COLUMBIA — Columbia resident and raw foodist Jane Smith is not shy when it comes to espousing the benefits of a raw food diet.
"It was an expensive couple of years; I had to buy a whole new wardrobe," Smith said, after she lost 37 pounds. The change in diet also allowed her to get off of two blood pressure medicines and she noticed an immediate positive change in her energy level.
Smith is the founder of the Columbia Raw Food Meetup Group, a Meetup.com group that gathers once a month to eat, socialize and share tips and insights on raw food living. Smith’s online name is "Blazin’ Jane," a nickname from when her husband was in the Navy, stationed in Naples, Italy and she used to run marathons — she claims she was always coming in last. The name stuck thanks to her children, and she said a friend notes that it’s appropriate: she’s "blazin’" a trail here in Columbia in the raw food world.
Raw food enthusiasts believe that a raw food diet, which involves not cooking food so that it retains its natural benefits and flavor, is the healthiest way to eat. Smith “went raw” in 2006 after she was introduced to it by her granddaughter, Leah, partly out of interest but also to support Leah. Even though she was already vegetarian at the time, “I went raw for one day and didn’t die, so I thought I could do it again,” she said.
Smith’s group was started in August 2008; it now has more than 50 members, approximately half of whom come to the monthly gatherings. Smith notes that group members vary widely in terms of experience and interest with the raw food lifestyle, and she said that’s fine with her; all are welcome. She laughs that her husband, a “meat-and-potatoes guy” just “loves food of any ilk,” and is often present at the meetings to socialize and take pictures for the group’s Web site.
Smith said she thinks animal protein is the root of many illnesses, and Americans consume too much protein in general. Although Smith tries to eat as organically as possible, “I don’t beat myself up if I can’t.”
Smith said she likes to shop at Schnucks and Clovers and load up on salads and fruits whenever possible. She also dehydrates foods such as kale for healthy snacks.
Going raw does not mean cutting out all sweet foods. They are just made with healthier ingredients.
“We’re really big on desserts here in Raw Foodland,” Smith laughs.
For now, Smith said she is happy with the way the group has grown and hopes it has made a positive difference in members’ lives.
“I always notice what a nice buzz there is in the room," she says of the group’s get-togethers. “I sometimes hate to interrupt them.”
For more information about the Columbia Raw Food Meetup Group, contact Jane Smith, Organizer, at email@example.com, and on the Web. The group meets the first Sunday of each month at 5:30 p.m.