What is High-Energy Food?
High-energy food is raw food. Specifically, raw plants. But before you say, “Ugh, not a fan of salads, next!”, let me assure you that in my diet, salad is persona non grata and has been my entire life. I'm going to share with you the best reasons to get more high-energy foods into your diet (aside from the obvious, that they're high-energy) and also my best ways to do it without ever going near a bowl of lettuce ever again.
First, a brief nutrition lesson. Your body needs specific nutrients to function, and the better your nutrition, the better your health. This is not up for debate, nor are the specific nutrients your body needs. Skimp on even one or two and the consequences can be as mild as muscle cramps and as severe as being misdiagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Your body gets its essential nutrients from the food you eat. And again, not up for debate is the fact that plants have the highest concentration of essential nutrients. Therefore, the more plants in your diet, the more nutrients you'll be giving your body so it can thrive.
Here's the final piece of the (raw) pie: plants lose nutrients when they're cooked. Vitamins, especially, tend to be pretty delicate, and heat causes them to break down. That's not to say eating cooked veggies isn't still super healthy, but we're talking about getting an edge on your health, here. And that means more raw.
So if you don't like salad, how do you get more of these raw, high-energy foods? Here are my top three favourites:
1. Start with a Smoothie. Smoothies blew up the Internet a couple years ago, I think when blogging became something you could actually turn into your day job, and recipe blogs were suddenly everywhere. There's a reason this is the go-to meal/snack/treat for everyone from busy moms to nutrition nuts to hardcore athletes: they're stupid easy, pretty much always taste good, and let you absolutely pack in the nutrients. If you're not sure how to add more raw food to your “regular” meals, try a smoothie for breakfast or a snack as a way to break into the raw game.
2. Consider Condiments. Some of your favourite sauces, toppings, and dips are already raw or can be made raw with just a few tweaks. Salsa, guacamole, tapenade, chimichurri, and pesto are great examples. As a bonus, they're all easy to make and are familiar (who doesn't love chips & salsa?) so it's a way to get in more raw food without anyone you're cooking for getting suspicious.
3. Supplant Salads. I have never, ever enjoyed eating a bowl of raw leaves, no matter how much dressing I soaked it with or how creative I got with my other add-ins. It's just not my thing. But the way I define a salad is a lot more versatile. To me, a salad is literally anything raw you chop up and toss together in a bowl. Fruit salad? Totally a salad. Diced cucumbers and tomatoes? Salad.
To me, this definition of salad makes it easy to add some raw to any meal without needing to go through a huge production for one of those 30-ingredient, Pintrest-worthy, “complete meal” salads I see literally everywhere. Sometimes I'll slice up a cucumber and toss it with lemon juice and olive oil, and that's our side salad with dinner. It's also a great way to try out foods you normally wouldn't think of as raw-able. Beets and yams, for example, are 100% delicious raw and if you grate or shred them, they look absolutely beautiful mixed in with a bowl of otherwise mostly green things.
So now you know. High-energy foods are raw foods. They're great for your body, and you can get super creative or super simple with them. My personal preference as a nutritionist would be to have everyone eat at least one raw thing with every meal. Start with one meal a day, and you'll find pretty quickly that you really love the addition these high-energy foods bring. The flavour sensations and textures can really elevate a meal. Think of the descriptors like “crunchy, cool, crispy, fresh, zesty, bright, and refreshing”. Those are all raw food words! Now try to imagine how sad your diet would be if you never ate anything you could describe with one of those words. What's left? Mushy and chewy? Get those raw foods on your plate. Your palate and body will thank you.
Sweet & Sour Apple Beet Salad
1 medium red beet, scrubbed & peeled
1 Granny Smith apple
6-7 fresh mint leaves
Juice from ½ a lemon
2 T neutral oil, like avocado or almond
Pinch of pink Himalayan salt
1. If you have a mandoline, slice the beet very thinly, then use a knife to cut the sliced rounds into thin strips (a little wider than a matchstick). If you don't have a mandoline, shred the beet using the large holes on a box grater. Toss into a large bowl.
2. Slice the apple thinly, then cut into matchsticks. Add to the bowl.
3. Mince the mint. Add to the bowl.
4. Sprinkle on the salt, then add the lemon juice and oil. Toss well to coat. You can serve this salad right away or chill it for a few hours first. It doesn't store very well, so use it up the same day you make it.