RAW FOOD 101 WITH MEGAN MAY OF LITTLE BIRD ORGANICS

I’m Megan May, founder of Little Bird Organics, and this is (in short) why I ended up switching to a predominantly raw diet. I’ll share with you how going raw impacted my overall health and wellbeing, and simple ways you can incorporate more raw foods into your diet, and get that raw glow too!

I was in my mid-20s trying to cut it as a chef. I’d actually moved to London for the restaurant scene to work in some great restaurants, but had to stop as my health slowly continued to deteriorate.

My body was in a state of disarray, partly from working long hours, but also from eating foods I was actually allergic to. I had malignant melanomas, the bone density of a 60-year-old, hormone imbalances, adrenal fatigue, parasitic infections and depression. After months of visiting specialists and getting nowhere, I decided it was time I took my health back into my own hands.

While researching, I came across the raw diet. It sounded a little extreme at first, but I was intrigued. For those unfamiliar with the term, raw foods are wholefoods that are unprocessed, unrefined, and not heated above 47°C. Think of a raw diet as the “anti-diet”, more a lifestyle that is about eating mostly unprocessed and uncooked foods. Something most people can benefit hugely from.

So why would you want to avoid cooking your food? When food is exposed to high heat it can start to break down – enzymes break down, and we need those to help us digest our food. Raw foods still contain functioning enzymes and vitality, so they’re easier for our body to digest.

By not cooking our foods with high heat we also get more nutritional bang for our buck, with every mouthful containing more nutrients. This is one of the key reasons to incorporate more raw foods into your lifestyle; nutrients are what your body is really hungry for, even if you think it’s fries.

Overfed and undernourished sums up what is a global epidemic of a modern Westernised lifestyle, and one that more and more nutritionists and health experts are starting to speak out about. Finally, we’re seeing a shift away from calorie counting to counting nutrients – all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that our bodies need to thrive – and what raw wholefoods naturally contain in abundance.

After discovering this way of eating, my instincts told me to give it a go. And they proved right. I was overjoyed to find how great I was feeling with the gradual introduction of more and more raw food – mostly in the form of green smoothies and juices to start with.

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I began to feel more energised, more positive about life in general, and I was no longer walking around with a foggy head. Now, I am no extremist and sure, going one hundred percent raw can make you feel great, but for many it’s not sustainable.

You certainly don’t need to eat fully raw all of the time to benefit from this lifestyle. I generally aim for 80 percent raw to feel my best. While eating raw is a good way to work more nutrient-dense foods into your diet, something I think is more important, and should be reflected in all food choices – cooked or raw – is eating an abundance of organic plant-based wholefoods.

I believe everyone can benefit from incorporating more plant-based raw foods into their diet. From my experience I’ve learnt a few tips and tricks for easily incorporating more of these into your diet.

Once you start incorporating more plant-based raw foods into your diet, without even realising it, it can be a catalyst for positive change. You can look forward to benefits such as increased energy and clarity, stronger immunity, glowing skin and strengthened nails.

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Start with Green Juices and Smoothies 

If you’re new to the concept of a raw food diet, take it slow. The easiest way to incorporate more fresh raw fruit and green vegetables into your diet is with cold-pressed juices and smoothies.

Leafy greens and vegetables are key to a healthy diet, loaded with an abundance of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need including iron, calcium and vitamin K. Getting through a huge bunch of kale or spinach might seem daunting, but it’s so easy to down your greens when they’re blended or juiced.

Kale is one of our favourites when it comes to greens. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, and easy to grow at home. But you can use whatever greens you have available – spinach, cavolo nero, collard greens, silverbeet, romaine/cos lettuces, sorrel, nettles, chickweed or miners lettuce are all great options. Eating a variety of different greens, fruits and vegetables will give you a greater variety of micronutrients in your diet. Give it a go for yourself in this minted pear and kale smoothie.

A good green smoothie makes for a quick, nourishing and nutrient-dense breakfast – check out our tips for the perfect green smoothie here.

Eat Smarter

Add raw foods to your diet gradually, and aim to try something new every few days, or once a week. When starting out, try replacing your current meals with something similar. Pay attention to how your food makes you feel too, so you can figure out what works for you, and what your body thrives on. We’re all different so there’s no one size fits all approach.

For breakfast try a sprouted buckwheat based cereal instead of corn, wheat, oats or rice, and serve with a fresh nut milk. Nut milks are pretty easy to make yourself, plus you’ll avoid the additives often found in conventional brands. Whether you need to replace dairy milk in your coffee or on your morning breakfast bowl – both almond milk and coconut milk good for a variety of uses.

For your 3pm slump, instead of sugar-laden biscuits and coffee, reach for some activated nuts and a cold-pressed organic green juice. That pre-dinner chips and beer habit can be traded for kale chips and a probiotic rich Kombucha. If cheese and red wine is your thing, try making your own raw cashew cheese and swap out alcohol for an apple cider vinegar shrub, like this one here. All of these alternatives will provide you with a really similar experience as well as an abundance of living nutrition.

Broaden Your Vegetable Repertoire 

Where possible, try and source organic produce, which has not been grown or come into contact with synthetic sprays, fertilisers or other chemicals. Organic certification goes beyond our own health; encompassing environmental and social awareness, and the integrity, authenticity, and transparency of our food system. Not only that, you’ll find that when you eat really good quality organic produce and ingredients, food tastes way better.

Health food stores and, increasingly, supermarkets usually have a good variety of seasonal, local organic produce. Farmers markets are another option for stocking up on fresh local produce, though keep in mind, unless stated do not assume it is organic. Farmers markets, like health food stores, often have interesting produce that you might not otherwise come across, like kefir limes and cherimoyas. Eating loads more fruits and vegetables is far from boring!

You might also find you enjoy a vegetable raw that you never enjoyed cooked – one that surprised me was Brussels sprouts. Every child’s nightmare when cooked, but surprisingly delicious when raw, finely shredded and tossed with a little olive oil, lemon and sea salt.

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Food Swaps

Following a predominantly raw, plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out all the cooked foods you love (we are advocates for everything in moderation). Try giving your favourites a little raw update – you may be surprised to find these food swaps taste even better than the real deal. Find our top 5 everyday swaps here.

Get Back to Basics

Condiments such as mustard, tomato sauce, and jam are all staples in the kitchen – helping add flavour to any meal. Unfortunately, they’re often loaded with added refined sugars, and chemical additives and preservatives. Making your own raw, wholefood condiments is a great way to easily incorporate more raw food into your diet, while adding a ton of good flavour and nutrients to any meal! Find recipes for some of my favourite condiments here.

Keep in mind you don’t need to go fully raw. Simply incorporating more raw foods into your diet can have amazing benefits. Give it a go!

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