What's a Raw Vegan?

Raw vegan restaurants are popping up around Sarasota, touting impressive health benefits. So what's the deal?

By Hanna Powers June 18, 2019

Siesta Snackers at Nutritious You.

Marina Sommers, who's originally from the Ukraine, started her health journey as a nutrition coach. For more than a decade, she has had a passion for health and helping others take control of their well-being through incorporating whole foods. Ten years ago, Sommers and her husband were living in Boston, but wanted to escape the long winters. Her husband's parents had a townhouse in Sarasota, so they decided to give living here a shot. And after a transformative internship at the successful Organic Garden raw vegan restaurant in Boston, Sommers was motivated to bring a similar experience to Siesta Key. She opened Nutritious You on Midnight Pass Road four years ago. “I can offer exciting ways to eat your salad," she says. "You can come here and have a veggie burger and still be consuming all of the nutrients as if you had ordered a salad.”

A raw vegan diet is one that combines veganism and raw foodism. It excludes all food and drink that comes from an animal and any food that is processed or altered from its natural state, including food that's cooked at high temperatures. Though it's become more popular in recent years, there's not much scientific research about its health benefits because it's not widely practiced. 

However, Sommers says to think of the acronym H.O.P.E., which stands for hormones, oxygen, proteins, and enzymes. "Certain crucial hormones are found in our food, but are killed off when raised to a certain temperature," Sommers explains. "You lose important digestive enzymes, the proteins become denatured or mutated, and the natural oxygen—which gives the food life—is completely depleted." Consuming foods with unaltered properties in these four categories, Sommers believes, is crucial to our health and well-being.

Sommers thinks our society is “protein obsessed” and says we don’t actually need as much protein as is commonly thought. She believes a properly plated meal should be mostly vegetables, a portion of grains and a small portion of protein. If we stick to “eating the rainbow,” a.k.a. lots of vibrantly colored fruits and veggies, Sommers believes we will get all of the things we need to sustain us and keep us healthy.

A raw vegan dish at Nutritious You.

She adds that raw veganism is an easy, tasty way to eat lots of nutrient-dense foods that are full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Sommers said, "I had an epiphany moment realizing that salad doesn't just have to be the boring part of dinner, it’s a source of alkalizing nutrition, oxygen, and many other life promoting nutrients...and I wanted to share my findings with more people than just my family."

While Sommers started Nutritious You to be a quick and easy healthy café, she hopes to see high-end, fine-dining restaurants incorporate more vegan and raw vegan choices. 

But at the end of the day, Sommers isn’t trying to turn everyone into a raw vegan.

Biodegradable containers at Nutritious You. 

She is aware of the environmental impact of consuming a high volume of animal products. She has been using biodegradable straws and packaging since she opened four years ago, even though they were significantly more expensive. She wants people to have the knowledge and resources in their community to be able to make healthy choices. Her advice for us? Eat whole foods.

Nutritious You isn’t the only raw vegan pioneer in Sarasota. Downtown, Ionie and Beauty of Sprouts are also offering up raw vegan choices. Sommers says they support each other. “It’s girl power—you know, women helping women.”

Nutritious You has a retail store located at 6583 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key. You can also order online on their website, or reach them at (941) 203-5203

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