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Locals ditch cooking for the raw revolution

Uncooked, plant-based foods are hallmarks of raw food diet
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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When Jerome Handel interned at the Thrive Café in Seattle he was immersed in a raw food revolution. He learned to prepare things like cashew cheese, chili and decadent desserts, all out of plant-based, uncooked foods. Handel, who now co-owns Pacha Mama’s Organic Café in Auburn with his wife Kim Fritzke, has incorporated many of those principles into his own restaurant and life. The thought process behind a raw diet is that enzymes and nutrients found in food are destroyed in the cooking process, according to Handel. Since he made the switch to a diet that is now 50 percent raw, and was once as high as 75 percent raw, he said he has experienced tremendous health benefits. Those included weight loss, increased energy and healthier skin. Handel said there are some roadblocks that keep others from adopting a raw food diet. “A road block is breaking away from the craving of fatty foods and sugars,” Handel said. “People are going to say I can’t afford to eat that way. The answer to them is education.” Staples of the raw food diet include fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Handel, like many other raw foodies, has been able to replace everyday meals with a raw food version. For example, a raw food version of spaghetti would include uncooked pomodoro sauce atop zucchini spiral noodles. Figs, dates and raw cacao are replacements ingredients for traditional desserts. Handel said that while adopting a raw food diet can be more expensive, eating healthy is more expensive no matter what. For those interested in learning more about a raw food lifestyle he recommends reading “Green For Life” by Victoria Boutenko. “Seeds and nuts — those are the things that are going to fill people up,” Handel said. “Prepare it in large quantities and set yourself up for the week.” Jinny Richardson, chef and co-owner of Tsuda’s Café in Auburn, started experimenting with a raw food diet seven years ago while on chemotherapy for a rare kidney disease. Since then she has started incorporating raw recipes into Tsuda’s menu, as well as teaching raw food classes. Richardson said that while the benefits of a raw food diet are numerous, it’s not for everyone. “I teach all different styles of cooking. I believe in a combination,” Richardson said. “Everybody has a different constitution. What works for one won’t for another.” She uses a dehydrator to create kale chips and raw crackers. Richardson said that for those who are hesitant, it is all about presentation and variety. “It’s beautiful. It’s an art. It’s colorful,” Richardson said. “Have more salads in your day and cut up your vegetables in a way that is entertaining. Try out one new vegetable you haven’t tried yet everyday.” In addition to raw food classes Richardson hopes to hold a special raw food dinner at Tsuda’s soon. Hilary Dart, demo and volunteer coordinator at the Briar Patch Co-Op in Grass Valley, finished a raw food class last week. The final meal was lasagna with zucchini noodles, spinach and a macadamia-nut, cashew cheese. Dart said the class taught her that foods can be lightly heated in a dehydrator and still be considered raw. “Raw foods do not have to be cold foods. You can heat them. You just can’t make them very hot,” Dart said. “When I eat raw food I feel better. I feel like my digestion works really great.” Green smoothies and soaked nuts are other raw food items she enjoys often. Typical store-bought nuts are considered dead, but soaking them in water enhances their nutritional value and eases digestion, according to Dart. “It begins the sprouting activity. It activates the enzymes,” Dart said. “You want to eat your food as much alive as you can.” Dart also recommends eating plenty of fresh, in-season fruit. According to a study published by the American Medical Association, a raw food diet is associated with lower bone mass, but also lowers body fat percentages. Dr. Mark Vaughan of the Auburn Medical Group said his patients who are strict vegans, which is very close to a raw food diet, often have thriving health. “They are truly in my experience some of the healthiest specimens to work with,” Vaughan said. “They are not overweight. A lot of that will happen when you aren’t eating the foods that stimulate hunger. They are eating a lot of (carbohydrates), but not simple (carbohydrates).” Vaughan said the difference is that they have learned which foods to supplement in order to get essential amino acids and vitamins typically found in animal products. For Handel going raw has been an internal calling that transcends a simple diet change into a lifestyle. He said that while there may be some who are critical of the raw food diet, he believes people on the diet are the best evidence of its healing properties. “Their eyes have a glow about them.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.