It was a battle with cancer that inspired Pasadena’s Tegra Little, live food chef and teacher, to switch to a raw diet.
When diagnosed in 2004, Little sought out an alternative to chemotherapy and checked into the Optimum Health Institute of San Diego, a wellness center. While there, she learned that as a vegan she was “eating the wrong things” and began eating a raw and living foods diet.
Raw food diets are plant-based diets. Individuals who go raw eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts, grains, legumes, sea vegetables and superfoods such as bee pollen, protein powders and cacao.
Littleâ€™s strength improved while she was at the Institute. Inspired by the results, Little opened her own business in Pasadena after she had left so she could put what she had learned about raw diets to use by improving the health of others. She now offers raw food potlucks, preparation classes and one-on-one coaching and consultations.
“It just made absolute sense to me that between my diet and what I was diagnosed with there was a correlation somehow,” she said. “What I was eating had everything to do with the health challenges I faced. It was time for me to pour out what had already been poured into me.”
Interest in the raw food diet has peaked as more and more people are becoming health conscious, Little said.
When her clients come to her to learn about going raw and how to cook raw, they usually do not plan to go raw all the way, but they are looking to improve their health, lose a little weight or lower their blood pressure.
“I really try to educate clients on adding healthier meals to their daily diet, even if itâ€™s just one raw meal a day,” she said. “Then I try and challenge them to go raw for a week, then 30 days, so they can see how it really feels. Itâ€™s about taking baby steps. Itâ€™s a process, and the process is different for everyone.”
The most noticeable difference people experience when they start eating a raw diet is in their energy levels and their degree of mental clarity, Little said. This is because when people eat raw foods they get all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals from the food in its natural state. When food is cooked, these nutrients break down, and instead of feeling charged from eating, people usually feel lethargic and sluggish, she explained.
“When youâ€™re eating raw, immediately after that meal youâ€™re feeling so refreshed,” she said. “The health benefits are endless.”
Benefits also include clearer skin, weight loss and a regulated digestive track. One of Littleâ€™s clients was even able to stop taking their high blood pressure medicine after going raw for 30 days.
But not all of the benefits relate to health, Little said. When prepared correctly, the taste of raw food dishes is “incomparable.”
“Itâ€™s tastes much better than cooked food because you have all these robust, different flavors in your mouth,” she said. “You have bitter, sweet, sour, salty and spicy – the menagerie of those five flavors happening in your mouth, itâ€™s unbelievable.”
And raw cooks learn how to make a multitude of dishes, Little added, so they can eat a lot of the same foods in a standard American diet, including pizza, cakes and pies.
Little sees the raw food diet as the best life change one can make to “keep ourselves healthy.”
“Lifeâ€™s too short not to offer our bodies the best food thatâ€™s available,” Little said.
For more information on raw food and Littleâ€™s services, visit www.tegralittle.com.