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Eating raw in winter: Finding comfort without the warmth

I’m often asked: ‘how do you manage to maintain a raw diet in winter?’ And the truth is, it’s not that hard.

With a few tweaks and tricks it’s achievable. In fact, when you know what to do, a raw diet can also offer comfort in winter, in addition to other benefits like supporting your immune system through cold and flu season.

You’ll also experienced increased energy levels and general well-being at a time when most others are lethargic and lazy.

Eat warm food, not cold food

A common misconception is that raw food is always cold. Eating raw doesn’t restrict you to eating cold food from the refrigerator.

Eating raw merely means that food has not been heated over 420C to preserve all the minerals, vitamins and enzymes.

Eating raw food at room temperature, or even heating it until it is warm to the touch are great ways to eat more raw food during the colder months.

Gabriel Cousins, MD did research in Alaska and found that 95% of raw foodists were successful, despite their harsh winter conditions.

He found that, when starting a raw food diet, many people release toxins built up as a result of their former, poor diet. This can result in an uncomfortable, cold feeling. This sensation is however temporary. In time, on a raw food diet, your body temperature drops. It takes time to get used to a lower body temperature.

Once again this is only temporary and you will feel warmer over time. Furthermore, when eating a raw food diet, your arteries clear up and your circulation improves. Accordingly, most people who follow a raw food diet seldom feel cold. It would therefore appear that feeling cold when eating raw is merely a transitional issue.

However, there is much that can be done to stay warm in winter on a raw food diet. The Alaskan raw foodists also recommended the following:

  • Get more exercise.
  • Warm food as described above.
  • Warm up plates for serving.
  • Place cold salad from the fridge into the dehydrator for a few minutes to warm it to room temperature.
  • Use warm dressings or sauces on your food.
  • Drink warm drinks like apple cider.

You can also try these tricks when eating raw in winter…

  1. Winter is also a great time to try out some new raw recipes that will satisfy those winter cravings. Soups, seed breads and curries are particularly warming and filling. They can be made with raw vegetables and ingredients and then warmed appropriately. This will take your mind off the fact that you’re eating ‘raw’ in winter. Include warming spices to further ensure that your food is hearty and wholesome during the colder months.
  2. Add a little cooked food to your raw diet, but just enough to keep you satisfied as this can be comforting and warming. This could mean adding some steamed rice or lightly steamed vegetables to an otherwise raw meal.
  3. Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables. Winter produce such as squash, cabbage, broccoli and kale have more hearty flavours for winter. Bananas and oranges are satisfying and provide our bodies with the nutrients we need in the colder months.
  4. Spice up for more heat with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin, curry, allspice and cloves. They also add flavour and warmth to food. Ginger can also be added to juices and smoothies, as well as curries and other raw dishes.
  5. Up the greens – Fruits tend to be cooling and refreshing in summer, whereas leafy greens are a little more grounding and satisfying in winter. Increase the amount of leafy greens in the colder months, with the added benefit of them being nutrient dense.
  6. Smoothies and raw snacks – Rather than give in completely, indulge in a rich smoothie that contains nut butter, banana, dates and honey. Use room temperature fruit instead of frozen fruit in smoothies and omit the ice. Raw dehydrated snacks can also keep you going through the cold months. Vegetable and seed crackers are very satisfying and are a good replacement for over-processed, refined crackers and bread. Dehydrated fruit is also comforting, as are nut burgers, falafel, kale chips and nut and seed breads. These can all be made in the dehydrator and eaten warm.
  7. Preservative free nut butters, fruit leathers and sweet treats make good ‘comfort foods’ in winter. Bear in mind that they can be high in calories, albeit good, wholesome calories.
  8. Avoid alcohol – It is very tempting to reach for an alcoholic drink in winter, with the misconception that it will warm you up. But alcohol actually dilates the blood vessels, allowing heat to escape from the body, which in turn can make you feel colder. A warm ginger and lemon drink or apple cider will leave you feeling much cosier.

The possibilities are truly endless. However, when eating dehydrated snacks, it is important to keep your fluid intake up as all the liquid has been dehydrated out of these foods. Drinking sufficient water can, in itself, be challenging in the colder months.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can set the oven to its lowest temperature to warm food. Food can also be warmed over a pot of boiling water, avoiding direct heat.

Use the ‘finger test’ to ascertain if food is warm enough. It should be warm to the touch but never hot as this would result in overheating and enzymes, vitamins and minerals being destroyed.

And don’t lose sight of the benefits. Remember why you’re following a raw food diet or why you’ve chosen to include more raw food in your diet, and the benefits thereof. Always remember that you eat for health and not for comfort.

By Carol Anthony, nutritionist and owner of Café Raw

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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