Food demo: Health, energy, happiness with no-cook diet

By James Casey

The Student Dietetic Association hosted a raw food diet demonstration Friday, providing insight into the no-cook lifestyle.

Kristen Bernier, raw food nutrition educator, provided plenty of recipes along with a wealth of information in regards to the purpose and practicality of a raw food diet. Bernier also gave out samples.

A strictly raw food diet consists of fruits, vegetables, sprouts and soaked nuts and seeds. Raw meat is not included as this particular diet is vegan.

Bernier’s passion for the “raw lifestyle,” as she calls it, was evident throughout the presentation. It all started about five years ago when Bernier was overweight and often struggled with illness.

“I think a lot of people walk around feeling crummy and not knowing why or thinking, ‘This is just the way I am,’” Bernier said. “They don’t know how much better they can feel.”

Bernier credits her improved vitality and overall health with her commitment to raw food consumption. One motto she has is “live foods produce live bodies; dead foods produce dead bodies.”

According to, enzymes, minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients in food may be destroyed or altered during the cooking process. In order to maintain these essential nutrients, foods should either be only lightly cooked or not at all. is a website that offers information on the raw diet.

“There are different degrees of cooking,” Bernier said. “Some cruciferous vegetables like broccoli actually benefit from being lightly steamed.”

I was surprised to hear a raw food educator talk about cooking. According to, which provides access to methods of cooking and eating healthily, lightly cooking broccoli will allow it to become softer, which can aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. “Light cooking” should only take three to five minutes of steaming or boiling. The site says overcooking any vegetable will reduce its nutrient content. Bernier said the best time to eat cooked foods is in the evening so the body has all night to digest them.

Maintaining the body’s slight alkalinity was another major point of the presentation. Bernier said the standard American diet consists of acidic foods which require the body to undergo mechanisms to counteract that acidity. These mechanisms can deplete the body of resources. Bernier believes eating raw foods allows the body to thrive through proper pH balance.

Other advantages she mentioned include getting better sleep, increased mental clarity, reduced biological age, less junk food cravings and a stronger immune system.

Based on my own experience, I believe these health claims are true. About two years ago I tried to commit to the raw food diet but I only lasted a few months. Although I did notice an overall improvement in my health, I was unable to stay committed.

Bernier said she does not like to put a label on her eating habits although other people will often try. She said once you set very specific rules for eating, following those rules can become a chore, and when you slip up people are going to call you on it, and this can lead to abandoning healthy eating practices.

Bernier is at the point where she’s no longer tempted by what others eat around her; she knows how these foods would affect her. For Bernier, the transition to her current eating habits took place gradually between six and nine months.

“Don’t go cold turkey,” Bernier said. “It’s unrealistic and it’s setting up for failure.”

She suggests implementing “more good and less bad” every day.

Bernier will give another raw food demo Thursday at the Joliet Park District. For more information on the raw food diet she recommended,, or “The Raw Food Detox Diet” by Natalia Rose.