Expert Interview Series: Alissa Cohen on the Raw Food Diet

Alissa Cohen has been eating and teaching about raw food for more than 25 years. When she was in her 20s, Alissa said doctors couldn't find causes to her various health problems including weight gain, fibromyalgia, candida, and nerve...

Raw food diet

Alissa Cohen has been eating and teaching about raw food for more than 25 years.

When she was in her 20s, Alissa said doctors couldn't find causes to her various health problems including weight gain, fibromyalgia, candida, and nerve and joint damage.

She tried every diet imaginable, including macrobiotic, vegetarian, and vegan; but nothing helped. Then while working at a health food store, she met a woman who introduced her to the benefits of eating only raw and "living" food. Since nothing else seemed to be working for her, Alissa decided to give raw food a try.

In just weeks, her aches and pains disappeared, her eyesight improved so much that she stopped using reading glasses, her mood swings stopped, her energy levels went through the roof, her hair shined, her skin glowed, her eyes sparkled and she lost 17 pounds.

"What was most astonishing was how I felt inside my body and mind," Alissa says. "I was calmer, more peaceful, happier and full of hope and joy for the future. Every morning I would wake up with a profound feeling of gratitude and excited about a new day."

Today, the internationally-recognized author, speaker, and consultant talks about her experiences going raw and living a more inspired life. Alissa recently checked in to give us an overview on the raw diet and its benefits. Here's what she had to say:

Who or what inspires you in the kitchen?

My clients and students inspire me. When I hear all of their stories about how they conquered illness and disease and how they are creating optimal health, It just makes me want to come up with new and improved recipes so that they will be able to stay on this diet and never feel deprived of their favorite foods.

How would you define raw food?

Raw and living foods are alkaline-rich foods that contain enzymes and are not cooked above 112?F. Raw and living foods are fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains. They're filled with living energy, raw vitality and unlimited health benefits.

What are those benefits of a diet based in raw food?

Raw and living foods are alkaline-rich foods. When your diet is made up of raw foods, your body shifts from an acid state to a more alkaline state. Sicknesses and diseases occur in acidic bodies. An alkaline body is a healthy body.

Raw and living foods help reverse and slow down the aging process because they contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. Raw and living foods are extremely beneficial in helping to arrest - and in many cases, may actually reverse - aging at the cellular level.

It's possible to lose amazing amounts of weight, look and feel younger, obtain boundless energy, experience a calm mind, and achieve optimal health - not in years, not in months, but very often within weeks!

Following a raw food diet has allowed thousands of people to find relief from numerous ailments and diseases including diabetes; fibromyalgia; acne; migraines; back, neck and joint pain; asthma; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; hypoglycemia; colitis and diverticulitis; candida; arthritis; serious allergies; depression, anxiety and mood swings; heartburn, gas and bloating; skin diseases; obesity; menopausal symptoms; chronic fatigue; cancers and other ailments.

What seem to be the biggest reservations people have to adopting a raw food diet? How do you change their minds?

When I mention raw food to people, they think I'm talking about carrot sticks and apple slices. They don't realize how amazing most of the recipes are. I change their minds by introducing them to some of my favorite recipes and showing them that they can still have the creamy texture of cheese, the sweetness of their favorite desserts and the crunch of a cracker or chips. When they see and taste how their favorite foods can be mimicked in a much healthier way and still taste amazing, they are usually convinced!

What do you look for when shopping for food now?

Organic and local, of course, but it's all about the freshness of food. I shop at farmer's markets as much as I can. I also grow as much food as possible. The fresher the food, the more energy it contains.

We'd love to hear about a few of your favorite dishes. What are your favorite raw food recipes for ...

Breakfast

Chia Pudding

Chia seeds are filling, packed with energy and act as a natural thickener. Start your day with a bowl of this tapioca-like pudding and some fresh or dried fruit stirred in. If you prefer a thicker pudding, use less water. This can be made with unsprouted almonds, but if you have sprouted ones, use them.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

3 cups water

1 cup almonds

½ cup chia seeds

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Dash of ground cinnamon

1. Put the almonds and 3 cups water in a Vita-Mix. Blend until creamy and smooth. Add the chia seeds, agave and cinnamon and pulse the blender several times just to mix. If it's not sweet enough, add a little more agave.

2. Pour the mixture into a bowl and chill for one hour or longer to thicken. Store in the refrigerator up to two days.

Lunch

Mock Salmon Pate

A delicious pink pate with a hint of salmon flavor! I eat this all the time on top of a large salad with vinaigrette dressing. It's such an easy pate to prepare and oh so delicious!

2 cups walnuts

2 stalks celery

1 large red bell pepper

1 large scallion

½ -1 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. This can be served on a plate as is, drizzled over a salad, rolled up in a green leaf or spread on crackers.

Dinner

Raw Ravioli

This is one of my favorite raw recipes. I often make these at seminars and events and people go wild over them! There is always one person who continues to ask me through the whole event, "What kind of pasta is this made from?" Even after I tell them numerous times that it's turnip, not pasta. It's hard to believe these are raw!

Wrapper:

4 turnips

Peal the turnips. Slice the turnips into very thin slices by cutting them in half and then using a spiral slicer, mandolin or other vegetable slicer to make thin round disks.

These will be used as the wrapper, which would normally be the pasta dough.

Cheese filling:

1 cup pine nuts

1 cup macadamia nuts

1 cup walnuts

6 teaspoons Braggs or Nama Shoyu

8 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

1 cup parsley

Blend the pine nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts in a food processor until ground. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well, until creamy.

Tomato Sauce:

2 large tomatoes

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh basil

1 clove garlic

6 dates

dash of olive oil (optional)

Soak the sun dried tomatoes until soft. Blend in food processor: the tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and garlic until well blended. Add the dates and olive oil and blend until smooth. This sauce should be thick.

Directions for assembling the ravioli:

Remove a single turnip slice from the batch. Place a teaspoon full of cheese filling in the turnip slice and fold the turnip over until all the sides meet. Squeeze the edges together. Some of the filling will ooze out; but this is what will hold the edges together. Just put the excess back into the bowl to reuse. If you don't have enough filling in them they will not stick together. Place them in a single layer on a large plate and drizzle the tomato sauce on top; allow to sit for a few hours. The turnip will become soft from the tomato sauce. Use a spatula to scoop the raviolis up and serve.

Dessert

Date Nut Torte

Fudgy, creamy and sweet! I bring this with me when I'm visiting someone I'd like to introduce to raw food. People can't believe it's raw! And it's one of the quickest and easiest desserts to make.

Base of Tort:

2 cups raisins

2 cups walnuts

1. In a food processor, combine raisins and walnuts and blend until well blended and moist. (This will take a few minutes and you may see it forming a ball. Just make sure the raisins come out looking like a fudgy mixture and are not still grainy)

2. Remove from processor and mold onto a plate in a round circle about 1 1/2 inches thick.

Frosting:

1 cup dates, pitted and soaked

1/2 lemon, juiced

1. In a food processor, combine dates and lemon juice until smooth and creamy.

2. Spread the frosting on top of the torte.

Note: I like this served at room temperature as the frosting and torte are still sticky, but if you want a firmer texture that will be easier to slice, refrigerate it for a few hours.

What are some of your go-to kitchen tools?

A food processor is a must! I make most of my recipes in a Cuisinart food processor. I also love my Vitamix. And I couldn't live without my Kyocera ceramic knives.

When you want a break from the kitchen, where are some of your favorite places to dine out?

There are not too many raw food restaurants around me in Boston. So I have a favorite Italian restaurant where they make me a fantastic arugula salad, and a vegan place that I can always get great salads or smoothies. When I travel to California or New York, it's a bit easier as there are more choices. Au Lac in Los Angeles or Pure Food and Wine in New York are two of my favorites!

Connect with Alissa on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Get your kitchen ready for your raw food makeover. Check out Cilantro's selection of food processors, blenders and more.