✦ As this month’s Brilliant-Online theme focuses on ‘Friendship’, we wanted to shine the light on the question of just how friendly we are to our bodies in respect of what we put in them!
Consider what you are consuming on average and ask yourself honestly, are you being friendly to your body? Are you consuming and digesting sufficient levels of nutritious content to ensure a fit and healthy lifestyle where your body functions at its optimum? Or are you guilty of consuming foods that aren’t so healthy, that your body considers unfriendly?
Toni Jessop founder of Rawlicious
The focus on nutrition and a healthy diet have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, synonymous with a positive change in attitude towards adopting a healthier lifestyle. Increasingly people are switching to healthier diets and becoming far more mindful of what they are putting into their bodies, something that will persist as we continue to be educated.
Vegetarianism has been on the rise for decades and, recently, vegan lifestyles and diets have increased considerably. A Sentient Media report states that, according to the Good Food Institute, the sales of plant-based foods grew three times faster than overall food sales in 2021. It also states that the Guardian estimates there are currently 79 million vegans around the world, a figure that continues its rapid ascent each year and that the worldwide vegan food market grew from US$14.44 billion in 2020 to $15.77 billion in 2021.
Taking things one step further is the concept of Raw Veganism. Excluding animal products such as meat and dairy, a raw vegan diet includes foods that are plant-based, raw, unprocessed and that don’t require cooking, as much of the nutrients are lost when foods are heated. Instead of firing up the stove or BBQ, a raw vegan-based diet will see foods juiced, blended, soaked, dehydrated, germinated or sprouted. Many choose the diet in an attempt to improve their health, to protect their heart or lose weight, while also identifying with the ethical and ecological principles of the diet.
However, just mention the term Raw Vegan to some and they instantly turn a whiter shade of pale, anxious at the thought of not being able to rely on their favourite foods, let alone heating them up!
That’s why we decided to check in with Toni Jessop from Rawlicious You, a Phuket-based Raw Vegan, fitness and mindset coach who is as good as anyone we know to get the honest low-down on a Raw Vegan lifestyle!
Toni has been fully vegan for the last decade and was a vegetarian for several years prior to that. As someone working in the fitness industry, she quickly became aware of how important it was to put the right types of fuel into her body to ensure it could perform at its peak. Naturally, this meant healthy, nutritious food which would provide her with the energy she needed. It also meant not needing to count calories on a daily basis, as per the instructions from so many fitness guides, which was ideal.
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Despite enjoying the benefits of a vegan diet for many years, after a while, Toni realised that relying on replacement meals wasn’t for her. “Sure, a vegan burger is a better alternative to a beef burger but it is still a replacement so why not do away with it altogether,” she commented when I asked her to outline the benefits of a Raw Vegan diet.
“We live in a society obsessed with instant gratification,” she continues. “We have been bombarded over the years with processed convenience foods being driven by big business which have now, sadly, become the norm and the foundation of bad diets the world over.”
Punch in the gut!
Familiar with the term gut microbiota? No, I wasn’t either, until I sat and talked with Toni. The gut microbiome is the collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in your bowels and that affect everything in your body, from inflammation to heart health. Research proves people who have a diet high in processed and animal-derived fatty foods develop greater levels of destructive bacteria.
“So much of society en masse, especially in developed countries, has become so used to this type of diet to the extent that we rarely stop to question it,” explains Toni. “Processed and fast foods offer very little if any nutritious content at all which has a terribly detrimental impact on the body by imbalancing the gut microbiome. It is why so many people are continually tired and prepared to accept chronic fatigue. It pretty much becomes a way of life and diet is rarely, if ever, identified as the cause. We seem to have lost focus of what is important in a healthy, balanced diet, the core basics.”
Eating a raw, plant-based diet negates this problem altogether, Toni explains. Think about how fast and processed foods may satisfy a particular craving but, equally, how they leave you feeling unfulfilled and still hungry not long after.
“That’s down to MSGs, or monosodium glutamate to give it its correct term, that is so common in processed foods. Of course, this is absent in raw foods which is why your body instinctively knows it is full and to stop eating, rather than over-indulging. There are no chemical enhancements, it's all-natural. Your new found energy will amaze you!”
Another interesting point that Toni makes is how dependence on an unhealthy diet means we turn elsewhere to supplement that lack of nutrients. “There’s an absolute lack of nutrients in fast and processed foods which is why we see so many people turning to supplements and vitamins to try and satisfy the deficit and achieve a healthy balance,” she says. It certainly makes sense.
In addition to the obvious health benefits, there is also the fact that a vegan or raw vegan diet is ultimately kinder for the environment and therefore the health of our planet overall and who, afterall, doesn’t want to be friendlier to Mother Nature when she so clearly needs our help?
“It’s a win-win scenario that’s healthier and friendlier for the environment, the planet, animals and you,” says Toni.
In conclusion, having experienced first-hand an array of raw vegan dishes and beverages whilst in Toni’s company, I can confidently state that I will be factoring more into my diet moving forward as it was all absolutely delicious – in particular, the banana chocolate swirl I chose as a treat was truly as good if not better than anything this self-confessed chocolate aficionado has ever eaten – plus I didn’t feel guilty afterward!
So, next time you have the option to try something from the raw vegan staple, why not give it a go – I’m confident to predict you will be pleasantly surprised!
Through her ‘Rawlicious’ website Toni runs a worldwide community-based membership program that can help people with improving their diet and mindset via raw foods, intermittent fasting and meditation techniques. You can find out more and sign up here.
Keen readers of Brilliant-online will no doubt recall Toni from the story we ran on her inspiring work helping get stray dogs off the streets in Phuket and into loving foster homes worldwide. Most of the revenue Toni makes from her Rawlicious venture goes directly to help these animals.
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