Raw foodists rely on Mother Nature for culinary creativity
February 10, 2012
KETSCH, Germany -No one could have been more surprised by Saunya Odwyer's transformation into a raw foodist, than Odwyer herself.
The Mississippi native could have never guessed that a natural occurrence would put her on the path to greater wellness and jumpstart her creativity.
"I didn't know anything about raw when I started. I didn't know anything about vegan when I started, but something strange began to happen," Odwyer said. "My body just started to not like meat and my taste buds changed. The smell of raw or even cooked flesh started making me nauseous."
Concerned, Odwyer went for a check-up where her doctor assured her everything was fine and that the changes to her taste buds were normal.
"I'm from the South and that's not supposed to happen," she laughed. "I didn't want to give up my chicken wings and steak and all the other foods that I loved, but I just couldn't stomach them anymore."
Not long after, Odwyer eliminated meat from her diet and became a vegetarian, but she still felt like something was missing.
"I found this organic store in Virginia Beach and they had this sign that said vegan and raw food potluck," she said. "I was interested, so I asked questions and sampled some of the food and it was delicious and so fresh. I had never tasted anything like it before. A few months later I began as a vegan (a person who does not consume any animal flesh or animal by-products such as eggs or honey) and two years ago I became a raw foodist."
Raw foodists primarily consume a diet of uncooked, unprocessed and sometimes organic foods such as raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, meats, eggs and non-pasteurized or non-homogenized dairy products.
They believe that once a food is heated beyond 104 F, it loses its natural living enzymes. Raw foodists can also fall into different groups and sub-groups: raw vegans, raw vegetarians, raw omnivores, raw carnivores, fruitarians, juicearians or sproutarians.
"We want to eat the living enzymes because all life forms get their energy from the sun no matter what," Odwyer said. "Raw food is all food that comes from the Earth and anything that has not been altered from its natural state: fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, sprouts and sea vegetables like algae. You take all those things and you eat them."
Odwyer considers herself a "high-raw" foodist, meaning 90-95 percent of her diet is made up of raw fruits, vegetables, sprouts and seeds but the other 5-10 percent is reserved for special occasions.
"I've learned that sometimes you have to make exceptions. If someone took the time to fix a meal for me, I'm going to eat it. I don't care if it's raw, beef, chicken. If someone took time out to cook for me, I am not going to offend them."
Odwyer admitted that when she first transitioned to a raw diet, she developed rashes and headaches, but as her body adjusted she began to see the benefits. She had more energy, needed less sleep, rarely got sick and her hair and nails looked healthier. Her doctors were also impressed by her optimum blood pressure levels.
Initially, she tried to convince her husband Patrick and teenage sons Tyler and Ryan to adopt a raw food diet.
"Food has an emotional attachment and when you're from the south you sit down at the dinner table and laugh, talk and enjoy your meals. Food brings people together. The biggest challenge was trying to switch them over and they never did. So I decided not to force it on them," she said.
Odwyer added that both her immediate and extended family have all been supportive of her transition to a raw food diet, but there is still a great misconception among many people that a raw food only consists of salads and raw vegetables.
That's one of the reasons Odwyer is now training to become a raw food chef and working on a cookbook of raw food recipes.
Odwyer said another misconception she's heard is that eating a raw food diet is too expensive, complicated and requires too much time.
"It might seem expensive now, but it's cheaper over the long run because you won't need to spend a lot on medications and doctor's bills," she said. "You don't need a lot of special equipment. A good set of knives, cutting board and a blender or food processer can get you started ... I plan out my meals and on Sundays I prep all of the food I will need during the week to save time."
Odwyer creates her own raw meals from scratch and she and her husband take turns cooking for the family.
In her kitchen there are baskets of brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, mason jars full of seeds and sprouts and a window sill full of fresh herbs. In less than 15 minutes, she effortlessly whips up a plate of "raw spaghetti." The noodles are fresh zucchinis cut into spirals; the marinara sauce -- red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, olive oil and a little sea salt. The raw "spaghetti" twirls nicely around a fork, just like the real thing.
Odwyer picks up a lot of her produce from the Heidelberg commissary but a good portion comes straight from her own backyard.
She grows her own fruits and vegetables throughout the year and even recycles the food scraps from her meals into nutrient-rich compost for her crops.
"I love eating raw foods and I love preparing the meals and I want to share my journey with others, because it has truly changed my life for the better," she added.
For those looking to leap head-first into a raw food diet, Odwyer offered this advice.
"I would say first get started as a vegetarian. Try to cut out meat products first -- that's going to be the biggest hurdle for most people -- and then try to cut out all animal and animal byproducts. Then every once in a while make it a vegetarian night or raw foods night," she said. "Just take your time and have fun experimenting with new recipes. Be creative."
To learn more about Odwyer's food journey and for tips on eating a raw food diet, visit her blog at www.armyvegan.com.