With Winter weather gripping the nation is it too cold for raw food?

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As the temperature in New York City settles upon the high of a frigid twenty-eight degrees, and rain and snow begin to accumulate across the country, winter it seems is in full swing. For those of us choosing to adhere to, or at least incorporate a diet of raw foods into our daily regime, many note that the benefits of including raw food options in our diets heavily outweigh the sometimes-reported transitory period of feeling cold when consuming mostly raw. However, an East Coast winter certainly poses some additional difficulties.

As visions of hearty soups, breads, and sweets dance in our heads one must wonder if it would be more beneficial to concede to our body’s seasonal cravings, using our body’s energy that when eating raw must be utilized to breakdown plant fiber, to instead keep us warm.

The fact is there is no right or wrong answer. Every body, physical and otherwise, is different and will react differently to not only seasonal changes, but also dietary, hormonal, mental, and emotional shifts that occur continually and oftentimes, sporadically throughout our lives. With the goal of prolonged health and happiness in mind, regardless of the changing of the seasons continue to choose only fresh, local, organic foods.

Keep in mind that when choosing organic you are ensuring that your food has been grown without the use of pesticides, sulfites and preservatives, herbicides, and genetically modified organisms, otherwise known as GMOs. Check to confirm that all your produce is labeled organic. Conventional labeled produce means that the food has been tampered with in such a way that even the healthiest of choices become dangerous to our wellbeing.

When choosing to eat raw in the cooler months remember to incorporate warming spices to your meals and as any raw foodie will tell you, a Dehydrator is an invaluable tool for taking the chill out of raw soups and entrees alike. One of my favorite fall/winter raw food recipes is a Hearty Chunky Chili that I have adapted from a borrowed recipe from Latham Thomas, founder of Tender Shoots Wellness, located in New York City. Super easy and no fancy equipment required; this dish is the ultimate traditional favorite now prepared healthier than ever. What you will need:

• 1 Portobello Mushroom, finely chopped
• ½ Cup Minced Celery
• ½ Cup Chopped Red Onion
• 1 Cup Almonds (soaked in water for at least an hour before preparation)
• 1 Cup Chopped Carrots
• 1 ½ Cups Sundried Tomatoes (soaked in water for at least an hour before preparation)
• 2 Cups Water
• 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
• 1 Tbsp. Raw Agave Syrup
• ¼ Cup Nama Shoyu (raw soy sauce)
• 1 Clove Garlic
• 2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano (can use 3 Tbsp. organic dry spice if need be)
• 1 Tbsp. Organic Dry Oregano
• 2 Tsp. Chili Powder
• 1 Tbsp. Cumin
• 1 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
• ¼ Tsp. Cayenne Pepper

Soak almonds and sundried tomatoes in water for one hour before preparation. Chop all your veggies. If you have a food processor it is a great tool for quickly and coarsely chopping all the veggies except the onions, chop those by hand otherwise the aromatics from the onions when used in a food processor will have you crying for a week! Remember, you are making chili, don’t chop or pulse too finely. Place all veggies in a large bowl.

Next drain the almonds, then pulse in the processor or blender until you reach a chunky consistency, add to the veggies. Lastly, drain the sundried tomatoes and blend with all remaining ingredients and spices until a smooth consistency is achieved. Mix into veggies until well combined. Serve at room temperature, or for a warmer approach, place chili in a dehydrator for about an hour at 105 degrees.

 The mixture will last approximately three to four days in the refrigerator. Set out at room temperature to enjoy your leftovers, and remember that the cayenne, chili powder, and cumin help to achieve that sought after warm winter belly effect. I love this dish served on a bed of fresh kale enjoyed in front of a roaring fire. You won’t believe how much it tastes like chili.

Although the transition to or inclusion of a raw food diet in our daily lives at times feels overwhelming and challenging the sentiments are simple and basic. Enjoy, eat well, stay warm, be healthy, and be happy. Hippocrates said, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” So instead of standing on line waiting for your flu shot this year try a little raw food, find inspiration in the nourishment that surrounds us, and be creative.

Erica Settino
Erica Settino is the co-founder and executive director of the non-profit organization, Karuna For Animals: Compassion In Action, Inc. A long time vegetarian turned passionate vegan, she works tirelessly to educate others on the countless benefits of adopting a vegan diet. For more information about Erica and her work visit karunaforanimals.com.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/randihausken

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