Has anyone ever been to rawlicious in NYC? It is delicious! I think it might be tied with quintessence as my number 1, with Rockin Raw coming in a close second. Tucked away in a side-street in Soho, this place had my mouth watering from start to finish. I started off my meal with some veggie sushi rolls, which were stuffed with vibrant micro-green sprouts and topped with coconut aminos. Then, I had the raw vegan flat bread and pizza with dill cashew nut cheese and tomato marinara. And for my fellow Brooklynites, it’s only a few miles away from the bridge, so you can hop on your bikes and get a sweat on before replenishing with some rawliciousness.
I’ve tried a number of cleanses—juice cleanse, fruit fast, and I think I may have once fooled around with one of those cayenne pepper cleanses—and let me tell you, not all are created equal! While the right cleanse may give your body a true break from digestion, allowing it to heal itself, a bad cleanse can poison your body from the inside out. Fortunately for you, I’ve tested a bunch of these out on my own body to give you the real scoop on how these programs affect our health. Hopefully you can learn from my experiences—and mistakes…
Juice Fasting (Blueprint, Organic Ave., homemade, etc.)
I know there are some people who swear by juice cleanses, but I am not one of them. While the idea of having vitamins and nutrients go straight into your bloodstream is nice, that also means there’s a ton of fruit sugar going straight to your blood stream, giving you a sugar high followed by a crash. In addition, there is little to no fiber in a juice fast. So even if you’re waking up toxins in your system, there’s no way to “cleanse” them out. Supposedly, these toxins instead resurface, making you feel even sicker than you were to begin with unless you take laxatives or colonics to force them out. When I went on a juice fast, I felt horrible after 3 days. I constantly felt nauseous and dizzy. Even once I decided to stop fasting, it took awhile for the nausea to go away. I don’t see how anyone could benefit from this fast, unless they want to spend a ton of money on colonics or OD on laxatives. No thanks.
I recently tried the 80-10-10 method, where 80% of your calories comes from fruits, 10% from leafy greens, and 10% from nuts and seeds. I learned about this diet off of a website called fullyraw, whose founder has been able to reverse her hypoglycemia by following the method. Clearly, the 80-10-10 method works for her, so I thought I should try it. While it was GREAT for cleansing (be ready to go to the bathroom frequently!) I was worried when I saw an old white vitiligo spot resurface on my hand—something that I haven’t seen since going wheat-free. I did some research and found some sources saying that the absorbic acid in certain fruits (oranges, pears, grapefruits, grapes, and even lemons) have been linked to decreased melanin production, so perhaps that could have been the cause–I was eating a ton of pears. But who knows, maybe other factors could have affected the depigmentation–stress, lack of sleep, etc. I might try it again another time, taking out pears and citrus fruits.
The Clean Program
This one is the winner. I am currently doing it for a second time since I love it so much—stay tuned for details! It’s a program developed by physician Alejandro Junger that progresses in three stages. The first stage, called the elimination diet, removes wheat, dairy, added sugar, red meat (which I believe is beneficial to do anyway) certain fruits such as bananas, grapes, grapefruits, oranges, and nightshade vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. The healthier eaters stay on the elimination diet for a couple of days, whereas others may need to stay on it for a week or more. The second stage is the actual cleanse, where breakfast and dinner is a liquid meal (either a smoothie or a soup) and lunch is a meal from the elimination diet. The official program comes with an expensive kit and packets, but the book says that you can benefit from the cleanse without the kit, which I am doing. This diet allows just enough fiber to keep things moving while also allowing your digestive system an ample break for detoxification. In addition, it is the only cleanse that I have found that advocates for a significant consumption of healthful fats, which I need not only to support my skin, but also for the omegas that keep me focused since I am sitting through lectures all day. The diet focuses on eliminating inflammatory foods so that the body can focus its energy on healing itself for three weeks.
I was amazed with my results the first time I finished the cleanse. Most surprising was its effect on my joints. A couple of years ago, I had a minor injury where I fell down a full flight of subway stairs, face first, on my elbows. (Yes, I know I’m a huge klutz!) My elbow was sprained, and ever since I’ve always needed to twist/crack it in the mornings so that it doesn’t feel sore. It’s nothing huge, but a bit annoying. By my final week of the cleanse, I noticed that I stopped needing to crack my elbow into place. Many claim that the program helps those who suffer from arthritis by reducing inflammation—it must have had the same affect on my elbow. In addition, I had more energy, slept better, and felt more focused.
I hope to experience even greater healing this time around—my goal this time around is to further heal the few vitiligo patches that I have left—and maybe even recruit some more cleanse buddies? Who’s with me?!?
I used to be a huge milk and cheese lover. And let’s be honest, dairy products are pretty yummy. But just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy that taste—or at least something very close to it! Here are some of the dairy alternatives that I consume regularly.
Almond milk can usually be found at most grocery stores. But if you don’t like the taste of almond milk, or if all the extra ingredients in it (carrageenan, added sweeteners, etc.) freak you out, you can make nut milks in a matter of minutes at home. All you need is a fine strainer, a blender, some water, and your favorite nuts of choice. Place 1 and ¼ cups of nuts in a blender and fill the rest with water–you can even use coconut water if you like your milk super sweet. Blend well and then strain in order to make delicious nut milk. I like to also sweeten with vanilla extract and stevia.
Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast that is rich in b vitamins and vitamin b-12, which usually is difficult to get for vegans. It has a cheesy taste that is great to put on salad dressings or as a topping to gluten-free pasta or pizza!
Dr. Cow’s Nut Cheeses
These are a bit pricey, so I only get them once in awhile, but they are so delicious. They are dairy-free, gmo-free cheeses that are made with cultured nuts, sea salt, and probiotics. Most store-bought cheese alternatives like daiya and tofu-cheese have tons of additives and “natural flavors” (which really means chemical flavors) and usually leave me with an aching stomach, but Dr. Cow’s cheeses have four ingredients max and are easy to digest. They come in several flavors, like macadamia, hemp, cashew, and brazil nut. I recently used the aged cashew flavor to make a vegan, gluten free pizza and it was delicious!
Homemade Parmesan Cheese
If you’re looking for a quick way to make parmesan cheese to add to the top of your salad or a pasta dish, you can simply blend garlic and brazil nuts or pine nuts in a food processor. So simple, yet so delicious!
Vegan pizza made with Dr. Cow’s nut cheese. Yum!
“A Journey of a Thousand Mile Begins With the First Step” –Lao Tzu
I frequently get the question from friends, family members, and blog visitors—“Alana, I’m ready to get healthy. Tell me how to eat like you.” The truth is, I would never advise anyone to switch immediately from the typical American diet to my diet— a nearly raw, vegan, no refined sugar, and gluten-free lifestyle. Getting there takes time, and transitioning too abruptly can have serious side effects on your body. But what I can recommend is that you take five easy steps to getting there. Perhaps these steps will lead you to an even greater dietary change, or maybe this will define your new lifestyle. Either way, it’s all about what feels right for you. Here are the first steps I took when transitioning my diet.
Listen to Your Body
Everyone’s body is different. The only way you can know what you should be eating is by listening to yours. Eat your meals very slowly, chewing each piece with intention, that way you can notice how it makes you feel and you can truly recognize when you are full. When you are done, set a one-hour timer on your phone reminding yourself to assess how you feel once you have fully digested. Once the timer goes off, do a personal inventory of your body. Do you feel tired? Gassy? Bloated? Energized? You will be surprised at the things that make your body tick, and be more inclined to get rid of them once you are more aware.
Slowly Replace Processed Sugar
In my ideal world, processed sugar would be thrown into a pit to be used to make punching bags! Processed sugar has been proven to cause diabetes, candida, and a myriad of other health conditions. To make things worse, it has addictive qualities similar to those of tobacco. However, getting rid of processed sugar altogether–particularly given its addictive qualities–can be extremely difficult and lead to withdrawal (I experienced it myself when first transitioning). I recommend spending one day counting the amount of sugar you eat normally. Track it on the website myfitnesspal.com if that makes it easier. Then, try cutting that number in half, or even by a fourth if that’s too difficult. Stock up on stevia, which is a low glycemic natural sweetener made from the stevia leaf, and start using it as your go-to sweetener for teas, drinks, coffee, etc. Keep some in your bag in case of emergencies. Look for products in the grocery store that use coconut nectar, stevia, or dates as their base for sweetness instead.
Don’t Drink During Meals
While water is extremely important, you should be using your time in between meals to drink as much water as you can. During meals, you should minimize your water intake so as not to dilute the production of digestive enzymes. You want multiple enzymes to be produced while you are eating so that you can fully digest your food, feel full, and reap all of the nutritious benefits of your food. So keep the water intake to a sip or two during meals and save your big gulps for afterwards.
Monitor Your Meat Consumption
Several studies have proven the harmful effects of meat—acidity, heart disease, obesity, cancer—the list goes on. While I understand that a completely vegetarian diet is not feasible for everyone, I recommend taking at least one day a week to eat vegetarian. On that day, try a new vegetarian restaurant. Some great restaurants in the NYC area include Quintessence, Caravan of Dreams, Blossom, and Peacefood, among others.
Read and Research
When I first decided to change my diet, I became largely inspired by the writings of nutritionists who were able to teach me how to do it safely. These nutritionists taught me that a proper diet is not only a cure for weight-gain, but also for skin-diseases, aging,cancer, and fatigue. Check out Kimberly Snyder’s the Beauty Detox Solution and Alejandro Junger’s Clean Program. Also check out some blogs filled with recipes and transitioning tips, such as living maxwell, food babe, and kimberly snyder.
I hope this helps you on your journey towards getting your body on track!