Jon Kozak shares his Top 7 Tips to easily stay raw in the winter. “I have been 100 percent raw for five years now, and as sure as the sun rises, the seasons, too, change, and winter always says hello with its bitter cold,” Jon says. “If you want to get through the winter and never think about cooked food once, then read this. Where I live, it gets as cold as minus-30 degrees Celsius (minus-22 degrees Fahrenheit)—and I bike year round!”
When Jon stumbled onto a raw food diet in 2010, he dove in and embraced the lifestyle with full force and is the driving force behind DoubleOrganic. Through studying kinesiology in university, he is expanding his understanding of the human animal and how we can get the most out of our lives and bodies. DoubleOrganic is the place where Jon shares his experiences on thriving on raw foods, recipes, fitness, motivation and more!
Before capturing health, however, Jon suffered from sickness. Living on a junk-food diet from a young age, Jon experienced hyperactivity as well as frequent headaches. If it came in a box, bag or can, it was food. Fresh foods were seldom on the menu, and the result was weight gain and a diagnosis of ADHD and Tourette syndrome. Doctors then put Jon on some very powerful medications, which made things worse. Seeing that all the other kids were much more fit and active, Jon could see that his food choices were not serving him. Small changes were made, but it was not until a raw vegan diet was adopted years later for the health of himself and the environment that progress began. You, too, can be DoubleOrganic! In addition to on his website, stay connected with Jon on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
1. Stay warm in the winter. This is a common concern because it is cold out and people want to stay warm. At first, it might seem like all that a raw vegan eats is cold food, but unless you are eating every meal in the form of banana ice cream, your food is more likely to be room temperature. After reading this section, you will realise that it is easier to keep warm in the winter than you thought!
Your first line of defence is layers of warm clothing—as much as you need! When outside, dress in warm layers, and when at home, put some nice comfy pajamas and your favourite slippers on. This will trap your heat in. Now that trapping the heat is covered, we need to stoke the fire and get your body generating more heat to trap. There are two ways to crank your body’s heat: They are the thermic effect of exercise and the thermic effect of food.
The thermic effect of exercise, or TEE, is the amount of your metabolic rate that is increased due to exercise. In other words, one who exercises has a higher average metabolic rate than his or her sedentary counterpart. What does this mean for keeping warm in the winter? Someone with a higher metabolism burns more calories, and calories are a measure of heat. So someone who burns more calories generates more heat. One calorie is the amount of food required to raise one kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius. Think about it: When you exercise, you get hot, so the act of exercising increases your total energy expenditure for the day. After exercising, you are hot for 30 to 60 minutes, but there is also a lingering effect of “a hotter burning furnace” inside your body. A sedentary individual’s Thermic Effect of Exercise is nearly zero percent of his or her total energy expenditure, whereas an ultra-endurance athlete’s can be as high as 50 percent. The average person’s is between 15 to 30 percent, so stay active and aim for that 30-plus percent. You may be wondering whether this can be measured easily. The answer is no, so just stay active! If we can trap that heat with layers of clothing, we can maintain that heat surge from exercising that only lasts 30 to 60 minutes, trapping it for a long time, just like a thermos.
The other way to stoke our body’s furnace is the thermic effect of food, or TEF. This is the amount of energy required by the body to digest and absorb food. In other words, by eating food, your body’s metabolism increases by about 8 to 10 percent one to four hours following a meal. This can account for 5 to 10 percent of someone’s total energy expenditure. This small increase in metabolism will help keep you warm, and it works synergistically with exercise, because the more you exercise, the more you need to eat. It should also be noted that carbohydrates and protein increase one’s TEF the most, so eat your high-carb fruits and veggies!
The last way to help stay warm in the winter is with water! You can either drink warm water through the day or take a hot shower to increase your core temperature. Once your core temperature is elevated, use layers to keep it warm.
2. Warm food in the winter. Warming raw foods may seem counterintuitive, but in the winter, it can make a big difference! Below I will share every way I know to warm up my food. Some of these options call for certain appliances, but most can be used by all.
- Warming your food can be as simple as taking it out of the fridge and letting it warm up to room temperature for a few hours. To speed this up, you could also put the food in warm or hot water. You could soak some zucchini before spiralising them, for example, when making a noodle dish. The more advanced technique is the “DoubleOrganic Double Boiler.” This is a way to warm up your completed dishes such as the completed zucchini pasta dish and sauce or even leftovers! To do this, get two metal mixing bowls and fill the larger of the two with hot water, and then put the food in the other bowl. Now place the smaller bowl into the larger one. Only put enough water to ensure that it doesn’t overflow but so that the water creeps up the sides a bit. Put a large tea towel on top and change the water every hour. It is a fairly involved method, but three to four hours later, you will have a warm dish!
- While I don’t personally do this, some people put the food in the stovetop on very low, stirring constantly and making sure to not overheat.
- Sauces can be blended a bit longer to warm them up, but be careful not to blend too long!
- A dehydrator can be used to warm leftovers up as well.
- Serve food on warm or hot ceramic plates fresh out of a dishwasher or soaked in a sink of hot water.
- Lastly, some warming spices can be used such as ginger, cinnamon and cayenne.
- And for a little shameless plug, you won’t miss cooked food with the recipes from my book, Nuts About No Nuts: 50 Gourmet Nut-free Low Fat Raw Vegan Dinners and Desserts!
3. Don’t be miserable in the winter. Some people love the winter, but some people downright despise it! The mindset of hating the winter will not help, though. Get out of the mindset that winter sucks and stop focusing on the bad. Appreciate the good parts of winter. Find a passion. I am a cyclist and cycle year round. It can actually be nice in the winter—sometimes there is a light snow slowly falling to the ground. The snow crunches under my tires, and sometimes I can smell someone’s fireplace. It is wonderful! I sometimes see Christmas lights on houses and kids who made a snowwoman. Other times, the wind is howling amid a blizzard, and it’s freezing cold. But most of the time, it is not that bad! Try a winter sport. Ski, skate, snow show, toboggan, snowball fights, make snow people, do snow angels or even practice hot yoga in the winter. I like to anticipate all of the awesome winter fruits coming into season: persimmons, pomegranates and citrus. Make friends with winter and make the best of what you have. Remember, you can always go on a vacation to somewhere warm!
4. Ripen fruit in the winter. I see this all the time, especially among people new to this lifestyle. Every winter, in forums, people ask how to ripen their fruit and for good reason! We need ripe fruit all the time, but it definitely takes longer to ripen in the winter, especially if your home is cool. Fruits want to be warm—trust me, they told me, and I am a fruit whisperer. Most fruit that you buy that ripens is from the tropics, and the tropics are warm! Find a warm spot in your home such as a laundry or furnace room or a room that gets a lot of sun. You might store fruit next to a heater or you might even consider creating a fruit-ripening shelf that is enclosed in some plastic wrap to trap the heat and ethylene gas. A smaller heater and timer could be rigged to periodically heat the enclosed shelf. Some other options are to put fruit on top of a dehydrator or fridge or to even store fruit inside an oven with the oven light on. The oven light will generate a bit of heat.
It is important to know which fruits ripen after picking and which do not. For example, a lot of people think pineapples ripen after picking—this is false. So become a fruit ripening expert and learn which fruits release ethylene gas and how you can trap it to ripen fruits faster. For example, bananas, apples and tomatoes release ethylene gas.
At the end of the day, sometimes it is out of your hands! Maybe the fruit was exposed to cold temperatures during transit and ends up ripening a bit wonky. Getting ripe fruit, however, is not too much of a challenge, especially if you use the tips mentioned above.
5. Stay raw at social events. When people first start eating a new way, their family and friends often do not understand what they are and are not eating or why they are eating that way. Your first family dinner might very well be the most difficult! So do yourself a favor and consider some of these ideas. They work well for both those new to a raw food diet as well as raw food veterans.
First and foremost, surround yourself with people who are understanding and supportive of your choices. This is not very easy to do because you cannot really pick and choose your family! You can, however, teach your family and friends to be accepting of you. Have a talk with them before the get-together, even individually by phone. Having a talk at the dinner may not be the best time to make a big announcement and ask for their acceptance. You will have an entire table asking you where you get your protein, and you will be the center of attention—something you may or may not want to be. This is especially true if you don’t really have all the answers to their questions. A simple call prior to the event, telling them that this is what you are trying out and how important it is to you and that you just want their respect. I usually suggest offering them to ask you at that time any questions they have but to leave the dinner to enjoying one another’s company.
If you want to blend in a bit more, you can always make some fancier dishes. Make a colourful juice to drink instead of an alcoholic beverage, and, for dinner, put some effort into making a fancy-looking dish. Your family might even want to try it! If your family is providing your food and they say, “No problem. We can make you food,” then that is great. It is not a bad idea, however, to eat ahead of time and also bring some of your own food, just in case they make too small a portion or maybe even add nonvegan items. I know far too many people who went to a dinner that they were going to have a salad made for them, and it was a potato salad or something!
Remember, it is also important that you are also accepting of your hosts or else they will never accept you. It is a two-way street.
6. Develop raw food psychology in the winter. In psychology, we deal with motivation heavily. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is infinitely more powerful. An example of extrinsic motivation is working a job for money or, in the case of a diet, to lose weight. There are many types of extrinsic motivation. Introjected motivation, for example, is a type of extrinsic motivation in which an individual thinks they have to do something so that he or she doesn’t let someone else down. Just like a sports team depends on everyone showing up, each member of that sports team thinks he or she has to be there for the team. One’s online friends could externally motivate you by expecting you to be raw. If a friend sends a message and asks how come you are not posting so many fruit pics, you might be motivated to get back on track if you were falling off. Those are all external motives.
We, however, need intrinsic motivation, but one can’t simply be intrinsically motivated. It must be developed and takes time to do so. One needs to learn to love being raw for the sake of being raw. Love every aspect of it because it is easy as peeling a banana, easy to digest, tastes great, contains high-water content—the list goes on and on, and everyone’s list will be somewhat individual. Extrinsic motivation will keep you on track until you are intrinsically motivated, but extrinsic motives are like a tank of gas—they will run out eventually! Intrinsic motivation is like solar power, so let your love for raw foods shine bright. Surround yourself with support groups and likeminded people. Another great option is to create a vision board by clipping inspirational pictures and text out of magazines.
Develop your intrinsic motives! Ask yourself what you love about raw foods – tell yourself those are the reasons you are raw. Write them down if it helps! Find your love for raw foods inside of you, because when you love something you will do nothing but!
7. Get Vitamin D in the winter. Vitamin D is a hot topic, and I wish that the winter was as hot a topic as the topic of Vitamin D is! There is a lot of information on Vitamin D, so I will keep this as short and to the point as possible. First of all, Vitamin D is technically a hormone but, by definition, a vitamin is something that is required to avoid a deficiency symptom. Vitamin D, also called calcitriol, is synthesized by UVB rays hitting the skin. The rays interact with a cholesterol derivative called 7-dehydrocholesterol, and then many more reactions follow in the liver and kidneys. That is as detailed as we will get. Hence the name, calcitriol plays a role in the absorption of calcium, and people who have low Vitamin D levels can have bone deformation. Calcium also plays a role in muscle contraction, and Vitamin D is shown to play a role in preventing many cancers. Vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning it is stored in fat and gets released as needed. We store it in the summer, and over the course of the winter, it is slowly used up. So how do we get it in the winter?
Well, the sun is normally where the UVB rays come from, in addition to UVA rays and many other spectrums of light. In the winter, however, the sun is at such an angle that its rays will not be sufficient to supply Vitamin D. You can look up what zone you are in to find out what months you can get Vitamin D from the sun.
All is not lost if you live in the Northern Hemisphere! The solution lies in the UVB rays. There is always the option of flying down south to soak up the sun; however, that might not be feasible for everyone, as much fun as it is! Another great option is a Vitamin D bulb, which is a lightbulb that is designed to emit UVB rays. There are many models out there, from full-body models to small desk lamps that “sun” you while you work on the computer or read a book. These units can be pricey, from $300 to $2,000, but they can be a great investment in your health. If on a budget, one could also try using reptile lights and make your own setup. Reptiles, too, need Vitamin D and UVB rays, and the bulbs are very similar, but you will need to do your own research on the effectiveness of those bulbs. I came across one man’s experiment in which he used a bulb for two years, but it did not seem to help much. The key here is that the bulbs need to be powerful enough. One bulb might say 10 percent UVB, and another 6 percent, but if the 10 percent bulb emits 50 units and the 6 percent bulb emits 100 units, the 6 percent bulb is, in fact, going to emit more UVB.
Before we completely leave the topic of bulbs, you might be wondering about tanning beds. In my research, tanning beds are, by law, limited to how much UVB they can emit, although some people experience some Vitamin D benefits from them. I say, leave the job to the bulbs specifically designed for releasing UVB for Vitamin D. Those bulbs actually don’t tan you or release UVA.
Another option I will touch on briefly is supplementing, but I will say that it is not my first choice. Before supplementing, I would suggest getting a Vitamin D test, and make sure you get the right test. There are two tests commonly administered: the 25-Hydroxy Vit D test and the 1,25-Dihydroxy Vit D test. The latter tests only for levels of Vitamin D, which fluctuate with calcium. Make sure you get the 25-Hydroxy test, also called the 25(OH)D—be specific! This one tests for Vitamin D precursors. Think of the precursors as your tank of gasoline, and the active Vitamin D is the actual fuel in the cylinder. The cylinder might be full, but the gas tank might be nearly empty. So make sure you get the 25(OH)D test. After all, the fuel gauge in your car measures the gas in the tank, not in the cylinder. Otherwise, it would always read full until the last few strokes.
When you get your test back, the measure likely will be in ng/ml, and although there any many recommended ranges, 50 to 80 seems to be a good range. Some citations, however, may suggest as low at 10 ng/ml is fine. Keep in mind the definition of what a vitamin is: something that is required to keep deficiency symptoms away. With that in mind, new research suggests that if you have more than just enough to keep the deficiency symptoms at bay, the vitamin can do much more than just help calcium absorption such as helping prevent cancers, in the case of Vitamin D.
If supplementing, find a vegan D3. Vitamin D comes in two forms: D2 and D3. Vitamin D3 is much more potent and is what your body synthesizes. Keep in mind, Vitamin D is fat soluble and can be toxic. Supplementing is unnatural, and only by supplementing will someone get toxic amounts. For example, you cannot get toxic amounts from the sun—you would get burned before you came close. How much should supplemental doses be? Well, a supplement is just that; it can be something that is taken in addition to other sources. People even take Vitamin D supplements in the summer in addition to absorbing the sun’s rays. So the dose you need to take needs to be considered alongside what other sources you are getting. Some recommendations are as low as 400 to 600 IU (International Units) per day, and others are 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of bodyweight—a very big difference. To put it in perspective, a day at a beach can net you 10,000 to 40,000 IU.
The purpose of this article is to provide seven tips on succeeding as a raw vegan in the winter. The subject of Vitamin D could easily be an entire article on its own or even an entire book. In fact, there are entire books written on that subject! So do your research and seek help where it is needed. Each and every individual is just that, an individual with his or her own specific needs. Some people are outside all day working, and others are inside. Your lifestyle factors greatly in how you need to approach Vitamin D supplementation. I hope this section of the article give you some ideas on how to get vitamin D.
Check out Jon Kozak’s transformation story!
Hungry for more? Check out Jon’s recipe for The Kale Beatdown—Massaged Kale Salad.