I can appreciate that controversial articles can make us question our choices. We’re constantly bombarded with various advertisements, opinions, figures, information, etc., and I know it can make you wonder… “WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO?”
So, here is yet another opinion on the matter (mine). I’m emailed all the time about this issue and decided to blog about it.
Different Sweeteners For Different Reasons
The healthiest sweeteners are fresh, organic whole fruits, including dates. That said, dates sometimes compromise texture in recipes. As a chef, I look for beautiful texture, and as a health food advocate, I lean towards fresh dates. And, then, as a consultant helping people embrace a Raw vegan lifestyle, I’m supportive of helping them transition, which can mean using organic raw agave nectar (an easy-to-use sweetener that might not have the healthiest ranking in the Raw food world – especially to purists, which I am not), but is still much healthier than most sweeteners used in the Standard American Diet. I think it’s important to support people in the transition with eating a healthier lifestyle and, therefore, it’s important to be flexible. After all, a slice of Raw vegan cheesecake made with raw agave nectar is a heck of a lot better than a typical candy bar found in a convenience store or cookies made with white sugar and butter (and cooked!).
Agave isn’t something that you have to put in your recipes every day. If you’re unsure about it, then balance it out with dates. Many dessert recipes probably come out with the best texture if you use raw agave nectar (think mousse, pudding, etc). But, if it’s a soup or a smoothie or a dressing, then you can pretty easily just swap out the agave for 1-2 pitted dates. In my life… sometimes I use dates or date paste (recipe below), sometimes I use raw organic agave nectar, and sometimes I use a combination of both raw agave nectar and dates.
My main stance is that I’m comfortable with organic raw agave nectar and I use it in some of my recipes. I do not consume it every day.
Raw & Organic Agave Nectar – But Is It Really?
I agree that there are agave brands out there that claim to be raw and probably aren’t. The label says that it’s raw, but it doesn’t specify the temperature at which it was created. That’s why I stick with Madhava’s Raw Organic Agave for light agave (check out the FAQ of theirs for more details). I also use Wholesome Sweeteners Blue Agave when my recipe calls for a darker (or blue) agave nectar. Both companies claim on the label to not process their agave nectar over temps of 115F and 118F.
Update 3/6/09: I’ve recently been sent a sample of another Raw agave nectar. I’ll let you know my feedback, but from what I’ve read… it’s very promising.]
Update 12/9/09: I do like the raw agave from Ultimate Superfoods. Update 3/17/10: I came across this blog where an article is featured “Agave Nectar: Hold on now… Response to Rami Nagel’s article By Craig Gerbore, President of Madhave”
Listen To Your Body
People are different and at different stages of raw (or even just healthy eating, for that matter) – this is important to consider if you have doubts about the health of raw agave nectar. Ask yourself… How does it make you feel? If you have something made with raw agave nectar, do you feel OK? Do you feel icky? Do you feel good and healthy? Many people on the Raw vegan journey find that over time, they eat meals that are simpler (for the most part) and don’t eat as many gourmet foods, where you find raw agave nectar used more. So, over time, you might not consume a lot of raw agave nectar, but to have some occasionally is common.
Honey? Heck No!
As a happy and very proud vegan, honey is not an option, nor is it something that I advocate for other people. Dr. Michael Klapper, M.D., (a vegan doctor and best selling author) advises against using honey for health reasons, because it spikes natural sugar levels of the body. Honey is, basically, regurgitated bee vomit. Gross!
Bees make honey for the colony and pollen for the new queen. They don’t go to all the trouble to give it to me. When a colony is disturbed by someone taking their honey or pollen, it places a great amount of stress on the bees. This can disorient them and, in that sense, their whole order has been tampered with. I wouldn’t dream of stealing from bees. (There is a lot of information here about bees and their honey.)
In my opinion, there is no need to consume honey and harm bees, when you can use delicious and nutritious alternatives such as fresh organic dates to sweeten recipes. You can even make a date paste if you need something of a liquid nature (recipe below).
Stress About It? Double Heck No!
Stress is one of the worst things for us. So, don’t stress about your choice to use, or not use, raw agave nectar. When you do things in moderation, it helps ease your mind. And, if you use agave nectar, get the best on the market (organic and raw) and feel secure with your choice.
Date Paste – Yummy & Healthy! It’s great to keep this on hand in the refrigerator so you have it available and ready to use. It’s easy and should take you less than 10 minutes to prepare. Moreover, I love Medjool dates for my date needs because they’re plump and big (I usually buy them from SunOrganic
For those of you who want to stay away from both raw agave nectar and honey, here is a nutritious alternative that is smooth and delicious.
By Kristen Suzanne of KristensRaw.com
Yield 1 cup
15 Medjool dates, pitted, and soaked 15 minutes (reserve soak water)
1/4 – 1/2 cup reserved “soak water”
Using a blender, or a food processor, fitted with the “S” blade, puree the ingredients until you have a smooth paste. You can add a pinch of Himalayan crystal salt, if desired. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator (glass mason jar is perfect), Date Paste will stay fresh for 10-14 days or longer.
Saturday, February 28th, 2009
Whew! It’s been a busy and fun week. We’re staying at my mom’s for a few days and I’ve been food prepping up a storm. (She just finished getting her house remodeled, so I’m showing her gorgeous new kitchen some love and making all kinds of delicious Raw vegan goodies – Cheezy Hemp Nacho Sauce, veggie crudite, lots and lots of fresh Plant Blood (a.k.a. green juice), an awesome new chocolate cheesecake recipe, ice cream, and more!)
Ohhh! My valentine’s day gift arrived today – the new Kindle 2 is in my hands! I’m so excited about it. One of my passions is reading – it has been all of my life. Needless to say, I’m STOKED about this (big thank you to my awesome husband!). The set up for it has been a breeze and I’m getting ready to purchase my first book on it. In trying to decide which one to buy, I’m visiting one of my former Awesome Giveaways where I asked people their favorite books. I’ll take one of those recommendations. (I’ll keep you posted as to which ebook I buy for my new Kindle 2.)
A Great Interview w/ Dr. Neal Barnard by Ecorazzi.com
Dr. Neal Barnard is one of my heroes! When he was asked his opinion about the rising popularity of Raw foods? He thinks it’s great! :)
~ I was notified that my blog is listed in an article as one of the Top 50 Raw Food & Lifestyle Blogs. I’m listed in the Health and Beauty section. Sa-weet!
~ And, I was listed on this very cool new part of We Like It Raw’s website, Masala, as one of the “hottest raw food blogs.” Double Sa-weet!
Monday, February 23rd, 2009
I’ve received some blog comments (as well as emails) asking me to post my Raw food intake more often. Your wish is my command ;)
Monday’s Raw Food (all foods are organic)
Water with a squeeze of lemon
Freshly squeezed orange juice (large glass)
Water with Amazing Grass’ Wheat Grass Powder, New Chapter Organic’s Berry Greens, and Vega’s EFA oil
Hemp / Rice Protein Drink (hemp protein powder, rice protein, cinnamon, water)
Chocolate Candied Pumpkin Seeds (recipe in my upcoming chocolate book)
Raspberry Leaf Herbal Tea (giant mug – aaahhhh)
Amazing Grass Chocolate Whole Food Energy Bar
Guacamole, salsa, Fun Corn Chips
Green and Crunchy Blog
Here is a blog that I enjoy following. I loved this particular post about how she is feeding her family Raw vegan style. Check it out here.
Daily Conversation Question:
If you were offered a seat on the next space shuttle would you take it?
Monday, February 23rd, 2009
I’m excited to announce that my book, Kristen Suzanne’s EASY RAW Vegan Dehydrating is now available in print from Amazon. Yeehaw!
If you are trying to decide whether or not to buy one, then this book is for you! There are SO many fun and interesting things you can do with dehydrating Raw foods, such as making breads, crackers, wraps, pancakes, granolas, plant leathers (fruit roll-ups, etc.), seasonings, and much more. You can also intensify flavors, add cooked-like textures to your foods, and even serve warm dishes with the food’s nutritional integrity totally intact!
This book is a great, thorough, and comprehensive introduction to dehydrating for people who are curious about the subject. It’s also a must-have for Raw food enthusiasts who want to experience the full range of experiences in the Raw food cuisine.
This book also comes with a special offer: 10% off Excalibur dehydrators & products.
Sunday, February 22nd, 2009
Congratulations Sweetie! Your name was chosen as the winner of my 8th Awesome Giveaway. Your prize is a a copy of my book, Kristen Suzanne’s EASY Raw Vegan Smoothies, Juices, Elixirs & Drinks. YAY!!!!!! Simply email me the address you want your prize sent to.
Here is what Sweetie had to say when asked, “If you could master one musical instrument, which one would you choose and why?“
Great question and thank you for your generosity=-)For me it would be the harp. It is so beautiful and also sounds beautiful. To me it is one of the strongest symbols that can represent feminine beauty. Grace…LOVE ALWAYS
My next Awesome Giveaway is in March, so check back for details!
Saturday, February 21st, 2009
It’s been a such a lovely day today! The weather is gorgeous, and I spent the whole day with my mom. We drank herbal tea and played cards – FUN! I love spending time with her. After that, my husband and I spent some time with my mom-in-law where we played games and watched BSG. Now, we’re back home and working. Saturday is going to be another super day – I can just feel it!
My Raw Food Intake Today
Plant Blood (a.k.a. green juice)
Vega bar (berry flavor)
pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts
Amazing Grass Whole Food Chocolate Bar (yum!)
Carrots, yellow bell pepper, zucchini veggie dish with Cheezy Nacho Hemp Sauce
Goddess Cream Cake (new recipe in my upcoming book all about chocolate!)
Saturday’s Food Plan (I like to plan my food out and here’s why)
Hemp / Rice Protein Shake
pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts
Beets, carrots, red bell pepper, zucchini veggie dish with Cheezy Nacho Hemp Sauce
Goddess Cream Cake
Cool News to Peruse: New Project to Make 11 Islands Waste-Free
Wednesday, February 18th, 2009
Yay! It’s that time again! I want to have another awesome giveaway. This time I’m giving away a copy of my book, Kristen Suzanne’s EASY RAW VEGAN Smoothies, Juices, Elixirs, & Drinks (includes wine drinks!). Everyone around the world is welcome to participate. If I draw the name of someone who lives outside the continental United States, I’ll email you the ebook version.
This book is so fun! Getting all of the nutrition and anti-oxidants your body needs for maximum health is SUPER EASY once you start eating Raw plant-based foods every day, and one of the easiest ways to do this consistently is to DRINK THEM! These recipes are among the easiest Raw recipes you will find… just blend ‘em up (or juice ‘em) and chug ‘em down. You’ll start feeling the powerful effects immediately, and this book gives you so many recipes that you’ll never run out of variety.
Want the chance to win? It’s simple to participate! All you have to do is answer the following question in this post’s comment section. The contest will end Saturday night, February 21st @ 11:59pm. I’ll enter everyone’s name who answered the question into a drawing and announce the winner on my blog Sunday, Feb 22nd.
Question: If you could master one musical instrument, which one would you choose and WHY?
Monday, February 16th, 2009
A Great First Step!
Stay focused on an objective to incorporate more fresh whole fruits and vegetables into your diet every day. Once you start doing this, you automatically reduce some of the not-so-healthy foods. This could mean having two green smoothies every day, or eating a salad before every lunch and dinner, or eating Raw breakfasts and Raw desserts (instead of cooked breakfasts and desserts), or all of the above.
I’m not a purist when it comes to my diet, and I find that most people succeed with this lifestyle when they take it easy, have fun and remain flexible. This can be very important during those first months of transition (and forever for that matter!). For some, eating 100% Raw is the only way to go, and that’s great. But, for many, to easily succeed with a predominantly Raw vegan lifestyle, it can mean being flexible (yet still super healthy) and that can mean living a High Raw lifestyle (in the beginning, at different times during the journey, or all the time).
Don’t Stress and Don’t Give Up!
Don’t freak out if you have a bad day of eating, and certainly don’t give up. I’m fond of saying, “Every meal is another chance to turn it around.” Over time, as you eat more and more fresh Raw vegan foods, you’ll naturally find yourself avoiding unhealthy foods anyway, so just let it happen naturally and enjoy the journey.
When I first went Raw, I found that the more greens I added to my lifestyle, the less I craved unhealthy foods. Now, my attention is naturally focused on great and healthy choices all the time. A super way to get more greens is with green smoothies, salads, plant blood (a.k.a. green juice) and adding green powder to your life (one of my favorites is Vitamineral Green Powder).
Fresh Fruit Does Wonders!
Keeping fresh organic fruit around all the time is a great way to avoid unhealthy cravings (And! It’s soooo good!). The next time your sweet tooth comes a knockin’, eat a banana or drink a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice or eat a date (or 2 or 3!) or enjoy some berries. The craving will disappear as you gently nourish your body with nutrient dense food that is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Beauty and vitality are gifts from nature for those who live by her laws.
~ Leonardo Da Vinci
Thursday, February 12th, 2009
I love hemp foods. Hemp’s amino acid profile dominates with the 8 essential amino acids (10 if you’re elderly or a baby), making it a vegetarian source of “complete” protein! Manitoba Harvest is my favorite source for hemp foods. I use their hemp seeds, butter, protein powder and oil to make delicious raw vegan recipes all the time… including this one. Here’s an easy, delicious and nutritious spread for you and your family (especially kids!). I love serving it with sliced apples. Yum!
CINNAMON DELIGHT HEMP SPREAD
By Kristen Suzanne of KristensRaw.com
Yield 1/2 cup
1/2 cup raw hemp seed butter
2 teaspoons raw agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch Himalayan crystal salt
Stir all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
Another Great Hemp Recipe:
King Garlic Hemp Dressing
Monday, February 9th, 2009
So far today I’ve had…
1 1/2 cups of Teeccino
1 Raw Protein Shake (rice protein, hemp protein, Vega’s EFA oil, New Chapter Organic’s Berry Greens powder, Amazing Grass’ Wheat Grass powder, banana, water) – this shake really fills me up!
1 Raw Chocolate Macaroon
1 bowl Raw Granola (dry) with a chopped banana
1 Raw Chocolate Macaroon :)
1 Vega bar – Berry Flavor
1 big mug of Raspberry Leaf herbal tea
Tonight, I’m going to make miso soup (soy-free) with fresh garlic and ginger added – alongside a huge bowl of Fennel Orange Kale Salad with a Raw Chocolate Macaroon for dessert :) If I get hungry I’ll have another protein shake.
A Great Blog
I want to share another AWESOME blog that I follow regularly: Nature Mom’s Blog. I learn a lot from Tiffany – she’s full of great info! Practically every time I read a post of hers, I find myself saving it for future reference (for when I have kids especially). And, if it’s not kid related, it seems to always be relevant in some way.
Another Awesome Giveaway!
I’m going to have another awesome giveaway for the month of February. Be sure to check back for details!
Whole Foods Demonstration Canceled
For those of you planning on stopping by the Raw Food day of demonstrations (Feb 20), Whole Foods announced to me today that it was canceled.
Would you be likely to survive alone in the wilderness?
*For those who don’t know, the conversation question” is from these cute “conversation starter” cards I found at a little boutique. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable when meeting new people, or if there is silence while around co-workers, or maybe you’re meeting your boyfriend/girlfriend’s parents for the first time and you want to ensure stimulating conversation. These are fun and made for just that!