Monday, 29 July 2013

Raw food and children

I'm in the tentative early stages of embarking on a raw food adventure.
As in I just started it.
Today (this morning).
There's a lot of controversy surrounding raw food diets, with people causing themselves some serious health problems through lack of nutrition - I suspect that incredibly strict limiting of one's food is in at least some cases a symptom of an eating disorder.  On the other hand, it does no harm to recognise how processed much of our food has become - even our daily bread has become unrecognisable since the invention of quick mass production techniques.  I've been mulling over the pros and cons of switching to a raw diet for some time, and finally decided that while the shops are full of fresh local(ish) produce, and my container garden is popping out a stream of useful additions to the salad and fruit bowls, there would be no better time to give it a try.

I'm a big fan of the Buddhist 'middle way' philosophy, where you do not go to extremes in any area of your life.  I think this is basically a philosophy of common sense.  For example, while I am mostly vegetarian, I eat fish because I feel that for me and my family it is of nutritional importance.  I know stricter vegetarians would roll their eyes at this, and meat eaters call me a hypocrite, but I don't care.  My kids adore fish, and it makes me a little less of a social outcast at gathering of my primarily committed carnivore friends and relations.  Tackling the raw food diet in this middle-of-the-road way means that I will be not entirely excluding cooked foods from my own diet - I'm aiming for 80% or so, with the remaining 20% being cooked fish, tofu, occasionally potatoes and other starchy veg which contribute important nutrients but a are not good raw.  What I'm aiming to avoid is things like  pasta and rice, replacing them with raw veg linguine and cauliflower rice.  Since I got diagnosed at the hospital allergy unit last year with wheat intolerance I have been trying (and often failing) to cut out bread, so this complete rethink of my diet should help me to be more creative and avoid the 11pm toast trap, when I've been studying and hit the toast for a comforting energy boost.

As far as kids and raw food go, again I would suggest that extremes are probably not a good idea.  I'm not a nutrition expert, but my degree is in Biology so I have a reasonably good grasp of the working of our bodies, and the evolutionary steps that got us to the present day.  It's a strong possibility that when our ancestors started catching fish, the sudden increase in levels of Omega fats available to our brains caused a corresponding leap in intelligence.  For parents raising their children as vegans, these fats are available from other sources, with hemp oil being touted as particularly good.  However, apart from rape seed oil (i think Americans call this canola oil) and coconut oil, most other oils do not take kindly to the high temperatures associated with cooking, so you're going to need to incorporate them as uncooked oils anyway, e.g. in salad dressings.

Cooking actually makes some nutrients easier for our bodies to access since it breaks down the otherwise indigestible plant cell walls and allows us to benefit from the goodies within.  For little people with their small tummies and bowels, they are unlikely to gain enough nutrition from an entirely raw veg diet for example.  I don't pretend to have all the answers, but for my boys I will be continuing with their normal diet.  For them, this generally includes a hefty amount of raw fruit and veg by their own preference.  They eat more veg off my chopping board than they do off their plates when it's cooked.  They will also be getting their usual portions of wholemeal bread and cooked wholemeal grains and root veg since the starches in these are useful for releasing energy over time, plus cheese, milk, butter and fish or meat substitute.

I'm already gaining some help and guidance on this adventure.  Wittingly (as in we've chatted about it on Facebook) from my long term source of vegetarian recipes and inspiration
and also unwittingly (I've just been looking at their sites) from specialists such as  Hopefully I should see a subsidence of my wheat intolerance symptoms, which have been increasing again recently for some reason, and maybe even a reduction in my clothes size.  Wish me luck, and I'd love to hear from anyone with positive, or (polite) negative comments about their own experience of raw food dietary principles.  Thank you

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