Saturday, July 12, 2008

Victoria Boutenko and Green Smoothies

Here is another chapter from the book I am writing on raw foods:

Victoria Boutenko and Green Smoothies

My daughter Gina and son-in-law Steven had been eating raw for several months and I had seen the difference it was making in their health. I asked Gina to recommend a book to get me started in all of this and she suggested two books by Victoria Boutenko, 12 Steps to Raw Foods and Green For Life. The Green For Life book was shorter and had a more interesting cover so I picked that one. It turns out that that book was the ideal place for me to begin.

Green For Life by Boutenko is not about giving up cooked foods and only eating raw; it is not about giving up anything, only adding green smoothies to one’s daily diet. While I wanted to get healthy, as were my children, I did not want to give up my hamburgers and french fries.

Boutenko and her family started eating raw foods back in 1993 when they all were experiencing major health problems at the same time. Victoria herself weighted 280 pounds and suffered from arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Her husband had hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and a constant heartbeat of more than 140. Her daughter Valya had asthma and allergies. And her son Sergei was just diagnosed with diabetes. It was the thought of insulin shots and the eventual side-effects (kidney and eyesight failure) that pushed Victoria over the edge. She searched everywhere for an alternative for her son.

Several months later she found out about raw foods from a woman who claimed to be cured of cancer twenty years ago by changing her diet. This was enough for Victoria and after overcoming her husband’s initial resistance (he refused to give up eating his meat and potatoes until his doctors told him that he needed to have his thyroid removed, otherwise he would die—he decided to try raw foods instead) she threw out all of their cooked and processed food and the whole family ate only raw food from then on.

Obviously it was not easy going cold turkey, but the seriousness of their illnesses was a great motivator and they have continued to eat only raw food ever since. Victoria has written several books about her experience, all of which I highly recommend. Which brings us back to Green For Life.

While eating raw foods is a good thing, it is not easy to transition into, of course, unless you and your family are facing life and death health issues. Most of us are not motivated enough to give up the foods we have enjoyed all our lives. While I certainly wanted to enjoy the health that I was seeing my daughter achieve, I did not want to change my diet all that much. And that is why I feel that I was fortunate to begin my raw food journey with the Green For Life book.

Green For Life is not about giving up anything. It is about making one simple addition to your diet—a green smoothie. The Boutenko family had been raw for about ten years but they began to experience a plateau. While their old illnesses never returned, they felt that they could be healthier.

Victoria began researching. She wanted to find out if there was anything missing from her raw diet that could make a difference. Her search led her to investigate the eating habits of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Chimpanzees share more than 99 percent of our DNA sequence. Believing that humans have lost their natural way of eating, maybe chimpanzees could point her back in the right direction.

It turns out that a chimp diet in the wild consists of roughly 50 percent fruits, 40 percent greens, 7 percent seeds, nuts, pith, and bark, and about 3 percent insects. This was not how the Boutenko family and most other raw foodists were eating. Many people in the raw food movement tend to eat fewer greens and more nuts, seeds, and oils.

(Boutenko also discovered that chimpanzees mostly feed on fruit in the morning, take a nap or play, then eat mostly greens in the afternoon. They stop eating for the day by late afternoon. This is a pattern that I am sure would benefit most of us. I found it interesting that I had without thinking fallen into a similar pattern, eating fruits for breakfast and having most of my greens in a salad as part of dinner.)

Once Victoria understood the importance of getting more greens into her diet the problem became how to do it. Just chewing them would be a lot of work. Besides the fact that they require being ground into a creamy consistency to become absorbable by the body, many people have low levels of hydrochloric acid in their stomachs. Nutrients cannot be assimilated without both thorough chewing and a stomach pH level of between 1 and 2. Years of eating processed foods make this pH level unlikely. Also, as we age our bodies produce less hydrochloric acid.

Instead of trying to eat large quantities of greens Victoria experimented with “chewing” them in a blender. Initial results were disastrous. The smell and taste were just too nasty. However, she tried adding some bananas to the mixture and the fruit changed everything. Her first green smoothies consisted of one bunch of kale, four bananas, and a quart of water. She and her family loved them.

The result was impressive. They all began to see a difference. Boutenko claims that wrinkles disappeared, her nails became stronger, her vision improved, her energy increased and she felt lighter than she had in years. For weeks Victoria lived on nothing but green smoothies. She stopped craving fatty foods and salt. In the end she lost all cravings for unhealthy foods.

That was my introduction to raw foods. As you can see, it was not about giving up anything that I was eating. I simply added the green smoothie to my diet. For me this was easy. For years I ate only fruit for breakfast, knowing that it is best to eat fruit on an empty stomach, otherwise it tends to ferment behind other slow moving food.

Several years ago I bought a Vita-Mixer blender. This high power machine is an essential kitchen appliance for the health conscious human. I knew that blending ruptures plant cells at the microscopic level, making them more available for digestion and absorbable. I soon was making fruit smoothies every day for breakfast. Now all I had to do was adjust the fruit a little and add greens.
My original green smoothies were simple: two cups of water, four bananas, a handful of kale, and maybe some frozen blueberries or whatever else was in the house. I could never taste the kale. Spinach and romaine lettuce is pretty tasteless, too. Other lettuce may change the fruity flavor so I mostly stuck to the kale, romaine, and spinach.

Now, here is the good part. While not trying hard to give up eating meats and fish I slowly began to lose interest in them. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to eat hamburgers anymore; it was simply that they were less attractive by about a half. I didn’t want fried food as much either. At this point I was by no means a raw food person or advocate. I just began to feel a little better and the whole experience made me more interested in seeing what other improvements I could make to my diet without causing myself any pain or giving up favorite foods.

1 comment:

Kristen's Raw said...

Those are great books.

I always say to take it day by day, add more green smoothies, and add more fresh fruit and veggies to your plate week by week.

Feel the health!