words by Zoe Louise Cronk

Hot on the heels of the juicing craze, raw food is the latest detox trend to rise to dietary fame, thanks to celebrities such as Demi Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna whose slim, toned physiques signal to the masses the effectiveness of avoiding meat, fish, and cooked vegetables. Supposedly, it offers the perfect healthy alternative for those who struggle to maintain a regime that’s completely bereft of solid foods (e.g. juice cleanses).

The Benefits
Raw foods are known to provide more benefits than their cooked counterparts as they still contain the living enzymes usually killed off by heating. Consuming foods packed with these enzymes enables the body to conserve its own digestive juices, and use those gained from food instead. The body can therefore expend less energy on breaking down our meals (it’s been shown that digestion requires up to 80% of the body’s energy), leaving us with more vim and vigour for other, more fun things.

At last! A scientific explanation for the lethargy we feel after big meals; our digestive processes are sapping us of energy! Raw foods also help return the body to a more alkaline state, which is more conducive to the body’s natural repair process, which is the key for anti-ageing.

Furthermore, when adopting this diet, an increase in your consumption of fruit and vegetables is inevitable. The detoxifying nature of these oh-so healthy foods improves general wellbeing by flushing out the nasties and replacing them with a wealth of health, and will leave you with a glowing complexion too.

With all these benefits, it’s no surprise that businesses across the globe have jumped on the raw food bandwagon. Based in Hong Kong but also available internationally (via the website), Graciously Green offers supplements and support alongside your detox. Their 5-day Raw Food Cleanse is led by Board Certified Health Coach and raw food chef Mia Moore, and also incorporates an optional sixth day liver flush to completely rid the body of toxins.

The Cleanse
The package from Graciously Green includes an introduction session and daily support via phone and email, in which Mia provides motivation and raw recipes to inspire your meals. Also provided are the liver flush materials and salts, a detailed programme and explanation of what to expect throughout the cleanse, along with supplement tablets of enzymes (digestion), magnesium (heart health, bone density and blood pressure) and green tablets that contain a blend of cleansing superfoods like chlorophyll, wheatgrass, spirulina and other green-based phytonutrients. Enough hibiscus tea to last five days and more is also included, and is to be drunk with 1 tsp of malic acid (provided) to boost metabolism, three times daily. Heralded for its ability to heighten immunity and aid digestion, hibiscus tea is rich in detoxifying, skin-clearing antioxidants too. Having recently undertaken the five-day cleanse with Graciously Green, I would also endorse the tea’s other well-known advantage as a natural appetite suppressant.

‘So what to eat?’ I hear you ask. Well, I’m going to be honest – it’s not the most exciting food week you’ll ever have, but it’s bearable. Mia’s recipes gave a creative boost to my otherwise dull salad, and blending your veggies to make a green juice also adds much-needed variety. A particular favourite of mine was a dish inspired by a past Hip & Healthy article; julienned zucchini topped with a chunky mango, avocado and mint sauce (briefly blend and pour over zucchini). While usually enjoyed hot, it didn’t lose any of its satisfaction when eaten raw and cold. Preparing and planning meals ahead of time is key, and remember to vary your veg to keep your tastebuds sated.

The Verdict
I can happily report that it’s a fantastic and not too challenging way of dropping a few pounds, gaining a flatter stomach and feeling cleansed inside and out. I had more energy and felt much healthier with a positive mood, despite not looking forward to mealtimes as much as usual. As a great lover of my food (particularly if it’s healthy) I was surprised to find I had very little appetite, which could be a result of the supplements and hibiscus tea, or perhaps it was because my meals became less adventurous as the week progressed. Whatever the reason, I still ensured I had three meals (although I admit to skipping a few of Mia’s recommended apple/crudités snacks due to lack of hunger) and managed at least an hour’s moderate workout per day.

Knowing that the cleanse was to last just five days meant that my motivation only waned briefly midweek and remained otherwise in tact, which I’m sure was also partly due to Mia’s inspiring messages. As Mia recommends limiting sugar intake, I came to view fruit as a once-daily treat, which also helped maintain my motivation. Consuming so many different vegetables had a great effect on my skin, and the dreaded bloat was nowhere to be seen. The weight loss was a nice surprise too, and the energy boost would inspire me to undertake this detox again.

All in all, my raw food detox achieved exactly what I wanted: a flatter stomach and to be a few pounds lighter with a healthier-looking complexion. It’s ideal for those looking for a quick cleanse or to slim down healthily without depriving yourself of food, and is a great way to reap a multitude of health rewards in just five days. Go on, give it a go!