The vegetable garden is home sweet home for our health. It’s the perfect stomping and chomping ground to provide us with the most vitally important foods in their natural raw state.
Raw vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds are loaded with vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. They also contain enzymes, which are essential for a healthy digestive function. Unfortunately these crucial compounds are all but destroyed once they’re heated above 42°C. While beneficial minerals and fibre remain after cooking, precious vitamins, fatty acids and enzymes do not.
Raw food gives our body its ideal nutrition. So the more raw food we eat the more we begin to feel balanced, energetic and in better overall health. Conversely, not getting enough of these vital nutrients is what brings on cravings and poor food choices.
When your diet consists of 50% or more raw foods you will have:
• Better digestion
• More vital energy
• Less need for sleep
• Weight loss
• Clear glowing skin
• Clarity of mind
• Better memory
• Improved immune system
• Improved fertility
• Prevention/remission of conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease
To get the utmost best from your food three golden rules apply: uncooked (not heated beyond 42°C), unprocessed (whole and fresh, frozen is ok), and organic.
Michael Pollan, author of the wonderful book “In Defence of Food: an Eaters Manifesto” famously wrote, “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. I would say more specifically “Mostly raw plants”.
Graze your way around the garden! Nibble and taste the sun-soaked goodness of the edible leaves, fruits, flowers and seeds as you pull weeds (some of those are edible too but that’s a story for another day!). Taste the vegetables you may only have ever eaten cooked e.g. silver beet, broccoli, beans, and beetroot leaves (#1 best green in your garden!)
Blitz! When you surprise yourself by realising those leaves and flowers taste delicious raw, pick a good bunch, with as much variety as you like, and make a raw green smoothie in a high powered blender with an equal quantity of fresh fruit and berries, and water/ice to desired consistency.
Grate! Make dinner easy by washing and grating carrot and beetroot in equal portions, finely chopping up some fresh broccoli or cabbage and soft herbs (e.g. parsley, fennel, coriander, mint). Add finely sliced red onion and a handful of roughly chopped walnuts. Mix through the juice of an orange or lemon and a generous glug of cold pressed extra virgin oil of your choice. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a portion of protein and voila, dinner is done!
Add even more nutritious value to your raw salad with your own salad dressing. Play around and have fun creating your own variation on the classic French dressing, which is 1/3 wine vinegar, 2/3 oil plus seasoning. Be sure to use extra virgin, cold pressed oil. I might do half and half apple cider vinegar and fresh squeezed lemon juice with just salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil if I want to keep it light and simple. Or red wine vinegar with fresh crushed garlic and a little Dijon mustard for depth of flavour.
Here’s a tip:
Make a quick dressing in the bottom of your dry clean salad bowl. Put your vinegar and seasonings in the bowl first, then slowly drizzle in oil while beating with a whisk. Then add all your prepared salad ingredients and gently toss the salad through the dressing, reaching to the bottom of the bowl with each toss.
My all-time favourite is absolutely delicious and probably the ultimate dressing for your health and it keeps in fridge for a week.
½ cup hulled tahini
Juice of one large lemon
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon tamari
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove crushed garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Blend with a spoon until smooth. Add water to desired consistency.
Meryn Wakelin is a naturopath and nutrition consultant. www.healnaturally.co.nz