Tuesday, May 8, 2012

*Raw* Week 1 - The power of chia seeds & soaking nuts :)

*Raw* Vegan Challenge – Week 1 (Thursday – Sunday, yea I know that’s not actually a week…)
Let’s start off with the definition of raw: A raw vegan diet consists entirely of uncooked, unprocessed, whole plant foods. Examples of what a raw "fooder" might eat are; fresh vegetables and salads, fruits and fruit smoothies, and nuts and seeds.
There’s one sole question that constantly plagues vegetarians, vegans and raw “fooders” and I’m sure you can all guess what that it is.  Where do I get my protein?!?  Let’s get the experts take on the subject. 
Tim VanOrden, of Running Raw www.runningraw.com, 2011 US Masters Mountain Running Champion, 2011 US Trail Running Series Champion, snow shoe champion, amazing tower runner and raw food extraordinaire has the following to say on the protein subject:
“This is probably the most common question I get, and the answer is that I'm not really that concerned with protein intake. Yes, I do consume some protein in the few hemp seeds and nuts that I eat. The dark leafy greens and broccoli that I consume daily also contain protein, but all in all, I really don't consume that much protein. The human body breaks protein down into amino acids, so I cut out the middle man and eat foods that are rich in amino acids - ALL uncooked fruits and vegetables.”
Good, now I have a solid answer for when people ask me this question and the same people will ask me this question several times.  Not sure why they think my answer would change but certain people like to bring it up constantly, anyways now I can just tell them that I’m cutting out the middle man.  I’m no longer interested in him; I’d rather go straight for his faster, fitter friends who are rich in amino acids! 
I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries recently highlighting the power of nutrition and eating a more whole foods, plant based diet and I would highly recommend them if you’re questioning how you feel and looking to take a stand against disease, obesity, and wanna make a change to your diet.  Here are a few on the top of my list:
-          Healthy for Change
-          Forks Over Knives
-          Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
-          Food Inc.
Most of these focus on the health aspects of a whole foods plant based diet - how to reduce your risks for cancers, heart disease, diabetes.  They also showcase people who have gotten rid of health ailments by switching to a plant based diet!!  They also discuss the environmental impacts to eating animal products.  However, these movies don’t really focus on how animals are treated in meat / dairy / poultry production industry so you don’t have to worry about these films consisting of one gruesome scene after another.  I wouldn’t be able to handle that! 
My Cravings
I’m on the 5th day of my raw diet and so far I’m really enjoying it.  I feel a sense of freedom and my dependency on breads and cereal are definitely starting to fade away.  I’ve had a couple of green smoothies for breakfast, giant salads consisting power greens, lots of other veggies, nuts/seeds, dried fruits and loaded with avocado for lunch and probably the same for dinner.  Instead of reaching for a box of cereal, which would be hard since my cupboards are bare, I’m getting inventive with my nighttime snacking.  One night, I mashed up a banana, added a chopped up pear, tossed in some raw nuts and raisins, and then added a dash of cinnamon, good stuff.  Another night, I mashed up another banana and then smashed up a coconut larabar, mixed in some nuts and went to town.  I’m still getting the calories that my body needs to sustain my high levels of working out (I hit about 14-15 hours this week!!) but I’m getting it its purest, most natural form. 
Every day since I’ve started my raw diet, I’ve had 2+ hours of working out to take on and I’m feeling totally fine during my workouts, well except for my legs feeling a bit dead at times but that’s due to the sheer volume.  I haven’t felt a lack of energy due to what I’m eating.  I’m feeling a little tired at work but that’s due to the sleep issues I have and working out so much, I’m hoping that this raw challenge will give me more energy, keep me focused and let me fall asleep easier.  I guess it doesn’t help when your mind is racing, thinking about everything under the sun and trying to solve all your problems in the span of 5 minutes, doesn’t really get ya anywhere and just makes ya stay awake staring at the ceiling.  I’ve decided that I’m back to focusing on the positive, getting rid of negative energy!! 
For the most part, I’ve been incorporating a lot of greens into my diets, whether just leafy in a salad or blended into a smoothie or in the form of kombucha with chia seeds.  Chia seeds are another nutritional powerhouse that we’ll get to discuss at some point as well.  
As shown on the can - Raw Chia = Raw Energy
Often called "runner's food", chia is a nutrient-rich superfood that provides sustained energy for you body.  Packed with more than 8 times the omega-3's found in salmon, this small seed has big nutritional value.  With more antioxidants than blueberries and more fiber than oatmeal!
My main focus during the first few days of this challenge, has been on trying new things, I wanna start making new recipes and finding raw alternatives that are simple and tasty! I’ve been feeling better / leaner too without all the refined carbs, my body is really appreciating it :)
Soaking Nuts
So in order to reap the nutritional benefits of raw nuts and seeds, they should be soaked.  According to Brendan Brazier (another superb vegan endurance athlete, I recommend his series of books under The Thrive Diet) soaking nuts and seeds is an easy way to improve their digestibility and increase their nutritional value.  Soaking them for as little as 4 hours can yield a significant benefit.  Let’s go through a few of the most popular nuts:
·         Almonds - One of the most popular nuts and is high in Vit B2, fiber and antioxidants, they also have one of the highest nutrient levels of nuts.   

·         Macadamias – Contain omega 7 & 9 fatty acids, these are nonessential fatty acids, meaning the body produces them but their inclusion in the diet has been linked to positive health benefits.  Blended soaked macadamia nuts results in a creamy spread that makes for a healthy alternative to butter or margarine.

·         Walnuts – Rich in B vitamins and a unique amino acid profile, they are also rich in potassium and magnesium which help maintain adequate electrolyte levels in the body, prolonging hydration.

I decided I wanted to experiment with soaking some almonds, making almond milk and then using that to make some berry chia pudding.  I needed another breakfast alternative instead of having a green smoothie every day, not that there’d be anything wrong with that. 
I soaked the almonds for 8 hours, then put em in a blender with some water, dates and a splash of vanilla and voila, my own raw almond milk!  And it was delicious!!  I’m definitely gonna start making this more often.  I then mixed the homemade almond milk with some frozen berries and poured that over some chia seeds to make my breakfast for this morning, added some fresh berries and nuts, tasty stuff! 
On to week 2.  Gonna try some new recipes from the Thrive Diet and hopefully I enjoy them! :)

1 comment:

  1. My wife would say, "You're eating bird food." I hear it all the time, and I'm not even eating nuts, oats, fruit and veggies every meal. Good luck to you - hope you enjoy it enough to stick with it to see what gains can be made. Not necessarily performance gains - but in other areas of well-being. Cheers! Vern