This post was originally posted on International Raw Food Day – July 11th in 2013. Raw foodies advocate that a raw food diet can increase energy levels with the promise of long-lasting health. Following any type of restrictive eating style requires careful planning, and I’ve shared my tips below. This recipe is adapted from the Bliss Cafe Cookbook, out of Victoria.
The Fundamentals Behind a Raw Food Diet
Raw foodists justify a mostly raw food diet by claiming that the cooking of foods destroys food enzymes that are important for health and digestion. Others will argue that the impact of food enzymes is relatively small compared to those released in our body when food is consumed (in our mouth, stomach, small intestines).
It is important to note that our lower stomachs are naturally very acidic, largely denaturing many food enzymes (this may not include probiotics which is a topic to be covered in subsequent posts). Despite the controversy and differences in opinions, there are many health benefits to a Raw Food Diet.
Raw Food Diet Health Benefits
What is a Raw Foods List?
The general consensus is that a Raw Food Diet will consist of primarily 75% raw food. This includes large amounts of vegetables, fruit, seaweed, nuts, seeds as well as sprouted foods such as legumes, seeds and grains. For some who are following a Raw Food Diet, it can even occasionally contain raw milk, eggs, fish or even meat – depending on if one is following a vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous raw diet.
Why Is A Raw Food Diet Healthy?
Generally, the closer one can get to following a raw food diet, the less processed the food will be. It will also be lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, white flour and white sugar. Another benefit is the elimination of damaging by-products of high-temperature cooking such as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Dietary AGEs are known to contribute to increased oxidant stress and inflammation, which are linked to the recent epidemics of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (1).
What Nutrients Is A Raw Food Diet High In?
When we take away the processed foods, what is left is a food high in vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre and enzymes. Many vitamins and antioxidants are heat sensitive and may, therefore, be more available on a Raw Food Diet. This includes water-soluble vitamin C, as well as B vitamins.
Is A Raw Food Diet Better For Your Health?
Research continues into raw vegan diets as an effective therapy for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and peer-reviewed research is also available on rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. With a large percentage of the western world being overweight and obese, a raw food diet could help to eliminate most of the worst offending foods contributing to this.
The Risks Of Following A Raw Food Diet
What Are The Nutritional Risks of Following A Raw Food Diet?
Certain nutrients can be harder to access on a Raw Food Diet, including protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iodine. Studies have shown that adequate protein levels can be achieved when following a raw food (vegan) diet, but careful planning is necessary.
How To Get Enough Calcium & Vitamin D On A Raw Food Diet
For those who consume regular kale, chia seeds and Asian greens, getting enough calcium won’t be a concern (see my post on Getting Enough Calcium on a Dairy-Free Diet for more information on this important mineral). Vitamin D is calciums best friend when it comes to bone health and has a role in helping our body absorb calcium (see post Vitamin D for Vegetarians and Vegans). As dietary plant-based sources are minimal, vitamin D supplementation would be essential on a vegan Raw Food Diet.
How To Get Enough Iron and Zinc On A Raw Food Diet
Iron and zinc are two important minerals that can be difficult to access on a plant-based diet, and even more difficult on a Raw Food Diet. Legumes including lentils are one of our best sources of iron and zinc, and those following a Raw Food Diet might consider including cooked legumes in their diet to ensure they are getting enough of these essential minerals.
Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of zinc, but just like legumes they need to be prepared properly to efficiently access the minerals – see my post How To & Health Benefits of Sprouting Foods.
How To Get Enough Vitamin B12 On A Raw Food Diet
Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is only found in animal foods. Those Raw Foodies who are not vegan or vegetarian may be getting enough from eggs, milk or fish. If these are not a part of your diet, and intake of fortified foods including nutritional yeast, milk alternatives and faux meat alternatives is low or absent, then vitamin B12 supplementation is likely required. Best to speak to your health care professional about your needs.
How To Get Enough Iodine On A Raw Food Diet
Many people, not just vegans, vegetarians and those following a Raw Food Diet may be lacking in iodine. Seafood is one of the best dietary sources of iodine, but luckily seaweed is also a great source of this important mineral. Make a simple seaweed and toasted sesame seed shaker and add this to your meals at least twice per week.
Which Nutrients Are Better When Cooked
The lycopene content in tomatoes is higher when the tomatoes are cooked. The fat-soluble carotenes including beta-carotene and lutein found in red, yellow, orange fruits and vegetables, including carrots, as well as green leafy vegetables, have increased availability when cooked in a fat such as oil. Adding a little olive oil to your spinach will offer 8,000 micrograms of lutein per ½ cup cooked compared to 200-345 micrograms in an egg (2).
When To Be Cautious About Following A Raw Food Diet?
During times of low immunity, which may be during certain medical treatments, while taking immunosuppressants, or during pregnancy you should speak with your health care professional about the risks of following a Raw Food Diet. Pregnant women should be especially careful of not consuming raw sprouts, raw milk, raw meat or seafood.
Should I Follow A Raw Food Diet?
How To Make A Raw Food Diet Achievable?
Remember, you don’t need to eat 100% raw to enjoy the advantages of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet that is rich in raw foods. For some people, simply aiming for 50% of each meal to be raw would offer tremendous health benefits. This can be as easy as the addition of a salad to each meal. Eating only 50% raw also makes it easier for those trying to follow a raw food diet during the winter months – you can have your winter warming soup AND a nice raw coleslaw on the side.
Environmental Considerations of a Raw Food Diet
It is always important to consider food miles, and especially important when we are trying to access mostly raw foods. Eating for the benefits of a Raw Diet doesn’t mean out of season vegetables or tropical fruit all year round. Being prepared and organized is the key. Preserving, canning and fermenting are all ways to enjoy raw foods out of season.
Think twice about where that fresh coconut has come from, or those goji berries. Eating locally or seasonally on a Raw Food Diet creates another challenge. In the winter months when starchy squash, yams and potatoes are more readily available – we may consider having slightly more cooked food.
Nutrition of These Nori Stix
The Health Benefits of Nori
Nori, like all seaweed, is high in trace minerals and one of our best sources of iodine, aside from seafood. Iodine is important in making thyroid hormones. There has been a rise in iodine deficiency with the increase in popularity of gourmet salts and the subsequent decreased use of iodized salts. For those following a plant-based diet, I generally recommend aiming for the consumption of seaweed at least twice per week.
The Health Benefits of Miso
Miso is made from fermenting soybeans and various grains including rice or barley and can enhance the nutritional profile of any dish by adding live active cultures. These healthy bugs have a role in gut health and can increase the availability of certain nutrients (see my post 5 Tips On How To Improve Gut Health Naturally – Prebiotics, Probiotics and Fermented Foods).
The Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium. Other plant-based sources of selenium include tofu, sunflower seeds and chia seeds. Selenium is a mineral that works as an antioxidant in the body. It can help to keep tissues healthy by preventing cell damage, and it also helps keep our immune system and thyroid working well.
Soaking The Sunflower Seeds
Soaking the sunflower seeds for up to 4 hours not only helps the seeds blend in the Vitamix or food processor, but it also helps remove some of the phytic acid which can bind to the minerals in the seed making them less available to the body.
Using a Vitamix For The Nori Snack Filling
I find that my Vitamix works best for making the nori filling, but the large amount of ingredients can be difficult to blend in one go. Try blending it in two batches to ensure that all the ingredients are pureed well.
Using Leftover Nori Sheets
I always seem to have a few extra nori sheets leftover from making sushi or nori salad wraps. This is a great way to use leftover nori sushi wraps. Don’t worry, it is OK if they are a bit soft – they will reformulate once they are dehydrated or baked in the oven at a low heat.
Rolling the Nori Stix
Have a bowl of water near the nori stix working station. After adding 4 tablespoons of filling and rolling the nori sheet around it, dip your fingertips in the bowl of water and dab them on the end of the nori sheet to help seal the roll.
Preparing This Nori Stix Recipe In The Dehydrator
Using a dehydrator helps prevents any heat degradation of the nutrients in the nori stix. Of particular mention is the miso – the beneficial bacteria which have a role in gut health are sensitive to heat. We should always prevent exposing miso to high heat. See my post 5 Tips On How To Improve Gut Health Naturally). See below for tips on using an oven as an alternative.
Make the Nori Stix Recipe Soy-Free
There is now chickpea miso available for those that choose to limit soy which is found in conventional miso. Nutritional Yeast can also offer the same umami, or savoury, flavour as miso and has the added benefit of being fortified with vitamin B12.
Make the Nori Stix Recipe Gluten-Free
Just make sure your miso does not contain barley. I used Shiro miso in this recipe which is made from sweet white rice and is naturally gluten-free.
Using An Oven To Make These Nori Stix
If you don’t have access to a dehydrator, don’t worry. You can use an oven at the lowest heat – try 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-16 hours, checking regularly.
More Raw Food Recipes
- Berry Smoothie Bowl with Cauliflower and Greens
- Hemp and Sunflower Seed Vegan Pate
- Two Ingredient Raw Chocolate
- Raw Almond Hummus Recipe
- Raw Chocolate Brownie with Caramel Icing
Raw Nori Stix Recipe
- 2 1/2 cups sunflower seeds soaked
- 2 cups carrots chopped
- 1 1/2 cups Brazil nuts
- 1/2 cup miso paste
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (juice of 1 whole lemon)
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger chopped
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tbsp chilli flakes dried
- 1 tbsp turmeric ground
- 8-10 sheets nori seaweed
- Option to soak the sunflower seeds for 2-4 hours to maximize nutrient access and also help with blending. Drain the water and add the seeds to the Vitamix or food processor.
- Place all of the remaining ingredients for the filling (everything except nori) into the Vitamix or food processor and process until smooth. You may have to do two batches and then mixed the batches together in a large bowl.
- Use a pair of scissors to cut the nori sheets in half parallel to the lines scribed on the sheets. Place the cut nori sheet on a work surface with the rough side facing up and the long edge facing you.
- Spoon 4 tablespoons of the mixture onto the half sheet. Smooth mixture into a solid line along the length of the sheet, about 1-2 inches wide.
- Roll up the nori stick starting with the edge closest to you that has the filling on it. With a 1/2 inch or so of nori sheet left, stick it the remaining nori sheet to the roll dipping your fingers in a bowl of water and running it along the edge of the nori wrap. Complete the rolling to finish. Place on the dehydrator or baking paper-lined baking tray with the seam side down.
- Repeat until all the filling is used up. The original recipe makes 20 nori sticks. Every time I have made it I get 16 nori sticks.
- Dehydrate nori stix at 115 degrees Fahrenheit for 24-36 hours. Once finished, place the nori sticks in a container and store at room temperature.
- To do this in the oven, try baking at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-16 hours - checking regularly.