6 Amazing Raw Foods To Help Upgrade Your Diet
In this blog post I look at healthy plant-based raw foods that raw foodies love which are highly nutritious, nourishing and really easy to use in your recipes. If you’re curious about how to start a raw food diet and wondering what foods you can eat then here’s a few suggestions that may surprise you.
When I first became interested in raw food I mainly focussed on simply adding more fresh fruits and vegetables into my meals. As I went along I began to see other foods and ways to prepare them that I hadn’t paid much attention to before.
One of the surprising and lovely parts of eating this way is that you do learn how to make the most of everything. Every season, every plant. You become more open minded about foods and start to use ingredients you haven’t noticed before, in ways you never previously came across.
So I thought I’d share some of the foods that have opened my eyes. I love the ways you can use each of these groups and encourage you to take a look yourselves and investigate to see if they give you as much joy as they do me!
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1 - Fresh Raw Microgreens
Microgreens are tiny plant seedlings - mini versions of their fully formed selves and not quite reaching their ‘baby greens’ stage. They’re grown from the seeds of herbs, vegetables and edible flowers such as radish, broccoli, spinach, beetroot, rocket, kale, chard, basil, sunflower, pea, coriander, nasturtiums and marigolds.
Microgreens go a step beyond sprouting where the they begin to grow and produce tiny leaves. Remember growing cress at infant school when you were little to see how plants grow? Well, it's pretty much along the same lines.
Unlike sprouting though, microgreens typically require soil in order for them to grow (although large commercial producers may use felt grow mats). Whereas you can grow sprouts in a jar or other container using just water in 2-5 days.
Once the seeds have sprouted they start to grow at an accelerated rate, charging up towards the sun. They need an incredible amount of energy in order to do this, which until then has been stored up inside the tiny seed just waiting to be released.
The new plant needs energy from the sun in order to succeed in reaching their full potential. So if you’re eating these you’re not only taking in their incredible range of nutrients but you’re also taking in their energy.
They’re usually harvested in about one to four weeks depending on the plant, at about 3-4 inches tall. If you’re growing them at home you can harvest them using scissors to snip them from their roots just above the soil.
How do you use microgreens?
Although they’re light and delicate at this stage of their lives they really do add a great punch of flavour to your salads and meals. They’re packed full of goodness and are understood to be more nutrient dense while tiny than when they’re fully grown.
I think microgreens are rather pretty too and love to add them to salads. In fact I’ll pop them onto just about any dish including wraps, sushi, soups, curries and into my morning smoothies to give me an added nutrient boost.
While you may have seen microgreens in the supermarkets they’re pretty easy and inexpensive to grow at home. You can grow them in a small amount of compost in a relatively small space and they take only days to grow (7-21 depending on the plant) before you can harvest them.
I have to say that I absolutely LOVE growing microgreens at home in the kitchen. My faves are sunflower shoots and pea shoots.
If you want to try them before growing them yourself award winning London based company Growing Underground produce beautiful collections of microgreens easily added to your weekly shopping supplying some of the UK’s most popular retailers. And if you’re super interested, you can currently book a farm tour with the world’s first underground farm based in Clapham via their website here >>
2 - Raw Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are incredibly versatile and can be used to prepare many healthy raw food dishes. From pesto to vegan sauces, dips, dressings, granola, soups, salads, and homemade cereal bars, nuts and seeds can also provide wonderful texture and crunch.
If you want to try alternatives to dairy you can use raw nuts and seeds to make your own nut milks such as almond milk, tiger nut milk, or hemp milk for example, at home with a blender & even try making your own nut butters.
You can also use nuts and seeds in making desserts such as ice cream, cheesecake, biscuits and to make vegan cheese recipes..
The USDA and WHO both recommend nuts and seeds as part of a healthy balanced diet but, what nutrients do they offer?
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, they’re a great source of micronutrients such as potassium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, iron, B vitamins and vitamin E.
Nuts and seeds are also high in fibre, healthy fats and are a great source of protein.
It's quite common for raw foodies to turn them into living foods by soaking and sprouting raw, unpasteurised, non-roasted nuts and seeds before eating to break down their outer coating. This process makes them easier for our bodies to digest by breaking down enzyme inhibitors, phytic acid and tannins which therefore allows us to take in more nutrients.
All in all they’re such fabulous and versatile foods and really fun experimenting with if you love tinkering with recipes in the kitchen!
3 - Raw Seaweed
Sea Veggies are actually algae and are often overlooked in healthy diets. They've become more popular in the West in recent years and now can be found in many health stores and some supermarkets.
Most seaweeds we can buy only need to be soaked rather than cooked (not the flakes) which makes them really easy healthy raw foods to add to your salads, soups and other dishes.
Sea vegetables come in three colours - green, red and brown, the most popular ones are:
They’re full of nutrients including sodium and iodine, phytochemicals, trace elements and chlorophyll.
4 - Use Fresh Herbs & Spices
Herbs and spices have the amazing ability to completely transform the flavour of our meals and many have also been used traditionally the world over to aid our health in one way or another.
They’re especially useful in dips, dressings, sauces, salads and soups but you really can add them to just about anything!
Easily available in our supermarkets and garden centres, herbs and spices are also really fun to grow either on your windowsill or in your garden. They’re a staple in my pantry and garden and I always have at least one pot growing in the kitchen no matter the time of year because I feel they’re so essential. Put simply, food would be pretty boring without them.
It’s so easy to try fresh alternatives in addition to using the little jars of dried herbs you already have at home. Which do you love to use regularly?
Here I’ve put together examples of herbs and spices often use for re-creating some of your your favourite flavours:
Chinese - garlic, ginger, chilli, star anise, clove, Sichuan pepper
French - garlic, dijon mustard, basil, thyme, rosemary, fennel, capers, chervil, tarragon,
Greek - garlic, thyme, oregano, fennel, dill, mint, parsley
Italian - garlic, basil, marjoram. fennel, parsley, thyme, bay, sage
Indian - cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, turmeric, ginger, chilli, cinnamon, fenugreek, cardamom,
Mexican - chilli, coriander, garlic, cumin, paprika, oregano, chipotle,
Thai - garlic, galangal, coriander, kaffir lime, chilli, tamarind, peppercorn, lemongrass, holy basil
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5 - Sprouting raw nuts, seeds, beans and grains
Sprouting is another really fun and easy way to prepare foods at home in a small space and you can enjoy doing this indoors all year round. You can sprout raw nuts, seeds, beans and grains.
By soaking these tiny seeds and allowing them to sprout you are activating the process of germination and the seed will begin to show a tiny shoot.
This whole process of sprouting makes the food easier to digest once the hull breaks down and falls away. They’ve become especially popular more recently as people learn about their nutritional value. They’re highly nutrient dense - choc full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fibre and antioxidants.
You need to soak, rinse and drain them each day according to their packets growing instructions for them to sprout. You usually give them a rinse in the morning and once in the evening each day which takes just a couple of minutes.
Typically sprouting takes between 2-5 days depending on the seed. You only need clean water to do this and although you can buy equipment online and at your local health food store, you can get started quickly at home using a glass jar.
It’s important to purchase good quality seeds from a known source and that they are raw, organic and clearly marked suitable for sprouting. Make sure also that the equipment you use is scrupulously clean.
Popular seeds to sprout at home are sunflower, sweet pea, buckwheat, radish, broccoli, millet, oats, almonds and of course there are many more. This process really doesn’t take much effort at all and you gain hugely. Plus it’s fun!
I love to use them in salads mainly but you can also use sprouts in wraps, to make pates, in dressings or add them to your smoothies and soups. You can also add them to stir fry’s (think bean sprouts/mung bean sprouts) and use them to make sprouted grain bread or even dehydrate them to make crackers.
A popular brand to use that you probably will have come across before is Vogel. They produce high quality products that are fab to get you started without being too expensive. But, if you fall in love with sprouting and decide after experimenting that you want to grow sprouts regularly I’d definitely look for somewhere you can buy top quality sprouting seeds in larger quantities so that they’re more affordable especially if you like to eat them every day.
And please do your research and make sure that the foods you are sprouting are suitable to be eaten raw, if that’s what your intention is. Some foods like red kidney beans contain toxins and shouldn’t be eaten raw at all. If you’re unsure then call or email the producer and ask. You can also lightly steam or cook some don’t forget; I do this with chickpeas.
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6 - Raw Fermented Foods and Drinks
These have become more popular in recent years and are some of my favourite foods! Raw unpasteurised ferments have been used traditionally for centuries all over the world as a way of preserving foods.
Ferments also come with health benefits which as a nation we are still learning about. The most commonly reported health claims in the media are that probiotics strains (live microorganisms) may improve our tummy health.
Microorganisms are found on the leaves of foods like cabbage which is used in making sauerkraut and kimchi. The lactobacillus converts sugars into lactic acid which limits the growth of harmful bacteria and preserves the food.
Pasteurising these foods kills the living microorganisms in them and it's the pasteurised ones we tend to see available in the supermarkets.
I love these types of raw foods because they’re really healthy, fun, versatile and affordable to make. Easy ferments to begin making at home are sauerkraut and ginger ale. Of course, you can make quick pickles at home using vinegar but the raw unpasteurised kind that bubble and fizz add a particular tang to dishes that just can’t be compared to any other food (in my opinion).
As with any change in your diet please do your research. You should always speak to your doctor or qualified healthcare professional before making changes and to discuss if including these plant-based and raw foods would be suitable for you.
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See at a glance what ingredients you have and might need when planning next weeks meals, drinks and snacks.
Includes nuts, seeds, sea veggies and sprouts.
If you enjoyed this post about raw foods and found it useful, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Facebook. Thank you!
Ta ta for now and take care, I’m off to make some tea!
mum, dog owner, lover of raw food