Inflammation is said to be the root of a variety of health problems today: diabetes, heart disease, digestive disorders, arthritis, cancer, and so many more. While dietary factors can not prevent inflammation alone, what we put on our plates every day will directly affect how we feel. (Stress management, proper activity levels, using more natural remedies in place of inflammatory medications, eliminating chemicals from our lifestyles, and other environmental factors are also important.)
Food acts as cellular fuel once it enters our system. No longer is is a beautiful, embellished dish to tempt our taste buds; it acts as a direct messenger to our cells telling our body to either produce energy or use up energy to process and digest it. One of the most unique types of food that seems to do this on a grander scale is raw foods. Now, while a 100 percent raw food diet isn’t necessary to get the benefits, adding more nutritious foods in their raw state will improve not just your energy, but will also help reduce inflammation and possibly even your mood, weight, and help your taste buds crave more healthy foods.
Taking the Benefits of Plant-Based Foods Up a Few Notches
Plant-based eating is already a great place to start if you’re looking to lower your inflammation. Animal foods, no matter what vitamins and minerals some may have, are still largely inflammatory and highly processed once they get to our plates. Plant-based, whole foods on the other hand, are 100 percent derived from nature which makes them much better for your body. But even a diet that lacks fresh foods and is heavy in cooked, dense dishes still won’t provide the remarkable energy and alkaline benefits that comes with eating more raw foods in their natural state.
Raw foods are hydrating, full of all the most beneficial vitamins and minerals, and are also easy to consume and prepare. While you certainly might not want to eat them all the time, adding more of them into your healthy routine is a great way to up the energy and kick inflammation to the curb.
Here are five you should enjoy raw whenever you get the chance …
Kale is a green we just love to love, and while it’s certainly comforting cooked up for an entree, it’s more energizing and just as satisfying when you can enjoy it raw. Put a few kale leaves in a smoothie, make a rich kale salad, or even juice with it if you enjoy juicing. Kale is rich in chlorophyll which is why it’s one of the darkest greens available. Chlorophyll ensures our bodies produce optimal levels of oxygen and it keeps us alkaline. This means we have more energy and actually feel well enough to use that energy on a regular basis. Kale is also a great source of magnesium and iron, two minerals critical for optimal energy levels.
All berries are excellent sources of vitamin C, potassium, water, and antioxidants. But baking them in goods and eating them in processed foods (berry flavored granola bars, etc.) isn’t the best way to get the most out of these delicious fruits. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, acai berries, and raspberries were all meant to be eaten raw and non-processed as much as possible. Frozen berries are also fine since they’re frozen fresh at harvest, but avoid heating your berries whenever you can. These little gems are full of energizing properties to give you a boost and vitamin C is a very heat-sensitive vitamin that relieves inflammation and is better obtained in its raw state.
Almonds are the most alkaline nut variety, meaning they reduce inflammation naturally. However, once roasted the become more acidic, so enjoy raw almonds or raw almond butter if you have a choice. One note on almonds: many that are labeled raw are actually still pasteurized with chemicals since California produces the majority of nuts in the United States where pasteurization is required by law. They may be non-roasted, but truly raw varieties come from Italy, Spain, or another country. You can easily find these online and even in some stores. Look for truly raw, cold-ground, or stone-ground nut butters when possible. Almonds are one of the most beneficial sources of vitamin E, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. They’re also an excellent source of potassium that keeps your muscles and joints feeling well and they contain 49 percent of your daily biotin needs to support your hair, skin, and nails.
Chia is one of the most popular types of seeds enjoyed today, but you can’t get all the benefits if you’re baking them away! While chia is an excellent option to replace eggs in a baked goods recipe, for optimal energy, enjoy this seed raw. Many of its vitamins and minerals are heat sensitive, so only add it to baking for substitution purposes or to add extra fiber (which is beneficial raw or cooked). Chia is a fantastic sources of three top energizing nutrients: magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. It’s also a good source of calcium, potassium, and amino acids (which are also best if not heated). Chia seeds can be enjoyed raw as pudding, in a smoothie, to thicken up a dressing, can be ground raw and used in place of flax in any raw recipe, can be used in raw energy bites, or however else you can think of. Even topping your morning oatmeal or other cooked breakfast is a great way to add more raw nutrition to your day.
Hemp seeds are a super seed worth enjoying raw whenever possible, mainly because they are higher in nutrition, taste better, and work better in raw recipes than most cooked options. Though you’ll still benefit from their protein and fiber content if you bake with them, their high chlorophyll content (which is found in their green color) goes a bit to waste once they’re cooked at high temps in the oven. Plus, hemp seeds are the easiest seed to digest in such a raw state and they’re packed with vitamin E that is best obtained in a raw state versus a cooked state. Top your salad with hemp, add them to a smoothie, use raw hemp protein in place of whey protein for more energy and less inflammation, make them into energy bars and bites, or however else you enjoy. These seeds are a great source of vegan protein, healthy omega-3’s, and B vitamins that everyone can benefit from.
Other fruits and vegetables should (and can) also be enjoyed raw if you get the opportunity; they’re portable, require little to no prep, and are the way nature intended them to be enjoyed. Many other nuts and seeds can also be eaten raw and will be less inflammatory than cooked options, but a little roasted nut butter every now and again is not going to hurt you (peanut butter, for example, should be eaten in a non-raw state since it’s toxic in raw form).
Remember, the important thing is to focus on adding more raw foods in place of highly processed foods to your day instead of becoming too caught up in making sure everything is raw. Enjoy more raw greens, veggies and fruits and snacks, raw trail mix over processed options, blend raw nut and seeds into smoothies instead of dairy for protein and healthy fats, and enjoy plant-based foods in their most natural state whenever possible. You won’t only feel great, but will also find its much less time consuming and easier on your schedule. See all our raw vegan recipes here for plenty of ideas!
BONUS Recommendation: Download the Food Monster App
If you enjoy articles and recipes like these and want more, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s a brilliant food app available for both Android and iPhone. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and more find awesome recipes, cooking tips, articles, product recommendations and how-tos. The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restrictions.
The Food Monster app has over 8k recipes and 500 are free. To access the rest, you have to pay a subscription fee but it’s totally worth it because not only do you get instant access to 8k+ recipes, you get 10 NEW recipes every day! You can also make meal plans, add bookmarks, read feature stories, and browse recipes across hundreds of categories like diet, cuisine, meal type, occasion, ingredient, popular, seasonal, and so much more!
Lead Image Source: saschanti17/Shutterstock