Feed The Yogi
Nourish your body, mind, spirit, practice and friends
Interview with Laurie Lane of Freshly Wild Raw Chocolate and Kale Chips


Feed The Yogi spends a morning in the kitchen with Laurie Lane of “Freshly Wild” Raw Chocolates and Kale Chips. (Formerly Healthy Kitchen PDX)

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FTY: When did you start eating Raw, Why?

LL: I started eating raw two years ago after I had finished cancer treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer. I had been given very intense western medical treatments that I hadn’t really wanted, but at the time my daughters where 3 and 5 years old and I felt like I needed to be here for them. So I did all the western treatments, but at the same time I did Chinese herbs, acupuncture and other alternative therapies. As I came out of it (treatment) I was thinking about how cancer affects your cells and it’s really all about the strength and health of your cells. I kept thinking, “What can I do to help my cells function properly?” It occurred to me that the only thing I can really do is feed them and help them grow and be healthy. That’s what will help, in terms of oxygenating them with antioxidants, getting all the right nutrients in them to make them strong and help them regenerate. I knew that along with healing from the cancer, I also had to recover from the western medicine and the cancer treatments which had left me quite damaged, as if the cancer wasn’t enough. I knew I needed to quickly regenerate myself and get my strength back.

I had read a lot of books about nutrition and wound up going through a nutritional program (Nutritional Therapy Association) out of Olympia, Washington.  While I was in the program a friend told me about a raw foods chef named Bruce Horowitz “Chef Sprout” who had been the executive chef for Juliano for many years. He was in Portland and teaching raw foods classes. We decided to take all of his classes and learn everything he could teach us. The very first class I took from him I instantly knew that raw foods was going to be the thing for me. It was the first thing that made sense to me intellectually, I could get it. It wasn’t a huge amount of science, it was just like, “Oh live foods, live enzymes, live cells in my body… What could be more perfect than that?” Not only did it appeal to me in theory, in practice it was the only thing that I could actually digest. At that point my digestive system was barely functioning and only living foods would actually pass through my system. I was really under threat of needing more medications and/or surgery to now address the problems that the cancer treatment had made in my digestive system. It was really going to be up to me to make choices and do what I could to avoid having to get more treatments. I had to treat myself, and raw food was how. Raw foods have given me a way to eat and digest food and a way to enjoy food. I feel like it’s actually the best food I have ever had in my whole life. If you told me tomorrow, “You will never be sick another day in your life. “ I would NOT change my eating. This is absolutely the best food, the best tasting, the best way I’ve ever eaten. But I also feel like it’s given me a way to not be so scared of cancer, it’s really provided me with a way to create a healthy environment for my cells.

FTY: Has your cancer reappeared?

LL: No. In fact, I’m 6 months away from being 5 years in remission. For the cancer that I had and how aggressive it was it’s really remarkable that it’s not back. The doctors have told me that I’m an unusual story. Most of them can’t believe how healthy I am now, how strong I am and how quickly I came back.

FTY: Do you tell them about your raw diet?

LL: I do.

FTY: What’s the response?

LL: (laughs) They say, “Oh it has nothing to do with that. You just got lucky.

They honestly don’t think that food has anything to do with cancer at all, they see no relationship whatsoever. Even with all the studies that link cancer and food and healing and food. As far as they’re concerned it’s all about the right drugs and the drugs did their job and that’s why I’m still here…

FTY: Is it easy for people to eat raw?

LL: That’s a good question… I think the answer is, not always. I think that the transition is definitely the hardest part. When you are transitioning from cooked food to raw food you really feel like you need a lot, and it feels like it needs to be heavier foods to fill you. People worry about not getting enough. They panic and they want to eat a ton of nuts and seeds, they dehydrate foods a lot, which means that they need to drink a lot more water… It can be hard. Once you really are immersed in a 100% raw diet, I don’t think it takes much at all. Mostly you’re just doing green smoothies, juices, salads… Things like dehydrated crackers or raw paté or raw desserts, those things are a treat, it’s not stuff that’s in your daily diet.

Honestly though, I have to say that I am grateful that it’s not always easy. I feel that our culture needs to move from passive consumption to conscious eating. We need to have a more thoughtful process around what we’re putting in our bodies. We need to take the time to think, “Do I really need this? Will my body benefit from eating this? How will this make me feel?” I don’t want to say that everybody is unconscious… I just know that for me personally, I feel much better when I’m taking the time to be with my food, to prepare it, and to think about what I’m eating. I feel that it’s more respectful to myself in that way.

FTY: How does eating raw relate to eating locally?

LL: I can only speak from my own personal diet, which is really a mix. I love to eat local as much as I can. It’s fresher food, so it’s going to be more alive, vibrant and delicious. Of course I’m also very excited about supporting local farmers, sustainability and our community… On the other hand, I love raw cacao which I get from Ecuador and I love mangoes, which don’t grow in the northwest, and of course there are other things, super-foods, which are not local that I also add into my diet.

FTY: Can you talk a bit about how you source your food and ingredients. Locally and non-locally?

LL: I put a ton of research into my sourcing. I call companies and I ask them a lot of questions about how they process the food, where it comes from, how they support the local farmers that they buy from, if they are fair-trade and equitable, how much of a footprint are they leaving? You know… I don’t want some giant factory in Peru making my cacao. Just asking those kinds of questions. Right now I feel very fortunate with my cacao and agave sources. There’s only one person between myself and the cacao and agave source. There’s only one company, they get it direct from the farm and then they send it to me. There’s no middleman making money off the workers or the land. It cuts down on cost and packaging too.

Other than the cacao and agave I source most of my ingredients locally. There’s a local wholesaler in Eugene that gets nuts and seeds from Oregon and Washington. The walnuts that I use in the raw brownies are from Oregon.

FTY: How does eating raw work for people in many lower income communities who may not have the same access to fresh and organic foods or may not be able to afford them? Does it require certain monetary circumstances to eat a good raw foods diet?

LL: Hmm… A couple things… One is that when you buy things by the case from the grocery store (referring to New Seasons Market in Portland, though similar deals are true for many other stores) they give you 10% off the case for dried products, but when you’re buying produce they’ll give you 10% over cost, which could be a really good deal. And foods are still considered live when they’re frozen. They do lose some enzymes, but they retain enough that they’re still considered a live food. So when fruits go on sale I often buy them by the case and freeze them immediately so that I have it. You can even go in with friends. Sometimes I’ll call some of my friends and say something like, “Hey, I can get a case of romaine lettuce. How many of you want in?” So that’s always a good way to do it.

Another thing is that at local farmers markets the prices are often a lot lower. The markets are usually fairly accessible by bus, there are ways to get there.

And you can buy transitional. What that means is that a lot of farms are considered “transitional” because they don’t have the organic label yet, but they’re not spraying their foods. It takes a number of years to get certified as organic so they may be waiting for that, or many farms don’t even want to get certified because it’s just too expensive. But they’re still doing safe farming practices, and they’re usually much less money than buying organic.

(Note: At this point the Certified Organic Label does not mean much. Industrialized Agriculture is cashing in on the organic trend and doing everything they can to render the term basically meaningless, while retaining justification to charge more. This wikipedia article is a good primer on the topic and has links for further research. Also, certified organic animal products only mean that the animals were fed industry standard organic grain. Most animals aren’t naturally grain eaters so this is harmful to their digestive systems and causes illness. Organic labeling for animal products also don’t necessarily mean that the animals were treated humanely. Many of them are still kept in cages and abused.)

FTY: I think that many people might consider certain eating practices as privileged and associate food choices with income brackets. Would you agree with that?

LL: Unfortunately, and this isn’t always, but sometimes I think that yes, that is true. Sometimes it is harder to get quality foods and it can be more expensive. I think that something we all need to be working towards is finding better ways to make good, quality, chemical free food accessible to everyone. Part of that is helping small, independent, organic and transitional farmers by supporting them. It takes a lot of money for them to get their organic certification that then gets passed on to the consumer. We could all really be helping at the legislative level, I mean why should it be so expensive to get this certification to be allowed to eat off the land?

FTY: Do you think that everyone should eat raw?

LL: No. Absolutely not. I think that everyone’s body is different. I think that the important thing is to listen to your body and experiment and find out how your body operates at its peak level. What are you putting into it that makes it happy and makes you feel good? That’s a process that everyone needs to do from themselves. I have found that raw is absolutely the best for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody.

FTY: What about animal products?

LL: Same thing. I don’t think vegan is for everybody… I know that it’s what’s right for me. I’m really not about imposing my food strategies for my body on to everyone else and their body. I’m about awareness and I would love for everybody to feel healthy and to feel good in their bodies and to have their bodies at a good level of response. So whatever can help them get there is best. At the same time, with all the research I’ve done, I don’t really believe that eating animal products on a very regular basis is really what’s right for a human body.

FTY: So would that mean that animal products are more medicinal?

LL: Yeah. Our bodies are 99.9% genetically the same as when we were mostly hunter/ gatherers, before “civilized” living. I think it’s important to think pre-agricultural revolution, to think about what we were putting in our bodies before that. We weren’t milking cows, and we weren’t eating nearly as much meat or consuming it nearly as regularly. I think that there’s something to be said for that. I think that there’s a lot to be said for Victoria Boutenko’s work. She’s a raw foods educator who has done a lot of research. She and her family came from states of terrible health and then went raw for seven years and became very healthy and very active with a raw diet. After seven years she felt like she “plateaued” and wanted to get to the next level with her health. So she researched chimpanzees, because we’re 99.4% genetically the same as them. She wanted to know what they were eating and what worked for them and would it work for us. So a wild chimpanzee diet is 50% fruit, 40% greens and blossoms, 7% pith, bark and seeds, and less than 5% insects. The standard American diet is well over 50% cooked carbohydrates; rice, potatoes, bread pasta etc. A tiny bit of vegetables, a little bit of fruit, a lot of animal products, and tiny bit of healthy nuts and oils and just a tiny fraction of greens.

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She really believes that greens should be their own category. They are different from the vegetable category because of the nutrient content. A typical raw foods diet is again, a lot fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds and oil, very little greens… Her idea is that we need to get closer to the chimpanzee diet and eat more greens. She is pretty much the mother of the “green smoothie”. She has saved a lot of lives, if you look on her website you see people that have lost a lot of weight on green smoothies, people that have come back from terrible states of health on green smoothie. She’s absolutely amazing.

FTY: Why did you choose to make the products that you do? How did they come about?

LL: Chocolate came about first because I was transitioning into the raw food diet, (laughs) and I was terrified that I would lose my treats! I used to be such a terrible sugar addict. I mean candy bars, donuts… It was terrible. so I needed something sweet and I was really interested in making raw chocolate and eating it. But the other thing I found out that was interesting is that raw cacao is really high in magnesium, and so it was very medicinal for me at first. I was very deficient in magnesium from my cancer treatments. I mean I was deficient in everything, all the vitamins and minerals had been stripped from my body. But I felt like I couldn’t satiate on cacao, I just couldn’t get enough.. But then finally I did. I mean I was so stiff, I could barely touch my knees I was so magnesium deficient…

FTY: What makes raw chocolate different from some of these other “healthy” or specialty chocolates? Isn’t good quality, organic chocolate supposed to be good for you even when it’s not raw?

LL: Well the difference is that the chocolate that you would buy in the store has undergone a lot of heat and pressure which can be very damaging because it can break the chemical bonds and creates an unstable food that’s also not alive and there’s usually at least some chemical agents that have been added to it in order to get it in the form that they want it to be in. And of course, it’s rarely vegan…

FTY: The high heat affects the oil right? Similar to what would happen if you heat flax seed oil…

LL: Right. The cacao oils (the butter) in the chocolate becomes unstable and toxic when heated and pressurized. With raw chocolate the cacao bean is fermented after it’s been picked. Fermentation is a healthy process that encourages live, healthy enzymes. Fermentation also keeps it stable and so it won’t spoil. Then it goes through a process of grinding to become cacao powder, or butter or nibs… It never goes through any heat or pressure at all. You just get the pure food.

FTY: So the raw chocolate is your first product…

LL: And I’m still perfecting the recipe, I’m still working on it. I have a number of different chocolate products. I have the raw brownies and chocolate truffles and mint bars and then I have these little dogwood flower mints. I sell them mostly in the co-ops. Hopefully soon I’ll get them farther reaching.

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raw liquid love

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FTY: And then you have the kale…

LL: Right. The kale came about because People’s co-op asked me if I would consider doing some kind of a savory treat and then my friend Andrea Livingston (another Portland raw chef) mentioned that she had just heard about these kale chips from Living Light (Raw Culinary Arts Institute) and she gave me a couple different recipes. I tried them all, but I didn’t like any of them. So I ended up substituting almost all of the ingredients until at the end I just had my own recipe… I’m very excited about them. Also, as a former chip eater the kale chips meet all my needs. They’re crispy and salty and cheesy (from nutritional yeast) so they meet all my needs without having any of those ingredients. They’re perfect.

FTY: Where do you sell the kale chips? What’s your plan?

LL: Right now they’re just in portland co-ops. I’d like to get them down to Eugene and maybe up to Seattle… And then as far reaching as possible. I think that kale is a super food. I attribute kale to so much of my own energy and vitality and health in general. It’s like when you fall in love and you want to shout it from the rooftops. I just want to shout “Eat some kale!!!” “More kale for everyone!!

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