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More alive by the minute – Raw foodists claim uncooked food gives a body more energy, better skin, and a faster metabolism

Who wants to eat between 70 and 100 percent of their food uncooked? Apparently, many people do. A whole industry of restaurants, books, and retailers is developing around the movement, which vows to help you feel more energized and alert and give you healthier skin, a more slender body, detoxified cells, and a happier disposition.

With help from Natalia Rose’s Raw Foods Detox Diet, writer M.L. Sharpe, beginner raw foodist, cleansed with green lemonade, gazpacho, raw pad thai, and 70 percent cocoa chocolate bars. (Photo by M.L. Sharpe)

How does it work? According to the raw foods online community, heating food to 116 degrees Fahrenheit kills powerful enzymes that aid in digestion and counter toxin buildup, resulting in excess weight, acne, and disease. By eating raw foods, not only does your body metabolize meals more fully, but you are more “living.” Although it sounds great, scientifically there’s no proof — after all, what’s the trial test for being more alive?

But, by the looks of the raw-food gurus, eating raw will keep a body svelte. One such guru, Juliano — no last name, mind you — spearheaded the West Coast raw-foods movement with a Santa Monica restaurant and cookbook, Raw: The Uncookbook. Perpetually clad in shorts and cut-off baby tees, Juliano claims to sleep only a couple hours each night thanks to his diet. I picked up Raw when winter’s lethargy crept in and I found myself inching towards 10 hours of sleep each night. But I was soon frustrated with the complexity of Juliano’s recipes: His raw stir-fry calls for 30 ingredients and takes nine hours to make!

Before you start sprouting your own lentils, try The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose, who outlines a five-step transition to raw living. While Level 1 consists of eating only fruits and “green lemonade” — a tart wheat grass-like juice of kale, romaine, apples, and lemons — until dinner, “Standard American Dieters” can hover at Levels 4 and 5, eating more traditional meals, and still procure raw-food benefits.

Rose is from the less-dogmatic camp of raw foodists who are comfortable with a mainly, but not entirely, raw diet. The crossover will be easier for serious vegetarians and vegans accustomed to diets higher in vegetable and fruit content, and she includes a small handful of cooked recipes with fish, egg, and cheese ingredients that may help get your Standard American Dieter family members on board.

When you eliminate cooking time, you can get dinner on the table quickly. Just 30 minutes of rinsing, chopping, and blending was all it took me to prepare a delicious two-course meal. The gazpacho recipe, co-opted from the chic Manhattan raw-cuisine eatery, was outstanding. With a large dose of garlic and a spicy kick, it tasted almost creamy when we added the 1/2 cup of olive oil. The raw Pad Thai’s rich cashew butter dressing paired well with its cilantro-heavy veggie mixture, but I have to say my jaw hurt from chewing all the raw coconut.

While I don’t think I could ever attain a Level 1 — I draw the line at monthly colonics — Rose’s book makes raw living less intimidating and more of a healthy change in lifestyle rather than a new religion. So far, eating raw has me feeling lighter and more energetic, and I’ve been waking up earlier. Plus, I’m finally eating my USDA daily recommended 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables.

By M.L. Sharpe

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