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Sprouting Off at the Mouth

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Judith Wade is a 'sproutarian.' The eating evangelist helps people who come to her seeking a healthier lifestyle adapt to new ways of eating and thinking. A dozen people gathered around a huge country kitchen table in Metchosin recently, ogling plates piled high with a delicious chlorophyl-filled feast that included buckwheat lettuce, sunflower greens, organic lettuce, mung and pink lentils sprouted to perfection, marinated ginger carrots, sliced avocado, almond cheese, humus and cilantro.

The spread also featured vivid vegetable kraut blends - carrot and turnip; onion, garlic, pepper and cucumber; fermented bok choy; and marinated eggplant in seaweed - sprinklings of ground flax, Pacific nori flakes, Atlantic dulse and liquid trails of bronze hempseed oil. "I call it my rainbow platter," says Judith Wade, 49, who is the super-healthy force of nature who runs the Living Foods Educational Health Center in Metchosin and has taught hundreds of people about the benefits of eating sprouted grains. "I am not a vegan, not a vegetarian, and definitely not a raw foodist," she emphasizes. "I am a sproutarian."

And that means her consuming passion is foods that are growing, sprouting or fermenting - all lively states of being that she asserts can translate into vigorous human performance. She says sprouts are a breeze to grow, and very inexpensive, but the eating evangelist never browbeats people into adopting the diet cold turkey (to use an incongruous term considering her diet preferences). She urges them to make gradual improvements, by eating more fruits and living foods, while curbing the sugary, processed, dead ones.

"The first thing you should do is give away your microwave and stove," she says, only half-jokingly, as her students dig into their lunches, using steak knives to cut their sprouts so they don't look like goats with shoots hanging out of their mouths. In a world where many diseases are caused by poor diet, bad eating habits, overeating and lack of exercise, Wade's teachings could be powerful preventative medicine, and there is certainly no shortage of students lining up to learn. Vancouverite Rudolf Roscher came looking for answers to his chronic sleepiness and a friend's heart condition.

The surveyor, who works all over the province and drives long hours, took knowledge and a flat of greens home with him. "When I jumped on my scales a few days later, I couldn't believe my eyes. I had lost weight and really enjoyed the food." Adding wheatgrass, sprouts and krauts to his diet enabled him to drop 30 pounds in six weeks but best of all was his renewed energy. "I completely lost my sleepiness." He still eats Hungarian stew now and then but is drinking wheatgrass juice daily, eating fruits and sprouts. "I'm 30 per cent sproutarian."

Life Spa owner Taressa Mikaila attended the recent day-long class, and was inspired. "A day with Judith is like going home for the holidays. Her place is beautiful - the vistas, the ocean, her angel music playing, the natural surrounding, the delicious organic food - and Judith is at the heart of it. The whole experience was wonderful. I wanted to assimilate all her amazing knowledge and commit to a healthier lifestyle immediately, but I also think it's a question of timing, and having the self-motivation to carry on after you leave."

Wade agrees, and has taken years to adopt the diet herself.

Born into a small hotel family in Czechoslovakia, she grew up with hearty, heavy food and suffered very poor health as a child. She had two hernia operations and an appendectomy by age 11, as well as recurring kidney troubles, ear infections and strep throat. "There was enormous toxicity in the environment and I was very overworked," she recalls simply.

After training as a chef, she escaped to Switzerland and practiced her culinary arts for five years before moving with her husband to Metchosin. Here, while raising two sons, she was drawn to healthier foods and her grandmother's vegetable kraut recipes. Then, in 1988, she read a life-changing book by American Dr. Ann Wigmore. "I read it in one night and the next day I was planting wheatgrass." She later studied with Wigmore, who encouraged her to start teaching herself. Wade, now 49, opened her school in 1993 and it is the only one of its kind in Canada.

She teaches seven different courses, from sprouting seeds to making almond cheese and veggie krauts; has guest rooms for people wanting to immerse themselves in the diet; hosts weekend workshops; puts on special meals for groups of six or more; and supplies wheatgrass to all but one of the dozen juice bars in Victoria (600 flats every month). She also produces 150 flats of buckwheat lettuce, 200 of sunflower greens and delivers six days a week to individual clients' homes.

"People who are drawn to living foods almost always begin through wheatgrass," she says, adding a flat costs $14 and yields eight to 14 ounces of juice. That will typically last a person one week, although some order more, if detoxing or facing health challenges. She warns it must always be drunk or chewed very slowly, and never on an empty stomach. An ounce should take three minutes to consume and be rolled round the mouth and "chewed" with lots of saliva. If not, it can cause headache or tummy upset. She suggests people gradually work up to three ounces a day.

"And never have it after 5 p.m. if you want to sleep at night. It's too energizing." A spokeswoman for the Dietitians of Canada, who would not give her name, says she is doubtful about some of the expansive claims for wheatgrass and sprouts. She says the former does contain many nutrients but in low amounts, and the latter are high in water, so nutrients are very dilute. She adds that sprouts also can harbor microbes.

But Master herbalist and aromatherapist Paulette Fitzpatrick, at Lifestyle Markets, says wheatgrass provides the body with "many vitamins and minerals as well as a lot of chlorophyl, which is detoxifying and rejuvenating. We sell a lot of it." The market doesn't sell sprouts because they spoil so quickly, "but they are full of good enzymes, easily digested and a living food."

For those who dislike the unusual taste - it also looks a bit like green slime and smells like fresh mown grass - it can be tempered with a shot of lemon, carrot or celery juice. Wade not only drinks it, she also pours it in the bath, uses the foam as a facial mask and uses pulp from her juicer as a poultice. "It is wonderful for eczema, acne, psoriasis, scars or burns."

Her greens all pack an extra powerful punch because she waters them with a solution of magnesium oxide (called Prill water) that she mixes with ormus, a calcium and essential trace minerals concentrate that she describes as "a life enhancing catalyst." "All of our greens are watered with this Energized Water. Nobody else on planet Earth does it."

She acknowledges that her fetish for freshness puts some people off. "Some people are afraid to call me or tell me what they eat. But I never judge. I really support people's rights to eat whatever they like, although I encourage them to make positive change. You cannot be fanatic. If you are rigid you break. You have to be bendable, chewable."

And some people cannot eat only living foods, she admits, which is why she says to go slow with dietary change. "Everything I make is easy to digest. Even our almond cheese is made from sprouted raw almonds. Food is predigested when it sprouts, so the body doesn't have to use precious energy to digest it. When you eat it you don't feel tired, full or heavy." She believes that cooked, hot food is the greatest addiction in the world and creates imbalances that lead to disease, which is why her mission is "to have a living food juice bar and buffet beside every McDonald's in Victoria."

Check out Wade's next beginners class. It includes breakfast, lunch and take home dinner, plus lots of education and wheatgrass for $133. To register, e-mail: buffet@livingfoods.ca or call 250-474-2455. Her Web site is www.livingfoods.ca

Copyright 2004 Times Colonist (Victoria)

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