Q & A
By Nomi Shannon, author of The Raw Gourmet
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Question: How will I get enough protein on a raw food diet?
A: This is usually the first question that people ask. Most of us have been raised with the notion that a lot of protein is good for us. The meat and dairy industries depend on that attitude. But, ponder this for a moment: What is the most perfect food for a human being when it needs it most, as a newborn infant? You guessed it- it is mother’s milk. There is no other time in the life of a person when growth will be so dramatic. The infant will triple or quadruple in size in its first year and needs more protein to grow on than at any other time in its entire life span. And just how much protein is in mothers milk? The answer may surprise you. The amount of protein in mothers milk is 2.5 to 3.5 per cent.* Compare that to the amount of protein in cow milk at 30 per cent*. A baby cow needs to gain hundreds of pounds of mass in its first year, while its relatively small brain does not need to grow very much, quite obviously different than the needs of a human baby.
If the amazing growth in the first year of life is beautifully served by the amount of protein in mothers milk, why would any human being ever need more? The answer is, he/she does not need more protein than that. One of the biggest mistakes in a SAD (Standard American Diet) is the consumption of too much protein. One of the saddest and most dramatic effects of a high protein diet is a negative calcium balance leading to osteoporosis. Habitual consumption of high protein forces the calcium in the body to act as a buffer to the high acid state created in the digestion of protein. The current medical advice to consume more and more calcium in the form of milk products, oyster shell calcium and over the counter digestive aids such as Tums can not reverse the calcium loss in the bones due to excess protein consumption. Excess protein robs our bones of the very substance they need to maintain their strength. Osteoporosis is not a disease due to calcium deficiency; it is due to a lifelong consumption of too much protein.
As for a raw food diet, all the leafy greens and sprouts contain protein. If you are eating lots of fresh raw leafy greens and sprouts, along with a moderate amount of nuts and seeds, there is no reason to be concerned about your protein intake.
For those who continue to be concerned or who have higher protein needs, such as athletes, raw sunflower seeds and raw tahini (sesame seed butter) in particular, are very digestible sources of protein and they are very economical compared to other nuts and seeds. Shakes and dressings made with a tahini base are excellent for people with weak digestion, the ill, the elderly and children. Tahini is not only a good protein source, but it is also high in calcium, contains good fat and it is alkalizing.
* Note: different texts offer different percentage numbers, these numbers are derived from lectures at Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida.
Q. I am bothered by constant food cravings, and experience a lot of setbacks - will I ever get over this?
A. The first day you notice that you are craving a large green salad or a great juicy apple or a bowl of sprouted pate with sprouts on top will be a great day indeed. Then you will know that you have rounded a corner in your health regime, and that you now have a body that you can begin to listen to.
Being able to “listen to your body” is often preceded by a period of cleansing. If you have been subsisting on a diet of McDonalds, pizza, soda and sweets, The Quick Fix is what your body will crave. If you are addicted to sugar, it is not just a mental addiction. Your pancreas is screaming for you to feed it the sugar that it has become used to having. What should you do? The best thing may be to eat the highest and best food that will respond to that craving. Far better than a candy bar or an ice cream would be a piece of fruit or two. If you do the best that you can in each instance, including forgiving yourself if you step back to your old ways for a moment, then move on again in the right direction, you will gradually reduce or eliminate unwanted cravings. The amount of time this takes depends on many things such as: how long you had been eating a poor diet, did you transition to raw slowly or quickly, did you begin with a water or juice fast to get a head start, etc.
Another way to quell cravings is to eat a good healthy meal as soon as you begin to lust for pizza or fries. In the early stages of being a raw foodist, hunger often brings on cravings. Often, once you have eaten and are satisfied, the craving itself will just go away, or at least you will find it easier to resist. This means that it is important to always have some good healthy food on hand. It is guaranteed that you will get into trouble if there are no fresh fruits and veggies in the house or office and you are hearing a litany of cheesecake, cheesecake in your head. It is too easy to give in to cravings when you have no way to fill up with healthy food. Plan ahead - bring a bag to work with you each day with a variety of fruits and veggies - try red peppers, apples, baby carrots, celery, fennel, zucchini, orange, pear. Be imaginative. Try new things.
Other ways to help you stay centered in your food choices are to meet regularly with other raw fooders and to encourage restaurants you frequent in your area to provide wonderful salads and other raw foods. When a person has feelings of alienation or loneliness it is difficult to combat unhealthy cravings. Remind yourself that the value of life and socialization is not just about food. Creating an environment for yourself that includes other raw fooders without excluding the other people in your life, often the ones that you love the most, is a delicate balance of strength and tolerance.
Cleansing, whether with a water or juice fast or more gradually through eating more and more raw food, is what will change the very tissues and cells of your body to be tuned into seeking the foods that are good for you. Ancient toxins that have been stored in your body are brought to the surface during a fast and as they exit the body via the blood stream can trigger old cravings.
Each cleanse experience is different. Perhaps in your case you may get a headache that you would have eaten sugar to avoid in the past. Now you know that a healing is taking place and you need only to wait it out and it will go away. Actually giving in and eating sugar will set you back in your process.
The day will come that you will far more often crave for the healthy foods than for the foods you wish to avoid. And as time goes on you will learn to trust your body more and more. You are on a journey and are working towards the freedom of wonderful health: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual; we all are.
Reprinted with permission of the author, Nomi Shannon. Check out the FREE 7 part email course that Nomi offers at her site, called The Raw Truth, each of the 7 brief "classes" includes a free recipe.
Creative Health Institute wishes to express their sincere thanks to Ms. Shannon for allowing us to reprint this article.