Raw food is cropping up all over the place faster than you can say "sprout me a grain." This trendy new form of extreme veganism involves eating uncooked organic and vegan foods heated up to only 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
The raw food movement--also called the living foods movement--works mainly with juicers, blenders, and dehydrators. Aside from lots of fruits and veggies, plenty of nuts and legumes are thrown into the mix. Raw foodists operate on the idea that heat destroys essential nutrients and enzymes in the foods we eat.
According to Kala Armstrong, owner of Living Foods Market in Salinas, Calif., "Raw food eradicates all the preservatives and denatured nutrients of cooked and snack foods--the result is that you feel lighter, healthier, and more energetic when you eat."
Armstrong said that since the mid-90s, at least a million people in the United States have expressed interest in going raw. However, one of the main misconceptions about raw food is that you can only eat salads.
This is simply not true, said Roxanne Klein, a living foods stalwart and former owner and head chef of Roxanne's, a fine dining restaurant in Larkspur, Calif. "There is a creative approach when it comes to getting the aromas, flavors, and textures to make a meal satisfying," she said.
Restaurateur Jeremy Safron, owner of Raw Experience in Maui, Hawaii, also has plenty of yummy delights on his menu, including carob hazelnut torte and creamy red pepper soup.
According to Klein and Armstrong, going raw has its challenges--namely, the length of time needed to sprout or dehydrate foods.
Nutritionists also are careful to point out some of the risks of eating raw all the time. Ingredients like lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, is available when food is heated, and is thought to prevent heart disease and cancer.
According to Gwen Porter, R.D., a dietitian in Monterey, Calif., "A health professional should guide you through anything like a raw diet, or else you won't get all the nutrients your body needs."
The one that immediately springs to mind is Cafe Gratitude. They initially opened a restaurant in San Francisco, but now I believe they have multiple locations in places across the Bay. Their menus are always delightful, and their smoothies are to die for.