As I’ve been transitioning into and experimenting with a raw foods based diet, I’ve been discovering new products I never knew existed even when I became vegan almost 2 years ago. I’m even finding new-to-me fruits and veggies at the store and it’s making me realize that veganism and even raw foodism isn’t limiting at all–there are millions of possibilities when it comes to food, without relying on animal products.
I’m definitely not a LFRV, so I still include some raw fat and protein sources and I want to share some of those here, as well as produce and seasonings I’ve found to be helpful in transitioning to raw.
- Avocados: I can’t believe I used to only eat these in guacamole! Fresh-made guac is still a favorite of mine (my recipe: 1 avocado, juice of half a lime, sprinkle of sea salt, half of a chopped jalapeno, optional cilantro) but I also love taking half of an avocado and drizzling it with raw honey, cinnamon and sea salt. I also want to try out Veggie Nook’s raw coconut-crusted avocado ‘fries’! Avocado is a concentrated source of unsaturated fats, and when added to a salad, can boost the absorption of lycopene and beta-carotene. Even though LFRVs eat overt fats (like avocadoes) rarely, I try to eat a fat or fat-based raw dressing with my salads to boost the vitamin absorption.
- Cashews: Cashews, though labeled raw, are never truly raw because raw cashews can be poisonous, but I always buy my cashews with the raw label because they are less processed and closer to being raw. Cashews are lower in fat than most nuts, but still provide plenty of monounsaturated fats, and add a creamy texture to raw desserts and dressings. I soak them before using them, and then blend them to make raw cheesecakes or raw dressings and sauces.
- Almonds: Almonds are also a good source of heart-healthy fats, but they also provide trace minerals such as manganese and copper, which are beneficial to a raw diet. They’re also a great source of plant-based protein. I use them in making raw brownies, raw granola and raw almond butter.
- Coconut: Possibly my favorite raw source of fat, other than cashews. I used to be scared of coconut’s high concentration of saturated fats, but the fat in coconuts is a lot different than animal fats. It’s also much healthier than vegetable-based oils like canola and soy and is very versatile. I use coconut oil in some raw desserts and it makes a quick dressing, coconut butter is great with dates and other fruit, coconut flour is high in fiber and makes a good thickener in smoothies and coconut flakes are amazing for raw coconut bacon!
- Flax crackers: These are a really great alternative to wheat-based crackers and since they come in a variety of flavors (plus you can make them at home with a dehydrator or oven turned low), they can be paired with almost any dip or sauce. I love the Food on Purpose brand sold at Whole Foods (they’re made in NM, so they may only be sold in nearby states) and the Flackers brand which are on Amazon. They’ve got way more fiber and protein than traditional crackers and are a good source of omega-3s.
- Greens: Leafy greens should be an essential part of anyone’s diet, but especially a raw foodie’s. It’s great to get a variety of greens to load up on certain vitamins and minerals, but if you prefer some over others, that’s okay! I personally love spinach, romaine lettuce, kale and bok choy. They make great bases for salads and also work well in green smoothies blended with fruit.
- Bananas: The staple of many raw foodies, these are often eaten in abundance on a raw food diet, but don’t have to be. They provide a lot of potassium and a feeling of fullness, which helps on a lower fat raw diet where you don’t have many fats to fill you up. I prefer freezing my bananas and then blending them into banana ‘ice cream’.
- Berries: These are the superfoods of the fruit world, and for good reason! Blueberries are especially full of antioxidants and having anti-aging benefits, raspberries are very high in fiber, strawberries provide 150% DV for vitamin C and blackberries are high in folic acid and manganese. Other berries, like acai and goji, are also nutritional powerhouses and generally come in powdered or dried form, but all berries are amazing little fruits!
- Zucchini: Zucchini has a lot of uses in the raw food world, from ‘noodles’ to hummus. I’ve even made a raw cheesecake with zucchini in it (recipe below–and trust me, you couldn’t taste it). Its neutral flavor lends itself to working well in many dishes, and it pairs well with bolder flavors.
- Kelp: Kelp and other sea veggies are usually a hidden treasure of Asian cuisine that many raw foodists rely on to get enough trace minerals. Kelp in particular is a great source of iodine, and since many health-conscious people choose sea salts over table salt, they may be missing out on iodine without sea veggies in their diet. Kelp flakes are a great way to season without using salt, and kelp noodles are a rice-noodle like substitute that I personally love!
- Sunwarrior (warrior blend) protein powder: Raw vegan protein powder isn’t just a dream–it’s a reality with Sunwarrior’s warrior blend. Their protein blend is made up of raw pea, hemp and cranberry proteins (so it’s grain free too!) and is sweetened only with stevia, making it a lot healthier than a lot of other protein powders out there. I love that one scoop is just 80 calories but provides 15 grams of protein, which really boosts my protein intake on raw days. It’s a bit high in sodium but that comes from some sea salt and the raw proteins. I prefer the chocolate flavor and love it in smoothies, chia puddings and blended with frozen bananas for a higher protein raw ice cream.
- Sprouted beans and lentils: On a truly raw, 80-10-10 style vegan diet, protein is only consumed through fruits and greens, but a lot of raw vegans and other vegans like to sprout legumes to make them easier to digest. I have yet to sprout my own beans, but I really want to make some sprouted lentil burgers soon!
- Sprouted quinoa/buckwheat/wild rice: These pseudograins are way more nutrient packed than wheat, and provide more protein than many other gluten free grains. They’re all technically seeds, making them okay for a grain free diet and when sprouted, are even easier to digest. I like sprouted quinoa for salads, and I usually soak raw buckwheat groats before I make them into granola in the dehydrator.
And now onto the raw cheesecake recipe! I don’t have a picture for it right now, but mine looks a lot like this picture I found on Tastespace. I’ve already made a raw key lime pie cheesecake and I wanted to do a take on a classic chocolate cheesecake, but with a nutrient boost from the zucchini. It adds no flavor but a great creamy texture and secret nutrition!
Raw Chocolate Cheesecake (vegan, gluten free, raw, grain free)
1 cup almonds (can sub walnuts)
drizzle coconut oil
2 tbsp +4 tbsp raw cacao or carob powder
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
3 tbsp maple syrup (can sub coconut nectar for truly raw version)
1/2 small zucchini, chopped
sea salt, to taste
In a food processor or high powered blender, process almonds until crumbly. Add in coconut oil, 2 tbsp cacao powder and raisins until mixture forms a sticky ball. You may need to add a bit (up to 2 tbsp) water or additional raisins. Place this crust mixture into a lined 8″ cake pan and set in freezer for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, blend cashews, maple syrup, zucchini, 4 tbsp cacao powder and sea salt in food processor. Blend or process until as smooth as possible. Add additional sweetener or cacao as desired. Pour cheesecake mixture onto crust and return to freezer for a few hours or overnight. Remove from freezer for a few minutes before serving and top with fresh berries. Makes 8 small slices.
What are your favorite sources of raw fats, produce and protein?