Hungry for Health

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Wandering through The Hungry Elephant grocery store is like exploring a modern day curiosity shop. You’ll find soy cheese, noni juice, vegetable spiralisers, kits for composting pet waste, baby soaps, perfume – and scarcely an e number to be seen. “I can’t believe I used to drive to Albany for this stuff,” says one local shopper, eagerly piling goodies on the counter.

Owner Shouri Khosravi smiles. The café and store has been a dream of hers since she moved to the Mahurangi five years ago. “We’ve already converted many of our staff to a vegan or vegetarian way of life. It’s not all carrots and cabbage you know - you can have gourmet dishes without animal flesh.”

Certainly Shouri’s glowing skin is a fine advertisement for the raw food lifestyle. she adopted over a decade ago in response to chronic health challenges. “It’s a journey and I’ve fallen off the wagon many times, but I’ve always stayed at least 75% raw.”

So where should one start when adopting a healthier diet? Shouri heads straight to the seeds and glass jars at the back of the shop.

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“Sprouting is one of the best things you can do,” she says. “It’s an easy way to supplement your diet with fresh, raw, green foods and it doesn’t take up lots of space or require a lot of maintenance.”

Shouri recommends starting with a simple sprout mix, like alfalfa and broccoli.

Next on the list is smoothies. “It’s a great way to get more greens. Blended greens are easier to digest and you can add superfoods like aςai powder which has an anti-ageing protein, or maca powder, which has a rejuvenating and energizing effect.”  She smiles.  “It’s also a fun way to get kids on board.”

She glides on to the supplements section. “If you choose only one supplement, go for probiotics. Gut bacteria is so important for digestion and so many processed foods destroy our intestinal flora.

“You can take probiotics as a liquid, as a powder, or simply add them to your diet with kefir coconut yoghurt, kombucha or sauerkraut.”

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Shouri admits preparing raw foods does take time, but says she sees it as an investment in her health. “When I’m 100% raw, I feel like I’m in another reality, like I’m walking on air instead of earth. I have this heightened awareness, I’m all happy and ready to challenge the day.”

She’s also keen to challenge ideas about the costs of raw food living. “I don’t believe it’s expensive to live this way. You’ve got to set your priorities in life. I don’t drink alcohol, go to bars, eat meat, eggs or dairy. I live simply.

Shouri is adamant that the Hungry Elephant’s prices are competitive with similar stores in Auckland.  “Our freight costs are higher, but we keep the prices low to make it affordable for locals. It’s a passion for us.”

This year Shouri has plans to open New Zealand’s first organic bar on site, serving sulphite-free and organic beverages and wood-fired pizza a few nights a week. But isn’t serving alcohol a contradiction?

“It’s about offering a better version of alcoholic drinks. We’ll use fresh juice mixers and make fruit punch too.”

In other words, it’s about progress, not perfection.

www.hungryelephant.nz