April 17, 2012 / 10:44 AM / 5 years ago

World Chefs: Canada's McNish trades steaks for raw foods

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Classically trained Canadian chef Douglas McNish was overweight and unhappy when he decided he needed to make a change in his life and his diet, and he hasn’t looked back since.

In his first cookbook, “Eat Raw, Eat Well,” the 29-year-old Toronto-based executive chef, teacher and raw food consultant provides 400 raw, vegan and gluten-free recipes and explains why he switched from a traditional diet and cooking steaks professionally and decided to give up meat and become a vegan and then a raw food chief.

“One day I woke up and decided to change my life. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said.

Along the way he dropped 100 pounds (45 kg) through a change in diet and exercise and experienced a lightness and increased energy that he said he had never known before.

He spoke to Reuters about why he decided to change how he eats, the benefits of a raw diet and the impact it has had on his health and career.

Q: What exactly is a raw food diet?

A: ”It is composed of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Generally it is organic and nothing is heated beyond 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Centigrade).

Q: Why is there a temperature restriction?

A: ”The thought process, and there is scientific evidence behind it, is that once you cook food beyond 115 degrees Fahrenheit you are destroying the enzymes and much of the nutritional content (of food). Enzymes, and this is scientifically proven, are what the body needs in order to digest food. Whether or not you are eating cooked or raw food the body needs those enzymes. By cooking the food you are destroying the enzymes.

Q: What are the benefits of eating a raw food diet?

A: “The more raw (food) you get into your diet the more you will feel increased energy, more mental clarity, be more focused, feel more stamina, sleep less, and you will have a more overall feeling of well being and weight loss.”

Q: How easy was it for you to switch to a raw food diet?

A: “I don’t want to say it is hard and I don’t want to say it is easy. It requires information. It requires knowledge and it requires research. It’s like any time you change your diet. You really want to get to know it ... It requires you wanting to do it. Once you have the knowledge, once you have the information, I don’t look at it as hard. It is a gradual process that you take step by step.”

Q: How difficult is it to prepare and make tasty raw food meals?

A: ”For the most simple raw food recipes you require a good knife, a cutting board and a bowl. Once you have the techniques down it really is a matter of 10 minutes of work.

Q: Do you need any special equipment?

A: ”To start you do not. You can make smoothies and desserts in a regular blender with regular equipment. The further you get into this diet, and if you choose to, you can buy things like a high-power blender, a $500 investment, but I highly, highly recommend it.

“And if you are serious about it, the next step is a food dehydrator. It acts like a mini oven and allows you to keep your food at a constant 110 or 115 degrees so you are retaining the vitamins and minerals. It opens up a whole world of nutrient-dense food, especially protein-containing foods.”

Q: Where did all of the recipes in the book originate? Did you create all of them?

A: “I did.”

Q: What is your favorite raw food recipe?

A: “Hands down I would have to say my go-to recipe is kale salad. It is such an easy way to feel full, to get your proteins, your healthy fat ... and it takes about 10-15 minutes of work.”

Pesto-Coated Carrot and Parsnip Fettuccini

Makes 2 servings

3 large carrots, peeled

3 large parsnips, peeled

1 tbsp (15ml) tbsp cold-pressed (extra virgin) olive oil

1⁄4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided

1 1⁄2 tbsp (22 ml) fine sea salt, divided

3⁄4 cup (175 ml) cold-pressed hemp oil

1⁄2 cup (125 ml) raw shelled hemp seeds

3 cloves garlic

3 cups (750 ml) chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel carrots and parsnips into long, thin strips, dropping into a bowl as completed. Add olive oil, 1 tsp (5 ml) lemon juice and 1⁄4 tsp (1 ml) salt and toss until vegetables are well coated. Set aside for 10 minutes, until softened.

2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process hemp oil and seeds, garlic and remaining lemon juice and salt, until somewhat smooth but the hemp seeds retain some texture. Add cilantro and process until chopped and blended, stopping the motor once to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add pesto to fettuccine, toss well and serve.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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