Demystifying The Raw Food Diet
As far as raw food goes, eating salads and drinking smoothies was as daring as I got. In fact, the whole idea of a raw food diet left me feeling hungry. Even a 2012 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences stated, “If you eat only raw food, there are not enough hours in the day to get enough calories to build such a large brain. We can afford more neurons, thanks to cooking.” But after attending a workshop by Sarah Mangold of Sarah’s Raw Kitchen, I was ready to convert.
Raw food diets date back to the 1800s, when Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner cured his own jaundice by eating raw apples. Today, a raw food diet includes foods that haven’t been cooked, processed, microwaved, irradiated, genetically engineered or exposed to pesticides or herbicides. The diet includes fresh fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts, seeds and herbs in their whole, natural state. Most people on a raw food diet say they consume half the calories they would eat on a cooked diet.
Advocates believe a raw food diet prevents and reverses signs of aging and chronic disease, increases energy levels, improves skin, hair and nails, and eliminates inflammation, arthritis, allergies and chronic pain.
Mangold is a Graff Academy of Raw Food Education certified raw vegan chef, health educator and a holistic health coach certified by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Every Friday at 11 a.m., she teaches raw food workshops at The Cliffs in Princeville.
“Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer,” Mangold explains to a group learning how to make raw Hawaiian pizza. As her assistant, Beth Hagan, preps eggplant bacon, Mangold continues, “My doctors wanted me to get a radical hysterectomy the next week. I wasn’t ready for that. I was 27 years old and I had a daughter.”
Equipped with recipes, we follow as Mangold removes thin slices of eggplant from a blend of tamari, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, chili powder, liquid smoke, olive oil and smoked paprika. She lines them up on a tray and pops them into an Excalibur dehydrator.
“I accidentally discovered that raw food might be a way out of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy,” Mangold continues, adding that she was willing to try any cure. As we watch, we sip green smoothies similar to what she drank when she began her healing process. “I did have surgery and it went wrong. I lost two pints of blood, so I also was anemic when I decided to get into raw food.”
Mangold whirs water-soaked macadamia nuts in a K-Tec Champ blender. This, along with probiotics, filtered water, salt and lemon juice will be the cheese. She pours the thick, snow-white, yogurt-like mixture into a baking dish, and pops it into the dehydrator.
“After six weeks on the raw food diet, my doctors could not find one single abnormal cell, and my blood count was restored,” concludes Mangold, who eats a mostly raw food diet today. “If I go to a friend’s house and they serve cooked food or meat, I’ll eat it because I don’t want to be rigid or rude.”
She shapes the pizza crust that is made with Brazil nut pulp (prior to the workshop, the pureed nuts were made into milk), ground flax seeds, sea salt, olive oil, garlic powder, and fresh oregano from her plot at Kilauea Community Garden.
“I had stage three cancer eight years ago,” says workshop participant and Po’ipu resident Aerica Cates. “Sarah created a nutrition plan for me, and within six weeks they could not find a cancerous cell. It was amazing!”
Mangold chops up three Kaua’i Fresh Farms tomatoes and puts them in the blender with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, apple cider vinegar, a sliced spring onion, maple syrup, liquid smoke, ginger and olive oil. This is the Huli Huli BBQ Sauce that will go on the pizza.
“There’s nothing more gratifying than helping someone else,” Mangold says. “I’m not healing you, you are healing yourself using raw food as a tool.
“Our bodies were designed to heal themselves, and if you give it the proper nutrition and tools, it will. Aerica and I are examples of that,” she explains. “Even if you just have a green smoothie for breakfast, things start opening up, life starts getting better, you feel lighter and your dreams start coming true because you have energy and you feel amazing.”
One bite of the delicious pizza and I do feel amazing. The crust is dense, crunchy, nutty and garlicky. The cheese looks like ricotta and has a tang that reminds me of goat cheese. The sauce it thick, smoky and rich, and the eggplant bacon is fantastic. I have never eaten just two thin slices of pizza for lunch before, but as I write this four hours later, I’m still full.
Eating a strict raw food diet is tricky, and Mangold recommends taking baby steps.
“It takes time to make this food, so you have to ease into it. Plus, it’s expensive and some ingredients can be hard to find,” says Mangold. “But you eat less because your body is getting what it needs.”
On Friday, April 26, Mangold will demonstrate how to make white chocolate cheesecake with raspberry coulis. Cost is $20; reservations are required. You can see photos of previous workshops on Sarah’s Raw Kitchen Facebook page. Classes change every week, and previous ones have included lasagna, a holiday dinner, brownies and chia seed puddings.
Sarah’s Raw Kitchen 635-2769
Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.