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Want to feel your best? Try the raw diet

Supermodel and actress Carol Alt is sharing her secret with the world — that she’s become the healthiest, slimmest and most energetic she’s ever been by converting to a raw food lifestyle. Her new book, “The Raw 50,” is the ideal go-to guide for anyone ready to experience the life-changing benefits of eating in the raw. Here's an excerpt of the first chapter and some of her recipes.Chapt
/ Source: TODAY

Supermodel and actress Carol Alt is sharing her secret with the world — that she’s become the healthiest, slimmest and most energetic she’s ever been by converting to a raw food lifestyle. Her new book, “The Raw 50,” is the ideal go-to guide for anyone ready to experience the life-changing benefits of eating in the raw. Here's an excerpt of the first chapter and some of her recipes.

Chapter 1: 50 Staples

Before I get to the recipes themselves, I want to outline the Raw 50 staples, and the steps you can take so you’re ready to make raw meals. There is information on outfitting your raw kitchen and a raw staples shopping list. Certain raw skills are necessary, like sprouting and germinating seeds, and I go into them here. I also go through and describe commonly used raw ingredients like raw dairy products, water, kefir, salt, natural sweeteners, miso, flax seeds, fruits, oils, and raw preserves so you’re all set up and good to go. I also give my personal answer to the question “Vegan or not?”

Your raw staples shopping list

When I was growing up, you were sure to find milk, eggs, bread, sugar, flour, butter, and OJ in our kitchen as well as Tab, my mother’s favorite soft drink, boxes of sugary breakfast cereal, and Oreo cookies. Today my shopping list looks very different, fortunately.

You have to cover the basics. And the sooner you get used to shopping for raw staples, the easier sticking to a raw diet becomes. Keep in mind that fresh, living foods naturally perish more quickly than cooked, processed ones, so shop for produce often and conservatively to avoid spoilage.

Most important, always remember to read labels. You want raw products, not their cooked counterparts. Labeling can be vague or even deceptive, and unless you see the word “raw” or an equivalent — “unpasteurized,” or “cold-pressed,” for example — chances are it is not raw. And always get organic if you can.

You should be able to get everything on the following pages at a natural foods supermarket such as Wild Oats or Whole Foods. For certain items you may need to visit a good health-food store or check out an online resource or my Web site. If you’re vegan, you will skip some items on the list — honey, for example.

Raw dairy products

Have you ever wondered if small dairy farmers go down to the local supermarket to buy pasteurized milk? Guess what? They don’t. They get theirs fresh from the source.

There was a time when pasteurizing dairy products, a process that involves heating them to between 175 and 212 degrees F, made sense. A hundred years ago we didn’t have reliable refrigeration or affordable vacuum sealing to keep things from spoiling in transit. Those days are long past, but old habits die hard. Go into any supermarket and just about everything in the dairy section will have the word “pasteurized” on it—as if it’s something to boast about. Not to me it isn’t!

Those who make real dairy products take pride in the fact that their milk and cheeses still contain all the wonderful nutrients that God intended. Their enzymes are intact. They are real dairy and they are raw.

I love unpasteurized milk, but I don’t stop there in my search for raw dairy foods. Supermarkets with large cheese selections often offer some raw cheeses. The person behind the counter should know which cheeses are made from raw milk. At Whole Foods, for example, there is usually someone who knows enough about cheeses to ask you if you want soft, medium, or hard cheese, and if you have a preference for cow’s, goat’s, or sheep’s milk. Better yet, they will let you taste what they have.

If you like Manchego or Emmentaler cheese, for example, ask for “raw- milk” Manchego or Emmentaler.

Each state regulates the sale of raw dairy products differently. In some places you are not allowed to buy raw milk, yet across the state line it is readily available. In Pennsylvania, where raw dairy is legally available, you can find fresh raw milk and cream at many farm stands and health-food stores and raw-milk cheeses in supermarkets. But there is a restriction on unpasteurized butter, which must be sold “for animal consumption” only. Of course, the same sanitation standards are followed in making butter as in making cheese so, since I’m an animal, I don’t hesitate to buy and consume fresh traditional, Mennonite-made butter.

For raw foodists everywhere who want raw dairy products, the Internet is a godsend. These days, you can get just about anything shipped overnight, and the high-quality standards that producers of organic, raw dairy products adhere to make these products quite safe. Still, if you can buy locally, do! If you can’t, check on the Internet for sources of raw dairy products.

Two more things: You assume the responsibility for the shipment of the raw dairy, and if it gets lost en route and goes bad, it is all yours! The shelf life of raw dairy is relatively short, and the shipper doesn’t assume the responsibility for freshness; you are really buying at your own risk. When you receive your raw dairy, always keep it refrigerated and tightly sealed for freshness. In fact, because it is exposure to air that causes dairy to spoil, I recommend always using a VacSy to store milk, cream, and cheese in the refrigerator.


Kefir means “feel good” in Turkish. With a name like that, it’s hard to resist learning more about kefir.

Kefir is a cousin to yogurt. It is an ancient, cultured, enzyme-rich food that helps to balance your inner ecosystem, build immunity, and restore health.

If that sounds more like a medicine than a food, let me assure you it’s as tasty as natural liquid yogurt. While offering your body the friendly probiotic bacteria you get from yogurt, it also provides several additional strains of the yeast your body needs. Yes, your body needs yeast to control and eliminate the destructive, pathogenic yeasts that are trying to make their home inside the mucus lining of your intestines. If you eat kefir regularly, the bacteria and yeasts combine symbiotically to replenish flora and boost your immune system.

Kefir can be made vegan style from young coconut, soy, or rice milk. Most people, however, use cow, sheep, or goat’s milk. Because of the fermentation process, those who are lactose-intolerant usually have no problem with kefir, even if it is made from dairy. But check with your doctor if this is a concern.

It’s possible to find ready-to-serve kefir in health-food stores, but homemade is really the best. It’s simple to make. All you need is a live culture-starter kit or a chunk of kefir culture, called a “bud,” which is really just a spoonful of already made kefir. (I got mine from a friend at a local Indian restaurant.) A bud remains living but dormant when frozen, so you can keep some in the freezer.

Stir at least 1 tablespoon of culture into 1 gallon of raw milk; then wrap the bowl in a towel and place it near a heat source that is no hotter then 110 degrees F. Wait 8 to 12 hours for fermentation to take place. Using a larger kefir bud speeds up the process, while a smaller bud takes longer.

There is no one way to make kefir, so long as the culture is kept alive. During the fermentation process, kefir will separate into soft clumps (curds) and thinner liquid (whey). If you want smooth, drinkable kefir, stop the process and consume it before it gets this far along, but if you want kefir “cheese,” just give it some extra time.

Once you start making kefir, it will become a regular part of your diet. I love to make kefir because I am absolutely sure of the quality, and I can have it whenever I want it!

In the wintertime, I wrap kefir in towels and place it on or near the oil furnace in my house to keep it warm (but not cooked!) and to allow the kefir bacteria and cultures to multiply. In the summer, I leave it in the sun for the whole day. Either way, I keep an eye on it. When it gets to my favorite consistency, I put it in the refrigerator to stop the multiplying process. I mix kefir with granola, agave, or fruits, just as I would yogurt, but in my book, kefir is healthier!

Raw eggs

In 1926, Julius Freed decided to start a business in Southern California. The concept was simple: sell fresh orange juice from a spot by the road with lots of traffic passing by. Freed enlisted the backing of a friend who agreed that fresh California orange juice by the glass would sell, but who also knew Freed needed a marketing hook. If there was something special, something different, about Julius’s orange juice, it might bring people who couldn’t get it elsewhere to his stand. Julius added some powdered sugar and a secret ingredient, and the first Orange Julius franchise was born.

What was the secret ingredient? A raw egg.

In recent years, to address concerns about salmonella, the Orange Julius folks changed the formula, eliminating the raw egg. But fact has been overtaken by fear when it comes to salmonella. In 2002 the US Department of Agriculture officially acknowledged that only 1 in 30,000 chicken eggs contain salmonella, and these figures are usually for commercially mass-produced eggs, not the safer, healthier ones from free-range, organically fed chickens.

Eggs are an amazingly compact, inexpensive source of high-quality protein. They are also a significant source of vitamin A, riboflavin, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, choline, iron, calcium, phosphorous, and potassium. I understand that for raw vegans the issues surrounding eating eggs are serious ones, and many people feel very strongly that it is wrong to eat any animal products. But strictly on a nutritional basis, it’s hard to find a better food than raw fertilized organic eggs. You want fertilized eggs because after fertilization, the enzymes in the egg are released, helping to digest the concentrated yolk and releasing the nutrients (which would nourish the chick if the egg had developed into one). That is why fertilized eggs are easy to digest and nutritious. Several recipes in The Raw 50 include them; decide for yourself if you wish to indulge!

Excerpted from “The Raw 50” by Carol Alt with David Roth Copyright © 2007 by Carol Alt. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.