Taking the Raw-Food Plunge

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Pizza made from sprouted grains, vegetables, pesto and nut cheese highlights this dish at 118 Degrees.

I’ll admit that a raw-food diet has always fascinated me, not only for it’s use of fresh, vibrant produce, but for the overall health benefits one experiences after incorporating living foods into one’s lifestyle: glowing skin, renewed hair growth, weight loss, lower cholesterol, healthy blood pressure, healthy digestive function, increased energy, physical endurance, and mental clarity, among others.

These tangible results beckoned me like water to a thirsty horse. Personal success stories from friends and acquaintances were all the testimony I needed to make some decisive changes and start treating my body better.

But still I felt apprehensive: feelings and emotions about whether I’d be successful began to surface. Even with my culinary background and experience, I felt like a novice who needed training wheels to get her balance. I knew incorporating living foods into my diet – like any kind of lifestyle change – would require a certain level of commitment. Yet, as a food writer, I don’t always have a choice in what is prepared or served from the menu. So, how do I control my environment, my food choices, and make this journey a positive and successful shift?

In order to educate myself and gain practical knowledge, I consulted Jenny Ross, owner and executive chef of the living foods restaurant 118 Degrees. A pioneer of the raw-foods movement, Jenny was the perfect person to help motivate me toward optimal health.

Having corralled Chris into meeting me at The Camp, where Jenny’s restaurant is located, I was surprised to find out that he, too, was interested in the raw-foods lifestyle.

“I’ve wanted to try her Detox program for a long time,” Chris admitted. “A friend of mine tried it after being diagnosed with food allergies and she said it changed her life dramatically for the better.”

“I’ve heard the same thing from other people,” I said. “What’s in the detoxification?”

“As I recall, you get seven days worth of raw-food meals that support a healthy metabolic rate, release water retention, aid digestive function, and organ cleansing. From what I hear, 118 Degrees makes the transition fun with menu items that you’d think were off-limits.”

“That’s exactly what I need,” I laughed. “It takes all the fear out of the equation.”

Jenny Ross of 118 Degrees with a couple of her raw food offerings.

Upon entering 118 Degrees, we were met by a youthful, exuberant and beautiful force of nature—Jenny Ross. I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “If this is the kind of vitality that living food offers, sign me up now.”

We sat down with Jenny, and I immediately began grilling her. That was my first raw foods mistake—there is no grilling, as Jenny explained to me.

“It all comes down to our name, preparing foods at 118 degrees or lower, and using plant-based cuisine. When you have more life in your food, you have more life to share in all aspects of your life.”

“So what is a very simple decision people can make today, one simple change to incorporate raw food into their lifestyle?” I asked.

“Raw food smoothies. We talk about this in my new cookbook, ‘Raw Basics.’ In addition to fruit and juices, you need essential fatty acids, flax oil, and greens. People don’t realize that greens are a great source of protein that slow down the metabolism. By starting your day with a smoothie, you are 30 percent more likely to enjoy more healthy selections throughout your day.”

“What kind of greens?” Chris piped in.

“The darker the green, the higher the protein content, so spinach or kale—one cup has the same protein content of one egg.”

“Tell us about your cookbook,” I encouraged.

“I’m very excited,” Jenny stated. “It’s designed with the beginner in mind. It has a five-day juice fast, talks about common ingredients, transitional foods and how to set up your kitchen. My favorite section is for families.”

“I must say, you make this lifestyle seem very fun, creative, delicious and easy. Do you find that people are intimidated by a raw-foods diet?”

“Once people shift from what they can’t have to what they get to have, they see and feel immediate, positive results.  It is a lifestyle – one that brings about health and restores balance. This balanced functioning allows the body to fight disease properly and nourish itself while performing vital operations that keep you youthful and energetic.”

“The food that you’ve presented here is unbelievable,” I stated. “I never would have guessed that pizza made from sprouted grains, vegetables, pesto and nut cheese could taste so delicious. And this Chocolate Ganache is insane.”

The Chocolate Ganache.

“The ganache is gluten and dairy-free, high in trace minerals and vitamins. We use coconut butter for essential fatty acids, raw cacao, and add super foods, super greens and agave, which is low on the glycemic index. You can actually eat it for breakfast as it has 14 grams of protein.”

“You’ve just converted me,” I said, proceeding to inhale every bite.

“It’s all about small steps,” Jenny smiled. “Just start adding more of the good stuff. It’s like riding a bike, once you get used to it you’ll be sailing down the street real soon.”

With food like this, my training wheels should come off in a cinch.

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