Since June 8th of this year I have been experimenting with an all raw fruit-based diet. I found it to be one of the greatest discoveries I have made on my journey through life. Not only did it completely demolish any difficulties I was having with portion size, preparation, or when to eat, but it is truly the most delicious way to live.
Lately I have been curious about the other side of the spectrum and so have been dabbling in the “raw until 4” culture. Well not really. Mainly I have just been eating some boiled quinoa and potatoes for experimentation purposes. It also sounded tasty.
Before I went fully raw, I was a vegan for about 3 years. I ate pretty clean as it was, but becoming fully raw made my diet basically immaculate. So incorporating boiled quinoa with potatoes with no added salt, seasoning, or oil was actually a nice change. Eating quinoa and potatoes is a great experience. It tastes good, feels filling, and doesn’t weigh you down as much as anything heavily cooked. Little to no carcinogens and very clean.
So I woke up one morning, and decided I wanted to experiment with some cooked food. I went to the store, bought a $5 of organic potatoes and a single yam. I already had some quinoa I bought before I went fully raw a few months back. I came home and eagerly made a TON of quinoa with the boiled yam and about 3 potatoes. I had this huge amount of food in front of me so I dug in. I couldn’t stop eating it. It was so good and I just wanted to shovel it into my face. When I say it was so good, I don’t mean to imply that it was anything more spectacular than my fully raw meals, just a nice change.
If you know anything about the raw vegan diet, or more specifically fruitarianism, you know that you can basically eat until you are full. You can eat as much fruit as you want. What you find is that if you go into the meal knowing you can eat as much as you want, you tend to only eat as much as you feel comfortable eating. Not only that but fruit has such a high water content it's difficult to eat more fruit than your body really wants. (That doesn’t stop me from stuffing my face full of watermelon ;) )
So I ate and ate and ate that quinoa and potatoes. I ate until I felt sick. I felt so full. The problem wasn’t that I felt full, but I kept feeling full. I kept feeling like I had all this stuff in my body and it wasn’t moving like I am used to.
This got me curious and I did some research. So it turns out when you eat fruits, the energy that you get from the fruit comes from the sugar, or carbohydrates. When you eat fruit, you are getting the already “broken down” version of these carbs which are called monosaccharides. Mono meaning one, saccharides meaning chain of carbohydrates. Starch on the other hand, is a mixture of polysaccharides and disaccharides. These are the same sugars that we need on their own, but instead of being just monosaccharides and alone, they are chained to each other creating a more complex carbohydrate. These complex carbs need certain enzymes to break down the chains so the simple sugars they are made up of can be absorbed to give energy to our cells.
A good way to think about it is when you eat a fruit, you get a pretty good sized burst in energy right away. When you eat starch, it's almost like a time release energy. A little bit of sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream at a time so it actually keeps you full longer without needing to refuel, but it also doesn’t digest as quickly or efficiently. Eating starch is a great idea if you are traveling, or need to go a longer period of time without fueling up. In the ancient times, gatherers would most likely eat steamed potatoes to hold them longer in between hunting for fruits.
In the western culture, it's very easy to get fruit in abundance. There is really no need for cooked starches like potatoes. However for practical purposes such as traveling, or for the sake of experimentation and variety, adding cooked starches to a fully raw diet can be beneficial. Keep in mind you will always feel your best when your body has to break down as little as possible.
When it comes to the quinoa, the only issue I had was how long it took to digest and how dense it felt in my body. It is a complete protein so incorporating some quinoa every now and then is definitely a good idea if you aren't getting a wide array of tropical fruits, but you really don’t need it very often. It's not common knowledge that if you eat a wide variety of tropical fruits you are getting all of the essential amino acids you need. Who would have thought fruit would be a complete protein?! A good rule of thumb to go by: if you, out of the blue, feel a craving for rice, quinoa, or anything really, it's usually because your body is telling you there is something in whatever you are craving that it needs. Don’t milk it too much and be honest with yourself because I guarantee your craving for chocolate cake isn’t an intuition from your body ;).
If you have a poignant craving for a certain food, follow it and see where it takes you. It's not about identifying with “fully raw” or “raw til 4” or even vegan for that matter. It's more about being happy, healthy, feeling good and enjoying the food you eat. Be easy with yourself and what you choose to eat and follow your bliss. My bliss this morning was a beautiful young coconut and a watermelon. :)
Have fun and many blessings.