Raw food advocate chef Jeon Ju-ri enjoys her signature raw zucchini-based noodles at a cafe in Apgujeong-dong, Seoul.
By Kelly Frances
The raw food diet is based on the belief that the healthiest food for the body is uncooked, unprocessed and natural. In essence, raw foodists believe that cooked, processed, and refined foods lead to illness.
In the diet, food may be fermented, dried, or softened through soaking. Heating is acceptable so long as the temperature is below 48 degrees Celsius.
“Anything hotter degrades the enzymes naturally present in fresh food-which aid digestion and nutrient absorption,” Chef Jeon Ju-ri said.
Jeon has just returned to her homeland after studying at the Living Light Culinary Art Institute in California with a simple but ambitious dream: to popularize the raw food lifestyle among her native countrymen.
There are different ways that people follow a raw food diet. Most adherents are vegan, meaning they avoid animal products. Some consume raw goat milk products, sashimi, or carpaccio (raw meat). For most, raw food makes up at least 70 percent of their diet. Raw food advocates adopt the strict diet for many reasons. For Jeon, it was illness that led her to raw food.
“Several years ago, I suffered from severe allergies and was forced to take strong medication,” Jeon said. “I researched alternative treatments and discovered that dietary changes improved my condition more effectively than medication.”
In the first step, she tried to cut out animal products and began trying some simple raw foods, but found them bland and unexciting. After a while, she went back to her junk food ways of the past.
“I knew that diet had the ability to change the quality of my life, but I was unclear about the answer at the time,” she said.
Soon after, she discovered a raw food recipe book and began researching more creative dishes. After a month on a more innovative raw food regime, Jeon felt like a changed woman, and decided to pursue formal training in the field of raw food nutrition.
“I felt transformed. I was losing weight and had a lot more energy, but the effect on my mind was the true phenomenon.”
While the lifestyle has met with some criticism, the trend has a substantial following, particularly in North American and European metropolises.
Critics point out that the diet is not for everyone, and there are certain foods that require cooking in order for the body to digest them. Concerns such as insufficient calories, increased flatulence, stomach problems, food poisoning, or the inconvenience of living in a region with few raw food options are all challenges a raw foodie may face.
“Home-prepared foods are best,” Jeon said, noting that equipment such as a food processor, blender and spiral slicer are invaluable tools.
Many foods are simple to prepare, such as fruits and salads. Other foods can demand advanced planning. For example, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds are required to be soaked overnight to become more digestible.
From a scientific perspective, a raw food diet contains fewer trans-fats and saturated fat than the typical Western diet, and is naturally low in sodium and sugar, while high in fiber, numerous vitamins, and health-promoting antioxidants. These properties are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
In the meantime, Jeon is pursuing a PhD in nutrition and working on sharing her skills with others through her weekly demonstrations. To learn more about Jeon’s classes, visit: http://blog.naver.com/julls8628
The writer is a guest columnist from Ontario, Canada, and is currently living in Seoul. She welcomes topic suggestions from readers, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org