ALL living things contain enzymes, proteins which act as catalysts in our body chemistry, much like spark plugs in a car engine. Modern science has identified up to 2,500 different types of enzymes in living things.
We get our enzymes through cooked and raw foods, but cooking at very high temperatures inactivates and lessens enzyme activity to some level as they get denatured.
That’s why for optimal health, it is important to have various foods, both cooked and raw, for a healthy, balanced diet.
A major function of enzymes is to aid digestion and provide antioxidants to improve the immune level of healthy cells in our body.
This concept of eating foods in their raw form is nothing new. It has existed among early pioneers of alternative and complementary health for years.
Some people go for more plant-based choices such as fruit, vegetables, juices, seeds, nuts and grains.
Others include meats that are raw or heated minimally to not more than between 40 and 46 degrees Celsius, so as not to destroy their enzymes.
For some, eating raw meat needs some getting used to. However, different cultures around the world have variations of raw meat dishes seasoned with spices, vegetable sauces and juices such as sashimi (finely sliced fresh seafoods), carpaccio (thin fillets of fish or meat), ceviche (marinated raw seafood), crudo (raw fish mixed with citrus juice, vinegar and olive oil), tartare (seasoned chopped meat), prosciutto (air-dried, salted meat), umai (sliced raw fish served with chilli, onions, salt and lime juice) and the Chinese New Year festive favourite yee sang.
Raw food can be uniquely delicious meals using certain cooking methods without having to use high heat or processing such as dehydrating (using a dehydrator, which is a handy appliance used by raw foodies), juicing, salting, pickling, curing, fermenting, to name a few.
For those of you who love to cook, there are many recipe websites, and even books on preparing raw food-inspired dishes.
Having more fresh, raw food instead of highly processed meals is certainly a big plus in getting on to the path of healthier eating because of the nutrient density of these foods.
A diet largely made up of raw plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds are high in fibre, vitamins, antioxidants, protein and healthy fats.
The focus on eating food in their whole unprocessed form is also a good way to cut out unnecessary food additives. People who eat a large part of their diet this way report feeling healthier and more energised because they become mindful of choosing fresh, wholesome foods.
However, it is important to remember that eating food in their raw form is not recommended for everyone as it can cause food borne illnesses due to the presence of bacteria.
Raw meats, seafood, unpasteurised milk, raw eggs, and even certain raw vegetables such as mushrooms require thorough cooking to destroy bacteria and microbes.
Heating these food to only between 40 and 46 degrees is not sufficient to kill the bacteria. Babies, toddlers, children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems due to illness should not consume such food.
TIPS : HOW TO GO FRESH
You don’t have to drastically change your diet to suddenly consume all your food raw. Here are tips on how you can incorporate more fresh food into your daily diet:
• Swap your typical greasy cooked breakfast for a bowl of muesli made from raw rolled oats, dried fruit, nuts and shredded dehydrated coconut with a splash of cold milk or unsweetened soya milk.
• For a light lunch or dinner — Have a large salad of crisp greens, chopped red capsicum, cubed cucumbers, sliced fresh fruit, sesame seeds and nuts with a drizzle of vinaigrette. If you are having nasi campur (mixed rice), make it a point to have a serving of ulam or kerabu on your plate.
• For a snack — Forget the usual salty tidbits and packet snack food. Munch on fresh or dried fruit such as apricots, cranberries or sultanas with mixed nuts or yogurt. Steamed corn on the cob or chickpeas are also wholesome snacks.
• Add side condiments to your meal in the form of fermented foods such as yogurt, thairu, kaffir, kim chi or pickled fruit/vegetables.
• For a refreshing drink, have freshly squeezed juice or a fruit vegetable blended smoothie. These are certainly much better than caffeinated or sugar laden soft drinks.
NUTRITION IN THE KITCHEN
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricots, orange peel, etc)
1/2 cup dehydrated shredded coconut (available in supermarkets at the baking products aisle)
1/2 cup nuts of your choice (almonds, macadamia, cashews, hazelnuts, etc)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
• Mix all the ingredients in a large air tight container to keep.
• Scoop a portion of the homemade muesli into a bowl to serve with chilled milk, unsweetened almond or soya bean milk or yogurt.
• Add a drizzle of honey to lightly sweeten, if you wish.
REFRESHING CHICKPEA SALAD BOWL
1 cup canned chickpeas — rinse and drain
1 cup chopped raw broccoli
1 cup arugula salad leaves (available in supermarkets)
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup red capsicum — diced
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes — cut into half
1/2 cup thinly sliced onions (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
• Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
• Toss in as much apple cider vinaigrette as you want to lightly flavour your salad.
APPLE CIDER VINAIGRETTE
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
Dash of crushed black pepper to taste
• Mix all the ingredients in a clean, dry jar.
• Place the lid on the jar and give it a good shake.
• You can store any extra apple cider vinaigrette in the fridge for up to three days.
*Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple practical ways to eating well and living healthy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org