Guest Post: Bitt on Going From Raw vs Cooked to Raw plus Cooked
January 2, 2011

aimee apron

Hey guys!

I hope you enjoyed Mara’s inspirational post yesterday. I thought that I would keep us on the theme of balance, and I asked my dear friend Bitt to contribute a post about how she’s negotiated a raw/cooked food balance in her life.

This is a topic I’ve written about, too: in fact, I wrote a post about my own raw/cooked balance not too long ago. But you needn’t even scroll back to have a general sense of the kind of semi-raw, all vegan lifestyle I lead. My blog says it all: salads, nut pates, smoothies, and raw wraps are the foundation of my diet, but they’re punctuated by tons of cooked vegan fare. This keeps me happy, and it also gives me the freedom to cook for the non-raw people I’m close to, including my boyfriend and my friends.

Finding such a balance wasn’t immediate: in my first year of eating raw, I was so hopelessly in love with raw food that it was all I ever wanted. That was fine. Over the course of the next two years, I started reacquainting myself with lots of cooked favorites, and that was fine, too. Even now, my balance will fluctuate depending on the season, my mood, my schedule, and who I’m cooking with.

This year, I’ve watched as my dear friend Bitt—one of the smartest and most honest bloggers I know—finds balance within her own life. Bitt came to raw foods for healing, and was always a bit more immersed in the raw food lifestyle than I was, but we’re both hardcore vegans who have played around with our raw proportions. I think we share both a love of raw foods and a healthy understanding of why they shouldn’t exclude all cooked foods, and I’m delighted to have her share more of her story with you. Enjoy!

me with llamaThe very compassionate Bitt with a llama friend.

I’ve been down a long road with raw foods—and it’s been twisted and tangled. Lately, even more so. Gena asked me to write about how I balance raw and cooked foods, and I would love to be able to give a simple answer like “I’m raw ‘till dinner” or “I’m 80% raw” or something of that sort. The thing is, I haven’t sorted it out yet. Instead, what I have for you are some insights on my past and present thoughts about raw foods.

The idea to eat only raw foods came to me in an odd way. I was feeling drained and knew my body needed a change. When I was at a conference and they couldn’t figure out what to serve me that was both gluten-free and vegan, so by default I ended up eating a lot of salads, fruit, and the trail mix I brought with me. Between that experience and knowing that I felt more energy after eating salads (despite the fact I didn’t like them very much), I decided to “go raw” for a week.

On the internet, looking for recipes, I found some raw forums that were helpful. One had a challenge put forth to members: Could you eat raw for two weeks? I was almost through the first week and I felt it was feasible to do it longer. And then it started going by like a blur. I ate nearly all raw for 6 months straight. I learned how to make delicious raw dishes. Before raw, I had come to loathe cooking, but making raw food was so easy! I invested in a Blendtec and a dehydrator to expand my options.

Then came the tricky part. I tend to be a black and white person and it was easy for me to get into the mindset of “raw = edible” and “not raw = inedible.” A lot of the raw foods literature and online forums I was reading were reinforcing the notion that cooked food is “poison.” I read incredible stories of people whose lives were transformed in amazing ways with raw foods: weight lost, cancer healed, diabetes reversed, and so forth. It was inspiring and uplifting. I was even experiencing some of those things myself, like a loss of eczema I had struggled with for decades.

However, my chronic back pain was not alleviated. I tried juice feasting (which is drinking a gallon of green juice a day) and other forms of detoxing, but they aggravated my pain. I hated to admit it, but my iron levels got lower and I developed hypothyroidism.

Of course, this isn’t to say raw diet’s at fault. It could have happened anyhow. But since I was blogging about it and sharing in forums, I got loads and loads of advice: try to eat only fruit, try to eat low-glycemic, try a water fast, try this form of natural healing, do this, do that. Some things I tried and found helpful. But the advice became a bit overwhelming.

Then others blamed the vegan diet—even one of my naturopaths. There was really no scientific evidence that I was even deficient in anything at that point (supplementation had slowly but surely brought my levels back to normal) but he still thought there might be some sort of magical element in meat that would make me well. This reminds me of how some raw foodists think that there is a magical life force or vibration in raw foods that can make you well. I don’t really buy either theory.

Instead I found myself wanting a little cooked food. Just here and there at first, like miso soup with veggies or some popcorn. I appreciated examples of other people who successfully maintain a high raw diet, like Gena, Kristen, and Lori and Michelle. I pulled away from the raw forums in order to give myself a break from the constant 100%-raw-foodism-or-bust attitude that was making my head all twisted.

And my head was twisted. I had demonized cooked foods and forgotten how to eat them. Raw foods act really different in your stomach. If you eat only raw, there is this sort of light feel during digestion—save raw cabbage, which is excruciating! When I first introduced cooked foods back into my diet, they felt so heavy. I took advantage of this and it really helped me during those times when I felt like no matter how much raw food I’d eat I was still hungry. A little dense cooked grain like quinoa really helped me feel satisfied.

Then a lot of my deep-seated feelings of deprivation came to haunt me. In the two years I was nearly 100% raw, new veggie restaurants had come to town and new vegan and gluten-free foods had come on the market. I hadn’t tried any of them! I scrambled to catch up, feeling left out. Simultaneously frustrated with many in the raw food community for their embracing of eating animal products and rigidity, I find myself floundering a bit with not many anchors for figuring out the right type of diet for me. It’s taking time to work it out, even with the positive influences of my fellow high raw bloggers.

So I can’t present to you my average diet at this point, because it’s honestly in flux. This morning I woke up and had a delicious green smoothie with kale, banana, blueberries, strawberries, hemp protein, and wheatgrass powder. But tomorrow I might make oatmeal with gluten-free oats, apples, homemade almond milk, and maple syrup. It just depends on my mood and hunger level.

I still struggle with sugar cravings. It’s the one thing I do eat that makes me feel crummy. I do fine with raw sweeteners like dates and coconut nectar and small amounts of agave, but sugar cane—even if vegan and organic—isn’t the best for me. Once I opened the sugarcoated floodgates, I couldn’t get enough. I can understand why people have to completely limit one food because they don’t feel like they have control over it. I hope I don’t have to do that forever, but I do have to be much more mindful of it.

My diet will never be comprised of all cooked food because I love so many aspects of raw foods: fermenting veggies and making sauerkraut, sprouting (which is very rejuvenating in the dead of winter), making fresh almond milk, the ease of throwing together a homemade date/nut bar, eating simple sliced fruits and veggies for snacks, the way green juice makes me feel, and wowing people with gourmet raw desserts. I’ve realize now I am in this for the long haul, so I know the amount of cooked food I’ll include in my diet will fluctuate from time to time. I appreciate the flexibility this allows me (even within my vegan and gluten-free constraints), but know that raw food is my base for good health.

I really wish I could end my story with a miracle of being in amazing health and have solved all the world’s problems. I don’t find eating raw foods to be a miracle, just one of many tools for better health. Eating some cooked foods gives me a chance to get more forms of iron into my body (beans!) and feel more satiated. Cooked foods are not a miracle to me either. There is a downside to my eating cooked foods, particularly because my eczema has come back since the introduction of cooked foods. That is why I have to continue to experiment to find a balance that works best for my body.

On to a recipe. One of the things that I think almost anyone could do to get more greens and raw food into one’s diet is to make a green smoothie. These smoothies really helped me when I was first starting to eat raw food. I feel like the greens balance the sugars of the fruit and if you aren’t a huge salad person, you can get some greens by drinking them instead.

Here’s my basic recipe for green goodness: Bitt’s Berry Smoothie.

green smoothie top

Bitt’s Berry Smoothie (serves 1)

3-4 stalks of kale or chard (a few handfuls of spinach would work too)
1-2 bananas, fresh or frozen
a cup of frozen berries (I rotate these between cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or a combination) or frozen mangoes
2 teaspoons hemp protein (I can’t really take more than that or its too gritty)
½ teaspoon wheatgrass powder (optional)
1-2 cups water or almond milk (or I’ve even used kombucha)

Add all ingredients to blender. I like my smoothies thick, so I’ll use the least amount of water to get it to blend as possible. If you are a green smoothie newbie, go lighter on the greens at first. Then gradually add more.

If you want to be a complete raw food dork like me, put your smoothie in a mason jar and color-coordinate your glass straw to match.

Thank you Gena, for the opportunity to post here and everyone please feel free to visit me over at bittofraw.com.

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    33 Comments
  1. I truly love your openness and honesty! I agree with you about finding a balance, some days I want to eat 100% raw and have boundless energy, other days I would rather devote my brain focus on my work and not be in the kitchen for a few hours. Just like anything, it’s about finding the balance!

  2. I really needed this. I have only been trying raw (80-90%) for a couple of weeks, but already I am super stressed about the whole “cooked food is poison” idea. I know it isn’t–or I’d be dead–but I’m so new to everything that it’s difficult for me to find perspective. I have young children at home, however, and it is very stressful trying to decide what to give them and what to allow when they want a treat. I don’t want to be too restrictive, but how can I give them food that is SO BAD for them (i.e., meat, dairy, and cooked foods)?! I really need to find a balance, but the whole idea of raw seems to center on the idea that cooked food is addictive and it is necessary to kick that habit in order to truly enjoy raw food. Help me!

  3. What a fantastic post, Bitt. I felt like the raw diet was the magic bullet for the longest time. I went 100% raw in order to heal (which I did), but when I wanted to add cooked food in, I dealt with a lot of guilt. I’ve found a balance that works for me. Thank you for your honest thoughts!

  4. Great post. I’m relatively new to raw foods, but have intuitively reduced my raw food intake in the winter. I am craving miso soup, oatmeal and other vegan/vegetarian soups. High raw worked really well for me in the summer and I’m guessing it will again. I’m with you on no-diet being 100% magical and finding the balance that leaves you feeling your best, both mentally and physically.

  5. Love you Bitt!! Thanks for the shout out, and thanks for sharing your story. As much as we love raw foods, we love cooked food too. It took us a long time to be “okay” with eating cooked food again, but now we are happy with our balance of raw and cooked food!

  6. Fantastic post Bitt.
    “I don’t find eating raw foods to be a miracle, just one of many tools for better health.”
    Beautifully put. I think all too often raw foodists treat raw food as being some kind of magical substance (which goes hand in hand with the thinking that cooked food is poison). I applaud you for not subscribing to the dogma that can be associated with raw food, and for embracing a balanced approach and listening to your body. 100% raw may work for some people, but it’s not for everyone! I really admire the way you’ve stayed true to what you believe and not let stigma get in the way. Thanks for sharing your story!

  7. Happy new year!

    I love this post and I think this blog is a great context for it. It’s great that you’re so honest about the fact that there is so much more to being raw than just the black and white.

    love
    Ela

  8. Thank you for this post. I can totally relate. It can be difficult, but that’s what life is all about.
    Thanks again, this was inspiring.
    Happy New Year 🙂

  9. Bitt, thank you for the wonderful post! I really appreciated your honesty and so much I can relate to. Last winter I attempted to go %100 raw and it was much too depriving in the cold weather. And I was experiencing weird cravings and energy sags. I found balancing more cooked vegan foods and grains into my diet worked better. Again, awesome post!

    • I felt so cold my first raw winter. People just kept telling me that it was detox. No. Turns out I had thyroid issues!

  10. Hi Bitt,

    Thanks for sharing your great, honest story. I too can relate to a lot of it. I went 100% raw vegan cold turkey at Easter 2010 (onmivorous but clean-eating before that). That lasted until the fall when I started to suffer some health issues and needed to supplement as well as incorporate more cooked vegan foods. I’m still trying to find the right balance, but have settled on a low-GI, high-raw diet with some cooked veggies, legumes and pseudograins added in.

    Best wishes in your quest for healthy balance!

  11. It’s interesting, but a label that I have never seen used around these parts is “Nutritarian.” Instead of worrying so much about going 100% raw and stressing mysef out (I did this for a few weeks but realized quickly the insanity of it–which is unusual for me to realize the insanity so quickly, LOL!), I just try to eat as many raw and cooked veggies as I possilby can, along with fruit and beans and a little bit of healthy oil (from coconut, avocado, nuts and seeds). Things from an animal or things with refined sugar or processed food–that I try to eat only rarely. I feel sane and happy!

  12. Wonderful post Bitt! I think the rigidity of many “movements” has caused so much grief for people. I also think that anyone who thinks diet alone will cure them is setting themselves up for a huge fall and really can lead people down some dangerous paths of eliminating food after food after food in order to become “healthier”. I think you have a very sensible approach and a very realistic view of food and that is refreshing.

  13. Great post! I’m currently removing dairy from my diet, as I found it to aggravate my skin. I’m also removing meat, aiming for a more plant-based diet, and incorporating more raw foods. It’s definitely difficult, especially with everyone around you trying to fit you under a ‘category’.
    Here’s to a healthy new year!

  14. Great post. I’m always seeking balance in my life and a balance between raw and cooked is no exception. I do want to maintain a high percentage of raw foods but I also want to eat some cooked foods. I’m prioritising being gluten-free in 2011.

  15. It’s funny how many of us have fallen in instant love with a raw food diet, to then realizing we miss cooked food, and all raw isn’t the *only* healthy lifestyle. Like you Gena, I was very high raw for the first year, and have now come to miss some vegan cooked foods, that I now balance into my diet. I love the honesty that you and Bitt share. As much as I LOVE raw foods, it’s the “raw food solves everything,” and, “cooked food is poison,” that Bitt mentioned, that really can prove harmful. So I really appreciate this thoughtful post, and hope that the theme of balance stays with people. Balance is crucial- to more than just our diets, but to all aspects of life. Striking a balance creates greater happiness in my opinion. THANKS!

  16. Bitt thank you for your honest post and because I read your blog I knew your path and progression on these things but it was interesting hearing you flesh it out more, here. Thanks.

    “I pulled away from the raw forums in order to give myself a break from the constant 100%-raw-foodism-or-bust attitude that was making my head all twisted.”—
    AMEN!
    Too much of the time I feel like blogs, and espi online forums, can get so one-sided. Throwing the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. Black and white, dogmatic, all or nothing…which just messes with your head, and then ultimately your body, and soul too. The exact opposite of what one wants when they embark on a dietary path for health reasons.

    So glad you have found a balance, of what works for you, through trial and error. For me, I am mostly raw, plantbased, gluten free. I used to be more raw and more soy avoidant, but after healing my own gut, i.e. probiotics and not eating my allergens, I can tolerate soy better as well as enjoy cooked food more.

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. Brave and honest. There’s not much more you can ask from people, you did great Bitt.

    Thanks for hosting Gena. I’m gonna look around! 🙂

    H

  18. hey Bitt! great post! its hard to find a balance. lately i have been trying to eat more raw. its nice to know that not everybody is so rigid thinking and that i dont have to be either!

    “I don’t find eating raw foods to be a miracle, just one of many tools for better health”

    i love this line. im really struggling with the whole rigidity of beind raw(im my own worst enemy), so as i already said, its always nice to read your blog and know that it doesnt have to be like that.

  19. I really appreciate the timing of this post! I recently decided to incorporate more raw foods into my diet — not to go completely, or even “high”, raw, but to see what even 50/50 might feel like. I learned a good deal from this post. Thank you!

  20. I completely agree with everything you said, Bitt. High raw is most definitely not for everyone, it’s definitely not for Jenn and I, we learned that after experiencing the cooked = poison way of thinking, it was stressing us out, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to attain with a high raw diet. And we realized that our foodie/cooking hobbie was way too big to limit it to just raw, it’s just more fun to cook whatever you want and not have to worry whether it’s over 115 degrees. Having said that, we are firm believers in raw food and try to incorporate it as much as we can into our diet depending on our mood and what ingredients we have on hand.

  21. i read your blog and your truth and honesty is such an inspiration to my own health. i’m glad the health food blogsphere has someone like you out there bitt.

  22. Thanks for a great post, Bitt! I have been on a similar journey this year and appreciate your perspective.

  23. This is a great guest post and I think answers a question a lot of people have about raw/vegan diets. I’m often one of those people who like to do things 100%(probably a type A personality thing). And yet as soon as I tried going down that path, I was setting myself up for failure. There are certain things I do 100%, like eating gluten-free because it’s just not an option not to. But I’ve also found giving myself wiggle room with what’s “healthy” food and what’s not has only encouraged me to try new things more often and never left me discouraged. I’m not planning on heading for a raw/vegan diet, at least not anytime soon, but if I did I’d need to keep dark chocolate and roasted sweet potatoes around because I couldn’t give them up.

    • I too have to do gluten-free 100%. My body won’t tolerate even an ounce! I too like sweet potatoes and dark chocolate, although I think my homemade raw chocolate is pretty darn good.

  24. wow bitt, thanks for your story! i’m gluten/dairy free and most recently have been dropping my meat consumption (due to a diagnosis of ibs). i’m incorporating more alkaline, raw and cooked foods for fiber and easy digestion. this smoothie looks great!

    p.s. gena: i cannot wait to hear about nye with girl talk!

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