1. Keep it simple
Raw foods can be as complicated as you’d like them to be—and you can spend hours thinly slicing your own sweet potato “pasta” or dehydrating raw “bread.” But Mars recommends making it easy on yourself. Most of her raw diet staples, such as smoothies, can be put together in minutes. “You can start simply with a leafy green salad once a day, tossed with a fresh herb, olive oil and coldpressed cider vinegar dressing,” she says. “Take it from there.”
2. Stick with the seasons
Spring and summer are great “starter” seasons for raw food novices. “If you want to do a spring cleanse but aren’t up for fasting, a few days of eating raw can do the trick,” says Pavelka. Because raw foods contain a lot of water and are cooling to the body, they’re at their most healing when eaten at their late-summer peak. On the flipside, eating too many raw foods in the winter can be problematic, says Bill Reddy, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac, who serves on the board of directors of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. “According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it’s detrimental to be eating cold foods when it’s cold outside,” he says. “It can actually make you susceptible to illness.” Pavelka concurs: In cold weather, you need foods that can help warm up your body to stay healthy.
3. Consider your constitution
As with everything in life, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healing tradition, cautions that some people just aren’t cut out to go raw 24/7. “I see many patients who feel great after their first month on a raw diet,” says Vaijayanti (Jay) Apte, founder of the Ayurveda Institute of America in Foster City, Calif. “But after six months of eating raw foods, they come into my clinic wondering ‘Why am I anxious? Why is my skin breaking out?’ These are signs of vata disturbance.” Vata is one of Ayurveda’s three doshas, the energies that govern human life. In very general terms, they are vata (air and ether), pitta (fire and water) and kapha (water and earth)— and each of us tends to be dominated by one or the other. Especially if you’re a primarily vata type (creative, anxietyprone, thin and cold by nature), you need to be careful not to get carried away. “When vatas overdo it with raw foods, they may get light-headed, lose their hair, become constipated,” Apte says. “You have to know when to stop.” Use common sense, says Pavelka. “Stay in touch with your body’s reaction to what you’re eating,” she recommends. “If you feel like you need to have a piece of salmon—or anything else that doesn’t fit the raw profile—honor that craving.”