I'm here with Kevala Karen Parker, master raw foods chef and quite an experienced chef at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, Arizona. Thanks for joining us today, Kevala.
Kevala: Thanks for coming out.
Mike: You have an enormous amount of information and experience to share with us today. Where shall we start?
Kevala: Well, I guess we can start by saying, first of all, that it's taken me several years to get to the point of having this knowledge. I'd like to say, actually, that it's more experience than anything else that I like to convert into inspiration for other people, for real people. My background is actually in environmental studies with a concentration in economics and conservation, so I'm not a nutritionist, I'm not a doctor; I'm more of a culinary artist, you can say.
Mike: That's a great way to say it.
Kevala: Yeah, I like to work with people one-on-one and also in groups, getting people informed and inspired about what the raw food lifestyle can do for them.
Mike: I'd like to share with those reading that what you can do with raw foods as an artist is absolutely astounding. I just had a raw foods brownie. I've seen the recipes for making raw pizza, sushi and hummus out of raw ingredients. You have hundreds of dishes that you can assemble artistically out of these foods.
Kevala: Yeah, it's a whole new way of looking at food, and I really like the potency of taste. It makes us, forces us, to reevaluate the way we look at food entirely, and that's the way we can look at our health and experience health and peace in our bodies and in our relationship with the earth and our lifestyles in general.
Mike: So, what got you initially interested in pursuing this?
Kevala: That is a great question. Where to begin on that? Well, since I was 14, I've been a vegetarian. I'm 29 years old now. Being a vegetarian and a youth, you're usually bombarded with questions from those around you, who are wondering why you're not fitting in like everybody else, and why you don't want to. So, I just chose to arm myself with facts and lots of information, and I was amazed at all the health benefits that come from being a vegetarian. Well, I originally went into the whole thing with more of a concern for the animals and how they're treated, and the factory farms in particular. I took heart in the lifestyle and health gains that could be had by doing a vegetarian diet even something that included fish just by cutting out red meat, pork and chicken; how people could dramatically increase their lifespan, lower cholesterol level, obesity, etc. Then, that just became kind of my modus operandi. I wound up researching nutrition and health; it kind of was an evocation, so by the time I was a senior in high school, I was a committed vegan, meaning someone who does not consume any meat or animal products, including cheese, eggs, fish and dairy products.
Mike: Do you also believe as I do, I'll say up front that the treatment of the animals, the slaughtering process, the violence of that, is in a way imprinted into the animals?
Kevala: Oh yeah, definitely. How can we quantify that? I mean, for a lot of people, that doesn't hold any weight. They'll say, "We've been slaughtering animals for thousands of years, why should it matter now?" Well, there's certainly a difference in the way that animals were once killed and how they are killed now, and not just in the slaughtering process, but in the horrid conditions that people are completely unaware of. If they had even the slightest exposure to this and the resulting nauseating condition it brings up inside of our bodies, which is of itself a symbol from our bodies saying that we shouldn't be agreeing with these eating practices I think that even the most meat-and-potatoes steeped person would at least rethink where their food comes from. There are a lot of cattle ranchers who certainly know the difference between something that is grazed and allowed to lead a decent life, and an animal that is kept indoors and isn't even allowed to roam around and walk and live a natural life. The effects that such stressful conditions have on the glands and the tremendous amount of adrenaline and other hormones that are secreted are then consumed by the people, on top of all the antibiotics that are put into food these days. Not to mention that we are what we eat, and these animals are also eating things like sawdust and chalk. And we're living in that age where just a couple years back, they found mad cow in Washington beef, and that came from these animals eating other animals.
Mike: Yes, it was verified in a Texas cow.
Kevala: I didn't know; I was unaware of that.
Mike: That was the second case.
Kevala: But here's the thing. Talk to Dr. Gabriel Cousins about that, because he is saying that, in fact, all of the cattle in the United States are tainted, and it's even spread to deer and other grazing animals, and it's also, right now, latent in dairy products and waiting to kind of be activated until, you know, a couple of years, when the body reaches a certain level of toxicity. So, it's a very interesting time to consider being a vegetarian, and we can rule out all the ethical issues and just go right to the heart of the matter for health.
Mike: Just health issues alone.
Kevala: Just health in itself.
Mike: People don't realize the mad cow disease prions cannot be killed by cooking, so if you pasteurize milk, it doesn't matter.
Kevala: That's a whole other issue, isn't it?
Mike: Yes, now, I don't want to focus on the horrors of food too long
Kevala: Food fear!
Mike: But for those reading, you have a website where you talk about some of these raw foods. Can you give out that website?
Kevala: It's www.raw4real.net. That's raw food for real people, also raw food for authenticity or, you know, a more potent reality.
Mike: Okay, so let's talk about that, a more potent reality. We're in a pretty potent reality right now where we're doing this interview, at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in the yoga pavilion. Surrounded by mountains, nature all around us, raw foods we just consumed that's pretty potent reality. So, how do we allow others to share in that?
Kevala: Wow, where to get started? I think probably one of the biggest hurdles facing someone sitting out there just reading these words on a computer at their job site or at home is linguistic reality. When you say the word "raw" or "raw foods," it sounds very boring. It sounds the opposite of potent, vibrant or lively. People usually think of a cold salad and think, "Who would want to eat that?" And who could blame them? When I first got into raw foods, I was a vegan, and I started studying film in San Francisco. I was eating different cultural cuisine pretty much every night because I just wasn't a big fan of spending all the time cooking for myself. I'd rather be out playing in the world, and in San Francisco, there is a fantastic dining scene. There was the first raw foods restaurant in the world. I have to pay some respect here to a restaurant called, coincidentally, RAW. Juliano Brotman's restaurant right across from Golden Gate Park was where I was first exposed to raw foods. That was back in 1997, and it was really quite lovely what they were doing way back then with buckwheat, sprouted pizza crust, hummus, but I would say most particularly, my favorites were the deserts. He didn't necessarily "create" raw cuisine. We can go back to the 60s for, really, the beginning of the American "raw foods movement," if you will. It is the much more modern-day version of raw foods something that began, really, the new way we are using now.
Mike: So, if I may paraphrase just for those listening, when some people think of raw food, they just think salad, carrots and rabbit food, but as you were explaining, there's an entire universe, a raw cuisine that goes far beyond that.
Kevala: Oh yeah, taste is probably the most exciting part of this. I mean, I have a lot of clients that wind up getting into the live food lifestyle because they are athletes and need to have more endurance or want to have less downtime. Maybe they are climbers, or they have to just work out heavily. Maybe they're cyclists; they can't have any inflammation in their joints or with their muscles. You get those benefits with living foods, and I'll explain why in just a little while. Certainly, I would say my biggest clients are middle-aged women, whose bodies are changing, and it doesn't matter what diet they try, nothing lasts. With the raw foods diet with a mindful raw foods diet, I must say, because they're not all created equal this staying power is real. That's not to mention, by the way, all the antioxidants and all the pharmacology in this cuisine, which creates very literal anti-aging effects.
Mike: So, for people who want to prevent chronic disease or may be battling chronic disease, in your view, there's no cleaner or more medicinally potent diet than raw foods.
Kevala: Well, someone would have to be very well informed and would have to understand which raw foods and why, so it's not just the apotheosis of, say, eating lots of bananas and carrots. It's where you can get the highest sources of bioavailable omega-3, -6 and -9 in the most perfect ratio, and things like that. So the raw food movement needs to grow up a little bit, and people need to understand that there's a difference between eating something like a low-glycemic fruit, for example like cherries, berries and dates or utilizing herbs like stevia and loti instead of using lots of honey and maple syrup to sweeten things. That's really where I see the main niche of working with Dr. Cousens, the pioneering work that he's doing as a physician, and it is my distinct honor to be his right-hand chef for some time.
Mike: And for how long have you worked as a chef?
Kevala: Well, let's see, it is 2005 now, so I came here in 2002. I was originally only going to stay for two months and then go back to Seattle and open up my own restaurant called Sunraw. I was all set to go. I had my funding, my location and everything, and then I really began to get into the flow of running the cafι here and became kind of the kitchen manager and head chef overnight, so what better experience for me? I had been a raw foodist for about two years at that time, and I began to go through more like a detox, you can say, because I was eating much more nutrient-dense cuisine a lot more dark, leafy vegetables like kale and working with more of the salubrious vegetables lots of seaweed and some supplements and so I wanted to work on myself much more and I wanted to learn more about this lifestyle and really be a product of that, and not just be another person out in the world with a restaurant promoting raw food but not necessarily having all the experience. I've taken the last several years in my life to travel around living out this lifestyle as a hypothesis. Is it indeed the best diet? Is there anything beyond this? There are just so many different variations in it, and food in itself needs to be seen in context of its dynamicity. There are certain foods that are more appropriate in certain environments, like for example, eating tropical fruits in a tropical environment makes much more sense than importing them to say, Scandinavia, and the way it will affect the blood is very, very different because nature has a whole blueprint that encourages us and enables the to get the maximum amount of benefits from those foods, sugary fruits and otherwise, because you're eating them in conjunction with other things that grow in that ecosystem.
Mike: There's a huge local movement now gaining steam in the United States.
Kevala: Yes, definitely. We should definitely go there. That authentic food movement is very important. There's an umbrella called organic food, right? Back in 1990, that was the big thing, but at this point now thank goodness, since we're having many more evolutions based on science you can see that variation where people are putting more of their attention on why we need to do things like eat locally. For us here at the Tree of Life, this authentic food movement means having foods that come from within a 250-mile radius.
Mike: You grow a lot of the food that is consumed here at the Center.
Kevala: We have definitely made a lot of headway. This is really difficult soil to grow in but thanks to the work of some great gardeners that have come through, especially someone named Chip and his ability to utilize something called EM technology we grow almost all of our greens here and have a litany of vegetables that are grown here, as well.
Mike: For those reading, EM is effective microorganism, something like probiotics for soil.
Kevala: Yeah, that's a good way of putting it.
Mike: The gardens down here are truly amazing, especially for being in the desert. We're in a high mountain desert, and you're growing heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and, of course, some native crops; it's amazing.
Kevala: Lots of root crops, too. There are fruits, too. There's an orchard of apples around here, too.
Kevala: Pomegranates, prickly pear cactus.
Mike: Lots of cactus.
Kevala: They actually do bear fruit, too.
Mike: Again, let me give you the web site for those reading, raw4real.net, and that's Kevala Karen Parker, master raw foods chef and, as you can tell, someone who lives this and doesn't just approach it from a technical point of view. You're not a technical assembler of food ingredients; you embody this; you live it; this is what you eat for yourself.
Kevala: That's true. This is what I eat for myself, and I try to divert away from it, too, because I'm not a fan of dogma in any fashion, and I travel a lot. The Tree of Life is one of my bases in the world, but as a consultant, I travel to different countries, see different cultures and help spas, restaurants and individuals get turned on to this whole new way of orienting ourselves toward food. When I'm in these countries and cultures, I like to try the foods that are indigenous to that population because, as a chef, I kind of use my tongue and my imagination in trying to create something that will ideally taste even better than "the real thing." You have to meet people where they're at. You can't just cut and paste an American platitude on top of what people have been doing and respecting for hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years. The hubris that goes with that approach is something that definitely has been in the infancy of the raw food movement. People get very enthusiastic about healing, and it's not even necessarily just their physical healing that is taking place. Psychologically and physiologically, you have a shedding that is not one's true self with this cellular detoxification, so the mental, emotional and even the spiritual correlates and can come across as this potent and resounding enthusiasm where the most well-intentioned people can seem zealot, or even pushy, perhaps even proselytizing their religious food choices, we can say.
Mike: Sure, I've run into vegetarians like that.
Kevala: Yeah, or Atkins diet folks. It's the human condition.
Mike: You said something very interesting I want to ask you about there. When you talk about meeting people where they are, how much you travel and experiment with food in different regions, it strikes me that it stands directly opposite the corporate fast food chain food model, which is the centralized production of food, the distribution of food and the sort of steamrolling cultures with American foods. We export food and disease.
Kevala: You're right. You sound very well informed on what the most modern nutritionists and proponents of not just health, but mental health and children's health and well-being in our schools believe. This is also for people right here on our own soil. What we largely see in other countries really with educated Europe being an exception is this out-and-out embrace of McDonald's and KFC and a belief that this, in a lot of ways, is a revolution: "We finally have the KFC, thank God. We're civilized now." How confusing that must be when that comes along with other medications that are beneficial. It's not necessarily like allopathic is bad. I need to insert that point because there is certainly some trespassing over with nutrition and pharmaceutical companies for sure. But food is such an interesting window into identity, and certainly people want to emulate the American lifestyle that they see on TV. And what's more American than hamburgers and french fries, you know? Even if you're in Indonesia, you have to work several weeks just to be able to get one of those meals, so what people don't have the experience of which time has shown to us here in this culture is how harmful that way of life is.
Mike: Let's take, for example, the South Pacific. In Samoa a few generations ago, it was all a native, traditional diet coconut, fish, tubers a very healthy diet, and people had really healthy teeth, by the way. Then, processed foods came in, and factory foods, and now there's rampant obesity, diabetes and dental cavities.
Kevala: And it's like that the world over. I mean, it's also right here with Native Americans as well, with white sugar, white flour, "white power." I mean, all of this came in and basically acted as an internal foreign agent, and their bodies had no reference points on how to fight this, so it's turned into cardiovascular problems in many cases and certainly rampant diabetes. Cancer is also very high so, you know, we have a choice. We all believe that we are invincible, particularly in our teens, and think that these health studies don't apply to us. But over time, it no longer takes an expert or a conspiracy theorist to say that fast food and this fast food nation certainly are devolving American citizens on a cellular level and otherwise because we're beginning to link into the relationship between a mineralized body and a better functioning brain and consciousness in general.
Mike: Look at mental health in this country today. I believe recent studies show as much as 15 to 20 percent of the population is currently suffering from some kind of a diagnosable mental disorder, and that's not normal.
Kevala: And what is normal, by the way?
Mike: Normal is no mental disorders.
Kevala: Right, how many people are schizophrenic and running around, medicating themselves other ways for example, using food, sugar and conspicuous consumption as their means of anesthetizing themselves?
Mike: That's a great way to put it alcohol, caffeine, sodas, lots and lots of sugar. This is sort of leading to another area that I wanted to ask you about. On one side, there's the dissociation that people experience between the food in the earth; then on the other side, through raw food or through spiritual recognition of this, there's the connection with the earth. What are your thoughts on this issue and what practical benefits can exist from having that connection?
Kevala: Probably for me as an environmental scientist, I think that perhaps it's the most interesting intersection, because you're buckling up human beings by nature of our superstructure by nature of the system into which we are born, which we are not necessarily responsible, per se. We get our food from the grocery store and, thank goodness, we don't have to spend all day long digging and hoeing out in the fields. I mean, God bless, but at the same time, we now have glow-in-the-dark cereal and purple ketchup and believe that that is "food," right? So, sure, for an extreme situation, we need to have an extreme response. Is the raw foods diet necessarily the most appropriate diet for all people, for all time, for always? I would hesitate to say, "Yes." Certainly, there are people in my field who would say, "Yes, by all means, raw foods is the only way; raw food or die," but I actually don't agree with that, and that's something I'll reference later on, as to what things one can cook and when it's beneficial, but in any case, for me certainly, I'm not a farmer. I have very much come to appreciate those who grow their own food and, when I'm in a stationary location, like when I lived in Seattle, I had a fantastic garden; however, I was just in New York City a couple of days ago. How many people there are able to grow their own food? Sure, if you could grow on your rooftop or in a kitchen herb garden, that's great, but what's the real solution?
What's really amazing about our raw food right now is that you're bringing the awareness of light. You're bringing in chlorophyll; you are bringing that transcending connection between the heavens and the earth the rain, the soil, stars, the sun and the minerals. You're bringing that entire fantastic interplay into your body; you're ingesting that all the time. That's a language; that's a code; that's a sophisticated biofeedback mechanism that our bodies ingest and that our bodies read, we could say, in some ways. Sure, you can read that for amino acids. By the way, when you cook things above 108 degrees for prolonged periods, you break down the enzymes and, in fact, the amino acids the language by which the body can translate this food, this information, this edible media and that puts our bodies in a capacity where we are forced to utilize our own enzymatic stores in order to make enzymes to digest that food. It's a potent reference to what happens inside because it really affects our whole reality and how we perceive the earth. You are what you eat, and you certainly are also where your food comes from.
Mike: It strikes me that there's not a lot of recognition in the traditional medical community of any difference between raw foods and cooked foods. Frequently, it's "a mass is a mass" or "a mineral is a mineral."
Kevala: A calorie is a calorie.
Mike: Exactly. You're talking at a whole different level. You're talking at an energetic, maybe even homeopathic, level as well.
Kevala: Certainly, human beings are very young on the planet, and we have to remember that vitamins only came out of the void when sailors were on ships and wound up getting scurvy, and we hadn't even identified vitamin C before. Science did not contain, in itself, a mechanism to define vitamins, and it was only out of a lack of something that we realized there was a need and then looked for an answer. I mean, the understanding of what phytonutrients are, of what phytochemicals are and into which category antioxidants are categorized is a whole new waking science about their benefits.
There's a new frontier of "cosmeceuticals" and other forms of life-extending and vanity drugs and medicines that are gaining more and more popularity, but again, they're brand new in this 21st century, and you know what? They generally come mostly complete, mostly bioavailable, meaning that our bodies can receive the maximum amount of yield from that food ingested when they come in their most perfect form, which is in the raw, natural state. Sometimes you can free these by slightly processing them and taking we'll say seeds out of their hull, so your body doesn't have to do that work. I'm not one of those overly romantic raw foodists who say, "Don't take it out of the hull; it's unnatural." I mean, certainly the effect on the body is what we have to look at here, and "What is the most healthful?" gives us clues as to what perhaps is the most ideal way is for us to live as human beings. Do we drive to work? Exercise at the gym after work? Take an anti-stress pill? Not have harmonious relationships with people that we love? We were running around from this diet to that diet in frenzy. Let's say you cut greens. Six hours after greens are cut, they have lost at least 50 percent of the vitamins and minerals that they had in them at one time.
Mike: Greens? Can you be more specific?
Kevala: Greens lettuces, kale, mustard greens, dandelion greens, spinach any and all of the above. I know dandelions sound a little weird; they did for me, too. They're still a little bitter, but lovely reader, have heart. With a nice macadamia nut sauce, you can make anything go down. Anyway, so what I can say for myself as a raw foodist living in the cities, I can say I'm increasingly a product of my lifestyle, where I need to have more and more of a tie in nature and be more in-flow with the natural cycle of the earth. My health has certainly skyrocketed as a result. I can say that for people like the leaders that I've seen in this field, who have been doing this kind of a diet for many years, eating more and more wild foods and listening to the intuition of their bodies that their bodies guide overall. Their decisions about not only food, but everything, began to unravel in terms of how they use their time, their brain, their heart, their hands and how that makes us more raw and more authentic if you will, which is perhaps a better word than raw, and begin to dissolve all that they are not.
So, generally for me, I'm a chef, but I'm also an instructor. I'm a lifestyle and wellness coach, so I've worked with people a lot, one-on-one, who are going through life changes, and they're looking for a change in their health because of this, the raw food lifestyle. The living food lifestyle helps people in so many different ways. They begin to feel so wonderful that they simply cannot go back to living the way they used to. For me, I was a pre-law student, and I got out of college and was working at an intellectual property law firm. It was one of the best in the country. They were representing Monsanto and the people who were researching the human genome. That was my day job and, by night, I was also kind of freelancing for an international, legal non-profit called Earth Rights.
Mike: Well, that's living in two worlds.
Kevala: Oh yeah, I'm all about it, but let's look at the best of the best in all worlds and try to understand and come to grips with the human condition what the human condition is and what it can be. I went raw during that time, and I realized that I was compromising my belief system. I didn't necessarily have to go into the belly of the beast as an environmental attorney in order to have a positive affect on the world. The living foods really encouraged me, I would even say propelled me, to pursue the beauty of my dreams. Maybe you don't even know what that is yet; maybe you just like the way it sounds, but cellularly you are nourishing yourself. When you're doing that with the best quality nutrition that you can find, just trust, process, detoxify and heal, and you are finally putting yourself back into the flow. People are born in a box. They're born into a system that tells them what they should think, what they should wear, who they should be and the kinds of choices they should make for their education, which fundamentally limits their potentiality, which fundamentally co-ops their human spiritual potential. You begin to tap into the power of the earth and what it can do for your body and, look out, you are a force to be reckoned with.
Mike: It focuses intention; it amplifies intention and faith, but let me bring in a bit of a skeptical reality check. We're getting into a realm that a lot of people who aren't familiar with this would really find difficult to believe. I might translate this a little better for them: What you're saying is that by adopting this lifestyle, switching to raw foods, you can change not just your health, but your life and relationships, your power, your intention, who you are. You use the phrase, "You dissolve all that you are not." These are nebulous concepts for a lot of people.
Kevala: They're radical, and they're terrifying.
Mike: Explain them more, because this is where the real power is, and this is what we need to get across to people.
Kevala: Well, now as we're moving into the 21st century, not just raw foodists, but doctors worldwide, some of the most conservative doctors, are looking at the way that we define health the effect of cortisol levels, how that affects our blood pressure and the fact that if you don't have good communicable relationships with other people, it can take a toll on you that can affect your overall health level. But really it's the quotient of happiness that we have of self-esteem, of satisfaction, the joy that we bring into every day, the meaning that we assign to the value of our work that signifies how we define our place in the world.
Mike: How does food affect this, then?
Kevala: First of all, most people are very uncomfortable in their physical bodies, and that's why you can see the buoyancy of something like yoga, for example, or palates or any addiction to sports. If we didn't have that ability to create those endorphins and other feel-good chemicals that the body secretes when we engage in physical exercise, people would feel extremely uncomfortable in their physical bodies. These physical technologies allow us to maintain the status quo, and certainly in some cases, to expand. They are fantastic for our mental ability, and at the same time, of course, for health, but there's so much more in terms of food. We can sight something like the leukocytosis study that was done, in which subjects ingested cooked food. This is a real study I'm citing, by the way. When people were eating cooked food it didn't matter what it was, vegetables, french fries or meat, for that matter the white blood cell count in the test subjects went up. Okay, white blood cells are a component of the immune system, (so) that's the immune system being triggered, signifying that there's an invader, or something that's a threat to health that's coming in. When those same people ingested foodstuff in its raw state, the white blood cell count stayed the same. That was just a drop in the bucket in terms of the studies that are out there.
You know, there are hundreds and hundreds of chemical transactions that take place when we cook our food. Just go back to seventh grade chemistry, get out your Bunsen burner and apply heat: You can measure the changes in the substance. It transmutes; it creates something different from the original state. When these vegetables are cooked down, we have to reference physical help again and again, and in science it's measurable. It's really important to cite the blood pH. Our homeostatic state is 7.46, so that's just slightly alkaline in terms of having acidic blood, which is anywhere from one to seven. Anything above seven to 14 is alkaline, so our bodies are always trying to keep it in that slightly alkaline state. So, going back to what I was originally trying to say, when you're cooking food that would otherwise be alkaline-forming and therefore having a healthful effect on the body, you instead change it to an acid-forming state, and that's putting more wear and tear on the body, just asking it to do more and more. Then, there are food additives, homogenization and processed sugar and how this affects the clotting; it's like this gooiness inside of our blood that turns into the building blocks for fungus, yeast and mold, which are basically the building blocks for things like cancer and other chronic diseases.
Mike: This can all be seen under a dark field microscopy of the blood.
Kevala: Oh, yeah. This is for anybody that hasn't had that done before: Dark field microscopy just gets a look at your blood up close and personal. Usually if you go into a health food store and look on the bulletin board, there could be a person in your area that would offer this kind of clinical approach. It's well worth the investment; it's maybe $100. I've tested mine on numerous occasions, and you know, even being on a raw foods diet wasn't as powerful as cutting out a lot of the sugars, and I don't just mean white sugar, obviously, or the raw cane sugar, but I even mean the high-glycemic fruits, such as dates and honey, things that I was eating a lot of beforehand, before going on to a lower-glycemic, healing-based diet and also including nutrient-dense minerals in my diet and certainly lots of greens. I got my green needs met very much so at the Tree of Life, but also by using supplemental powders.
At the time, I wasn't necessarily into the whole supplement approach, but at the same time, if we're so chronically demineralized and I'm saying "we" because the United States of America is a largely demineralized nation why put off feeling that much better by utilizing the supplemental patterns and beginning to activate your health right now, instead of trying to eat just more green food, etc.? A lot of people will try one of these diets out, and maybe they'll feel tired or sluggish, and who wants to feel that way? Isn't it all about feeling capable and powerful, and having better cognitive function? So, if you go into these more sluggish states and have body pain, or if you feel a little fuzzy in the memory or even being present, certainly your body could not be getting enough minerals. If you're just eating a salad a day, or just eating certain greens that don't have enough of what one needs, this is what I'm talking about when I say we need to be responsible with this and proactive.
First of all, look at what your cravings are. There are certain things that would qualify as not necessarily so healthy, so if you're craving chocolate cake, what's that all about? There's also a solution in that craving, so I would go check out what's in chocolate. What's in raw cacao which is raw chocolate that my body is saying I need? Oh, raw cacao is so high in so many things magnesium is one, but also phenylalanine, which helps us have better brain function overall. The body is very intelligent, and it will self-diagnose if we just follow out those cravings and just feed them for a while.
Mike: Feed them through real, authentic foods; not processed foods.
Kevala: Right, and the beauty of learning how to make foods that are truly nothing less than spectacular in presentation and certainly in taste is being able to share them with other people because, if you suddenly become an island, and you're a social person, you feel like you have to "clinicalize" the table and can't basically extend your heart to your friends, your children, your spouse and your coworkers. Then, you tend to feel alone, and Dr. Dean Ornish really has elucidated the effect of having support when we go onto a wellness protocol, regardless even of what we're doing. When a person feels like they have support from their loved ones, even from one person or from friends, they tend to do so much better if they're fighting cancer or leukemia, and that's regardless of whatever diet it is. With this specific example, he does a lot of work with cardiovascular disease, but there are just cases upon cases across the board, where you generally tend to thrive when you have the support of the community.
Mike: I hear this from a lot of readers. This is where people go wrong. They attempt a healthier diet change, but all their friends, coworkers and family members are not only eating unhealthy, processed foods, but are sometimes even chastising them for daring to eat something healthy. They're saying, "Why mess with that? That's not going to help you. Look how silly you are eating that salad; you could be having a steak." I've heard this from people.
Kevala: Well, it's also very scary because food is a fundamental connection that we have. It's a way that we can spend time with other people. It represents our culture, our heritage and whatever we're buying into. Whenever we're eating a meal, we're buying into a specific belief system, and so when one makes a departure from that, it can be seen as a radical departure from a relationship or a family. People also self-medicate; they numb out with food. A lot of other people in the family, or friends, can feel very threatened by one person having the courage to do something that is very, very brave because it's scary to change your ways and your eating habits, or it can be for a lot of people. Let me tell you, they'll say, "How dare you! Mom used to make these cream puffs, and now mom's dead!" Well, Mom also died. You know, she also had a heart attack, was obese and had cardiovascular disease. I'm speaking, by the way, of my very own grandmother, actually. You know, part of my heritage is Italian, and we feed people. We tend to overeat, and you know, if you love somebody, you feed them and force feed them if necessary. If you love the person, if you love the cook, you will also eat all of their food and appreciate it very much. You can be with people; you can be with a family. You don't need to hurt yourself or kill yourself in the process, but it takes being empowered through the skill, which is to know which foods one should eat and also how to prepare them.
One of my favorite things to do is work on cultural cuisine with people. That means we make things like lasagna, cream puffs, lemon meringue pie and sushi, but we make it raw, and that's where it becomes more and more of an artistry. Now, I won't say, "By all means there's going to be a flax soufflι, and it's going to be better than
" I mean, come on, but at the same time you can make things that are award-winning. I just went to the best raw food restaurant in the world. It's called Pure Food and Wine in New York City, and it's really the toast of the town. Chef Matthew Kenney has really outdone himself. He's had numerous restaurants and plenty of success, and is now embracing the raw food challenge and doing quite well at it. I had an incredible triple-layer chocolate cheesecake that was outstanding. I mean, that's when people can eat a meal and just say "wow" with every bite. It becomes nothing less than a religion, or at least a beautiful ceremony where you're able to indulge in the richness of life and the rewards of being able to eat together and enjoy food together. That's what the feast really is to ourselves; it's really our experience.
Mike: Well, there's a great point here that needs to be made. One of the biggest complaints I hear from people about eating healthy is, "But I don't want to give up the joy of eating."
Kevala: You don't have to. It gets even better!
Mike: People think that eating healthy means eating boring, bland, tasteless food and, in fact, it's exactly the opposite. I've never tasted or experienced the foods that I have here.
Kevala: People have to realize the component of expansion, of sensory expansion and really sensory poetry, that this way of eating can empower, can bloom. You have a whole new series of textures and flavors available to you, and if what you're using right now from your current raw foods cookbook or your healthy foods cook book is not working for you, get another one. Keep trying things out until you find something that works for you because I tell you, I've found some of the pickiest eaters, who wouldn't even be vegetarians, won over by the flavors in raw gourmet cuisine. I was the same way, actually.
When I learned about the health benefits of raw food, I was excited about it, but at the same time, I had a very active life in Seattle. My boyfriend and I would go out to dinner no less than five nights a week, and I was vegetarian but I would always have wine with a meal. There's just a great dining scene in Seattle. We had plenty of friends there, and we liked to spend time with them. That was one of our favorite pastimes because we were both very busy with work and didn't want to have to deal with making food, but what I found was that for me, in order to go into raw foods, I needed to have like, you know, mango coconut cream mousse cake for breakfast. Who couldn't do that? I lost weight, I had more energy, and my skin got better, so really, it was win-win. It did necessitate taking a lot more time to make food. Oh my goodness, you don't just go to the store and buy cereal because, I mean, I wanted to be able to also share this food with my friends and loved ones, and for me that was the most natural thing in the world.
They would make pasta; I would make my raw pasta with, you know, puttanesca sauce and have a little pesto on the side. Then, for the first two years of being raw, I still even drank organic wines, and I would have them with really fine meals and such. I had such deep food attachments, and going raw really brought those things right to the surface for me, so I was able to come to grips with them, and now I eat much, much less, and I eat the most wild, fresh things. I'm happy to say, I no longer eat mango cakes for breakfast and such, but that's where I needed to be for a while, and that's what I tell all my clients, too. If that's what it takes, it's okay. You are going to give yourself the benefit of that luxury, of that delicious experience, maybe for the first time in your life.
Mike: You can step into it, bit-by-bit. You don't have to make a whole change overnight.
Kevala: No. I baby-stepped. I mean, I learned about it six years prior to when I actually went raw because I had been reading about it in health books, but I thought that it was so extreme. I mean, are you kidding, eating raw foods?
Mike: Well, a lot of people may think the same thing. Do you have a couple of practical tips? What can a busy working mother, let's say, do that's simple and quick, but uses live, healthy foods?
Kevala: Great question. I would say, get a high-powered blender first of all. Your blender will be your best friend. Get a couple of superfoods like bee pollen maca, hemp protein powder and vita-mineral grain things that are enormously nutritious for you and really maximize how many bites you need to take. Mix that into a smoothie in the morning. You can pack these things to go as well, and have them for lunches or in between meals.
Mike: What else do they put in the smoothies? What's the base, water?
Kevala: Sure, you can use water, fresh juices and even bottled juices for a while, and add the superfood in there. You want to make sure that they're living superfoods. There are a lot of great websites out there now. My friend David Wolfe has a website. It's rawfood.com; it's pretty easy to remember. I would say it's the most reliable raw food source out there to get some of these superfoods, so start there. I mean, for me, I would do raw foods in the morning and then some kind of protein shake because I was a person who had a very highly analytical job. I would sit at a desk and you need to be grounded. You can't just be living off of nectarines and sitting in front of a computer all day, crunching numbers and researching facts, so I needed something that would have a lot of routine and a lot of staying power for me, too. Then, I began to also bring my lunch to work, and that was like some kind of soup. I would do a blended soup, so there was a lot of citrus like, lemons, for example macadamia nuts, two kinds of grains, different kinds of greens, parsley, basil and maybe a little kale in there. There are great recipe books out there.
Mike: What do you recommend? Do you have a recipe book?
Kevala: I'm working on a recipe book right now. That's one of the main reasons why I came back to the Tree of Life. Yeah, actually, by the time this interview is up, if you go to my website, I'll put up my top three favorite raw soup recipes of all time. For me, once I was doing like, 51 percent living food, no kidding, and I really felt a huge difference. I really felt like I got the big energy boost that everybody talks about in the live foods lifestyle. Get a lot of nutrition from the vegetables, from the grains, not just from raw plant sugars and the fat, although it's fun. People don't have to go raw overnight. I mean, maybe that sets them up also for binge eating, when they think, "I have to be raw or I'm a loser." You don't have to, unless you have a chronic disease and maybe you've been prescribed by your doctor to pursue a 100 percent raw foods lifestyle immediately, or if you are proactive enough, self-reliant and up to reading plenty of raw books out there. For example, Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine and Conscious Eating by Dr. Gabriel Cousens, and also the Sun Food Diet Success System by David Wolfe, my favorite three books that are out there right now. Try to find a wellness consultant in your area who is much more skilled in this area with whom you can talk, particularly if you have a chronic disease or chronic disorder.
So, I would say those are my recommendations right now for someone who's busy, and then also learn how to make a couple of great salad dressings because in the evening, have a great salad. Have a couple of different dressings in your fridge, and the citrus acid that's found in citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges helps to keep that food live and fresh for days on end. Otherwise, in the evenings you could have a salad, but also have your cooked food meal then things like grains, brown rice and kasha. Kasha is the only cooked grain that's alkalizing. You know, have more of these foods and less of the processed foods, but try and minimize your cooked food meal. Have that either at dinnertime, or otherwise in the evening, and also if you're going to eat cooked food, be sure to eat your raw foods first. There's actually a study, I think it's on the Harvard School of Public Health's web site right now, which talks about chemicals that are found in cabbage. If you eat the raw cabbage before eating the cooked cabbage, the raw chemicals will actually mitigate the effect of the cooked food cabbage. Anyway, I know we're running out of time. There's so much more to say. People are welcome to contact me. This is what I do as my right livelihood, and I encourage all kinds of inquiries.
Mike: Thank you so much, Kevala, for sharing your wisdom and your inspiration.
Kevala: Right back at you. My pleasure.
Kevala's new website and new line of raw foods products will appear soon at PositivelyFood.com.