There is now more and more talk about these ‘living’ foods that our consumerist society tends to forget. What exactly are living foods? What are their health benefits? How to introduce them into your diet?
A long, long time ago, people ate raw food, berries or animals. Everything was consumed immediately because at that time, fire was only a frightening and devastating element. But it was not, strictly speaking, living food. The first nutritionist to formalise this concept was Ann Wigmore, born in Lithuania in 1909. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided to treat herself mainly through diet, which she changed completely by integrating only foods rich in enzymes and nutrients, such as raw and fermented fruits and vegetables, sprouted seeds, certain cereals, nuts, and herb juices. Living foods, part of the raw food movement, boast all the benefits of foods that have not been cooked, therefore retaining all their nutrients and vitamins.
“Living” before the plate
According to experts, nutritionists, naturopaths, dieticians… living food ticks all the boxes. Why? Because living foods are bundles of energy that transmit this energy to those who consume them raw. Through transitivity, the living generates, or at least maintains, the living. Vital energy, life force, and the energy balance, revolve around the same axis: the living. And, in an even more subtle way, when we pay close attention to this concept, we see further than the end of our plate.
Respecting the vitality of food
To take advantage of the nutritional benefits of a food, it is not enough to prepare it with gusto. It is important to start integrating its vitality from the very first point of contact… Because living food is born out of how we look at what we’re going to put on our plate. Choosing consciously, being aware of our food’s journey, visualizing or imagining the farmer who grew the wheat, the baker who kneaded the dough, or the market gardener who harvested the fruits and vegetables. The living is born out of what each person involved in the production process was able to (positively) put into it. Of course, not everything is controllable and there are bound to be imperfections, due to jostling, haste, stagnation in warehouses etc. But, the more good intentions and values there are surrounding production, harvesting, distribution, and preparation, the more the living is respected. Human beings are made up of vibrations, of polarities, of energy, and we breathe everything we are into what we prepare. So, a meal cooked in haste, without pleasure and subject to constraints, will not release the same flavours as one that is prepared with the right time, good intentions and enjoyment.
Because, as Dr Pierre Joyau, co-author, along with Cyrile Laporte, of “La nouvelle révolution alimentaire” [The new food revolution] published by Mango, likes to remind us, “We are what we eat, what we think, what we breathe, what we move”, and being aware of this is already breathing life into our food. These abstract concepts, which lie at the intersection between energy and nutrition, stem from the quantum sciences.
The “living” plate
Eating as we do in the blue zones, from Lomo Linda in California, to Okinawa in Japan, via Icaria in Greece or Nicoya in Costa Rica, means opting for plants and raw foods, and combining them with a healthy lifestyle, made up of physical activity, good-quality rest, and social connection. This virtuous combination alchemises the living food. Raw foods are in their whole (and living) form and not fractionated, dissociated, or “dead”. In fact, life is created by enzymes, which are at the origin of all chemical reactions within the body. These enzymes are proteins whose role is to trigger chemical reactions in the heart of cells. However, they are quickly destroyed during cooking (from 42 °C!), as are many vitamins (from 60 °C for vitamin C, 90 °C for vitamin B, and 100 °C for minerals and trace elements). Without them, food loses a large part of its value. So, by sparing raw food from the destructive cooking process, it retains its living nature
Preservation is important
It’s important to ensure that food is properly preserved and that expiry dates are respected so as to avoid any risk of food poisoning. Bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites proliferate in all types of food, but they are particularly prone to multiplying in raw food, since they are not neutralised (totally or partially) by cooking. Be extra careful with sprouted seeds and “homemade” fermented foods, as these two preparations must be made with the strictest respect for the key stages, at the risk of becoming truly toxic potions. So, should we go ahead anyway? Yes, because cooking everything and leaving little room for raw food on our plates creates a real deficiency in fundamental nutrients. So, what is the threshold we must not cross in order to benefit from the “raw” status? The fateful 42 °C. This is why some restaurants have opted for this name, which only industry insiders can understand…
The typical living plate
Odile Chabrillac, naturopath, Director of the Institut de Naturopathie Humaniste [French Institute of Humanistic Naturopathy], recommends that raw food account for about 70% of our plate, “while adapting to our living conditions, climate and temperatures”. The naturopaths’ favourite plate is made up of egg yolks, good quality fresh and organic dairy products, oily seeds such as almonds and hazelnuts, nuts of all kinds, sunflower seeds, sesame, seaweed or freshwater algae, certain cereals and sprouted legumes, fresh pollen, mushrooms, fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetables and their juices, avocados (in season and locally produced), coconuts, herbs, spices, condiments, chlorophyll, homemade plant milks (made from almonds, oats, hazelnuts, etc.), and raw chocolate. But eating living foods is not limited to eating raw (for example, raw meat and fish are dead…). Above all, the rule is to favour natural, unprocessed, unpasteurised, organic food, without fertilisers or pesticides, and that is mostly sprouted or lacto-fermented. Everything that has sprouted and is in full growth is a veritable nutrient “bomb” in motion, driven by the life force of the burgeoning fruit or vegetable. Consider also the birch sap cure, harvested in spring, a real rejuvenation and detox remedy for a body that just wants to come out of hibernation.
Living is better because…
Super energising, living food allows you to fill up on quality nutrients while avoiding the after-meal slump. It also ensures a fresher complexion, better hair, skin and nails, with the added bonus of lower cholesterol, fewer cravings and a boosted immune system. Unlike processed foods, living foods have no disadvantages and do not create deficiencies. Supermodified, overly sweet, overly fatty, processed foods are very expensive in terms of energy for the body, which has to over-adapt itself to process them and limit their harmful effects. The most well-known? The acidification of the blood, which causes the body to compensate by drawing on its mineral reserves (particularly in the nails, hair, bones, etc.) to neutralise this acidity. In addition to nutrients, living foods are rich in antioxidants, which protect cells, and also in fibre, which is the key to a good gastrointestinal transit and natural, daily detoxification. And although going completely raw is neither essential nor suitable for everyone, slowly introducing it into the diet is a health card to be played without hesitation. Eating cooked and hot food is not only comforting but also has its advantages: a good soup prepared after gentle cooking provides its fair share of vitamins and fibre. As an added bonus, cooking food acts as a preliminary form of digestion, allowing people with sluggish digestive systems to eat comfortably.
Drink living too!
Water is the life-giving drink of choice. It’s the one that facilitates cellular communication, a pure communication, carrying a message unpolluted by the addition of sugars, tea, coffee, and fruits. This allows water to fully step into its role as a cellular catalyst. In addition—but never instead!—we can drink fresh herbal infusions, tea, quality coffee, and fermented fruit juices. We should exclude the empty and dead industrial drinks from our shopping baskets. Also over-processed, pasteurised fruit juices and vegetable milks, often polluted by added sugars and salts, have lost almost all their vitamins.
Living drinks are fresh, in season, and unpasteurised. They must be stored in a cool place, protected from light, and consumed within a very short time period. Cold-pressed in order to preserve vitamins and minerals, fresh fruits and oily seeds are respected and remain vessels of energy and vitality. To avoid excess sugar, opt for juices that combe fruits and vegetables, such as beetroot, carrot, apple, and ginger, or even broccoli, ginger and turmeric. Also try to opt for fermented juices, which are alive thanks to the presence of natural bacteria, making them ideal for good gut health.
Homemade juice recipe.
- You need a juicer, a one-litre bottle, one kilo of vegetables of your choice (carrot, celery, beetroot, etc.), an onion, 150 grams of cabbage, 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut juice or a sachet of starter culture for fermenting fresh vegetables (available in health food stores), and two teaspoons of salt.
- Peel your vegetables, add the onion and cabbage, and then put everything in the juicer. Pour the mixture into the bottle and add the sauerkraut juice or starter culture sachet.
- Close the bottle tightly, but remember to open the cap once a day to release the pressure naturally created by the fermentation of the vegetables. Do this for three days in a row, taking care to shake the bottle every day, morning and evening, to prevent the mixture from turning mouldy.
- After four to five days, the fermentation process is finished. You can then keep your juice in the fridge to stabilise it and drink it as you wish.
- Also alive, birch sap, which is harvested every year in spring and sold once a year, is consumed as part of a three-week cleanse to detoxify and revitalize the body.
Because living things instinctively call out for living things, start introducing raw foods, vegetables and fermented juices into your diet little by little. Your microbiota, which lines the digestive tract, is alive and home to around ten trillion bacteria that constitute the first line of defence of our immune system. That’s the very one that protects us from all kinds of diseases, and that simply helps us stay… alive!