Raw food diets have definitely increased in popularity over the last decade. Toronto had a number of raw food restaurants and I've tried a few. I like them because they are made from fresh, whole foods and healthy ingredients.
That being said, I have never aspired to eating an entirely raw food diet for several reasons: (1) No evidence it is better for you (despite what some people claim) than a healthy diet that includes cooked food, (2) I like hot foods...especially during Canadian winters! (3) If you want to make it interesting, it can be both expensive and time consuming.
But since I enjoy raw food, I was happy to accept the offer to review The Joy of Real Food by Rowena Jayne.
The book starts with a synopsis of Jayne's own journey to a raw food diet. Like so many women, she experienced years of body shame, low self-esteem and disordered eating. Adopting a raw food diet helped her develop a healthier relationship with food and her body.
Next, she outlines the principles of Ayurveda and the associated dietary guidelines. Addressing the amount of work involved in creating many raw food recipes, she also has a section where she gives tips for using your time efficiently.
A list of pantry staples is also provided, which, interestingly includes only a few things (bee pollen, agar agar, berry powders, a SCOBY for kombucha, etc.) that I don't already have, along with a list of essential kitchen equipment. You will absolutely have to purchase a food dehydrator!
The rest of the book is the recipes. There are lovely photos of many of them, which are separated into the following sections:
Juices, Smoothies and Nut Milks
Entrees and Mains
Ice Cream & Desserts
Breads, Cakes, Biscuits & Slices
Wraps, Crackers, Dips & Cheese
Chocolates, Truffles & Special Occasions
A Little Big Cooked
Condiments, Ferments & Extras
Jayne also includes various resources at the back for further exploration.
From a nutrition perspective, these recipes all get an A+, after all, they are made entirely from whole foods. But don't assume that a raw food diet will necessarily help you lose weight. A lot of it is very calorically dense thanks to liberal amounts of coconut, avocado, nuts and seeds. In fact, in most of these recipes the only source of protein is nuts and seeds. I am not sure a lot of people could get enough protein without going over their energy needs. If you do want to attempt this type of diet, I would definitely consult a dietician to make sure you are getting an appropriate balance of macronutrients as well as calories.
Personally, juices and smoothies don't interest me, but the salads sound fantastic and very doable to make. The main courses also look amazing (she has a lot of kelp noodle recipes and I like kelp noodles!). The desserts are decadent, and again, definitely not low-cal.
Given that Jayne lives in Australia I don't think she fully realizes how unpleasant it would be to eat a raw food diet in a cold climate, but that being said, Victoria Moran, author of The Good Karma Diet, who lives in NYC, gives tips on how to minimize the chill of raw food in a cold climate. I guess you get used to it.
If you currently eat processed foods, than switching to a raw food diet will undoubtedly improve your nutrition intake, so if this appeals to you, its worth trying. But as I said, definitely get some help from an expert if you aren't sure how to appropriately structure this type of eating plan.
As far as the book goes, her candid description of her struggles with food and body image will resonate with many readers and the recipes themselves sound delicious. Even with her time saving tips, however, this type of diet is not for folks who hate the kitchen. If you do hate the kitchen, however, I suggest you start liking it as the first step towards better health and nutrition is ditching the take-out and convenience foods.
Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.