By Andrew Zimmern
June 11, 2008
5 Questions with Raw Foodie Ani Phyo
Most Bizarre Foods fans are accustomed to seeing Andrew eat insects, pungent cheeses and uncommon cuts of meat. However, in the upcoming Los Angeles episode (which will air next season), AZ checks out an unconventional food movement. What could epitomize the bizarre California culinary scene more than the raw, vegan diet? Andrew shot the raw food segment with Ani Phyo, a raw food guru and author of the award-winning cookbook, Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen. AndrewZimmern.com spoke with Ani about the obstacles and benefits of eating raw.
AndrewZimmern.com: What intrigued you about starting a raw/living foods diet? Why start?
Ani Phyo: The food was just delicious, and then I discovered it was completely guilt-free and ultra healthy. Raw living foods support green living, produce organic compost used to grow more food, helps us maintain our ideal weight and lose weight if needed, gives us mental clarity, focus, energy, and clears up our skin to create beauty radiating from being healthy on the inside.
AZ.com: Many people would think a diet of uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds is pretty bizarre. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about raw foods?
AP: Eating fresh, whole and unheated fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds is a way to get back to how nature intended for us to eat. I believe it’s the additives, artificial colorings, flavorings, preservatives and chemicals in our processed foods that cause obesity and diseases of all types.
The biggest misconception is that eating raw foods means eating salads or carrot sticks. Today, with the gourmet raw foods movement, raw foods take on many delicious forms. Like the meal I got to make with Andrew. We made burgers, lasagna, shakes, cake, and parfait. But, without the animal products that create heart disease or cholesterol issues, and fillers like white sugar or flour that give us empty calories and no nutrients. Every ingredient in raw food provides us with nutrients our bodies need to hum like a well-oiled engine.
AZ.com: What are some ways people can easily incorporate raw foods into their diet?
AP: The easiest way to include raw fresh foods into any diet is by drinking smoothies, and adding on a salad before your meal. When eating a salad that is at least as large as that burger first, chances are youll have less room for the burger. The way this works is that the salad gives you nutrients your body craves, and youre also eating water and fiber to fill you up. By eating fresh salad first, your body will feel satisfied sooner. And you wont need to eat as much of the other less nutrient-rich foods.
Same goes with a smoothie. Drink a huge one first, before a meal. You’ll feel more full, and eat less of the filler foods.Adding in more fresh, whole foods into any diet will help you lose weight if needed, make you feel lighter and more energized, give you mental clarity and increase productivity, fuel optimal physical performance and keep you looking your best. Best of all, you wont get sick as often. I haven’t had a cold for over 9 or 10 years. So now I can choose to take down time in form of vacations, rather than be forced into bed because I don’t feel well.
AZ.com: Your book has a section on raw/vegan foods for dogs. How easy is DIY dog food? What are the benefits?
AP: My dog is my compost bin. All the ends of my carrots, celery, herbs, and leftovers go into a pate I make by blending together nuts, seeds, veggies, and herbs and spices. The benefits for a dog are the same as for people. My dog was a rescue and was very sick. She gained over 50 lbs on a raw, vegan diet with me in about 2-3 months. Today, shes healthy, radiant, beautiful, with a shiny coat strangers always ask to touch.
As with most things, its the up front work that takes time, but once youre set up for making DIY dog food, its really fast and easy.
AZ.com: Name five raw ingredients most people have never heard of that are too good for you to miss out on.
AP: Superfoods are packed with super nutrition. These superfoods have the power of making us lose weight, help our skin rebuild collagen to combat aging, keep our hair and skin strong and healthy, and keep us from getting sick.
1. Goji berries. Super-high in Vitamin C and antioxidants.
2. Chia seed. It’s the stuff that grew hair on our chia pets. It’s packed with omegas, and also helps keep us hydrated. This is great for athletes during competition, and keeps our skin moist and plump and youthful.
3. Coconut oil. Helps regulate our thyroid and metabolism, a really good fat for us. I use it in my hair and on my skin to moisturize too.
5. Cacao. This is real chocolate, straight off the tree, before any waxes or additives have been added in.I recommend buying high quality superfoods from quality sources like Navitas and Nutiva.
AZ.com: Why do raw foodists remake uncooked versions of famous cooked food dishes? Is it for the powers of persuasion to get fencesitters off the fence? If so, doesnt that seem a little bit on the creepy side, a little evangelical for some people?
AP: Its to give conceptual context. If I named something a layered zucchini casserole with marinara, its not as easy to imagine what that is as when I may say rawzagnia. Its easier to call something an ice kream, rather than a frozen blended cashew cream scoop. Yes, I’d think the power of persuasion may help by using similar names. Though someone, like my brother, may say it tastes nothing like bacon, but boy is it ever good!
I’m totally not about the evangelical. I believe we all need to eat whats good for us, and that takes on different forms for different people. I do believe everyone can benefit from adding more raw fresh foods into any diet.
AZ.com: What’s in your refrigerator?
AP: Cherries, kale, mustard greens, celery, carrots, lemons, daikon, radishes, apples, squash, okra,onion, berries, avocados,herbs like thai basil, rosemary, thyme.Walnuts, almonds,cashews, pistachios, pecans
Raw seeds:Flax, sesame, chia, hemp seeds
Other superfoods:Maca, mesquite, hemp oil, coconut oil, sea vegetables like nori and dulse.
I make sure to visit the local farmers market at least once a week, I’m lucky here in Southern California to have access to that.