For the past four years, 80 percent of what Jean Sumner has eaten has been raw, unprocessed food. Among her favorite entrees are raw spaghetti, raw tacos, zucchini noodles marinara, and raw pumpkin pie.

Maintaining a raw food diet takes an incredible amount of willpower, especially in today’s world where fast-food restaurants and microwave ovens adequately accommodate busy lifestyles. Still, Jean says the health benefits she has derived since starting her raw diet are endless.

She has lost weight, has more energy, requires less sleep, and never feels aches or pains.

“I never get sick anymore,” says Jean, a resident of The Villages. “I had also been battling a hip problem that went away after I started eating raw food. I eat raw food because our world is already toxic, and we should not be adding more toxins into our bodies.”

Jean is certainly not the only person in The Villages who successfully resists eating cooked food. As a matter of fact, the raw food craze has caught on so much in this retirement community that there are now 300 members in the Raw Food Club. Jean serves as president of the club, which meets on the second Tuesday of each month at Seabreeze Recreation Center from 1–3p.m.

For each meeting, she invites a local chef to prepare a raw dish in front of club members and explain why he or she eats raw food.

“The chefs always have an interesting and exciting story to tell,” Jean says. “As president of the club, I love being around like-minded people and having the opportunity to help people feel better and embrace a healthier lifestyle. We also share recipes and learn from one another.”

Anyone interested in learning about raw food is welcome to join the club. Newcomers, Jean says, should slowly transition to a raw food diet.

“Raw food is a big change. I tell people to gradually add raw food to their diet and not deprive themselves of the traditional foods they enjoy. You will start feeling the health benefits, and eventually you can change to an all-raw diet. If you stop eating cooked food suddenly and change to an all-raw diet, you will become sick because your body will eliminate lots of toxins all at once.”

However, those who successfully transition to a raw diet see an improvement in their health. Jean says some club members are now off blood pressure and diabetes medications.

“I feel like I did when I was in my 20s. I go to an aerobics class and out-kick everybody. I get things done.”

For more information about the club, please call Jean Sumner at 352.459.1655.

dish-rawfoods-0114VSZucchini Noodles Marinara

Yield: 1 serving

1 zucchini, peeled
2 tablespoons marinara (see recipe below)

1. Cut zucchini into thin noodles using a vegetable spiral slicer. Alternatively, use a vegetable peeler to create long ribbons, or fettuccini, by drawing the peeler down all sides of the zucchini until you reach the core.
2. Place in a medium bowl and toss with the marinara. Serve immediately.

Note: To make the noodles taste better, add the following:
• A few tablespoons of olive oil
• A teaspoon of lemon juice
• Sea salt
• 1 tablespoon of agave nectar

Marinara Sauce

Yield: 1 cup, 2 servings

1 ripe tomato
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked or oil-packed
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic (1 clove)
1/4 teaspoon, plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash black pepper (optional)
Dash cayenne

1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor fitted with the “S” blade and process until smooth. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
2. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Marinara sauce will keep for three days.

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