Ask Heather

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Ask Heather

Q): Do you have any tips for getting more protein without eating a lot of nuts?

A) A diet high in greens is the best way to get abundant protein.  Greens are great because they also give you calcium while delivering low amounts of fat and calories.  Green leafy vegetables are 20-40% protein with nuts and seeds 9-17%.

In general, cooking decreases the protein content in your foods.  Lysine is one essential amino acid in protein that is lost when cooked.  So eat your greens raw!

The recommended daily allowance for protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight.  So, if you weigh 150 lbs, the RDA suggests 54 grams of protein per day.  Though it is clear, we all thrive on different levels of protein.

Scientists agree that it is important to get your protein from a variety of sources.  Here are easy ways to meet your protein requirements:

  • Make kale and green leafy vegetables a central part of your diet.  Eat lots of smoothies, juices, soups, and salads.
  • Seeds are important protein providers, especially sunflower seeds.  A 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds packs 8 grams.  They can be eaten as a snack, mixed in salads, used in soup, or made into a cookie along with dried fruit.
  • Mila, ground hemp, chia, sesame, and/or sunflower seeds can be added to your morning smoothie or salad dressing.
  • Pea pods make a delicious snack and are easy to include in meals.
  • If you incorporate cooked foods into your diet, sprouting before cooking improves protein quality.  When you sprout peas, buckwheat, and other legumes, the protein digestibility increases.

Including a variety of dark leafy greens, fruit, nuts, and seeds, with optional grains and legumes, is the best way to ensure adequate amounts of amino acids (protein) in your diet.

How do you know if you are getting enough protein?  Your body will tell you.  If you are eating a varied, well balanced diet and you have good energy levels than you are eating enough protein.  If you notice muscle weakness, extreme fatigue, pour wound healing or skin problems, you might want to talk with your doctor about tests to measure a potential protein deficiency.

Q) Do you have any kind of class for people who need to make a filling lunch quickly in the morning (or the night before)? The quick lunch options in my neighborhood are just awful and totally unhealthful — like Quizno’s, with its sodium-packed, highly processed cold cuts and refined breads. There’s only so many nuts I can eat to supplement my crappy lunches!

A) This is a great question. I designed the upcoming Raw food for Busy People class especially for you. We will give you lots of easy lunch options that you can bring with you to work. For those who cannot come to the class, I have ideas to get you started. I spent the initial years of my raw life in a traditional office. At first, I told no one what I was doing. But after a while, everyone started peeking in my bowls, because my food was the most beautiful and tasty looking of everyone in the office!

  • Stock your office desk with some basics for lunch and snacks: seasoned seeds, crackers, Luna bars, a bit of pepper, a vial of high quality Celtic or Himalayan salt, raw granola and raw chocolate covered nuts from Living Intentions.
  • Bring a blender to work and leave it there. I like the Tribest personal blender, because it is the smallest and most discreet. A blender at work sounds crazy, but it’s so easy to grab green soup ingredients from home by sliding them in your gym bag. I like a whole zucchini, celery sticks, a few pieces of kale, a lemon, an avocado and an apple. Blend these veggies on the spot (even if the only plug is in the bathroom). Top them with the seasoned seeds and crackers already hanging out in your desk. Et Voila! A lunch to be envied.
  • Cut up veggie at home and then dehydrate them. Pack them in single serving bags with your favorite spices. At work, pour boiling water over the veggies, and you have an instant soup.
  • The chain stores really don’t tend to have high quality food – most of it is refined and not organic. If you want to eat healthy, you will have to search out small restaurants or bring food from home.
  • When I worked in an office, almond milkshakes and green smoothies got me through my morning. I brought them in an opaque bottle so I didn’t have to answer to distracting questions from those around me.

Q) If you were to suggest including three cooked foods (meals/dishes) to supplement an otherwise 100% raw diet, what foods would you suggest (from an entirely nutritional standpoint)?

A) I am not a nutritionist, but Raw Bay Area is lucky enough to have certified nutritionist Krissa Schwartz on our team. Krissa and I put our heads together.  You don’t need cooked food in order to get great nutrition, but if you want some cooked food, go for these three:

  • Legumes such as black beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, and split peas
  • Specific whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa
  • Lightly steamed vegetables

Beans are an excellent source of complex carbohydrate and fiber. They have micro-nutrients the body needs: folic acid, iron, protein, magnesium, manganese and potassium. In order to get maximum nutrition, sprout your legumes for a day or two before you cook them. Brown rice and quinoa are wonderful and versatile grains able to complement practically any food. Brown rice is rich in B vitamins and also has a good supply of protein and trace minerals. Combined with beans, you have a complete protein (all nine essential amino acids). All grains, should be rinsed thoroughly under cool running water to remove any dirt or debris before cooking.

Some quick serving ideas are:

  • Combining cooked kidney beans with black beans and white (navy) beans to make a colorful three-bean salad. Mix with raw tomatoes and scallions and dress with olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper.
  • Sprout and cook your beans. Mix the warm beans – and grains – into finely chopped kale. This will wilt and soften the kale but not cook it. Add a great raw sauce that you like – my favorite is tahini-basil. Guacamole and salsa are great sauce options too.
  • Cooked brown rice and quinoa make a nourishing breakfast porridge or dessert pudding. First cook your grain well with lots of extra water.  Then add a raw nut milk of your choice, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and honey.

Beans and rice, lentils and rice, peas and rice – all of these combination can be wonderful together for many people. They are relatively easy to digest, filling, and most importantly, nutrient dense.  Just make sure you do not add on unhealthful or processed dressings or sauces that contain processed sugars, MSG, low quality fats or extra salt.

Q) I have tried several times to go raw only to find it too difficult and time consuming. I have a lot of raw cookbooks but get discouraged when I make something that doesn’t taste great and has taken me several days to make . …. Where should I start or go for good guidance to keep me on the raw food path? Most recipes I have seem to be nut based and high calorie.

A) Raw Food should be easy and delicious for everyone. Several recommendations:

  • Develop a handful of recipes that you absolutely love. Recipes that are best for beginners have less than 8 ingredients, take 10 minutes to make and taste great every time. You can learn these recipes in my classes. If you are out of town, I am available for phone consultations. There are several cookbooks which I think are stellar for the beginner raw enthusiast.  I especially recommend Jenny Cornbleet’s Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or Two People.  Jenny just posted several great companion videos on her Facebook page.
  • Go as slow as you need. I recommend you start with a green smoothie every morning and at snack time.  When you get the hang of those, explore green juices, savory soups, kale salad and nut milks. Even if the rest of your day includes cooked foods, these simple dishes will dramatically change your health.
  • Make complex dishes only after you have mastered Recommendation 1 and 2. Just as there are complicated cooked food dishes, there are complicated raw food dishes. Avoid them until you have mastered the basic dishes mentioned above. For now, you can easily find packaged raw crackers and cereals to go with your simple dishes from Step 2, and you will have fulfilling, complete meals. After you master these simple dishes, you can teach yourself to make your own pastas, crackers, breads, cereals and more. These items are simple too but require some special equipment. For recipes in this range, I recommend Ani Phyo’s Raw Food Essentials as it covers a huge range of dishes, both simple and slightly more complex. I also recommend you join raw food meet-ups in your area.  Being around like-minded people will help you stay inspired and confident enough to tackle challenges.

Q) I am ready to start the new year right with eating healthy. I plan on attending all your classes this coming year. I was thinking of purchasing a Vitamix at Costco and a Brevelle juicer.  Is a juicer necessary or is the Vitamix a juicer? Also, which version would you recommend of the Vitamix?

A) A Vitamix is an incredibly high powered blender.  A juicer is a different piece of equipment. These tools do very different things.  If you are investing in new equipment, I recommend a Vitamix first. (I can get you a good deal, details are on the resources page.)  The Vitamix allows you to do many things, but not juicing. (There are ways you can use the Vitamix to make a high-quality juice if you strain your mixture through a nut milk bag before you drink it.)  A juicer is also a great tool;  I have both and use them every day.  However, if I had to chose ONE it would be the Vitamix. The 5200 is great, but any Vitamix is wonderful. If you do want to buy a juicer, my favorite is the Hurom Slow Juicer not the Brevelle. The Hurom is smaller, more quiet and has a higher quality juice.

Q) Can the Rejuvelac and probiotics be used interchangeably in a cheese recipe?

A) Yes. Rejevelac is a type of probiotic. It is a fermented beverage made from wheat berries, quinoa or other grains. You can also make cheese from probiotic powder (with water), miso, non-dairy kefir and other probiotics. You can find out more about my ideas on making cheese featured here in an article from Vegnews.