Karin and Rick Dina, both chiropractic doctors, have been studying and practicing raw food nutrition for over 25 years. They teach the Science of Raw Food Nutrition course at Living Light Culinary Institute – the premier training facility for raw gourmet chefs in California. Barefoot Vegan spoke with Karin to find out more about her new book and how to get started on a raw food diet.
How is raw veganism defined?
Raw veganism is a lifestyle that involves the consumption of whole natural plant foods in their uncooked form.
What are some of the common motivations for following a raw vegan diet?
There are probably as many different motivations for eating this way as there are people who eat this way. Common motivations include more energy, greater focus, improved sleep, athletic performance, anti-aging benefits, healing and many more.
If people want to start eating a raw food diet, what kind of basic kitchen tools and preparation techniques should they invest in and learn?
When getting started, I would say keep it simple. When I started with raw food in 1990, I used an inexpensive blender, cutting board, knife, and a large mixing bowl to prepare my food. The blender allowed me to make simple smoothies and salad dressings. I also purchased some 24-ounce mason jars to accommodate my smoothies. Several months later, I purchased a champion juicer and a food processor. These were my main preparation gadgets for the first 10 years of my raw food life. Then, I acquired a dehydrator, which I only use occasionally. Five years later, or fifteen years of eating a high raw diet, I finally acquired a vitamix and twin gear juicer.
The bottom line is that raw food can be as simple or involved as one chooses. My husband, Dr. Rick Dina, and I teach our Science of Raw Food Nutrition series of classes at the Living Light Culinary Institute on the beautiful Mendocino coast in northern California. In addition to learning about raw food nutrition with us, many of our students take the raw culinary classes offered by the school. These students rave about the food preparation and nutrition education that they receive at Living Light and how this education provided them with invaluable skills that enable them to enjoy their raw food diet even more.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions that people have about raw food?
Probably the biggest misconception of all is that raw food is expensive. This expense varies per person and is largely dependent upon individual food choices. For example, if one purchases a lot of packaged raw food products then the expense can be significant. However, if one focuses their diet on produce, then the expense tends to be much lower. My husband and I purchase the bulk of our food from our local wholesale produce market in San Francisco, which keeps our expenditure low. In any given month our food expense is equivalent or less than people we know who eat a standard western diet.
What nutritional considerations must people consider when eating raw?
There are many nutritional considerations for people following any type of dietary pattern. For raw food, the considerations are similar to veganism. Since so much nutrition information we learn is special interest backed, we created our Science of Raw Food Nutrition series of classes to teach people about raw food and nutrition in general, so they can think critically about their dietary choices and find a dietary approach that suits their individual needs short and long term. We also cover this topic in our book, The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets.
Are there any benefits to doing low-fat or high-fat with raw food?
This is a very involved question that we spend a great deal of time discussing in our classes and in our book. Part of the answer is that it depends on your health goals and your current health situation. Are you interested in athletic performance? Are you trying to reverse a certain health challenge? Are you looking for more energy? Do you have any food sensitivities? Your health goals can help determine which approach to raw is best for you.
What are the best food combinations to avoid feeling bloated or causing stomach cramps?
I have found that one of the biggest considerations with avoiding bloating is when to eat fruit. Before I became interested in raw food 25 years ago, I thought of fruit as being a dessert, condiment, or decoration for the top of my cereal. I did not particularly like fruit when growing up because invariably I would get an upset stomach almost every time I ate it, which was enough to keep me away. When I learned about raw food diets that included a notable amount of fruit, my initial thought was eating this way is not possible, given how I felt after eating even small amounts.
At the time, I was looking for a solution to a health challenge, so I was willing to explore my options. If it weren’t for this health challenge I would not have been inspired to make such large changes to my diet. I reluctantly gave eating more fruit a try and was surprised at how good I felt. So, why did fruit work for me digestion-wise when previously it had not? The fact is, before going raw I was eating fruit either as a dessert or on top of other heavier foods, and that did not work well for my digestion.
From my own personal experience, the principle of eating fruits away from other foods for improved digestion has worked well. In fact, this aspect of food combining was really a revelation, since I was actually able to start enjoying fruit without digestive distress for the first time in my life. Fruit is no longer a dessert, instead it now plays an important role in my diet. In my book, the Raw Food Nutrition Handbook, I give an updated perspective on the topic of food combining based on reliable research and digestive physiology.
How has the raw food movement evolved since you have been involved in it?
For one, it has gotten much bigger. This is positive in many ways since this message is reaching a larger audience. Twenty five years ago when I was getting started, raw food was much more of a community, whereas nowadays I often hear people refer to raw food as an industry. In our classes, Dr. Rick and I recreate the “community” feel that raw food had when we were both inspired years ago.
What key insights have your years of research into raw food and health given you?
Number one: Find what works. If I had given up on my health quest before I found raw food, I might not have found an answer to my health challenges.
Number two: Keep an open mind. The raw food approach that I started with was great short term, but I had to modify my approach for long term sustainability.
Number three: We all have biochemical strengths and weaknesses. Choosing an approach to diet that honours these can help you succeed.
Tell us about the nutrition classes you run…
Our Science of Raw Food Nutrition series of classes is composed of 100+ hours of education and covers hot topics including raw plant-based sources of iron, calcium, protein, vitamin B12, essential fatty acids as well as blood sugar regulation, pH balance, food changes from cooking, anti-inflammatory nutrition, weight management, anti-aging, longevity, and much more. We offer our classes at the Living Light Culinary Institute located on the scenic Mendocino coast in northern California. In addition to our in-person classes, we offer Science of Raw Food Nutrition I, the first course in our series, as an online course.
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