far outweigh the supposed disadvantages.Karen Knowler, 27, is the co-ordinator of the Fresh Network and the co-author of a new book on the subject, Feel-good Food: A Guide to Intuitive Eating. Over the last decade, she has gradually converted from a junk food diet in her teens to a 100% raw food eating regimen, and says she has never had so much energy or felt so well.The step-daughter of a High Street butcher, Knowler admits she could never have imagined when she had a part-time Saturday job in the meat shop that she would ever turn her back first on meat to become vegetarian, and then on dairy products to become a vegan. Even more unlikely she says, was that as a fully-fledged member of what she calls ‘The Burger Generation’, she would ever find herself with a preference for uncooked, raw food over anything that has been tampered with in the kitchen.“My diet used to be appalling,” she says. “I refused to accept there was any link between what I ate and my health and it was only when I eventually stopped eating dairy and realised that I was no longer blowing my nose every morning that I saw how there is a direct link between the two.” (For clarification, dairy is notorious for producing more mucous in the body. This is not the lubricating mucous that protects surfaces such as the lining of the digestive tract, but a mucous formed when miniscule waste deposits of protein swell up with water.)Karen Knowler also makes no secret of the fact that she believes her diet helped to not only halt, but actually reverse the pre-cancerous changes to the cells of her cervix that were detected during a routine smear test. She asked the doctors to give her three months to try out her own health solution; which included a 100% raw diet, drinking wheatgrass juice, and a visualisation technique whereby she imagined a healthy cervix. When she returned for a repeat cervical smear, the cells had reverted to normal.It is true that many of the few thousand people who have found their way to the Network to become Raw Fooders did so as a last resort, looking for a end to the symptoms of difficult to treat conditions including cancer, candida, chronic fatigue, and allergies - and that everyone else will think they are cranks. “Nobody,” says Knowler, “wants to give up their steak and chips unless they have to.”In any case, the point of a raw food diet is not to feel alienated from your family and friends or to become a freak, but to benefit from the live enzymes in food which help the body digest what you eat. It is these enzymes that are destroyed by cooking, refining, and the over-processing of food - when this happens, the body has to work harder to produce more of its own digestive enzymes.Research as long ago as the 1930s suggested that when cooked food is ingested, the immune system responds by sending armies of white blood cells to the digestive tract to fight what it perceives to be a threat. This does not happen when you eat raw food, since the body perceives this as something completely natural.One of the biggest reservations about giving up cooked food for those of us living in the predominantly cold and damp British climate, is that it is hard to imagine surviving a winter without the comfort of a warm soup or soothing hot chocolate drink. Knowler admits she dreaded her first winter as a 100% Raw Fooder but says she survived by telling herself she would eat something warm and cooked if her body really craved it - which never happened.Listening to your body - what Knowler calls Intuitive Eating - is the key to successfully making the transition from mostly cooked to mostly raw food, but that does not mean giving in to every craving for chocolate or caffeine. Those types of cravings are not a sign that you are in tune with your body, but that you have become addicted to their stimulatory effects.Knowler has no formal qualification in nutrition or health, but says she learnt about her own health the best way of all - by listening to her body and responding to its messages, which became stronger and stronger as she cut back on cooked food: “I wanted to gain more freedom, not lose it, and a raw food diet has done that for me. I enjoy everything I eat so much more and I want people to realise the best nutrition expert they can ever have is their own body.”Another champion of increasing the amount of raw or Living food in your diet is the respected US-trained and London-based nutritionist, Dr Gillian McKeith who draws on many disciplines, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), in her work. She says that she supports the idea of encouraging people to increase the amount of raw food in their diet, but argues that you have to find the right balance - especially when you live in this climate.The author of a new book called Dr Gillian McKeith’s Living Food for health, which shows you how to achieve that balance; she believes that for most people in this country, a 100% raw diet is not a healthy option: “It is fine in the summer but it will only make most people even more miserable in the winter,” she cautions.The solution, she says, is to cheat by using warmed food mixed with raw foods. A perfect example is her own winter breakfast – which would be, say, a warmed apple and pear puree with raw raspberries (for kidney support), scattered through the dish. If, for example, you want soup - you can have it. You will destroy the live enzymes in the vegetables you cook, but once the soup has been blended, you can add the live enzymes by sprinkling the dish with raw broccoli and sprouted seeds.Sprouts - and she does not mean brussels sprouts, but the seeds of foods such as mung beans, aduki beans, alfalfa, radish, rye, and millet - are all packed with live enzymes and energy-giving nutrients. In fact, according to McKeith, when the US military commissioned food scientists to come up with a protein alternative to meat and dairy during the second world war, sprouts were voted the single best substitute food.“The secret is to place the hot or warmed food on top of the cold dish so that the heat filters down. For example, cook your rice and place it on top of the raw vegetables. Also, find out which herbs, such as basil and parsley, have a warming action on the body and include those in your diet.”The UK Government’s Food Standards Agency, which took over responsibility for health promotion from the now defunct Health Education Authority in April, recommends aiming for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables in your diet every day. It does not take a stand on the raw versus cooked debate, but it does acknowledge that most people find it hard to meet even these minimum targets.The Fresh Network’s guidelines for stepping up the raw food content of a normal diet, and especially during the transitional process from cooked to raw foods, include:# Eating side-salads with every main course, hot or cold.# Eating fruit for breakfast instead of cereals or bacon and eggs.# Eating fruit, nuts, and seeds whenever you want a between-meal snack.# Getting into the habit of juicing raw fruits and vegetables. For example, it takes about 16 medium-sized carrots to make half a tumbler of carrot juice - evidence that juicing really is a good way to increase the raw food content of your diet without giving yourself an aching jaw.# Remind yourself you are simply making some improvements to your eating habits and not going on a diet. Eating more raw food is not about penance.# Dr Gillian McKeith recommends mixing warmed with cold, raw food - especially in the winter. She says we need to aim for two portions (a portion is the equivalent of a tea cup) of sprouted seeds every day to benefit from the live enzymes that will help with digestion.Books:*Feel-Good Food: A Guide to Intuitive Eating by Susie Miller & Karen Knowler is published by The Women’s Press. It costs £8.99 and can be ordered direct on 020-7251 3007. The book includes an excellent chapter on how to eat a raw food diet while still living in the real world.*Dr Gillian McKeith’s Living Food for Health is one of the best-researched health books currently on the market. It is also packed with good suggestions for dishes which provide the benefits of raw food without making huge sacrifices. It is published by Piatkus and costs £6.99. Mail order from the Nutricentre on 0800-587 2290.Links:Contact the Fresh Network on 0870-800 7070 or visit the website at Membership costs £16.00 per annum, and includes four issues of the Network’s in-house magazine, Get Fresh! The Network also sells a range of juicers.

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