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Expert Interviews Series: Alissa Cohen of AlissaCohen.com on the Benefits of Raw Food Diets

Alissa Cohen is an internationally recognized author, speaker and educator. She is one of the world's leading authorities on whole health and vibrant living. We recently checked in to ask her about the benefits of raw food diets and...

Benefits of raw diets

Alissa Cohen is an internationally recognized author, speaker and educator. She is one of the world's leading authorities on whole health and vibrant living. We recently checked in to ask her about the benefits of raw food diets and get some of her favorite recipes. Here's what she had to say:

What is a Raw Food Diet?

A raw food diet consists of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains. These are alkaline-rich foods that contain enzymes and are not cooked above 112 degrees Fahrenheit. They're filled with living energy, raw vitality and unlimited health benefits.

How did you discover the Raw Food Diet? What interested you in it?

I discovered raw food when I was about 18 years old, after I went vegetarian. I worked in a health food store and one of the women who worked there had a 3-year-old daughter who was 100 percent raw. This child never had an ear ache, a stuffy nose or any of the typical childhood ailments that we consider normal.

I started to read and research more about it and started to experiment on myself what would happen if I only ate raw foods. I had some issues like candida and had just found out that I had fibromyalgia. After eating a raw food diet for only a couple of months, all of my ailments disappeared. I started to talk about the raw food diet to friends and family and eventually started working with other people and even making them raw food meals. I started to see people change before my eyes. Their illnesses were disappearing and they were losing tons of weight and they looked and felt younger, sometimes within weeks! I knew I had found the fountain of youth.

What are the benefits of eating raw and living food?

Raw and living foods help reverse and slow down the aging process because they contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. Raw and living foods are extremely beneficial in helping to arrest - and in many cases, may actually reverse - aging at the cellular level.

Following a raw food diet has allowed thousands of people to find relief from numerous ailments and diseases including diabetes; fibromyalgia; acne; migraines; back, neck and joint pain; asthma; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; hypoglycemia; colitis and diverticulitis; candida; arthritis; serious allergies; depression, anxiety and mood swings; heartburn, gas and bloating; skin diseases; obesity; menopausal symptoms; chronic fatigue; cancers and other ailments.

Why is raw food healthier than cooked food?

Raw and living foods are alkaline-rich foods. When your diet is made up of raw foods, your body shifts from an acid state to a more alkaline state. Sicknesses and diseases occur in acidic bodies and many of the cooked foods that make up a SAD are acidic. Raw foods also contain enzyme which are essential for every function in our bodies. Enzymes are what keep us health, vibrant and alive. When you cook your food, many, if not most of the enzymes are destroyed.

What advice do you have on making the transition to raw and living food?

I would suggest starting to switch any of the junk food you eat to a raw dessert. I've never had anyone tell me that they didn't like my desserts! You can make decadent cheese cakes (out of nuts) and delicious pies with fresh fruit. Switching your breakfast to a smoothie is an easy way to start the transition as well. Making it a priority to have a big salad at least once a day is also important. The more fresh, raw, living foods you can add to your diet, the more your taste buds will begin to crave it.

What foods do you think we should all try to kick out of our diet now whether or not we're ready to commit to eating raw?

I think removing any processed food is imperative whether or not someone is going raw. The more whole foods you can eat, the more improvement you should see in your health.

What do you think is a common misconception of raw diets?

I think one of the common misconceptions about eating a raw food diet is that you have to eat just salads and juices and that you won't have enough food or variety. Also, that you won't be satisfied. But, I can't imagine eating any other way. I can eat whatever I want and however much I want. I love being able to eat a raw food pizza for lunch and fudge after dinner and having the freedom of not counting calories or fat grams and not weighing and measuring your food.

Can you share a favorite raw diet dish for ...

... Breakfast: Chia Pudding

Chia seeds are filling, packed with energy and act as a natural thickener. Start your day with a bowl of this tapioca-like pudding and some fresh or dried fruit stirred in. If you prefer a thicker pudding, use less water. This can be made with unsprouted almonds, but if you have sprouted ones, use them.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

3 cups water

1 cup almonds

½ cup chia seeds

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Dash of ground cinnamon

1. Put the almonds and 3 cups water in a Vita-Mix. Blend until creamy and smooth. Add the chia seeds, agave and cinnamon and pulse the blender several times just to mix. If it's not sweet enough, add a little more agave.

2. Pour the mixture into a bowl and chill for one hour or longer to thicken. Store in the refrigerator up to two days.

... Lunch: Mock Salmon Pate

A delicious pink pate with a hint of salmon flavor! I eat this all the time on top of a large salad with vinaigrette dressing. It's such an easy pate to prepare and oh so delicious!

2 cups walnuts

2 stalks celery

1 large red bell pepper

1 large scallion

½ -1 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. This can be served on a plate as is, drizzled over a salad, rolled up in a green leaf or spread on crackers.

... Dinner: Raw Ravioli

This is one of my favorite raw recipes. I often make these at seminars and events and people go wild over them! There is always one person who continues to ask me through the whole event, "What kind of pasta is this made from?" Even after I tell them numerous times that it's turnip, not pasta. It's hard to believe these are raw!

Wrapper:

4 turnips

Peal the turnips. Slice the turnips into very thin slices by cutting them in half and then using a spiral slicer, mandolin or other vegetable slicer to make thin round disks.

These will be used as the wrapper, which would normally be the pasta dough.

Cheese filling:

1 cup pine nuts

1 cup macadamia nuts

1 cup walnuts

6 teaspoons Braggs or Nama Shoyu

8 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

1 cup parsley

Blend the pine nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts in a food processor until ground. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well, until creamy.

Tomato Sauce:

2 large tomatoes

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh basil

1 clove garlic

6 dates

dash of olive oil (optional)

Soak the sun dried tomatoes until soft. Blend in food processor: the tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and garlic until well blended. Add the dates and olive oil and blend until smooth. This sauce should be thick.

Directions for assembling the ravioli:

Remove a single turnip slice from the batch. Place a teaspoon full of cheese filling in the turnip slice and fold the turnip over until all the sides meet. Squeeze the edges together. Some of the filling will ooze out; but this is what will hold the edges together. Just put the excess back into the bowl to reuse. If you don't have enough filling in them they will not stick together. Place them in a single layer on a large plate and drizzle the tomato sauce on top; allow to sit for a few hours. The turnip will become soft from the tomato sauce. Use a spatula to scoop the raviolis up and serve.

... Snack: Date Nut Torte

Fudgy, creamy and sweet! I bring this with me when I'm visiting someone I'd like to introduce to raw food. People can't believe it's raw! And it's one of the quickest and easiest desserts to make.

Base of Tort:

2 cups raisins

2 cups walnuts

1. In a food processor, combine raisins and walnuts and blend until well blended and moist. (This will take a few minutes and you may see it forming a ball. Just make sure the raisins come out looking like a fudgy mixture and are not still grainy)

2. Remove from processor and mold onto a plate in a round circle about 1 1/2 inches thick.

Frosting:

1 cup dates, pitted and soaked

1/2 lemon, juiced

1. In a food processor, combine dates and lemon juice until smooth and creamy.

2. Spread the frosting on top of the torte.

Note: I like this served at room temperature as the frosting and torte are still sticky, but if you want a firmer texture that will be easier to slice, refrigerate it for a few hours.

What are your go-to kitchen tools?

A food processor is a must! I make most of my recipes in a Cuisinart food processor. I also love my Vitamix. And I couldn't live without my Kyocera ceramic knives.

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