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Why We Must Eat Raw by Nestor Cuartero

SOURCE : Panorama Magazine, February 3, 2008

Nestor Cuartero PhotoThe health and wellness world is opening up to an old lifestyle known to man, eating raw food. In the many years preceding civilization, before and after the invention of fire, man ate mostly fruits and vegetables, all in their raw form.

Raw food is the latest wave among health connoisseurs’ quest for clean living and a healthy lifestyle. An exclusive restaurant called Cru on Sunset Avenue and Griffith Park Boulevard in Los Angeles offers an all-raw menu that has earned for it a pricey reputation as well as a haven for healthy eating. Other popular raw food restaurants in the area include Silver Lake and Juliano. The latter is located on Broadway Street in Santa Monica.

One evening recently, three of us media colleagues sat around a small, dressed up table on the 24th floor of a condominium in Ortigas Center, like students awaiting instructions from our teacher. We were guests of Cheloy Ignacio, formerly Muhlach, who’s now a raw food chef, eager to impress us with her new wonder discoveries.

Cheloy’s back after four months of training as a raw food chef in Sunland, California. While planning the launch of Manila’s first raw food restaurant, which may take quite a while as the project is not only ambitious but can also be quite costly, the woman who popularized Quickmelt Ensaimada has taken to teaching what she learned abroad.

‘Raw food has been one of the greatest miracles of my life,’ says Cheloy, looking radiant and forever young in her slim frame. She is breathless when it comes to enumerating the many benefits of a raw food diet. Many people, she says, have healed themselves of diseases and ailments such as diabetes, migraine, back pain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. by resorting to raw food.

Cheloy weight loss pictureCheloy proudly tells us she has lost weight efficiently-20 lbs and counting —since she started on a raw and living food diet. Her blood sugar and cholesterol levels went down with ease. She’s feeling great and energized. She also feels a lot more beautiful and confident inside that she has posed again for the first time after a long time in a bikini during a pictorial.

The way Cheloy talks spiritedly nonstop about her new lifestyle, one would think she has just discovered the secret to happiness or the fountain of youth. Or, maybe, she has.

Raw and living food, she shares, is uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains. Other foods that fall under this category are seaweeds, raw carob powder, cold pressed olive oil, and certain spices and seasonings. Without the benefit and high cost of cooking, raw food provides the body with vitamins, enzymes, and other nutrients that get lost when food goes through fire. When food is cooked at over 112 degrees (warm to the touch), it loses all of its enzymes.

Enzymes are important for every body function. As people age, their bodies’ natural source of enzymes gets depleted, so that there is a need to replenish this source through the foods that they eat. Cooked food is not one of them.

Citing studies and research on the subject, Cheloy says switching to a raw and living food diet has helped many people feel well for the first time in their lives. ‘One of the most amazing things that I have witnessed is how quickly this can happen, like in a matter of days or weeks only.’

Eating raw food, like fruit and vegetable juices, allows the smooth assimilation into the
bloodstream of food nutrients, says Dr. Samuel P. Dizon of the Institute for Natural Healing in Pasig City. ‘Raw foods provide the nutrients which heal the body, including the digestive system,’ he explains.
To heal the body, we must supply it with an enormous amount of nutrients above and beyond daily living requirements. Excess energy can be injected rapidly into the body through juicing, which, according to Dizon, is the body’s take-off point to detoxification or cleansing.

The evening started with a drink that Cheloy called Green Smoothie. It is whipped up by blending two to three cups of baby spinach, two or more cups of fresh lemon, two cups of coconut juice, one-half cup almond milk and two pieces of ripe bananas.

The Green Smoothie is the tastiest smooth drink one can ever hope for. Not being easily embarrassed when it comes to dining, and because I was in the company of friends, I finished three glasses full.

Asian Salad PictureCheloy then made us some of her favorite dishes, starting off with Asian Salad, a combination of mixed greens, sweet pineapple, strawberries, coconut meat, cucumber, turnips, sugarbeets and celery. Its secret was in the dressing consisting of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, liquid aminos seasoning, and God knows whatever else Cheloy pours into the heavenly mix.

We had mock salmon, which is actually ground walnuts with large scallions and red bell pepper. Cheloy presented them as nori rolls and as toppings on a lettuce leaf, eaten like lumpia. The stuffed Portabella Mushroom Caps, usually served as part of the main course, came with ground avocado-tomato-sea salt topping. All dishes were quite filling, but not in a tummy-heavy sort of way.

We took breaks after each serving as our raw food chef had to dash off to the kitchen next to the small dining table to prepare the next dish. Cheloy explained it was that way with her cooking classes, or more appropriately, food preparation classes. Everything goes through a blender or a food processor.

A dish is prepared, then tasted by her students, who usually number less than 10. Cheloy has taken to teaching what she learned abroad in an effort to propagate raw food eating in the Philippines. She holds classes, presented under a module called How To Live a Healthy Life by Living on Live Food.

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