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Chef outlines raw food health benefits

Jillian Barwick | Monday, February 20, 2012

Saint Mary’s kicked off “Love Your Body Week” with a presentation by Michele Dahms, a certified raw food chef and lifestyle instructor, who spoke to students about the importance of healthy eating in everyday life, especially in relation to women’s health.

“Women are the ones that have to take care of themselves first before taking care of their families,” Dahms said. “That is why having ‘Love Your Body Week’ on your campus is so great.”

Dahms said people have strayed from the real purpose of food as a source of nutrients, and obesity and other chronic health issues stem from the body’s lack of nutrients as a result of an unhealthy diet.

Dahms presented the audience with a 10-year-old McDonald’s burger and an order of fries that showed no signs of mold. She also held up a 7-Eleven Slurpee cup containing more than 20 packets of sugar inside, the equivalent of the Slurpee’s sugar content.

“An average teenager eats a cup of sugar a day currently,” Dahms said. “Our bodies are getting more and more calories without the nutrients because of the foods we eat, which is not helping our systems.”

Adhering to a healthy diet can improve a person’s overall lifestyle, from increasing mental clarity to maintaining a healthy weight and improving skin quality, Dahms said.

“As you start eating healthier, you can get to know your body better, the things it likes and doesn’t like, and what healthy options are a good fit for you,” she said.

In a PowerPoint presentation, Dahms outlined the basic principles of vegetarianism and veganism and different types of raw foods to demonstrate some methods of healthier living.

“Some of the main food groups of raw foods are fresh fruit, vegetables, natural fats and grains,” Dahms said. “Nutritional benefits from raw foods include vitamins, which are complete nutrients in whole foods and isolated nutrients. Raw foods also contain enzymes, which are catalysts for all of our bodily functions.”

The digestive system functions more regularly when it receives the enzymes it needs to break down foods, Dahms said, and raw food provides a good source of these enzymes and other substances involved in basic functions of the body.

“Water, protein, natural fats, digestion aid and acid-alkaline balance are all attributes of raw foods,” Dahms said. “Cells function better when balanced, and being acidic weakens the immune system, so it is important to have a balance between acid and alkaline.”

Contrary to popular belief, people do not have to make dramatic changes to improve their diet and lifestyle, Dahms said. Drinking more water, eating salad before lunch and dinner and consuming raw fruits and vegetables as snacks can improve diets, she said.

“You have to be the ones that take the responsibility. It’s the choices that you make that no one can make for you,” she said. “Have your friends join in with you.”

In conjunction with the Real Food Campaign on campus, Saint Mary’s will dedicate the week of April 16-20 to food, with each day focusing on a different aspect of food.

“This is the first generation that will not outlive their parents in age,” Dahms said. “If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?”