by guest blogger Maria Luci, associate editor at Maria's Farm Country Kitchen
I've been a fan of Brad's Raw Foods for a while now, and have been known to nibble on my fair share of their various kale chips. So it came as a surprise to me when I found out that Brad's Raw Foods (and founder Brad Gruno himself!) is based nearby in Pennsylvania. Since we're practically neighbors and are both passionate about wholesome foods and healthy living--and because I'd just snagged a copy of his new book, Brad's Raw Made Easy--I caught up with Brad to learn more about living in the raw.
ML: I read about this in greater detail in your book, but could you summarize how and why you first began eating a raw diet?
BG: I adopted a raw food diet years ago, after my career in the telecommunications industry came to a sudden halt with the dot com crash. When I moved back to my home area of Bucks County, PA, I was at least 40 pounds heavier, depressed, and prescribed the drug Lipitor to normalize high cholesterol levels. I then realized that even though I had lost everything I had worked so hard for, I could take back control of my health; how I treated my body was the one thing I actually did have control over. After watching the documentary Eating, I was inspired to adopt a 100 percent raw diet for a year, and I literally jumped in head first--something I actually wouldn't recommend! My book will help readers ease into a 100 percent raw food cleanse and then transition them to a diet that consists of 80 percent raw food and 20 percent cooked healthy options (the lifestyle that I'm living right now).
ML: Why is a raw diet beneficial for the body?
BG: Raw means that you don't heat any ingredients or food over 115 degrees. Once food reaches a temperature of more than 115, the majority of its nutrients and nutritional enzymes that aid in digestion are killed. So when you eat raw food, you're able to absorb the living enzymes and nutritional properties so they can benefit your body the way nature intended!
Many people who live a raw lifestyle experience weight loss, clearer skin, better digestion, and a deeper clarity in thinking. I lost 40 pounds over the course of three months, but I started to notice clearer skin right away. Also, my mental clarity improved greatly and left me open-minded and able to really focus on what is most important.
ML: Did anything really surprise you about eating raw?
BG: I was surprised to find how many amazing recipes you can make from just raw foods! My book includes recipes like raw cheesecake, raw pizza, raw pad Thai, raw truffles, and so many other things you wouldn't think would be included in a raw food diet. The great part is that all of these recipes are made with only healthy ingredients, so they'll leave your body feeling better and not worse.
ML: What motivated you to go from simply eating a raw diet to starting Brad's Raw Foods?
BG: After adopting a 100 percent raw diet, I was completely happy and invested in my new way of eating, but did miss the familiar crunch of traditional American snack food. I started experimenting with raw chips made from fresh vegetables, sprouted flaxseeds, fruit nuts, buckwheat groats, and an array of spices. I dehydrated the chips below 115 degrees so that I wouldn't break my commitment to a raw diet. My snacks were met with a lot of enthusiasm from my family and friends, and because of my entrepreneurial spirit and tendencies, I quickly realized the commercial appeal they could have. I ran demos at local farmer's markets, and further enthusiasm validated the notion that my product had real potential. After a lot of work and persistence, local health food stores, and regional Whole Foods Markets began carrying Brad's Raw Chips. Since then, my company has been in a constant state of upward growth and expansion, and my varying product lines are sold in specialty retailers and established grocers all throughout the country.
ML: What's a typical day like for you in terms of eating?
BG: I love starting my day with a green smoothie. It is seriously the easiest thing you can make. Throw some leafy greens (kale is a favorite, of course), fruit, nuts, and maybe some other veggies into a blender with water, and you're good to go. I usually make a full pitcher in the morning and that will last me all morning until lunchtime. Another thing I do is keep fruits and veggies washed and stored in ready-to-eat containers so that they're easy to grab on the go. I'm a big fan of big salads loaded with veggies for lunch and/or dinner with my signature cashew dressing, called "Brad's House Dressing" in the book. I also always like to keep some small bags of raw nuts and seeds with me--the fatty proteins are great for holding me over until my next meal. Of course, I always have a stock of Brad's Raw Crunchy Kale and Brad's Raw Chips on me for some healthy snacking, too.
ML: What's your viewpoint on organic food and farming?
BG: I fully support organic food/farming and all of my products are not only certified organic, but also certified non-GMO, kosher, vegan, and gluten-free. Providing products that are made with the highest quality of ingredients is incredibly important to me.
ML: What advice would you give to someone wanting to take the leap into eating raw?
BG: Try adopting the mentality to incorporate MORE into your diet, as opposed to thinking of it as LESS. Eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and such on a daily basis and the more good stuff you add, the less you'll even want the bad stuff. I think when you start thinking about it more in terms of addition than subtraction, you're already setting yourself up for success. There's none of the guilt or beating yourself up when you do indulge or eat something that you maybe shouldn't have-- just focus on continuing to eat more "good" things.
ML: What's next for you and Brad's Raw Foods?
BG: You should be seeing more products and more growth in the near future! The sky is the limit!
Maria Luci is the blog and social media manager of Maria's Farm Country Kitchen. Prior to working at Rodale, she was the publicist and daily blogger for the photography company, Wonderful Machine. She grew up in Virginia, but now lives in Philly with her husband, a black cat, and a good deal of houseplants.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com