Myra Pascanìa from Hackney’s F.A.B. restaurant lets us in on her tips for making the transition to a raw food diet
The concept of a raw food diet can leave people feeling confused. Aficionados believe consuming a primarily raw food diet means we retain enormous amounts of live enzymes, vitamins, and minerals which in turn provides your body with a whole heap of vital nutrition. Chef Myra Panascìa from Hackney’s F.A.B. restaurant reveals her top tips for transitioning to a raw food diet while discussing all the pleasures and benefits this way of eating has to offer.
How does the raw diet work?
A raw food diet is made up of fresh, whole, unrefined, living, plant-based foods: fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, consumed in their natural state, without cooking or steaming. As human beings we need vitamins, minerals, good fats and carbohydrates, proteins, natural anti-oxidants and most of all enzymes that are totally missing in cooked food. By using unprocessed, unrefined, cold-pressed and uncooked food you make sure the maximum amount of nutritional value is available to your body and can be utilised for fuel, repair and metabolism.
I follow a ratio of between 50-80 per cent raw.
What brought you to raw food and inspired you to become a raw-foodist?
After starting my journey as a vegetarian in 1992, in 1996 I made the decision to become totally vegan. In the early years, I started to experiment by myself making juices-growing wheatgrass to extract the juice, and sprout. I then decided to travel to the states to visit a few raw schools and I learned a lot from my experiences. I felt such a transformation in my body, feeling healed of allergiy problems that had afflicted me for years. Returning home to Sicily, I started to really appreciate the abundance of seasonal fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, pulses and herbs that surrounded me. I created my own interpretation of raw food cuisine adding to it the Sicilian ingredients and flavours.
What are the benefits of following a raw based diet?
A raw diet focuses on ingredients that are not heavily processed or cooked, so they maintain their nutritional value. They represent an amazing source of energy which is easily digestible. That means they provide vitality and rejuvenation, stimulation of the immune system and the elimination of stress and tiredness. Raw foodists believe this way of eating can also slow down the ageing process and generate self-healing.
Does raw food require a lot of planning and preparation?
I like to invest time in food prep whether I’m making cooked or raw dishes. Raw food requires some forward planning-making sure I have the right types of produce, and enough fridge storage space, as well as a good supply of superfoods-pre-soaked seeds, freshly made juices and smoothies.
Overall raw food doesn’t require any more kitchen time than cooked.
Is eating a raw diet more expensive?
The base of a raw diet is fruit and vegetables. Ideally they should be organic and these are more expensive than regular varieties. Luckily, it’s possible to get weekly, seasonal, locally grown fresh products delivered to your own home at very reasonable prices. In my opinion this makes it a lot easier to stick to a plant-based diet. When there is more consciousness about the food you are eating and there is planning in what you purchase, this limits the amount of unnecessary waste and in turn saves you money.
One little bag of seeds can produce a huge quantity of sprouts that can feed a family for days with the appropriate amount of proteins and all the essential nutrients.
What is the best way for a novice to get into raw foods?
My key piece of advice to my novice students is to add good habits before getting rid of wrong habits.
The best way to begin is by increasing the amount of raw food you eat, while decreasing the amount of cooked food. The body has a natural intelligence that slowly will guide the novice to recognise the right path. I definitely recommend professional advice to help create a weekly plan which includes the right ingredients, food combinations along with distribution throughout the day according to the individual needs to have a balanced intake of all the nutrients.
A good start is to choose fresh, organic products or the best you can find. Organic cold pressed olive oil, coconut oil, raw tahini, to mention just a few. The first secret of a good, healthy and tasty meal comes from the quality of the ingredients and their appropriate combination. Never forget to chew your food properly especially your raw ingredients to be sure to completely extract the nutrients from the fibres. Raw food can also be preserved easily throughout the dehydration technique at less than 42 degrees. It’s so easy to travel with a bag of dehydrated raw food-very light and full of energy. I also recommend being aware of the hygiene when preparing raw food. Both ingredients and equipment need to be properly washed and preserved to avoid the growth of bacteria.
Is raw the future of cuisine?
I believe that more and more raw food is needed by people to get back and maintain good health. In recent years, more cookery schools around the world are introducing vegan and raw classes. Together with more consciousness is growing the request of healthier food and luckily there is a positive response from restaurants and grocery stores that are starting to offer more choices of vegan food with some raw options.
Myra’s Raw Meal Ideas
It’s easy to create either sweet or savoury raw recipes for your first meal of the day. If I fancy something sweet, I will reach for a smoothie, using ingredients like banana, prepared and cooled Matcha tea, ground golden linseeds or soaked overnight chia seeds, soaked and peeled almonds, raw agave, raw cacao nibs. This can be more protein or carb-heavy, dependent on your needs.
Some mornings I prefer a cup of sprouted chick peas with celery, tomato and parsley, seasoned with sea salt, oregano and extra virgin cold pressed olive oil.
- Fruit (one kind at the time: if you choose apples you can have two of them or more and preferably don’t mix with other fruits).
- Start the meal with fresh made juice (kale, beetroot, parsley or fennel, apple, fresh ginger or carrots, alfalfa sprouts, red pepper).
- Raw courgette spaghetti with basil pesto, fresh and sundried tomato, sprouted sunflower seeds, parsley and fresh basil leaves.
- Raw ‘sushi’ with alga Nori, soaked, peeled and roughly ground almonds, avocado, cucumber, carrots.
- Fresh fruit or a raw cake made of dates, nuts and fresh fruit or soaked chia seeds, soaked goji berries and ground raw cacao nibs, just to give you some ideas
- Sprouted quinoa with parsley, carrots, celeriac and ground macadamia, seasoned with coconut oil, sea salt and black pepper
- Linseed crackers with cashew nuts cheese