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Tips for preparing raw food meals

A plate of Sun Cafe nachos -- with raw jicama 'chips', sun-dried tomato chorizo, cashew cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo and green onion -- is seen in this undated photo.
June 22, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Going "raw" can be good for you, but it's not without challenges.

"Started just wondering how many people are out there who think they're doing well but aren't getting good information," said registered dietitian Monika Woolsey.

Woolsey sees clients that aren't getting enough crucial protein, vitamin D or B-12.

"Vitamin B-12 is found in animal products so you really need to be seeking out nutritional yeast and knowing how to cook with it," said Woolsey. Or "not cook," as it goes.

For vitamin D, raw mushrooms can be tough to digest and are considered toxic in abundance.

Protein-wise, milk alternatives are extremely limiting.

Woolsey suggests organic brown rice protein with 24 grams per cup, along with pea protein to get the right combination of amino acids.

"We hear many people in the restaurant say, 'I feel energized, I'm ready to go,'" said Ron Russell, owner of SunCafe in Studio City.

Russell has been vegan for 35 years and a "raw foodie" the last nine. His SunCafe has earned a handful of awards for its raw features like jicama-chip nachos with sunflower seed and red pepper cheese; and seed and sun-dried tomato chorizo. The kale salad is a hit; so is the seaweed noodle and red cabbage pad thai.

Eating at a restaurant like that where the methods of preparation are well known, that's one thing. But trying raw food at home, alone, there are several food safety rules that you'll need to understand

"Make sure that you're washing your hands, washing your cutting boards and rotating and eating food within its shelf life," said Woolsey.

There have been more food-borne illnesses from produce than meat or fish in recent years.

Also, soaked raw garbanzo beans contain the compound lectin, which can be toxic.

Soaked nuts do work. However: "Keep them underwater or else they risk the chance of being moldy," said Russell.

Then discard the water and rinse well.

Need more help? Russell holds raw cooking classes Saturday mornings to learn to juice, soak, blend and dehydrate. And EatRawRight.com provides resources to enjoy eating without heating.


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