Karin Dina, The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets
Karin Dina is a chiropractic doctor who has been studying and practicing raw food nutrition for over 25 years. Karin studied naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University, graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic West, and has an honors degree in biology.
The Karin and Rick Dinas are co-developers and instructors of the series of Science of Raw Food Nutrition classes taught at Living Light Culinary Institute in Ft. Bragg, California. They have an international consulting and lab work analysis practice and are dedicated to teaching a functional and scientifically sound approach to raw, plant-based diets.
Transcription Part I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass and it’s time for “It’s All About Food.” How are you today? I am happy, happy, happy. You know sometimes when you have pain and then the pain goes away and you feel good? Sometimes you don’t even realize how good you feel or why you feel good, it’s just something has gone away that shouldn’t have been there. Well, it’s not like I really had pain, but I want to tell you what I’m happy about. My computer was crashing and I fixed it today, and I can’t help but see the analogy and I’m going to tell you what I am talking about right now. So, my computer’s maybe four years old, I use it day and night, I’m on it all the time, maybe it’s not the best thing, but I work for my non-profit, Responsible Eating and Living, building websites, recipes, I’m writing book, there’s everything is on my computer, it’s really, really important and I’m sure it is for a lot of you, these tools that we use. Well, I didn’t really realize it, but it was getting hot, it was getting noisy. And finally it just crashed and this morning, I did a little research whatever, I took the thing apart of course, the warranty went up last year, so it’s not under any warranty, and I took it apart and looking inside it’s filled with dust everywhere, so I put the pressurized air on it and then I had to do a little surgery too, pulling out these clunks of dust that got around the fan and whatever, and I made it really as clean as I could and I turned it on and it was spectacular because of what didn’t happen. And I didn’t even realize that my computer was making so much noise. But I noticed how quiet it was, and I am sure it is going to be fine now, and I am really excited about it, but it made me think about what we do to our bodies, and how the things we put in our bodies can really make a difference, positive or negative, and thinking about the foods that we eat that cause a lot of plaque along our arteries and then cause chronic disease. And then I was performing surgery, pulling out all this heavy condensed dust in the nooks and crannies of my computer, surgeons pull out all kinds of plaque and fat that are around our heart and our arteries, just to extend life and make us feel better, and then we can do with food too, food and fiber can clean our insides. We can do it with fasting, too, where fasting can help at a very accelerated rate, clean all the junk that we’ve collected inside. And just like I see with my computer after I cleaned it out, I performed surgery, put it all back together. It’s running, it’s quiet, and when we take care of ourselves and we eat high fiber food that keeps our insides scrubbed, we feel good. And we don’t have pain, and we’re not creaking and noisy like my computer was. You see what I am getting at? Anyway, number one, I would recommend cleaning your computer from time to time, and also taking care of yourself with healthy, nutritious food that don’t clutter up everything that’s inside of us. That makes sense, right? I hope so.
Okay, so I am very excited about my guest today and I am going to bring her on a little early today in another few minutes. But, before I do that, I just wanted to talk about some of the really cool recipes that we’ve been making this week because they’ve just been so delicious and so simple and I want to share them with you, and maybe you’ll visit responsibleeatingandliving.com and go to the recipe blog and you can see all the latest new recipes. But breakfast, is a really important meal, and especially on the weekends when you have a little more time, there are things you can do that are easy and phenomenally healthy. So we had this easy, Spinach Frittata. It looks like eggs, but it’s not eggs. It’s so much easier than eggs. It uses garbanzo bean flour and this recipe has some simple ingredients. It looks good and it just tastes good and it’s really satisfying, so you can go a long time during the day after you’ve had this lovely, lovely brunch. And it’s great if you want to serve it to guests because it’s pretty impressive. So, I really recommend this easy, Spinach Frittata. The other thing about it is… You know, I remember back decades, decades, decades ago, when I did eat milk, and eggs, and you’d have to go out and get fresh milk and fresh eggs. Sometimes the extra convenience of having something like garbanzo bean flour (which I like to keep stored cool in the cupboard until I open the package and then I keep it in the refrigerator), you can have it on hand for whenever you’re ready. You don’t have to run out to the store and get fresh, tortured animals products for your breakfast. So that’s easy Spinach Frittata. Please check it out and let me know what you think.
Now the other thing I wanted to mention is, it’s hot here in New York, it’s summertime now for those of you down under and other places where it’s winter this may not sound as much fun to you. But I’m going to take a sip of my green juice just a moment please. That’s good. I had been going kind of nutty on making these frozen desserts. Now I have to admit for a very long time, I did not have high-powered blender. I lived with joy for a long time with a regular, plain, old, low-power blender and I’ve made wonderful things and if that’s all you’ve got, that’s great, it’s great to have a blender. But now I have a Vitamix, and I’ve been using it quite a bit to make these frozen desserts. These non-dairy ice cream things and they’re so easy to do. If you don’t have a high-powered blender you can always make a version of these that I am going to talk about and make like a thick shake. But you can really make these wonderful sweet treats. And for people that have sweet cravings, and I know many people that do, these are so satisfying and good for you. I think last week I talked about the strawberry ice dream that I made that was just frozen strawberries, cashews, and a little non-dairy milk. I did the same thing with blueberries this week, blueberries, with tiny little bit of cashews and then non-dairy milk. Blended it up in this high-powered blender to create this wonderful treat. But my very favorite, and this one I’m really so excited about in fact, I want it now and I can’t have it right now. I thought about it a few days before I made it. And I was thinking bout the orange creamsicle. Do you remember? And not everyone remembers this because you may not have had a Good Humor truck come into your neighborhood. But, we used to get these Good Humor pops, which were like vanilla ice cream, surrounded by orange sorbet or an orange sherbet something. This orange vanilla combination – well what if I froze oranges and make one of these treats. And that’s exactly what we did. Gary peeled a couple of oranges and sectioned them for me and froze them. I didn’t even know he had done this because I had just said I really wanted to do this with oranges but I am going to need to freeze them in advance and he went ahead and did that. When I was really wanting to make the recipe the oranges were already frozen and I just blended them with a little bit of cashews, non-dairy milk, a little vanilla and oh my goodness this is better than anything and there it is. A lovely, satisfying cool summer treat. And I like I said if you don’t have high power blender you can add a little more non-dairy milk make a wonderful shake it just as delicious and satisfying.
And then the last, there are a couple more, I just I love eating food, and it’s just a fun treat. I mean, for example, today we were getting our delivery from Go Organic NYC and as I mentioned before I like to finish up all my produce for the week before I get new produce, that’s just the game I play I don’t want to waste any of it and I had a little bit of cabbage left over and I’m reading “The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook” which we’re going to be talking about in a moment with Karin Dina and I was thinking I have this cabbage left over in the refrigerator that has to be finished before the next delivery comes and I’m reading this wonderful book, and then I thought here’s what I am going to make for breakfast. And I shredded some cabbage that the remaining cabbage, I shredded an apple, and some raw carrots and made this beautiful, colorful, little salad. I sprinkled some vinegar on it and a little bit of sesame seed, and wonderful great breakfast. I’m really excited about cabbage these days because it lasts, it doesn’t wilt like some of the other greens and you can make just so many things with it, raw or blended or cooked or steamed, in soups, it’s a great food.
Here’s another recipe, this was just beautifully sweet in taste, but also sweet in action, so one day this week we finished dinner and yeah, we wanted to have a little desert, and Gary surprised me, he made this raw nectarine tart again, the simplest of things, he blends it together, almonds and medjool dates and really like nothing, a half of cup of almonds, and like two or three dates and you can put them in a food processor and blend them up together and that’s your crust, you press that into your little tart pan and then he sliced one nectarine into thin little slices, fan them out, made this beautiful little pie, it was a raw pie, very satisfying, delicious treat, so easy. You need just a few tools and some imagination and you’ve got the healthiest, wonderful foods that are fun, beautiful and delicious. Yeah, how about it?
I wanted to mention, I’m not sure how many people are familiar with the company Hampton Creek, hamptoncreek.com, they used to go by the name of Beyond Eggs, but I think they are moving toward just calling themselves, Hampton Creek. Not sure what the marketing plot is behind all of that. But they are at hamptoncreek.com but they’ve got a number of products that are out to replace the animal egg, so they’re working on making industrial products mayonnaise, cookie dough, things like that and ultimately want to get into the fast food business where companies that make food and use eggs somewhere along the way, will be able to use this plant-based egg. That hamptoncreek.com is using instead of the animal egg, and get the same quality product or better and it’ll be cheaper, it’s a genius concept and I’m not saying these foods are healthy. But in order to get away from the hurt and cruelty to animals this is a great thing. And I just wanted to bring to your attention, if you’ve haven’t read them, they’ve been doing these open letters in the New York Times to food leaders, CEOs. There’s one to the CEO’s mom, and the most recent one is to President Obama. And there’s a lot—they’re really great in terms of concisely putting together what’s wrong with our food system, so if you have a chance spin over there and read some of these letters, I just really, really enjoy them…
Transcribed by Alexis Ellis, 1/6/2017
Transcription Part II:
Caryn Hartglass: Well I’m excited because I read a lot of books and I have different people come on the show and sometimes I like their book and sometimes I’m not that excited about it but I’m respectful. For this one, I just read this book and I’m very excited about it so I’m hoping we can dig a bit into it during the program and I’m going to bring my guest on right now. Her name is Karin Dina and she’s a chiropractic doctor who has been studying and practicing raw food nutrition for over 25 years. Karin has studied naturopathic medicine and Bastyr University and graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic West and has an honors degree in biology. She and her husband, Rick Dina, are co-developers and instructors of the series of Science of Raw Food Nutrition classes taught at Living Light Culinary Institute in Fort Bragg, CA. They have an international consulting and lab work analysis practice and are dedicated to teaching a functional and scientifically sound approach to raw plant-based diets. Karin, welcome to It’s All About Food!
Karin Dina: Thanks so much for having me, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, I’m glad you can come on a little earlier than planned – that’s because I just finished reading this book and I thought there’s so many wonderful things to touch on that I wanted to talk to you for a long time.
Karin Dina: Great!
Caryn Hartglass: So as I was telling you earlier, I really love this book and number one what I really like about it is that you’re taking a very calm scientific approach to food and you’re explaining things so clearly, so simply – not everyone can do that – and you did an excellent job.
Karin Dina: Thank you very much! It’s something that I really enjoy doing; both my husband and I like to take complex pieces of information and make them relatable to the average person.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, I like to do that too for food and for some other technical things so I appreciate when other people do a really good job at it. Now, let’s talk about the raw food diet. I talk about it from time to time, I was on an all raw food diet maybe 10 years ago for a couple of years – it’s just like all things related to food, there’s a lot of information out on the internet. It’s overwhelming, it’s confusing, and I think you’ve taken a very nice objective, clear approach but let’s just talk about what is a raw food diet.
Karin Dina: Okay, so when I think of a raw food diet, I think of a diet that focuses on whole natural plant foods in their raw form and that can be composed of a variety of different foods. I would say that for the most part, fruits and vegetables would form the basis of a raw food diet with nuts and seeds and other types of raw foods added in depending on what type of mix people would like to have in their diet.
Caryn Hartglass: Raw food, we know, is really important, plant foods are really important. I think were going to learn more in the future about the benefits of raw food, maybe we don’t know how to measure or explain – some people have some mystical terms for it that make scientists roll their eyes – and I think you know what I mean.
Karin Dina: Yes, I absolutely do!
Caryn Hartglass: But like many other things, we know things without being able to explain them scientifically and at some point, science will catch up and then we’ll be able to explain things more logically so they’ll be more accepted. But in the meantime, there’s kind of a romance I think with the raw food diet and similarly with the paleo diet, where people who are attracted to it want to do what’s natural, what nature intended for us all along on this planet, and going back to these kinds of diets seems to have a romantic feeling about it.
Karin Dina: I think you’re probably right. I think that a lot of people, especially people who attend are classes, are really looking to get back to our roots in terms of what diet would be best for us and what best supports our health. So I think there has been a shift, really in the past 25 years since I’ve gotten into this – I’ve become more aware of this shift. I would say when I got started back in 1990, there was less of an awareness of how food affects our body, how it affects our health, and there’s much more of consciousness about that now.
Caryn Hartglass: One of the first things you go into in the book is explain macronutrients, you have a great chapter on carbohydrates and fiber, a great chapter on protein – “where do you get your protein?!”
Karin Dina: The biggest question of all!
Caryn Hartglass: The biggest question of all and I may jump around here a bit but since I mentioned protein, I love what you did with showing the essential amino acids – what we need and how we can get it from so many plant-based foods and how easy that is. So just briefly, tell us what essential amino acids are.
Karin Dina: Essential amino acids are the amino acids that our body needs in order to build protein-based structures in our body. Some of the amino acids that we find in nature are not essential – in other words, our body can make those from the amino acids that we take in. But of the 22 or 23 that are recognized in nature, about 9 or 10 of them are considered to be essential – and those are the ones that our body cannot make. So those are the ones we tend to focus on in this book – showing people how a mixture of whole natural plant foods in their raw form can provide us with the amino acids that we do need.
Caryn Hartglass: Now there have been some terms – and I don’t even use them anymore because I know that lots of people have different interpretations – complete and incomplete proteins. But basically, the thought behind it was that animal protein was complete and plant proteins were not because the plant protein didn’t have either enough or all the essential amino acids that we need as building blocks to make the proteins that we need. And it’s really gotten been some bad press and what I loved about the charts that you showed – clearly we’re not going to eat 2500 calories of one food – but I understand what you were doing behind the charts showing that all of these different foods that plant foods have enough individually. And then of course when we have a nice varied diet, together to make the essential amino acids that we need to get the building blocks together to make the proteins we need and we easily meet all the requirements – no brainer!
Karin Dina: That’s absolutely true and it’s nice when things are a no-brainer like that so we don’t have to get out our calculator to figure out what we’re getting. And I think the whole idea of complete and non-complete proteins is based in the early 1900s on the work of Osborne and Mendel when they were trying to figure out what complement of protein rats would need. Scientists kind of extrapolated that information to humans and it wasn’t until work of Doctor Rose that showed that from a human standpoint, we have a different need for essential amino acids than the rats did. And so the idea of incomplete proteins is from this early research in the early 1900s whereas the information we learned from Dr. Rose decades later showed that we can get plenty of the amino acids that we need from whole natural plant foods without having to use a calculator.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, and that is just is a reminder that all of the research that we’re doing on non-human animals, including mice and rats, doesn’t always give us good information for human animals.
Karin Dina: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: And we treat them horribly in the process, which I don’t think is the way to go at all.
Karin Dina: I agree with you completely.
Caryn Hartglass: We can get our protein easily and deliciously and then you had some very good tables talking about glycemic index and this is really an interesting topic so one of the things we do in science – Dr. T. Colin Campbell talks about it a lot and he calls it reductionism where we focus on one thing, one new trend and talk about that. But what we all have to keep in mind is that we’re an integrated body and everything works together as a symphony – but still in order to understand, we break things down into different parameters, different nutrients, and one of them is the glycemic index which I think has been pretty helpful in helping understand what goes on in our body. Can you tell us a little about the glycemic index?
Karin Dina: The glycemic index is a measure of the effect of the carbohydrates in our diet on our blood sugar. And so individual foods that are rich in carbohydrates are going to have this glycemic index number that is a measure of that effect. So what we observe is that foods that tend to be higher in for example, glucose, tend to be higher on the glycemic index than other carbohydrates that tend to be lower on the glycemic index, like for example, fructose. Fructose is low on the glycemic index, glucose is higher. Often times, people think that fruits are high glycemic because they’re so rich in carbohydrates but if we look at the actual carbohydrate mix in fruit, we find that most fruits are actually low glycemic which is often times counterintuitive for people but if you look at the numbers – I have a couple of charts that lay out the glycemic index of a variety of foods and it shows on here that most of the fruits are actually low on the glycemic index.
Caryn Hartglass: When people are pre-diabetic or they have diabetes and they are looking for ways to get healthy, they are often instructed to stay away from fruit.
Karin Dina: Often times yes, and I think that’s just a perception that I think just propagates itself and it’s not necessarily based in true science which is one of the reasons why I wanted to write this book and put this information in here to really clarify this information for people so that they don’t have to be afraid of healthy carbohydrate-containing foods like fruit.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, now one of the things that I love is that you’re very non-judgmental, very objective about all of the different possibilities and different ways that people can eat. You’re not saying that we absolutely have to eat 100% raw. You’re open to a number of different considerations that sit well with different individuals. While we’re talking about the glycemic index, you’re comparing the whole grain for example with a more processed version of that grain, and this kind of highlights the importance of eating whole foods versus anything that’s processed more or less.
Karin Dina: Absolutely. That’s one of I think the underlying things is focusing on all natural plant foods because not only are they better in this instance for glycemic control, they’re also a much better source of usable nutrients and they’re just better overall for health for so many different reasons that I talk about the book – that is an excellent point to bring up.
Caryn Hartglass: I talk to a lot of people about food and I get all kinds of interesting questions and often I find people are looking for a way to have the foods that they have learned to love that aren’t necessarily good for them but maybe there’s a way to have them where they’re not so bad. So an example is white bread versus whole wheat bread thinking that whole wheat is going to be better than white bread. And then now there are sprouted grains and you talk a bit about sprouted grains and I want to get into that in a minute but I just want to talk about this one example where you can have a sprouted wheat for example, and then what happens if you take a sprouted wheat and mill it into flour and make bread? Is that okay?
Karin Dina: Well, it’s still a whole food unless you have removed some of the ingredients in there, unless you’ve removed some of the nutrients, it’s still going to be a whole food. From a glycemic standpoint for example, it might be a little higher on the glycemic index because the milling process might very well make those carbohydrates more available to the body so it may cause them to be a bit higher glycemic it’s still for the most part still considered a whole food.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good to know. Let’s talk about grains for a moment: the good and the bad. What’s your take on grains?
Karin Dina: I’ve actually been thinking about grains for a long time and I’ve been doing some research specifically on gluten because there’s a bit of a controversy these days about non-gluten containing grains. I actually did a teleconference about these kind of controversial grains a couple of weeks ago and for the most part, what I’m finding is that even some of the non-gluten containing grains do have proteins in them that can resemble gluten. And so some people who have gluten sensitivities or intolerances may actually have reactions to these so-called non-gluten-containing grains.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve heard that about oatmeal, are there other grains like that?
Karin Dina: Oats are one of the big ones because there’s a protein in oats called avinin that actually does resemble true gluten and corn is another one too – corn has a protein in it called zein and that also looks like true gluten and so some people with gluten sensitivities have had trouble with corn even though corn is classified as a gluten free grain.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a possibility that people have digestive issues with a variety of different grains but people like their grains so should we include grains in our diet or not?
Karin Dina: I think that’s a personal judgment call – if you’re somebody who doesn’t have a gluten-related health challenge and things like rice don’t really affect you, then I don’t see the problem with having them. In fact, I eat brown rice, I also like the so-called pseudo-grains which are not members of the grain family – so they’re non-gluten containing but are sometimes called pseudo-grains because they resemble grains. Examples of that would be quinoa and amaranth. Buckwheat would also fall into that classification as well. For people who might have gluten sensitivities, those so called pseudo-grains could potentially be a viable option for them.
Caryn Hartglass: Well a lot of people love grains and they can be more convenient sometimes to help us feel satisfied.
Karin Dina: They can be convenient and they’re also really nutrient-dense and for somebody who doesn’t have a problem with them, they can be an excellent addition to your diet – and I think that’s true for legumes. Sometimes legumes get a reputation for a variety of reasons but I like my lentils, I like them sprouted, and I like them steamed, and I like them whole as well. I think that whether or not we decide to have these things in our diet really depends on how they work for us individually – what kind of results we get from them. Do they allow us to enjoy a whole foods plant-based diet and get the most of ourselves health wise.
Caryn Hartglass: I love my legumes too and I love my beans – all kinds of beans. Now you have one chart here I think when you were showing the different kind of amino acids where you include soybeans – but you didn’t really talk about soybeans in the rest of the book. Do you have any feeling about soy because it’s quite a controversial food?
Karin Dina: Soy is a huge controversy and I actually devote quite a bit of time to soy in our Science of Raw Food Nutrition series because so many people ask about it. From what I’ve seen, the reason why soy tends to be so controversial is because we see that in certain populations in the world such as Asian populations, we see that consuming soy supposedly is thought to be protective against certain types of health challenges – but we don’t see that same type of protection in western society for a number of reasons. One of the reasons why we think we see this kind of disconnect is because in western society, people tend to have a higher body mass index – they tend to carry a bit more fat than in general Asian populations and estrogen is made by a variety of different organs in the body – mostly in women in ovaries for example – and what also produces estrogen in the body is fat tissue. The more fat tissue that we have, the more estrogen we produce. When we consume soy, we are getting phytoestrogen, or plant estrogen, and when we add soy to a diet and we already have plenty of body fat that is already producing a lot of estrogen, we’re kind of adding more estrogen on top of a lot of estrogen to begin with and so any type of health challenge that might be associated with excess or with greater amounts of estrogen might be potentially aggravated by soy and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so controversial – there’s kind of that thought. The consumption of soy in certain populations might be protective whereas we don’t see that same level of protection in western society.
Caryn Hartglass: Well that’s another example of looking at one thing – the reductionist concept. Because all the nutrients work together in harmony and if we have more fat in the diet, or more fat in our bodies, maybe we will process nutrients differently than if we’re leaner with less fat.
Karin Dina: That’s a great summary, absolutely, very true.
Caryn Hartglass: There are a couple of big things I wanted to really highlight – one of them is this essential fatty acids story and you really did a great job of talking about it and making it very understandable. I thought we might talk a little bit about it because it’s a relatively new subject and I still don’t think we’ve figured it all out yet but let’s talk about omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and getting them in balance.
Karin Dina: As far as omega-6s and omega-3s go, we want to try to achieve a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of about 4 to 1. Now there are some researchers that think maybe 5 to 1 would be fine – even some researchers say about 10 to 1. But if we look at people in western populations, we often times see 20 to 1, in other words people in western populations tend to be getting a lot more omega-6s than omega-3s. Now if we have a more favorable ratio, which for example I said 4 to 1 would be a good example of that, what that means is that there’s more of an opportunity for the omega-3s that we take into our body convert into the omega-3s that are thought to be so beneficial for us like GHA and EPA because in whole natural plant-food based diets, we don’t necessarily get DHA and EPA. We get it mostly in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA. Conversion form ALA into DHA and EPA is difficult when we have a lot more omega-6s than omega-3s. If we have a better ratio, then that conversion of ALAs into DHAs and EPAs is more optimized.
Caryn Hartglass: And we’re discovering that there are a lot of health issues related to not having sufficient DHA and EPA so it’s really important to either make them or find a source to consume them.
Karin Dina: That’s right and that’s one of the reasons why we hear physicians saying we should consume fish oil because fish oil is mostly DHA. But there are definitely vegetarian and vegan alternatives to fish oil. In fact there’s a certain type of algae that lives in cold water and this algae forms the basis of the cold water food chain – and it’s not fish that makes DHA, it’s actually the algae. The fish come along and they eat the algae and that’s where they get their DHA from – so the argument that I make in this book is that if you’re going to eat DHA, or if you want pre-formed DHA, find an algae-based form of it. Go right to the source instead of running that DHA through a fish! It just makes sense to go to the source and I so I talk a little bit about that.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just trying to keep track of these recommended ratios – as you said, there are different people recommending different ratios. In fact I’ve even heard Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his camp recommending 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and that’s really hard to do!
Karin Dina: That’s pretty challenging! In order to do that on a raw food diet for example, you’d have to eat almost exclusively fruits and vegetables with a lot of leafy greens – and that’s a tall order! That would be pretty intense. My thought is that you’d have to be supplementing or I guess another way you could achieve that is by adding a lot of chia seeds or flax or something like that that’s super high in omega-3s.
Caryn Hartglass: It seems to me that 1:1 is not the right ratio because I don’t think healthy nutritious eating should be that difficult and if you’re eating healthy, non-processed, whole foods and still struggling to get the right ratio, it makes it hard to believe that’s the right ratio.
Karin Dina: That’s one of the reasons why my husband and I teach that you should aim for what’s achievable and what will give you the results that you want or what can potentially lead to that – and about a 4 to 1 ratio is totally achievable without having to stress about it – and on a whole food plant-based raw diet, if you’re eating fruits and vegetables and some nuts and seeds and you add some chia seeds to your dressing at night, you’re about 4 to 1 and it works out pretty well. And that’s just one example – and on a whole food vegan diet, you could do something similar to that – by adding steamed vegetables and adding some chia seeds to whatever recipes that you choose.
Caryn Hartglass: One of the things I like is that you include a lot of numbers in this book and that’s really important to make a point and to make people feel confident that when they choose whole plant foods, they’re going to be getting everything they need – because there have been decades of people saying “no you can’t”. And you show above and beyond that we can get the nutrition that we need. Personally, I don’t suggest that people count anything – count calories, count grams – it’s not fun, it’s stressful like you mentioned and that’s not healthy.
Karin Dina: Definitely not. Kind of my point of putting all these numbers in here is because I don’t want people to worry about it – but I want them to know how to structure a healthy raw plant-based diet so they don’t have to worry about it. I kind of did all the legwork for them. And for me, I don’t really count anything because years ago, I kind of put information like this together and sort of got an idea of what nutrients I needed and what foods were good sources of that and so I naturally gravitate to those foods and I don’t think about calories, I don’t think about zinc or iron or calcium, I just know that the mixture of foods that I’m getting are rich in those nutrients and they are going to give me what I need. But I guess the point of having all these charts in this book is to sort of reassure people that this is achievable if you focus on certain foods that are very rich in these important nutrients.
Caryn Hartglass: And you did a good job of that and I agree with you that in everyday life, we don’t have to worry about these numbers, you just have to read this book and know that’ you’re doing the right thing, and then move on.
Karin Dina: Awesome, sounds good!
Caryn Hartglass: So I mentioned that I was on an all-raw diet around 2004-2006. In hindsight, I probably wasn’t doing it the best possible way and there was a lot of trendy stuff going on. I’m not quite in that scene anymore so I don’t have my button on all the trends but I remember going into this gourmet raw food restaurant and coming out not feeling very good and how so many of the recipes were so filled with olive oil and salt in the form of namashoyu and loads of nuts – so heavy! And I’m happy to see that your book is not promoting that sort of diet.
Karin Dina: Well it’s interesting that you should say that – because that’s kind of the same situation that my husband and I have when we go to those types of restaurants – lots of oil, lots of nuts – it just feels very heavy. So with this book, I wanted to point out that when we’re focusing on water-rich whole natural plant foods, that’s going to help with our digestion, it’s going to help things move through our system better, it’s going to give us the nutrients that we need without that heavy, bogged down feeling. One the reason why people actually do raw food is because they want to feel lighter, they want to feel more alive, they want to get more out of themselves – and if you’re eating those heavy oil- and nut-based recipes, you’re not really experiencing that health benefit. I think that’s one of the reasons why people leave raw foods – they just don’t feel well. Whereas if they just shifted their diet to focus on the lighter raw foods, that are interestingly enough even more nutrient-dense than the more heavier oils, like fruits and vegetables, then you’re going to get that feeling that you came into raw foods for in the first place – so that’s a lot of what we focus on in this book. And we also talk about this in our classes because we really want people to succeed with this – because it’s very doable and it can make a big difference for a lot of people [32:02], including within ourselves.
Caryn Hartglass: I think some of it has to do with wanting to make foods that are similar to what we’ve been used to – and this is true in a vegan diet, it’s true in a raw-mixed vegan diet where there are all of these meat-analogues out there: veggie dogs and deli slices and all these things that simulate our old diet. And in raw food restaurants, I’ve had the loaves and the different kinds of dehydrated things to make crackers and cups for desserts – and when we try and duplicate those foods that weren’t healthy, they may be healthier than the original version but they’re still not the healthiest foods.
Karin Dina: I totally agree with you and when I first got into veganism 26 years ago, I noticed that. I was thinking: I’m looking for health here, and by eating this meat analogue type of thing here, I’m not really feeling that much better than the so-called standard western diet. And I think that these types of foods that sort of mimic our old-time favorites from our previous standard western diet are very helpful for transition but at some point, you need to transition out of those – or not necessarily need to but hopefully at some point, you move on from those and find new recipes to replace our old-time favorites. And I think that at least in the raw food movement in the past 25 years, we’ve seen kind of new standards – like you come off of a standard western diet to a vegan diet and then a raw food diet – so maybe you’re into the raw lasagna because it reminds you of what you ate when you were a kid but then maybe over time, a large bowl of vegetable with some great dressing could replace that – or maybe a green smoothie – or maybe some type of juice. There are just so many options out there that we don’t necessarily have to rely on foods that resemble the ones that we used to like. Those foods are great because they kind of remind us of our childhood – there’s something really wonderful about that. But at least I can say from my point of view, my transition continues I would say and it is constantly changing. So I encourage people to just look for recipes that really resonate with you and keep changing, experimenting and find a mix that works well.
Caryn Hartglass: Another thing that you cover in this book and I was really happy to see it because I don’t see the discussion very often is you talk about enzymes – what they are, digestive metabolic food enzymes – enzymes are one of those conversations I remember having with people in the raw food movement that would cause some eye rolling with people who had a scientific bend.
Karin Dina: I think I’m probably one of those people.
Caryn Hartglass: So can you give us a little clarity on digestive enzymes – do we need to get them from plants? Or do we need to supplement them and what do they do?
Karin Dina: Well first of all this is a great question and I figured it was going to come up in this interview because almost every single time I talk to people about raw foods, the enzyme question comes up. As far as enzymes go, I do talk about it in the book. It is my opinion, and based on my research and based on my personal experience and the experience of others, the whole idea of enzymes being the prime reason why we should consume raw foods, I don’t think it’s the strongest argument for that. The reason why is the enzymes we find in plant foods are the same or similar to the ones that we use in our digestive tract. The difference is that enzymes in raw plant foods are not as active as our digestive enzymes – they just aren’t. They can to some small degree contribute to our digestion but not to the degree that people tend to think that they do. And so my thought is if we’re eating our foods raw and there are some plant enzymes in there, they can only help with digestion – but they certainly don’t replace our digestive enzymes – they don’t do that but I think there’s so many other reasons why we should could consume foods in their whole natural raw state. A good example is phyto-nutrients and antioxidants – a lot of them can be inactivated when cooking them – certain vitamins can be inactivated by cooking – and certain raw foods in general are more water-rich than their cooked counterparts. And raw foods tend to be less calorie-dense and more nutrient-dense than their cooked counterparts. And then with raw foods, we don’t have the formation of so-called novel substances. In the scientific literature, they refer to these things as cooked food toxins: so things like acrylamide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nycocimines, heterocyclic amines – those things all tend to form with high heating methods. The threshold temperature for their formation is 248 degrees Fahrenheit – that is the threshold temperature for the formation of acrylamide. Any cooking method that is under that temperature, we don’t have the formation of novel substance. So cooking methods like steaming and boiling will not form these cooked food toxins.
Caryn Hartglass: Cooking with oil which enables you to get higher heat can start making that more dangerous.
Karin Dina: Absolutely, especially if you are leaning over a frying pan and the fumes you inhale – you’re inhaling some of those problematic substances.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, that’s a good tip! Don’t cook with oil, and it you are, don’t lean over it and breathe it in!
Karin Dina: Yes – you don’t want to eat it; you don’t want to breathe it.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, a couple more things. Now water – you mention this a few times – I know a lot of people you hear from time to time get taken to the ER, especially elder people, and they are dehydrated. We have a serious issue with hydration – although I recently read somewhere we don’t need to have eight glasses of water a day – and there’s all kind of things where people are continually telling us we have to be careful, and we have to be hydrated. And that’s because the foods that people eat today don’t have water in them! And you did a really good job in your book showing how plant foods provide gallons and gallons of water.
Karin Dina: It’s kind of astounding – when I was doing kind of the legwork for this chapter, I was just astounded. And when I was looking at what the recommendations are from the Institute of Medicine for water, I was thinking: wow, if you’re eating a really high water content diet, how much extra water do you even have to consume? I mean our water intake should be dictated on how active we are because we have a tendency to perspire and water leaves our body through that and some of us have a tendency to lose more water through transpiration than other people do and so our need for water is very individual definitely but I guess that my point I was trying to make in the chapter is that we can get most of the water that we need just from whole natural plant foods if we’re eating them in their raw form. So we don’t necessarily need to drink 8 glasses of water on top of that – that’s really superfluous. And if we’re eating a cooked-food based diet, like a standard western diet, we’re going to need to drink a lot of water to make up for what we’re not getting from our food.
Caryn Hartglass: It makes a lot of sense. I find I don’t really drink a lot of water – I happen to like tea so I’ll have a cup of tea from time to time. And I like green juice so I have my green juices every day but if I’m thirsty, I’ll drink. And sometimes I think that having a juicy fruit will actually feel better than having a drink of water
Karin Dina: That makes sense because if you’re eating a food, you’re getting in addition to that water, a lot of nutrients, a lot of fiber – and in a lot of ways, that can be more satisfied and I’ve found that too.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok so we just have a few minutes left and I have too many things to ask you but very quickly: you don’t mention mushrooms in this book, is there a reason for that?
Karin Dina: Well the original manuscript was about 500 pages long so there were a lot of things I had to edit out. My publisher was like “oh, this is all great information, Karin, but you can’t write a textbook here!” They thought it would be too long so there were a lot of things I had to cut out. And as far as mushrooms go, I think they can be very useful for people depending on what they are. There’s kind of a lot of press that medicinal mushrooms have been getting recently – and some of them are pretty amazing. And I’m thinking maybe in future books; I’ll include information about them. But you know, like other foods, not all mushrooms are created equal – some can be quite medicinal, and others are not so good. So we need to do our homework on them and see if they work out for us.
Caryn Hartglass: We have a about a minute and a half left so for you, what are your favorite, most delicious foods to eat?
Karin Dina: Wow, I guess my diet being pretty simple: fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds – my very favorite vegetable interestingly enough is Dandelion grain. And I know that’s really surprising for people because it’s pretty much the most bitter thing on the planet – I’m exaggerating but I tend to like things that are bitter whereas some people really like sweet foods – or they like foods that have other types of qualities to them, but I’m really into bitter stuff.
Caryn Hartglass: I get that, I love arugula.
Karin Dina: Arugula kind of reminds me of peanuts – it kind of has a peanut taste to it and I love to throw it in a green smoothie with some berries because it kind of very slightly reminds me of peanut butter and jelly, I have no idea why.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I’ve got to do that! Well Karin, thank you so much for joining me and giving me a little extra time. I really enjoyed reading this book: Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: an essential guide to understanding a raw food diet. It’s excellent and you’ve got to get those extra pages you didn’t include in your book into a part two!
Karin Dina: That will be coming up probably in the next two years. Thank you so much for having me on this show, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you, and take care.
Karin Dina: You too!
Caryn Hartglass: We’ve come to the end! I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. Thanks for joining me. I was speaking to Karin Dina, co-author of The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook. Visit me at www.responsibleeatingandliving.com. You can find out more about my guest today and get a lot of great recipes and a lot more. In the meantime, have a delicious week!
Transcribed by Irena Gorsky, 9/21/2015