I have been 100 percent raw since summer 2010, right around my birthday, as a matter of fact. I eat a fruit-based, low-fat, nut-free raw vegan diet. That is right—nut-free—because that is what makes sense to me. I cut nuts out of my raw vegan diet about two years ago. Before I talk about my nut-free diet, here is more about my transition to a fruit-based raw vegan diet. Let’s start at the beginning.
I suppose my first “experiment” with raw foods was when I was in Grade 6—a year after I was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome and put on some powerful drugs. I ate a junk-food diet and was sedentary and getting fat while all of the other kids ran and played and were skinny. I remember a time when for three days I ate cucumbers for dinner, although my other eating remained unchanged. I lost some weight and, while I never had heard of raw veganism, I did eat some raw food for those three days. Soon afterward, I simply stopped eating what I considered at the time to be junk food—a big deal for a sixth-grader! For me, junk food included candy, chips, cake, ice cream and all of those types of things. Of course, I still ate meat and other processed foods. Years passed, and I got into martial arts, even eating lots of Chinese food—the “authentic” stuff with lots of veggies! This, however, was as far as I went for some time.
That was until I became a recycling fanatic. One day, I threw paper in the garbage at work and looked down at that lonely white piece of paper in the black hole that was swallowing it up. I reached in, took it out and made a recycling box out of a cardboard box. After that day, I took it upon myself to become the recycling police in the family. I even took the wrapping that the butter came in and I peeled the thin layer of foil off the wax paper and put the tiny ball of tin foil into a pop can for recycling. I was obsessed with recycling and became obsessed with reducing my waste—something that is actually nearly possible as a raw vegan! I knew I needed to stop eating meat and eventually that is what I did, both for my health and for the health of the environment.
I went off to chase my dream to become a commercial diver, kind of like Popeye with a big dive helmet and a hose to the surface. The day I left for school, we drove passed a vegan restaurant in my town. Perhaps a seed was planted! At school, I met a guy who used to be a vegan and another classmate who was well-read on how horrible factory farming is for the environment, yet he was still eating meat! Anyway, I was at a school accessible only by boat, stuck there for three months and was fed what they made me: lots of junky, greasy food. I went vegetarian with a month of school remaining as an experiment, not necessarily a permanent choice. After school was done, my father even suggested that he was going to buy half of a grass-raised cow and that we could eat clean meats. I decided to keep on trying what I was doing because I felt pretty good! (As an aside, my dad bought that cow, and his freezer he had all that meat in broke. Well, let’s just say meat that was rotting in his fridge for a week smelled really bad—not very appetizing!)
I transitioned over the course of a year to become vegan. I was vegan only perhaps two to three weeks when I found out about raw veganism. And let me tell you, it made sense! But I researched, and guess what I found out? That if I wanted pizza on Wednesday, I had better get started on Monday! This, however, made no sense! So I put the idea of raw veganism on the back burner for the time being. Some time later, I did a YouTube search on bamboo bikes, something I had seen on TV years before, and you can likely guess who it is I saw—Durianrider! Back then, about five years ago, there were only three bamboo bike videos, and back then, Harley was actually raw!
I watched all his and Mike Arnstein’s videos and read The 80/10/10 Diet. I dove in to raw foods with full force because it finally made sense! I had a quick and easy transition of a few weeks, mostly to eat the last bit of cooked food I had, and then I gave the rest away. Just like when I was in Grade 6 and said no more to junk food, I said no more to cooked food. I wanted to be raw, and so I became raw. I have not had a bite of cooked food since that day I went raw, and I have not burned the roof of my mouth—what a coincidence!
My consciousness also changed after I went raw. My passion and purpose in life changed. I was disgusted as a commercial diver, working in polluted harbors, and so I left that field, although, interestingly enough, a lot of dive work is done in Southeast Asia, land of tropical fruits! I could have been on an oil rig for a few months and then traveled to Thailand and Malaysia, eating durian! Instead, I found a new passion in health and wellness and healing other people at the 2011 The Woodstock Fruit Festival, the first one. I enrolled in university for kinesiology and am on my way to becoming a chiropractor!
I found the transition very easy in terms of remaining raw, but my greatest challenge was eating greens. I had not eaten greens until I was 20 years old, if you can believe that. I found them completely unpalatable. But I was stubborn and pushed through, eating food I didn’t like to eat. I found eating greens with avocado was the best way to get them down. Slowly though, over time, my palate changed, and my skills in the kitchen improved greatly! Eventually, my spoonful of avocado and one tiny bite of lettuce became a giant bite of lettuce and a small amount of avocado. Now, I will even eat the tastiest of lettuce plain, but I still do enjoy my recipes. At this point, I was happy with my diet, but that wasn’t enough of a reason to keep doing what I was. Rather than stay stagnant, I continued to transform and I cut nuts and seeds out of my diet.
There are many reasons one might want to omit nuts and seeds from his or her diet aside from the obvious allergies people have. The main reason is that, in nature, we would not eat 1 to 2 cups of a nut or seed like many do in typical gourmet raw food recipes. The effort that it would take to crack a nut open with a rock would have you moving onto some sweet and juicy fruit.
The modern machines we have access to can crack nuts open easily and efficiently and provide us access to bags of nuts and seeds. I am sure everyone reading this article has at one point in time started eating some nuts or seeds and, sure enough, the bag is empty soon afterward. Or maybe some celery was dipped into a jar of almond butter, and at the end you find yourself scraping the sides of the jar with the last piece of celery. It tastes good—but it sits in your stomach like a brick, and it doesn’t make sense. Nuts and seeds are high in calories, high in fat and are high-cost. The only thing they are low in is water content. Sure, they can be soaked and sprouted, but that is if they are raw in the first place—and that is a big if. Nuts and seeds are expensive, and “raw” nuts and seeds are even more expensive. I want a raw food diet that makes sense, not one that costs me all my dollars and cents.
A few remaining reasons some people may do well to omit nuts and seeds is that they may be moldy, and some individuals are very sensitive to mold such as those with Lyme disease. Nuts and seeds are stored for long durations, perhaps an entire year or more before you eat them. Raw foods is about eating fresh foods, and nuts and seeds are not fresh. Very few people have ever eaten a fresh nut or seed. They are completely different in texture and taste.
So to recap the reasons to avoid nuts: there are nut allergies, the fact that we really wouldn’t eat them in nature the way they are consumed in raw food gourmet, they are high in fat and calories, expensive, low in water content, difficult to digest, likely not even raw, may contain mold and are not fresh.
If you are reading this right now thinking, “Yes, that makes so much sense … but … that’s so extreme, and how do I even go about taking more things out of my diet?”, don’t worry, you are not alone. I was thinking those same thoughts. When I first heard the idea of not eating nuts or seeds, I did not know how to go about doing that. So I went into my kitchen, put my chef’s hat on and, for the next year, experimented with recipes. Some of these recipes tasted out-of-this-world good, and these recipes got put on a list. The list grew, and before I knew it, I was writing a book.
It took me an entire year of work—perfecting the recipes, calculating the calories and macronutrient ratios, photographing the most exquisite, drool-worthy recipes—and the net result is my book, Nuts About No Nuts: 50 Gourmet Nut-free Low Fat Raw Vegan Dinners and Desserts. I took out all the nuts and seeds from all your favourite raw food recipes but kept all the flavour. The recipes are easy to digest, low in fat and high in water content. The recipes do contain some optional herbs or spices, and 10 recipes call for a dehydrator, but I kept it as simple as possible for being a gourmet book. And to keep with tradition, I released it on my birthday and raw vegan anniversary!
View a Gallery of Jon Kozak’s Recipes
I have a lot of awesome projects I am working on such as the DoubleOrganic app, which has all my free recipes and recipes from the book for purchase as well as a book on raw vegan sports performance. The app is available for Android devices in the Google Play store and soon will be available for Apple devices in the iTunes store. There are lots of awesome things to come as I am working on a few books at the moment.
You might be wondering how I do it all. How I remain 100 percent raw, put out my recipe book, run my website, make YouTube videos, do personal training and raw food coaching, teach raw food classes locally, be a full-time student—and have time to work out! Well, all the things listed are my passion and priorities. If you make raw food a priority, you will find it easy to be raw. You will plan ahead, have lots of ripe fruit around and surround yourself with supporting people.
My passion for raw foods has me attending vegan trade shows, doing demos and speaking at The Woodstock Fruit Festival, the place that inspired me to do what I do in the first place. Wherever I am speaking about or promoting raw foods, the message is always clear: Most raw food recipes are loaded with nuts and seeds and digest very poorly, and we need to eat high-water-content foods.
I have had some bad experiences with nuts and seeds such as feeling less than optimal from eating at a gourmet restaurant. Another time, when I was moving to the Dominican Republic, I had 5 pounds each of sunflower and hemp seeds, which normally would have lasted me a year easily. Because I had to leave the country soon, I needed to eat them in a few weeks. I was snacking on them and putting them on my salads, and even though I was soaking them, I still was very low on energy, had poor digestion and, one day, was helping my dad but had such a stomachache I had to go home and could not help him! I was eating about 1 to 2 cups per day, and that alone had me feeling pretty ill. My poor father! He had to deal with his stinky rotten carcass freezer and then my hemp seed farts! I felt awesome living off papayas in the Dominican Republic, however!
I do eat overt fats such as avocado, coconut and durian. Although coconut has the word nut in it, I classify it as a fruit. Technically, a coconut is a drupe, just like mangos, walnuts and many other nuts are also drupes. At the end of the day, it is not what the food really is but how it makes you feel. So I consider a coconut to be a fruit, and I can buy it fresh from a store. Young coconuts are actually fairly low in fat—somewhere around 30 to 40 percent of calories and contain about 200 to 300 calories of coconut meat. Mature coconuts are much higher in fat, and I eat them much less.
I am not trying to demonize nuts and seeds. They can have a place in one’s diet, and I even consume a small amount if someone brings a dish with them to one of my potlucks. I really can’t have people come to a potluck after having put love and effort into making a raw food dish, something they may have never done, and then not eat their food! As a side note, stressing about your diet is the last thing you need to be doing! If most of your diet is made up of fresh, ripe fruits and veggies, you are eating better than most people out there!
Discover Jon Kozak’s Top 7 Tips to easily stay raw in the winter!
Hungry for more? Check out Jon’s recipe for The Kale Beatdown—Massaged Kale Salad.