Raw foods are having a moment.
The likes of Beyoncé, Jay Z and Kate Middleton have recently been associated with following a raw food plan, bringing some celeb cred to the fruit-, vegetable- and nut-heavy vegan diet.
The benefits of eating raw, which can include better digestion, increased energy and improved skin complexion, are also touted in the new book "Choosing Raw."
New Yorkers appear to be fans of the diet, too. On July 24, Juice Generation, which serves a raw food menu alongside its juices and smoothies, opens its 12th location in Williamsburg.
We chatted with chef Matteo Silverman, who has been designing Juice Generation's raw foods menu since 2009, to learn more about eating raw.
What does eating raw mean exactly?
It could mean different things to different people. But typically when talking about a raw vegan diet, no foods are heated more than 115, 118 degrees. Natural enzymes in food begin to deteriorate at that point. When eating raw, you're eating food at its most nutritious state. There's a school of thought that if you dehydrate at 145 degrees it doesn't destroy the nutrients, but I like to play it safe and do 115 degrees.
What are the benefits of eating raw foods?
You're getting a ton of nutrients. I also think you can consume less food because the density of what you're consuming fills you up with all that fiber. I have an increased energy level when I'm eating a raw food diet too.
How often do you eat this way?
I don't eat raw all the time. I probably eat at least one raw meal a day. That's easy for anyone to do really. I think more important for people is to incorporate raw foods into their diet. Mark Bittman talks about being vegan before 6. If you want to eat more raw foods, you can try to adapt one raw meal. Even if you just have one big salad as your lunch, it's easy to make your salad raw.
Are there any potential drawbacks?
It's difficult to prepare raw foods on a daily basis unless it's your lifestyle. Sometimes you have to dehydrate something a day ahead before you can use it. That waiting and prep time can be daunting for a lot of people.
What should people be mindful of if starting a raw food diet?
Everybody's needs are different. If they do have concerns, they should speak to a nutritionist. I think it's better to retain some happiness in your diet. Food is related to so many memories. If you're unhappy because you're not eating something, you're not going to reach your goals because you're miserable. You need a happy balance and really have to listen to the way your body feels.
What drew you to raw foods?
I've been a vegan since I was 18. A lot of my food experiences to date that were vegetarian or vegan weren't necessarily fine cuisine, so I set out to replicate finer foods, but still vegan, and then raw foods. I wanted to take it to a whole other level.
How does that play out at Juice Generation?
It's not just the raw ingredients in salad form. The live pizza is a great example. It's a flatbread we make out of onion and chia seeds. We dehydrate that into a chia bread with a marinara sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and fresh tomatoes. We like to take comfort foods and elevate them in terms of quality and put our little raw twist on them.
How would you pitch a raw food diet to someone who's hesitant?
I'm not one to really try to coerce people into eating, I'm so passive. I do know that once they taste my food, they'll be more interested in trying other things. I try to present things in an attractive manner, so people want to try it. It's good flavors that smell good. People shouldn't be scared or fearful of trying raw foods, but for some reason, people do think it's frog legs or something really foreign. It's just nuts, vegetables, fruits and seeds.