Actor Woody Harrelson is known for being a raw foodist, and when he needed to lose 30 pounds in two months for the role of a twisted cop in Rampart, raw food got him there—with some help from David Wolfe, nutritionist, herbalist, and pioneer in popularizing a raw eating style with plenty of superfoods. In addition to getting him lean, Harrelson’s 100 percent raw diet supported a grueling daily eight-hour workout regimen, and kept him lean and brimming with energy for another four months during the shooting of the film.
No stranger to celebrities, Wolfe has a fan base that includes Hollywood stars like Kirsten Dunst, Milla Jovovich, and Angela Bassett. Superfoods help them stay on top of their game. Rather than proselytizing raw food, Wolfe simply encourages people to include more raw ingredients in their daily fare and experience the benefits.
“What we're striving to do is eat less food that's more nutritious,” he says; “That's the overarching principle: quality over quantity.” Raw food comes with enzymes and many other nutrients that are destroyed by heat, so it’s nutritionally richer and more bioavailable than typical cooked dishes. While transforming your health, eating more raw foods can also trim excess body fat. “It's more efficient, it's more nourishing, and it helps your body burn off excess calories,” says Wolfe.
These are his top 10 ways to upgrade your diet and revolutionize your health.
1. Upgrade Your Water
The purest form is spring water in glass containers. “Look at water like wine,” says Wolfe. The good stuff always comes in a glass bottle. And glass is both recyclable and biodegradable. For water on-the-go, some glass bottles have a silicone sleeve for protection and a better grip.
2. Switch to Sea Salt
Regular table salt is dried with heat, which destroys trace minerals and leaves high levels of bromide, a compound that is naturally present in all salt but is toxic at elevated levels (and one reason why ocean water can kill us). In contrast, sea salt is dried naturally, without heat. Much of the bromide evaporates, but trace minerals are retained, so sea salt provides essential sodium and other minerals without toxicity.
3. Simplify Each Meal
To make it easy for your body to absorb nutrients and avoid bloating and indigestion, don’t eat protein and starch in the same meal. Instead, combine a salad with either protein such as meat or fish, or a starch such as pasta or a grain dish—― but not both.
4. Eat Fruit Alone
Fruit is packed with nutrients, but its acids and sugars ferment other food in the digestive tract, causing an internal traffic jam. Eat fruit when other food is no longer in your stomach, perhaps an hour after a light meal with starch, or up to five hours after a heavy meat meal.
5. Turn Green
“When you’re green on the inside, you’re clean on the inside,” says Wolfe. Greens contain chlorophyll, which is a blood builder and purifier, and protects the lungs against the effects of pollution. Chlorella is a rich source of chlorophyll and is available by itself and in many green drink powders, which can be blended with coconut water, fresh-squeezed juice, water, or organic plant milks.
6. Trade Up to Fresh Juices
Packaged juices are typically pasteurized to extend shelf life, so they are no longer in their natural, raw state. To get all the nutrients, squeeze your own juice and drink it right away.
7. Eat Raw Plant Protein
Compared to raw plant protein, animal protein is more difficult for our bodies to break down and puts more stress on the kidneys. Research, says Wolfe, shows that raw plant protein is twice as bioavailable, meaning you only need half as much to properly nourish your body. For example, if you normally eat 100 grams of animal protein daily, 50 grams of raw plant protein would do the same job. Good raw sources include hemp, rice, spirulina, chlorella, goji berries, and maca. (See Meal in a Salad recipe, below.)
Raw Protein Tip: As an alternative to seeds, make a drink with raw protein powder and have it with your salad. Some people like raw, unflavored hemp protein powder, which has a nutty flavor, sprinkled on a salad. Try a little on a slice of cucumber and see if you like the taste.
Blending Tip: For the smoothest texture, use a high-speed blender such as a Vita-mix.
Click here for the recipe Meal in a Salad Try this as your biggest meal of the day. Hemp and/or pumpkin seeds, berries, and dulse provide protein. These and the other ingredients are rich in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients, and are easy to digest and utilize.
Click here for the recipe Woody Harrelson’s Evening Smoothie On the set of Rampart, this was Wolfe’s evening smoothie for Woody Harrelson, after 12- or 13-hour days. It also became a hit among other cast members. The blend replenishes a body after a challenging day, and reishi calms without producing a sedative effect.
Click here for the recipe Sacred Mocha Coffee If you’re a coffee drinker, this takes it to a whole new level.
8. Use Tonic Herbs
Our immune system, says Wolfe, is being recognized as the trigger for chronic inflammation, which underlies heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and virtually any other age-related disease. Too little immune response predisposes you to colds, flu, and other infections. And autoimmune conditions, where the immune system misfires and attacks healthy cells, include rheumatoid arthritis, alopecia, type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto’s disease (underactive thyroid), celiac disease, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis.
Tonic herbs have what Wolfe calls “dual directional activity,” meaning they either increase or decrease the activity of the immune system, depending on what is needed at a given time. “They are making the immune system more intelligent,” he says, and are beneficial for everyone, including people who suffer from autoimmune conditions.
Among tonic herbs, his two top choices are medicinal mushrooms: reishi and chaga. For both, he recommends taking a dried form of the mushroom mycelium, meaning the “root” that grows underneath the stem and cap (which together, are called the “fruiting body”). Although all the parts are extremely nutritious, the mycelium has a gentler effect.
Dried reishi and chaga mycelium are not extracts, but whole foods, and are safe (except for the rare person who is allergic to mushrooms). Both have a calming (but not sedative) effect, and both make the immune system more intelligent, but reishi is more calming and chaga is more immunological. Wolfe recommends taking approximately 2,500 mg of each daily, or adding them to smoothies.
9. Eat Probiotic Foods
Cultured yogurt or kefir with live bacteria, made from dairy or plant milks, are some probiotic-rich options. Others include raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut and kombucha, a popular fermented, effervescent tea that is sometimes referred to as a “beer,” only because of its consistency, not because of any alcohol content. Wolfe recommends eating or drinking a probiotic food with each meal, or taking a probiotic supplement with a broad range of live bacteria.
10. Go Organic
Conventional pesticides and herbicides contain synthetic estrogens and other toxins that are carcinogenic, disrupt hormones, and harm the reproductive system. Eating organic food is the best solution, but if you can’t eat 100 percent organic, avoid conventional versions of the most toxic produce. According to USDA tests analyzed by the non-profit Environmental Working Group, these are the most important fruits and vegetables to buy organic (most toxic first): apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, kale, and collards. For a complete list, visit ewg.org.
OUR PRODUCT PICKS
GARDEN OF LIFE Perfect Food RAW combines 34 organically grown greens, sprouts, and veggie juices loaded with chlorophyll and probiotics.
JUVO Organic Raw Meal is packed with organic greens, fruits, sea vegetables, mushrooms, and whole grains—an excellent source of plant protein.
NUTIVAOrganic Shelled Hempseed (shown here with new packaging) is great in the smoothie recipe above. Tip: If you buy the 5-pound bag, use half and store half in the freezer.
PLANETARY HERBALS Full Spectrum Chaga activates the immune system and enhances cellular health with a proprietary blend of organic chaga rich in polysaccharides and antioxidants.
SUN WARRIOR Warrior Blend Vanilla Raw Vegan Protein Powder uses a cold extraction process to create this great-tasting, raw plant-based protein with a complete amino acid profile.