Raw food: worth the effort?

A raw food diet sounds like it would be good for you, but probably involves too much time and effort, right? Not so, Claudia Cahalane discovers on a raw food beginners’ course

While I’ve always felt good eating raw foods and admired the energy and glow of those that live on a mainly raw food diet, the thought of making raw meals myself has generally seemed a bit overwhelming – too fussy and expensive. But, a two-day course with raw food expert, Kate Magic, in February offered a new perspective and was just the boost I needed to encourage me to eat more raw.

Six of us, all women, attended the 10-hour weekend course led by Kate at Brighton’s Guarana Bar. Surrounded by tropical plants and people drinking green smoothies (including Kate’s three sons who live on a predominantly raw vegan diet) we watched, learned and had our imaginations and taste buds stimulated. Kate whipped up bayonnaise (a piquant raw mayonnaise with superfood baobab powder), an indulgent and wonderful chocolate cake made with strawberry essence, ‘purple power pudding’ with avocados and blueberry powder, and a fantastically tasty savoury meal of raw zucchini and kelp noodles with curry sauce (the curry paste was cooked, but Kate has a flexible approach).

It turns out a lot of raw meals aren’t complicated to make and are incredibly quick once you get the hang of them. My favourite discoveries were realising how addictive, delicious and simple raw mushrooms are – they just need marinating in oil and tamari/soy for 20 minutes or so. I’ve also been experimenting with avocado deserts since the course – blended avocado is a brilliant healthy, creamy base for raw puddings because of its ability to take on flavours.

Kate teaches with open warmth and the knowledge of more than 20 years immersed in the raw food world. She made me see that raw food living doesn’t have to be an ‘all or nothing’ approach. Eating even a 50% raw diet can have extremely positive health benefits, she believes. Since the course, I’ve taken to pouring a blended and warmed tomato curry sauce over cooked brown rice and raw veggies for an easy, raw-ish meal.

It also doesn’t need to be an exclusively cold food diet either, as Kate thinks there is a need for warm foods in northern European climates. Accepted raw wisdom currently says that heating food to 42° still maintains enzymes and nutrients. In addition, Kate encourages the use of chilli, paprika, turmeric, onions or garlic to provide heat, as well as herbal teas (just don’t fully boil the water).

Kate reminded us that just eating more raw food doesn’t automatically make someone healthy. Like any diet, care should be taken to ensure a wide spread of nutrients are included and that there isn’t an over-emphasis on fruit – because of its high sugar content, Kate recommends no more than a couple of portions a day – and nuts, as they are “hard on digestion and congesting for the body.” Instead, she favours lots of seeds, although many raw foodists believe it’s healthier to soak nuts, seeds and dried fruit before you eat them.

I’m looking forward to slowly building up my knowledge and store cupboard. Oh, and saving a bit of money on the gas bill!

Raw Magic beginners’ course costs £175, including food, teas and recipes.