Back to the Future with Raw Foods

This is a guest post by Liz Longacre.

My husband and I, and a few courageous friends, have spent the month of January on a raw food ‘live-it’. My husband suggested it and it fit perfectly in line with the current evolution of my relationship with food. So with a big fat “I love you”, I quickly agreed. I love a man who can challenge me!

I’ve been on what you could call a spiritual food journey. I’ve been exploring the relationship between eating in a way that’s right for animals, the environment and my own health. More and more I’ve been taking things back to wise old Mama Nature. Our food production system just seems to have strayed so far from what nature intended. The health and environmental consequences being inflicted upon us as a result are clearly screaming “go back”!! In this case, going backward may really be the best way to go forward.

“Nature” has many definitions. The simplest being “the world of living things”. Since I was a child, I’ve always been fascinated with this world, drawn to it, captivated and comforted by it. Perhaps growing up in New York City helped me to appreciate the times I would get to fully immerse myself in all of nature’s wonders. Walking through the woods by a lake with my dog on family vacations was always my simple version of Utopia.

My fascination with nature first and foremost always included a love of animals. To me, animals are magical. They are the essence of nature, it’s most instinctual creatures, so full of emotion and sixth sense wisdom, so beautiful and so strong, yet so vulnerable…

It’s this love for animals that led me to start a travel business completely dedicated to their welfare. It’s also what led me to be a vegetarian for 12 years and, once I educated myself on our factory farming system, a vegan for the past year. Once I began my vegan journey, I knew I had to be healthy to maintain it properly.

As a woman who spent most of her life, (a) using her stove solely to brew tea, (b) acting like sticking a frozen meal into the microwave was a balanced dinner, (c) pretending that ketchup was a food group, and (d) thinking it’s okay to substitute any meal for desert because the calories would even out and I NEEDED sugar to survive I knew I had some work to do… I needed to respect my own body as much as I respected the animals I hoped to spare.

So I started exploring what it means to eat healthy. The more I learned, the more I realized, our food production system has become about endless chemicals and misleading labeling and we’re programmed to devour each bite with every ad that flashes our way. Companies providing our food care only about profits, not health. As a result we have an obesity epidemic like never seen before, increasing health problems (it’s been said that this will be the first time in history that our children’s generation will not live longer than their parent’s generation) and devastating environmental consequences. Our food is becoming a cancer all on its own.

Instead of eating what was given to us by Mother Nature, we’re eating mass produced low quality chemically filled cheap processed foods that are ironically often labeled as “vitamin enriched”. Manufacturers are certainly creative. Perhaps in this instance, creativity has betrayed us.

Our RAW-Donkulous Month!

So, to start off the New Year being the healthiest we can be, off we went into our raw food month. Back to living foods full of healthy enzymes that will keep us younger longer. Back to fruits, vegetables and nuts, straight from the earth. I knew one thing, it was our turn to get creative.

To avoid eating the same old salad everyday, my husband and I have been raw “cooking” up a storm! It’s been new and exciting, and admittedly challenging at times. But I’ve been following Raw Foods Witch ever since I met Nathalie at a conference, so I knew I’d be armed with great information
and recipes!

My favorite part of this experience has been juicing and drinking green smoothies every morning – AMAZING. It’s like kick-starting your day with a green jolt of nutrient filled power fuel! For once, I don’t miss my cafe con soya!

But it hasn’t been all peaches and almond cream and we’ve had a few bumps along our zucchini-bricked road (which admittedly led to a bit of cheating…).

Some of the lessons we’ve learned:

1. Gradual Changes are Easier

Some friends participating in our raw food month went straight from full on meat and/or dairy eating, junk food downing, smoking and/or hardly exercising (I myself needed improvement in the junk food and exercising categories), to nothing but raw foods – not easy. Starting as a vegan made the transition a little less drastic for me. To make a raw food ‘live-it’ work as smoothly as possible, a gradual change might be easier for both your body and your brain to process.

2. Prepare Ahead

Sticking to raw foods at home was easiest because we emptied our fridge of all temptations. When you’re out and about in the world, things get tricky. Plan ahead! Bring snacks and leftovers and find restaurants with raw food options so you’re never wandering around hungry and aimless!

3. Avoid Alcohol

I admit, this was not a no alcohol month. Not surprisingly, the times I struggled the most were the times I went out to dinner with friends and had drinks. My booze tolerance is next to nothing. After two glasses of wine I approach full on deep-fried carb-packed cravings. After 2 dinners like this, I realized that alcohol was not going to be a friend of my raw food challenge. Shocking.

4. Have a Support System

Doing this month with my husband and friends made all the difference. My hubby and I often spent Saturday nights in the aisles of Whole Foods with our recipes in hand. It was fun and even kind of romantic :)

5. Watch Your Ecology

Being healthy and feeling great isn’t just about the foods you eat. It’s also about how much you exercise, your lifestyle and your emotions. To feel good you have to check all your systems and fine tune them. One thing cannot carry all the rest by itself!

6. Get Creative

As mentioned earlier, you simply cannot eat the same thing everyday. A lazy raw food diet could mean salad, a handful of nuts and some fruit, every-single-day; here enters food boredom and stir-crazy cravings. To prevent this, we got creative and constantly tried new things.

We’ve made everything from raw chili, to raw mushroom “calamari”, to raw veggie burgers, to raw spaghetti and tomato sauce, to raw jicama fries, to Nathalie’s raw strawberry shortcake and key lime pie! Not to mention the endless amount of smoothies and juices we’ve concocted. Have fun with it, get good recipe books/websites and get your creative green juices flowing!

Liz Longacre is the founder of Your Time Travels, a travel company for animal lovers. Whether you want to volunteer abroad with animal welfare projects, go on safari adventures, enjoy vegan resorts, or travel with your own adorable pets, her company can get you there! You can keep up with Liz at her blog and website

7 Fascinating and Educational Fruit Facts

This is a guest post by Ingela Johansson.

Fruit facts are great, not just because of their fascinating nature, but also because learning more about fruits will inevitably lead to a life with more energy, better sleep, and more joy.

Fruits are natures own multivitamins, they usually contain a lot of vitamin C, dietary fiber and different minerals and antioxidants. I’ve heard a lot of people say that fruits are bad and they’ll do this and that to you if you eat too much of them. Usually these statements aren’t backed up by any solid scientific evidence at all. Now, I’m not saying that consuming only fruit is recommended. We still need variety in our diet (hello vegetables!)

With all that said: let’s look at some quick fruit facts.

#1 – Apples

There are 7,500 varieties of apples worldwide, that’s more than you’d think, isn’t it? 2,500 of these are grown in the U.S.

Apples have been proven to support heart health, protect against certain cancers, alleviate asthma, speed up weight loss and lower cholesterol. This is amazing, all these benefits just from eating apples! I personally like the green ones the best, because they taste sour.

#2 – Avocado

Some say that Avocado is a vegetable, but I personally think that it is a fruit.

Avocadoes are higher in fat than most fruits, because of this it can increase your absorption of carotenoids from vegetables. Just add some avocado to your salad! Avocados also promote heart health by lowering cholesterol.

Because avocados are a rich source of healthy fatty acids, it has been shown to offer significant protections against breast and prostate cancer. I personally don’t like eating avocadoes by themselves, so I mix it into things like salads, smoothies and other yummy recipes.

#3 – Bananas

There are many different varieties of bananas, as to how many, it seems that people disagree on that part. Something they do agree on is their health benefits! Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium.

Potassium is a very important mineral that helps your body maintain a normal blood pressure and heart function. A banana therefore may prevent high blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis.

Bananas are also effective in soothing ulcers because of their antacid effects. I like to use bananas and sparkling water whenever my stomach is feeling off balance, don’t ask me why, that mix just seems to work.

Bananas also help against constipation and I am living testimony to this because whenever I am feeling a bit blocked down there I make a big banana smoothie and things just start flowing ;).

#4 – Blueberries

Mmm, blueberries are delicious. I always sneak back home after summer when my mother has gathered a few buckets of blueberries from our summer cottage. I go in quietly, steal them and sit in the corner and devour them.

Blueberries are supercharged with antioxidants that stop free radicals from damaging your body. Free radicals cause damage to your cells and tissues, which can lead to problems such as glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, ulcers, heart disease and even cancer.

Blueberries have also been shown to improve night vision, how cool is that?

Blueberries help protect your brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. There are too many benefits of blueberries to list here, but let’s do one more.

No, let’s do two, I’m in a good mood today! Blueberries also keep your intestines healthy and protect your colon against cancer.

#5 – Grapes

Grapes are one of my favorite fruits, but you have to make sure you get organic grapes, because non-organic grapes can be heavily sprayed with all sorts of chemicals, and since you do not peel grapes, you get more of those chemicals in you.

Grapes keep your heart and lungs healthy, and grapes also fight cancer. Red grapes also contain something called resveratrol, which is believed to be one of the reasons the French live so long even though they eat a bad diet.

#6 – Oranges

Oooh, oranges, squeezing your fresh orange juice, have you ever tried it? If not, I think you should, it is better than candy, cakes, pizzas and any other unhealthy (but potentially yummy) food in the world!

Oranges contain a lot of vitamin C, which protects against some cancers, may lower cholesterol and keeps your stomach healthy because of all the fiber it contains.

#7 – Strawberries

Eating strawberries with raw unheated honey is a good snack that I enjoy in the summer time when strawberries are plentiful here in Sweden. In the winter they come from other countries and are pretty expensive, so I don’t really eat them.

Strawberries protect your body from oxygen damage, rheumatoid arthritis, improve your eyes, decrease the risk of developing cancer and much more that hasn’t been discovered yet!

That’s my list. I know I’ve left many fruits out, but these are my favorites and it is good to not get too overwhelmed if you’re relatively new to fruits.

Remember to buy your fruits organic if you can and wash them gently before you put them in your mouth.

Start eating more fruit today, your body will thank you!

Ingela Johansson is in love with natural skin care. If you want more natural anti aging tips, you can visit her blog, where you will find topics ranging from how to prevent oily skin to finding the best anti wrinkle cream.

How to Pick a Good Watermelon

Summer is here, and that means hot days and refreshing watermelon slices.

How to Pick a Good Watermelon
Photo by Luke Robinson

Unfortunately, one of the reasons people don’t enjoy fruit as much as they could is they haven’t learned how to pick the freshest, ripest fruit.

With most fruit you can smell it, touch it and check for firmness… but with watermelon there’s another trick – tapping it like a drum. Basically what you’re doing is checking to see the water content of the melon: the higher the better.

So if the sound you get from lightly tapping a watermelon is deep, then you know it’s a good one. If you don’t hear much then move on to the next one.

Another good thing to check is how heavy the watermelon is. A heavier melon will have more water and that’s what you’re looking for!

My Watermelon Gum Story

A few months after I went raw, I remember having a conversation with a colleague about watermelon.

His stance was that watermelon had “no substance” and that you could just as easily chew a piece of watermelon gum and drink a glass of water, and get the same benefits as eating watermelon.

I didn’t say anything because it wasn’t the time or place, but my mind was screaming at the fallacy of this proposition.

There’s no way that chewing gum and drinking a glass of water has the same affect as eating watermelon.

I just know that intuitively, but let’s look at some hard data.

Photo by Sydney Marie

Watermelon has fiber and tons of nutrients that we just don’t appreciate at first glance.

Watermelon Nutritional Information

Here are just a few of the things that watermelon has going for it…

  • Good source of Vitamins C and A
  • Helps reduce inflammation
  • High in antioxidants that fight free radicals
  • Contains more lycopene than most fruits and veggies, including tomatoes
  • Provides the body with potassium and magnesium
  • Very cleansing, alkalinizing, and mineralizing food

Many fruits have a lot of nutrition in the skin or rind, and it’s no different for watermelon… so don’t feel weird eating the white stuff, or juicing the rinds in your morning juice.

Enjoy the seasonal fruit!

Here’s to fresh, tasty, and juicy watermelon! Enjoy the seasonal fruit when it’s here, yum yum!

Love, Nathalie

What is the Raw Food Diet?

To most people the term “raw food diet” might seem a little extreme, if not far-fetched. That’s why I want to spend a little bit of time today explaining exactly what Raw Food is all about, and a few reasons why some people include more Raw Food in their diet.

(Oh, and just a little reminder that I’m not advocating a strict 100% raw food diet. I think we can all benefit from more raw food, but it might not be right for everyone right off the bat. Right batman? Right.)

(If you’re reading this via email click here to watch the quick introductory video.)

What Does The Raw Food Diet Consist Of?

The raw food diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These four main food groups are great because they are essentially the revitalizers and immune system builders of the body. Not to mention that anyone can benefit from more fruits vegetables in their diet.

Reasons Why Raw Food is “Raw”

The raw food diet further qualifies food that is raw by stating that it not be heated above 112 Fahrenheit. The reason being that food heated above 112 Fahrenheit loses some of its digestive enzymes. All foods have enzymes that help us digest and absorb nutrients properly. Without these enzymes, we use our own limited supply of enzymes to digest food.

Raw Food as a Creative Outlet

Okay, you might be thinking that eating a bunch of carrots and raisins is not going to keep your taste buds happy. Fortunately, raw food is full of opportunities for creative food prep.

  • Raw food allows you to make wacky green smoothies that are full of essential nutrients that help you maintain your weight while building strong bones and muscles.
  • Raw food is a great way to try new fruits and vegetables that you’ve never even heard of before. Fancy trying durian fruit, or venturing out into new green territory with kale, collards, swiss chard, or even dandelion greens?
  • With raw food you have a chance to experiment with new food combinations and spices. You can load up your blender with produce, hit the blend button, and cross your fingers. Chances are it will turn out tasting great.

I hope this quick article gave you a little more insight into exactly what the raw food diet consists of.

I just wanted to add that there are also variations of the diet that include raw dairy products, eggs, and even raw meat. I don’t think any one diet has all the answers, and I encourage you to find what works for you.

Love, Nathalie

Durian: King of Fruits – What are Durians?

What is Durian?
Basketfuls of durian on my trip to Singapore. Yum!

One of the things I’m so grateful for is discovering and trying out new fruits and vegetables. The raw diet has really opened my eyes to the variety and bounty of fruits out there.

This post will focus on one of my favorite fruits in the world. However, a word of caution: not everyone likes Durian. In fact, durian tends to cause a complete polarity between those who love ’em and those who hate ’em.

What is Durian Speech

In 2007 I gave a speech about durian to a class of University students, where I explained the pros and cons of durian. If you want to see what this fruit looks like, and why it causes so much controversy watch this video!

If you’re reading this via email, click here to watch the video.

Unfortunately, you won’t get to smell the fruit by watching the video. That’s something that only the audience had the pleasure or in some cases, displeasure of experiencing themselves.

Where to Buy Durian?

If you’re not in South East Asia or another location that grows durians, you should check out Asian markets like Chinatown. Major cities like New York City, Toronto, and Montreal have them in the Chinatown areas.

For places that don’t have concentrated Asian communities, look for big Chinese supermarkets. These may be in a more residential area, depending on the location.

Oh, and good luck with your first try of durian. ;-)

My Recent Experiences with Durian

Since I gave that speech about durian in 2007, a lot has happened. I had recently been converted to a durian lover, but now I’ve taken my love of durian to a whole new level.

In January 2009 I traveled to Singapore, as part of my trip to South East Asia, and tasted my first fresh durian. Singapore is very close to Malaysia and my boyfriend and I were so lucky to be able to buy fresh durians!

Durian lovers out there: the taste and texture of durians really differ depending on where they are grown and if they are fresh or frozen. I was actually surprised by my first taste of fresh durian.

It was also interesting to see that there are so many different types of durians with names like D90 and D10. There are also local nicknames for different variety of durian fruits, like “red prawn” for fruits with a more red interior.

My boyfriend and I have our eyes on living somewhere within closer proximity to durian trees. Only time will tell if our love for durian will have us relocating to Asia.

Which Camp Do You Fall Into?

Do you love durian or do you hate it? What is it that makes you feel that way? Let me know in the comments! I love hearing about, talking about, and of course eating durian!