(Source: Larry Busacca/Getty Images North America) She's a supermodel who has appeared on the cover of more than 500 magazines (including the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue). But did you know that Carol Alt, who looks and feels better than ever at age 53, is also a raw-food advocate? Since first going raw on a doctor's advice 17 years ago, she's been passionate about educating and inspiring people to live healthier lives. She's written three books on the subject, including her latest, Easy, Sexy, Raw: 130 Raw Food Recipes, Tools, and Tips to Make You Feel Gorgeous and Satisfied, and also has a TV show, A Healthy You, on FOX. We spoke to Alt on the importance of eating raw.
So why is going raw a healthy choice in today's world?
The biggest issue isn't so much that we eat cooked food, it's that we don't get any raw food. We literally cook everything, we spray chemicals on anything sitting out at a salad bar, and what's happening to our food is the issue. When my mom was growing up, she had raw yogurt, she had raw butter, raw milk, it was delivered to the house, there was no issues like that whatsoever. All of a sudden we're moving towards cities, and we're afraid of bacteria. Food that has no enzymes can sit on the shelves for weeks, so it's good for people who are selling food. But on the other hand, we don't make adjustments in our food for that. We don't eat digestive enzymes, we don't eat raw foods mixed in with our cooked foods, we don't eat seasonal, local...
So all things considered, going raw helps give our systems what they truly need in terms of nutrition. No wonder it seems like there's a momentum growing to the raw-food movement.
When I first went raw 17 years ago, you couldn't get a raw snack, you couldn't get a raw olive, so I made most of my own foods. In [my book] Eating in the Raw, I actually do 30 recipes I did when I first went raw that I always had in my refrigerator so I could eat, because there was just nothing on the market. Now there's so much stuff! You can get snacks, cake, ice cream––all raw. I think you're going to start seeing that the raw people are way more happy than the non-raw people, and other people are going to come onboard. This is about abundance!
Quite a change from 17 years ago!
At the beginning, I was like a voice in the wind. It was like a hurricane and I was shouting against it, "Eat raw, eat raw," and now I'm thinking I have so many interesting people I can bring onto the show who all say the same thing: it all goes back to diet. It all goes back to what you eat.
(Source: Jimmy Bruch) So what first set you on this path?
Really? Was it vanity?
Absolutely. I was 32, 33, 34 years old, I'm watching a 22 year old usurp my set! Everybody's drooling over her, she just had this great energy. I wasn't angry or mad at her, I was just fascinated, I was like, "What happened to me from 22 like she was, to 32, that went from that to this?" I felt like a big old ugly blob. I had no joy, I had no joie de vivre, I was just this blob sitting there, and they said, "We can't shoot you, you just don't look good." When I got home, as it happened in many moments in my life where I was in deep need, I was praying, I said, "If you bring me what I need I promise you that I will pay it forward and help other people."
Can you break down exactly why, in our world today, cooked food an be unhealthy for our bodies?
The issue with food is, when you cook it, three things happen: You alter the pH so it goes from alkaline to acid. It kills the enzymes. And it denatures the vitamins and minerals. Now what does that have to do with us? We are an "acid by nature but alkaline by necessity" system. So we need to be as alkaline as possible because we make lots of acid, we make no alkaline. And the body has to be balanced––where is it going to get that balance if we don't put it in there? And acidic blood doesn't carry oxygen, oxygen is integral to cell metabolism, we're done for. We get diseased and inflamed.
The second one is enzymes. If we're not eating food with enzymes, we have to make enzymes. Well, if you're not getting food with enzymes, you're not getting vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are the building blocks of enzymes and protein chains. If it's not in the food, it pulls it from the body. So now you're degrading the body to make enzymes to digest food that has no enzymes or vitamins or minerals.
And number three is, you're "denaturing" the vitamins and minerals. What I mean by "no vitamins and minerals" is not that there's none. There's a denaturing that happens with heat; it breaks the very fragile bonds between the vitamins and minerals. When you eat a whole food––you eat the skin, the apple, the whole thing––you get vitamins and minerals that are in their own little world, attached together in long chains. And when you heat the apple, to make apple pie for example, those chains break. So the body goes, "Oh, here's a Vitamin D but it's not with magnesium and it's not with calcium so it's really hard to absorb it." So it's there, it's just not available to the body. And you eat the apple raw and it goes, "Oh, wow, look at this, enzymes, so I don't need to make any enzymes. Oh, it's alkaline so I feel so good. Oh, hey vitamins and minerals, you know what I need to rebuild the skin, because skin is the last thing on my list." Since the main function of the body is to eat and survive, regenerate, rejuvenation is last.
Ooh yeah, it's why we age!
Variety is another important food tip you've written about.
You need a wide variety of everything. People go, "Oh, quick, eat blueberries cause they're anti-inflammatory," but then they have hot dogs and hamburgers and Coca-Cola and French fries. A few blueberries is not going to counteract all that. You know how many glasses of alkaline water you need to counteract one glass of soda? 34.
Do you drink coffee or tea?
I'm a hot water and lemon girl. I love my hot water and lemon. I can't wake up without it, because it wakes up my liver.
Do people close to you follow a similar diet?
My mother has been on her greens and her enzymes since the first day she saw me after I changed my diet and she said, "Holy cow, what did you do?"
Follow Carol Alt on Twitter for more tips.