Discovering the raw food approach

Upon the launch of The International Raw Food Restaurant Directory, raw food enthusiast Pam Bennett introduces this increasingly popular approach to nutrition

Google, who are forever busy analysing what words we are putting into our searches, found that ìraw foodî began to out-rank searches for ìorganic foodî in early 2009. The increase in popularity of raw food is also evident in the number of magazines, books and recipe books now devoted to the subject. Not surprisingly, a growing list of celebrities, including Bill Clinton, Demi Moore, Sting, David Bowie, Beyonce, Robin Williams and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, are voicing their interest too.

My first encounter with raw food was about five years ago when I did a reiki course in Scotland. Rosemary, the teacher, had a dehydrator in her kitchen – a device that preserves food by removing moisture from it – and when we got chatting about this it turned out that she was interested in raw food.

I thought raw food meant salads and juicing, so I was fascinated to hear more about it and of the amazing health giving properties. Raw foodists, as they are sometimes known, report benefits such as increased energy, weight loss, feeling more rested and needing less sleep, as well as a slowing of the aging process. Candida, some cancers, diabetes and lupus are among the illnesses that can be improved by following a raw food diet, proponents have claimed.

I’ve even heard that following a raw food diet can save you money! You may find this hard to believe but although you would be eating organic food which is more expensive, once your body gets used to the change and adapts, the food that you eat is more nutritionally dense, so you don’t eat so much but have more energy.

The definition of raw does vary a bit depending on who you talk to, but the generally accepted definition is uncooked vegan food, with no animal or dairy products at all. Raw food can be heated, but must not be heated above 115 F or 46 C, the temperature at which enzymes begin to be destroyed. This means that dehydrators are in. Raw foodists often use these to make breads and biscuits and to dry fruits and vegetables all of which retain most of the nutrients lost in cooking.

I was very interested to learn from Rosemary that raw food has been gaining popularity over the past 10-15 years all over the world, especially in the US. Having been vegetarian since the mid 80’s but never tempted to go vegan, I was surprised at myself for being so interested in raw food, which is after all one step beyond vegan. I was amazed to see the raw cook books that Rosemary had and immediately started flicking through them. She gave me lots more information and I quickly wrote down the name and authors so that I could order my own copies when I got home. She spoke about Ann Wigmore, an early pioneer of raw food and Gabriel Cousens, who has written extensively on the subject.

Back in London I found out through a friend that a raw food restaurant had started up in the city, so I went to sample what they had to offer. Since then raw food has become much easier to find in London with raw food restaurants and vegan restaurants including raw food offerings springing up – mainly in central and north London – not to mention little pockets in other parts of the country such as Brighton and Lincolnshire.

Because of my interest in raw food I am very pleased to have helped with the publication of The International Raw Food Restaurant Directory in which we list more than 600 restaurants in over 45 countries with their contact details, the location and opening hours. Most, but not all of these are also vegan. We have listed many of the rapidly expanding number of Raw Vegan Meetup groups, which are very friendly and brilliant for beginners. As well as this we have also listed wild food foraging websites, raw food cookery classes, plus listings for further reading on the benefits of raw food.

This is a great book for taking away on holiday with you, especially if you are going to America; California is particularly rich in raw food outlets.