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Sipping on a green smoothie and still glistening with that post-yoga glimmer, Elena Cholovsky appears to be radiating from within.
When I meet Elena at Alchemy – the raw vegan cafe she co-owns in Ubud Bali – I can more than relate to her story of ongoing illness through her teens and early 20s – although looking at this beautiful, open, healthy looking woman before me – one can hardly imagine her sneezing, let alone years of illness.
In Elena’s case, by her late teens “being sick was somewhat of a hobby”. Constant flu’s, fatigue, high fevers and stomachaches were daily companions to the Russian youngster. As with many of us systemically unwell Westerners who did the rounds of mainstream doctors (only to be deemed incurable by a blinkered and limited system), Elena would eventually heal herself.
In a rare moment of divine intervention, Elena’s turning point came when she stumbled upon a book on vegetarianism (as she was Russian, this was quite a mad concept), and by page 36 she was an instant convert.
With the simple removal of meat from her diet, health began to resurface.
Fast forward to two years ago when she arrives in Bali for a Raw Food Retreat. This event becomes the catalyst for seeking new health-conscious friends, and with their combined powers and passion for conscious living, flows into the creation of the now well-established Alchemy Cafe and Holistic Healing Centre.
“Alchemy was the first 100% raw food restaurant in Bali. Each business partner has their own personal story of how a raw food lifestyle healed their life. Our individual stories inspired us to open a place of healing, a place of transformation, a place of beauty & health. None of us came to Bali with the intention of creating a business. It simply happened to us. As if by some magical force Bali seduced us. We met on this island and one day the idea simply arrived “.
These alchemists now maintain the most comprehensive and impressive raw juice and smoothie bar, the most talked about vegan salad bar on the island and a raw chocolaterie that will inspire you to seek out the nearest cacao dance party!
If you were to dine here only for the ‘sushi’ (substitute papaya for salmon and cauliflower for rice…) and the Peppermint Kiss smoothie followed by the delightful raw ‘tiramisu’, it is probable that you would never consume cooked foods again.
So at this point you could be asking what constitutes as raw?
Generally, a raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed, raw plant foods that have not been heated above 40 °C (104 °F). According to the raw foodists, anything cooked above this temperature loses its nutritional value and will also destroy the natural enzymes that are vital in building proteins and rebuilding the body.
Typical foods included in raw food diets are organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains, legumes and raw superfoods such as cocoa – hence the abundance of raw chocolate within the raw scene!
That’s right, raw chocolate…and you though that a raw food diet was all lettuce and carrots! Not any more! Currently there is a raw food evolution occurring, as more and more people with a strong desire to regain optimum health are subscribing to ‘thy food is thy medicine’ and ‘live foods live bodies’ principles.
Simultaneously, raw food ‘chefs’ and veggie juice gurus are sprouting up in California, UK, Europe, Australia and now Bali! If you don’t believe me, check out FaceBook or Instagram – raw power is gaining momentum and a massive following. So no, raw no longer means a drab salad! Now it’s high-end organic, sexy, creative, sinful and visually stunning, combined with tastes and flavours that may well inspire the inspired to throw away their ovens and stove tops and make room for juicers, blenders, dehydrators and sprouters!
Elena believes the driving force behind the raw food evolution in Ubud stems from the human desire to heal & be happy. Within the past two years, Ubud has become home to a plethora of raw vegan and vegetarian restaurants, which compliment the yoga studios, meditation centers and the natural beauty that surrounds. It’s no wonder health-seekers are drawn here.
Elena’s hope for the healthy future of Ubud is to create as many organic farms as possible on the island. At Alchemy they grow as much as they can on their own organic farm and she believes that their guests can feel this purity in the food that they serve.
“Raw food vibrates at a higher frequency and eating live high vibrational foods will change your life, your passions, your health and it will open your heart.” She enthuses.
Elena has a refreshing, uncomplicated view when it comes to eating. Her advice? – Listen to your body as it confides its needs on a day-to-day basis and don’t be too militant with your eating. So for the most part she is 95% raw yet allows for the occasional cooked egg when she feels this is more appropriate to her needs or indeed finds herself dreaming of omelettes!
“My main raw food mentor is my own body. Over the last 5 years I’ve learnt to listen to my body and what it truly wants. It’s like the body talks to you through your mind in whispers. Before these whispers were “I want fried potatoes! I want steak! I want cookies!”, and now these whispers are more gentle – “I’m craving loads of greens today. I’m craving papaya.” Any raw/vegan foodie will tell you that once you cleanse your body enough and stay on a clean diet, your body will naturally start craving clean foods. Don’t ever underestimate the true nature of your body and its needs. Its quite smart, you know.”
My personal feeling is that most people (myself included) do not know or cannot remember how good their bodies were designed to feel.
After just a month in Ubud, with daily Yoga and treating my own body to raw, live foods (Dara and I are steadily working our way through the entire Alchemy menu) – I’ve gotten a little taste of how a healthy body should feel, and in all honesty – I want more.
The shift into conscious eating has been an easy one, and like most things when I became aware – I couldn’t believe I had spent a lifetime willingly causing illness to my own body through the food I put into it.
I know now – Food is medicine – and spending time in Ubud meeting inspiring people like Elena has only cemented that further.
I hope this article will spark a curiosity about your own wellbeing, and to start Googling your way through the abundance of resources already available to you.
Just so you know, if you feel incited to have a DIY health sabbatical in Ubud, a return flight from Sydney would cost you $600, a monthly yoga pass to Radiantly Alive would cost you $120, home-stay accommodation could be as low as $12 per night and organic, high-vibrational eating at Alchemy (and the myriad of conscious restaurants available on every corner) would only consume $20-30 for three quite amazing three course meals a day!
So pack your sarong and head to the world’s newest raw food epicentre – you can say hi to Elena while you’re here and get personally guided through the raw chocolate display cabinet!