As a nutritionist and health-nut, I am all for eating natural foods. But frankly the idea of almond pate and nut cheese, foods that are part of a raw food diet, just doesn't tickle my taste buds. And I know I'm not alone. So what is the appeal to the raw food movement? To find out, I decided to go straight to the source and talked to my friend, raw-food expert and owner of the raw food haven Catch a Healthy Habit Café, Glen Colello. What I discovered may surprise you. It certainly got my attention.

"Eating the foods that Mother Nature placed on this earth, in the form that she put them here, is the simple secret to health and longevity," explained Glen.

The raw food movement is based on the idea that plant foods, in their natural, unprocessed, uncooked, "raw" state are living foods that contain vital nutrients and enzymes. These nutrients and enzymes, when ingested raw, are believed to be more easily and quickly absorbed by the body and able to nourish healthy cells within 15 minutes. It's believed that heating foods above 116 to 120 degrees destroys this "life-force" and therefore our bodies have to work harder and longer to derive any nutritional value from them.

The raw food diet requires eating a minimum of 75 percent raw organic foods, including fresh fruits, veggies, sprouts, nuts, grains, beans, dried fruit, seaweed, fresh juices, purified water and young coconut milk. It is very low in both fat and sodium, an attractive feature for many.

But what about the cost? Doesn't maintaining such a diet leave a gaping whole in one's wallet? It is true that quality organic fruits and veggies are more expensive than their commercially grown counterparts. However, according to Glenn, you'll end up spending a lot less on medical bills.

"The upside for me is that I no longer have to deal with doctor's bills and medications that I was on throughout my childhood and young adult years," Glen said. Raw food's proclaimed health benefits include increased energy, improved skin, better digestion, weight loss, reduced risk of heart disease and chronic illness, relief of allergies, improved immune system, prevention of degenerative disease and slowing of the aging process.

If you want to give it a try, Glen says that "it's better to start out by slowly increasing your consumption of raw foods versus trying to go cold-turkey."

And make sure you do your homework first, learning how to combine foods to get the right nutrients.

I'll admit I was a bit skeptical of the raw approach. At first glance it seems a bit fanatical. But it kind of makes sense, right? Life-force -- good. Dead food -- bad. Whether you walk the raw-food walk, or not, this approach to eating has something to offer all of us. Namely, that the more fresh, whole, natural foods you can eat, the better off you'll be. After all, who wouldn't want to be 75 percent garden fresh?

Try the simple Sunflower Seed Pate recipe below (courtesy of Glen) or visit Glen and co-owner, Lisa Storch. Visit them online at

Sunflower Pate

You'll need: 1½ cups sunflower seeds, soaked overnight and rinsed, ½ cup lemon juice, ¼ cup tahini, 1 tsp Celtic sea salt, 3 tbsp fresh parsley, 1 inch ginger root, chopped. Combine all ingredients in the food processor or VitaMix and process until smooth.

Jennifer Spaide received her master's degree in human nutrition from Columbia University. She is a personal chef and freelance writer residing in New Canaan. As founder of GreenChic, Jennifer is dedicated to inspiring individuals to get fresh in the kitchen and eat their way to a healthy life. Visit to learn more.