The following is an interview with Carissa Leventis-Cox of Mama in the Kitchen, and she ain’t cookin’!
You have been a raw vegan for approximately 2 1/2 years. What health benefits have you noticed?
Before changing our diet and lifestyle, my husband and son suffered colds or coughs about once a month. Now that they eat about 50 percent raw vegan foods, they get the sniffles or coughs only a few times a year, if that. Before becoming a raw vegan, I thought I was pretty healthy. Then I discovered I am now even healthier: My energy level has increased tremendously, the uncomfortable joint aches and pains I’ve had since I was 4 years old are gone, all the whiteheads and blackheads on my arms and legs I had since puberty disappeared, and my high cholesterol dropped significantly. I have had people compliment me on my glowing skin too.
Your family does not follow a fully raw diet, and yet they still feel the added benefits of eating living foods. So, a 100 percent raw vegan diet is not the only way to go?
Some people add only 25 percent raw and still feel the added benefits. Many prefer to eat 50 percent raw, but the term “raw vegan” mainly describes people who are at least 75 percent raw.
What are the other long-term benefits of a raw vegan diet for you and your family?
I cannot predict how my health or my family’s will be in 10 years, but in eating a highly raw veggie diet, we are creating an alkaline environment in our bodies and consuming live food full of enzymes and nutrients needed that have been proven to increase the immune system and prevent (and cure) cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and many other problems. In eating more raw, unprocessed foods, I know we are radically reducing our carbon footprint, and we have influenced many friends and family who have consequently improved their own diets and lifestyles.
Do you believe that cooked food is poison?
What I like to say instead is that processed foods are poison! What is most important is to un-process our food to improve our health. We need to focus on simple foods prepared from raw, fresh, organic, local, and seasonal whole foods—whether raw or lightly cooked. I believe eating a plain, steamed sweet potato is better than eating a big piece of raw cheesecake loaded with cashews and sweetener, for example.
Can you eat whatever you want on a raw vegan diet?
Many raw vegans have a “just eat whatever you feel like” attitude. But, like any diet, a raw vegan must pay attention to daily balanced nutrition. Some famous raw vegans have become sick from an unbalanced diet of too many sweets and heavy foods (such as fruit, sweeteners, and nuts) and too little greens (where the bulk of raw vegan nutrition is). And some people have actually gained weight eating an excess of raw nuts, avocados, and oils too.
Do you ever crave cooked food?
Yes. I do try the cooked vegan foods I prepare for my family sometimes. If I crave it, I eat it. But then my body starts to ache here and there, a whitehead appears, I need more sleep … and I am reminded of my improved health on raw living foods.
What advice do you give to people who are interested in your raw lifestyle?
If you are interested in the raw lifestyle, I would say to go slow to make permanent changes. It’s a step-by-step process. Ultimately, the goal is to un-process our food for our health, the health of our family, and the health of our planet. The most important step is the first, which is to get rid of everything processed in your kitchen and in your family’s diet. This means anything canned, packaged in bags, frozen dinners, junk food, and sodas. Substitute these processed foods with clean food. Then add living foods to your diet a little at a time. You and your family may be surprised how much raw foods you are actually eating and enjoying in the process: fresh fruit for breakfast, big salads for lunch and dinner, green smoothies and fresh juices at mealtimes or snack times, and raw desserts. Finally, by combining more raw vegan foods with daily exercise, enough daily sleep, time outdoors for sun and fresh air, and more time to relax, you are creating a much healthier lifestyle for your families.