Just in case you had the impression that I had this whole “food” thing sorted, I’d like to set the record straight.
I’m a human guinea pig.
This “eating vibrantly” caper is an ongoing experiment and I’m the test subject.
(Along with Paul, my partner, that is.)
I try something, I see how it goes, I tweak it a bit, I do lots of reading, I try something else.
And although I’m a scientist by training, this experiment is not very scientific.
Kind of hard when there’s only one of me, and I care more about the results than the methods.
A bit of background…
So I started playing with raw food in January 2011, and we’ve really enjoyed the foods – and the health benefits – we’ve discovered in the last 2 years, although our daily diet has been an ever-changing thing.
And I’ve actually been 97% raw since the start of 2013.
When I say 97% raw, what I mean is that I aim to eat as much of my food raw as possible, but I’m not going to get too hung up about a bit of cooked food here, or a taste of that there.
And it’s been working really well.
So what happened?
Well, I started noticing that I wanted to eat sandwiches. So I did.
And pretty healthy ones at that – organic wholemeal sourdough with raw vegan cheese and raw fig jam.
And while they were very satisfying, I also started to put on weight, which is usually a sign that I’m not eating in harmony with my body.
So I figured that my body was asking for something different, I just wasn’t sure what.
Dabbling with cooked food
I also found myself inspired last week to create a high-raw version of ‘Oh She Glows’ potato nachos.
And for the first time in years, our family sat down together and ate the same meal. And enjoyed it.
It was magnificent. And delicious.
And yet for the next week, my digestive system seemed unsettled.
And if I was gaining weight, but still hungry, then maybe there was something out of balance in my diet. But what?
The research begins
When I get a bee in my bonnet about something, I generally glue myself to the internet until I find an answer that satisfies me.
I’d read about raw vegans having too much fat in their diet, and wondered if this applied to me.
I also found an awesome article about possible problems on a raw vegan diet, and discovered that I had a few common symptoms of a sub-optimal raw vegan diet, namely:
- I was cold all the time, even when everyone and everything around me was warm
- I was hungry, even though I was eating lots of food
- I was craving cooked foods, especially for comfort
- I was often tired and lethargic, and not sleeping terribly well
- My hair was falling out
The only explanations for these signs that seemed relevant to me were either that I was stressed, or not eating enough calories.
Well, any one who knows me, knows that stress is kind of a way of life for me (although I am a recovering stress-aholic), so that wasn’t enough of an answer.
It’s still probably a contributing factor though. Just maybe. (Note to self, you really do need to make time for meditation.)
Not enough calories? Quite likely.
So, how to get more calories on a raw vegan diet, without eating more fat?
Two approaches to increase calories
There are two books that have been floating around in my peripheral vision for a while, that address this question directly, so I decided it was time to finally read them.
Both approaches are vegan and both advocate getting the vast majority of your calories from carbohydrates, and keeping your fat intake as low as possible. With both diets, you eat as much as you want.
Solution #1 – Add cooked starches
The Starch Solution is based around cooked starches, such as potatoes, rice, beans, lentils and grains, plus fruits and vegetables, and encourages you to eat as much as you feel like. Many of the testimonials in this book show people losing heaps of weight and healing serious illnesses with this approach, and so I’ve no doubt that it works, for them.
Solution #2 – Eat more fruit (lots more)
The 80/10/10 (80% carbohydrate, 10% protein, 10% fat) diet is based around raw food, basically fruits and veggies with a small amount of nuts, but in order to get enough calories from these nutrient-dense low-calorie foods, you have to eat LOTS. To the point of discomfort. Once you get the hang of eating enough food, you do get enough calories, primarily from simple sugars, and all the nutrients you need.
So the main differences between the two approaches are cooked vs raw, and complex carbohydrates vs simple sugars.
Given that I was already eating a small amount of cooked food, I decided to give the cooked starch approach a try.
We’ve tried uncooked starches before, in the form of raw dehydrated chips made from sweet potato, turnip, beetroot and every other root veggie I could get my hands on, and not one of them sat well in our stomachs.
So I bought lots of potatoes and some rice, and ate these for lunch and dinner, along with my other normal raw food.
Paul joined me in this experiment, because he was experiencing similar cravings and symptoms.
I was planning to try this out for a week and see what effect it had. I lasted one day.
My digestive system revolted at the new foods I was having, resulting in severe wind pains and diarrhoea. And then there was the headache and the sore throat.
Not fun. Not fun at all.
For whatever reason, cooked starches don’t agree with me right now, and I think I’m going to listen to the very clear messages my body’s giving me.
On the other hand, it’s working really well for Paul. He has more energy, is already feeling less cold, and is really enjoying his tasty bowls of rice salad, packed with fresh veggies, greens and seeds.
This is a perfect demonstration of the fact that what works for me, may not work for you.
You just have to try things and see for yourself.
Where to from here?
I’m not ready to eat 30 bananas a day, or a kilogram of fruit (or more) at each meal, which is typical on the 80/10/10 diet. Not yet.
So instead, I’ve added raw porridge to my daily spread, for the starchy (raw) calories, and I’m going to keep looking for ways to get more complex carbohydrates into my diet, in a way that my body will accept.
I’m still having my green smoothies everyday, plus big salads for lunch and whatever takes my fancy for dinner. I’ve also taken to snacking on bananas and dates, rather than flax crackers with raw nut cheese, to increase my calories without increasing my fat intake.
I’ve also started drinking herbal teas and warm water and room temperature smoothies to increase the “warmth” in my diet, and I might also look at adding more warmed foods, and more spicy foods as well.
I’m not saying any of this is right.
It’s just my best guess about the right direction to take from here.
And that’s really what science is all about – making educated guesses and testing them out.
I am the human guinea pig, after all.
And in the end?
There is no end to this experiment.
My life is an ever-evolving thing of beauty and wonder.
Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, something changes.
I really like this quote I saw recently – “One healthy meal at a time”.
I think that’s how I’m going to do it.
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Have an awesome, healthy eating kind of day!
~ Nikki, Eating Vibrantly