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What's the Deal With the Raw Food Diet

What's the Deal With the Raw Food Diet

If I were ever to dabble in eating a raw food diet, I would choose to do so in Summer. There is an abundance of produce in season that is especially uncooked – peaches versus butternut squash. But eating "raw" is about more than just eating salads; it is a complex diet.

The raw food movement stands exactly opposite of processed foods. We know that minimally prepared food is more nutritious, but with the raw diet nothing should be heated over 116 degrees F – the temperature at which important food enzymes are destroyed. Raw foodies argue that these enzymes are not killed by the acidic environment of the stomach, merely deactivated then re-activated once they enter the more alkaline environment of the intestines. Once in the intestines, raw foodists believe these enzymes allow you to fully reap the nutritional benefit from your foods – getting more nutrients from less (processed) food. There are certain movements within the raw food movement that believe you only need to eat raw at least 80 percent of the time to benefit from the diet.

To read about the possible nutritional deficiencies of eating raw and the rules of raw, just


This modification of the rules is important since there are some nutrients your body processes better when cooked. The antioxidant lycopene increases when tomatoes are cooked. The raw food diet is low in B12, found in meat and eggs, as well as zinc. Many people adhering to a strict raw food diet don't get enough calcium or vitamin D and put themselves at risk for osteoporosis.

For me the downside of eating raw would be the amount of time it takes to prepare a meal. There is a lot of soaking involved to create foods soft enough to eat without cooking them. To make whole grains, like oatmeal, you need to soak the grain in boiled water for two to three hours, so you definitely need to think ahead.

Here's a thumbnail sketch of what to avoid and what to eat when going raw:

  • No animal products – no meat, no eggs, no dairy products. Instead switch to nut and seed milks.

  • No refined sugar or flour. Avoid white rice. Instead you can make your own snack foods with a dehydrator.
  • Only cook, the 20 percent of the time that you might be cooking, with cold-pressed unheated oils.
  • Do eat tons of greens and juice them too. Spirulina and wheat grass are great diet additions too. As well as sprouted greens.
  • Eat fresh plant foods and avoid processed foods like: frozen, boxed, canned and bottled.
  • Eat 80 percent or more raw foods.

If you eat raw tell us all about it in the comment sections below.

Join The Conversation
Isista Isista 9 years
Some foods taste good raw. And I can't say anything bad about the diet in general - sounds like those who try it love it! But for me? No way. I like enjoying my foods. I've learned to eat healthy and moderate my food, but I don't feel like I should have to give up a lot of my fave foods just to eat raw food. Doesn't sound like a fair trade. But, hey, that's just me. Again, if this diet works for you, that's awesome :)
Eilonwy Eilonwy 9 years
Just to make something clear: I love being raw too - yay for all the raw foodies here - but I don't want any newbies to get the wrong idea. B12 is NOT a vitamin one can simply choose to be 'lacking in.' Your entire nervous system is dependent on its presence in one's diet. It actually takes quite some time for your body to accrue a B12 deficiency; however, once one reaches a certain minimum threshold, the complications are swift, and can lead to permanent damage. It isn't so dichotomic either (ie. cancer vs. vitamin deficiencies). All one needs to do is take a B12 (among other) supplements, and you're fine. It's pretty simple. I personally have my B12, iron and so forth measured every so often, as well. Osteoporosis is a risk, and one's calcium intake should be monitored. If one becomes educated from reputable sources on raw foodism, it can be a very rewarding way of life.
fredonica fredonica 9 years
Aanyanka, I've noticed a change in my menstrual cycle as well since I started eating raw. Mine used to last about three days and now it's down to about one day with very minimal cramps/bloating. As for the debate about certain nutritional deficiencies in a raw vegan's diet, I'd just like to say this: I'd rather be lacking B12 and vitamin D than have a higher chance of cancer, heart disease, etc. I look and feel healthier on a raw diet. I don't have acne, I'm rarely sick, my skin actually glows without makeup (although I'd like to thank my skincare regimen for part of that), and my weight rarely fluctuates, even if I miss a few workouts. I'd just like to stress that the raw diet isn't for everyone because not everyone can stick to it. Even I have my "cheats", such as espresso, miso soup (I make it myself since most store-bought miso soup has fish stock in it) and grilled asparagus. But I'm probably 80-90% raw, which is fine with me. It's impossible to lead a 100% raw lifestyle. It's great to see there are several raw foodists on here!
aanyanka aanyanka 9 years
I have also seen a dramatic change in periods since i've been eating mostly raw. My periods used to be very heavy for 7 days with major cramps. Now my periods are very light, lasting 2-3 days with no cramps or bloating. Also my husband (who does not eat mostly raw but does have a green smoothie for breakfast) has experienced his grey hair growing back in dark brown! He has about half the grey he used to and he's only been drinking green smoothies for about 6 months.
CherimoyaGirl CherimoyaGirl 9 years
Wow, I'm surprised to see so many other raw vegans on here! i've been a raw/vegan for about a year and a half. For me, this isn't a diet at all, its how i live my life. at first it seemed like it would be a big chore....sprouting, fermenting, soaking, etc. i got all sorts of books on eating raw, with tons of recipes, only to realize that i prefer to just eat things as they are. I eat mostly fruits and greens, and its really easy. could be that you get indigestion from raw foods because of what you are eating them with. raw foods digest the easiest and fastest in your system, but if you are eating them with (or after) things that take longer to digest (meat, bread, etc) then those raw foods might just be fermenting in your digestive tract before you can get rid of them. if you only ever ate raw food, in proper food combinations, you might eliminate that problem. Also, for the lycopene statement, i've read in numerous places that watermelon has higher amounts of lycopene that cooked or raw tomatoes. for anyone wondering about some of the positive effects of eating raw here are some of mine: weight loss that is maintained, more energy, clearer thoughts, no more stomach problems (used to have something similar to IBS), my period has gone from a consistent 7 days to 4 days with absolutely NO cramps, clear skin, the list goes on..... also, i worked on a raw vegan farm in spain this summer and one guy i worked with who has been raw for 1.5 yrs too, had to change the Rx for his glasses three times since going raw because his eyesight kept improving :-) there is so much information available on this "diet"....i hope more people look into it. there are stories upon stories of people healing diabetes and cancer by eating this way.
aanyanka aanyanka 9 years
I am currently eating a diet that is 75-80% raw foods. I have found it to be really easy to prepare the foods and stick with the diet. I feel much better when I am eating raw foods. If I have a raw breakfast and lunch and then eat a completely cooked dinner I feel very sluggish. Many designer raw foods take a long time to prepare but if you go with simple raw foods nothing could be faster/easier. Right now for me a typical breakfast is a mix of goji berries, bee pollen, and raw cacao. Lunch is a salad with spirulina or a green smoothie. My green smoothies are usually composed of flax seed, wheat germ, dates, spinach (~1lb) and some fruit (apples and bananas or peaches and blueberries). Dinner is where i am still eating some cooked foods but I try to keep it half cooked half raw. LaurenG22- You are right some foods are better for you cooked because they are poisonous is their raw form (e.g. potatoes, red kidney beans...)
sparklestar sparklestar 9 years
I did a raw food/stone age diet for a few months last year and it was pretty good. It was also pretty impossible to do whilst integrating in normal society... Eating out became a chore because it was so hard to find food that I was able to eat and I ended up breaking the diet too much in the end that I gave up. :( I lived as a veggie for 3 years and that was hard enough! So many places just don't accommodate for alternate diets. :(
Eilonwy Eilonwy 9 years
I have been a raw vegan for years. I have dabbled in fruitarianism and other versions of raw food as well. Currently, I have been incorporating cooked wild fish (salmon and so forth), so I do not eat a vegan nor entirely raw diet. I will say this: the benefits observed on a raw food diet are numerous. That said, the central tenets of raw foodism, generally speaking, surrounding the denaturation of enzymes and the dissolution of vitamins and micronutrients in all foods past a certain temperature are pseudoscience at best, categorically false at worst. By simply eliminating processed food, and receiving the bulk of one's calories from fruit and vegetables one would most likely observe many of the benefits of this diet. Also, I will say that B12 vitamins (and most likely, vitamin D and calcium) is a must on a raw vegan diet! Many, many false claims have been put forth that one can receive sufficient B12 from raw vegan food - this is not the case at all. B12 deficiency can lead to nerve and brain damage among other injury, so be vigilant about that. If anyone has any questions... - I love writing about the raw food diet :)
mod16 mod16 9 years
agreed fredonica
fredonica fredonica 9 years
Some people think the raw diet is silly, but there's nothing silly about being healthy. For the most part, raw foods are the most nutrient dense (compared to their cooked counterparts). I've been raw since I was 15, so just about 5 years now. Most people claim that raw foodists don't get enough calcium or B12, but it's pretty easy to receive a sufficient amount if you eat the right foods. I also take different supplements to ensure I get all the nutrients I need. I'm not a doctor, but I'd argue that I'm in extremely optimal health. I get sick maybe twice a year, but that's only because my boyfriend is a junk food junkie! My diet also allows me to not have to worry about weight gain, but I also do yoga a few times a week! While there are certain dishes in the raw world that take hours to prepare, there are several that take mere minutes. I usually have salads (with kale, avocado, spinach, tomato, raw almonds, carrots, beets, cucumbers, olives, and homemade dressing) or sliced fruit if I'm in a hurry! I just go out when I want to eat my favorite raw foods that take longer to make. There's a really great raw restaurant not too far from me called Ecopolitan. Also, not all raw foodists refrain from eating animal products (meat/dairy). Some raw foodies eat raw meat (fish and red meat, but never chicken) and even more consume raw dairy (such as raw cheese). A raw foodist who does not consume meat/dairy is called a raw vegan, whereas those who do consume meat/dairy are simply raw foodists. I'm a raw vegan and I love it! Sorry, I know this is long...
insanitypepper insanitypepper 9 years
So many raw foods give me indigestion... Otherwise I would happily graze on crudités all day.
rafaela-losardo rafaela-losardo 9 years
cannot stand raw foods!!!
Kyko Kyko 9 years
I've been a raw foodie for 2 years now, and can only rave about the "diet" and the impact it has. You never really have to worry about gaining weight (whew!) and you KNOW that everything you put in your mouth is nutritious and worthwhile. You know you're doing everything possible diet-wise to prevent diseases. I agree with the 80/20 lighter approach - I like broccoli, and I like it cooked, so I go for it. I take b12 supplements, and track how much calcium I get daily, as well as take a calcium supplement. I think it's a great way to eat.
raieven raieven 9 years
i like hot soup :(
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 9 years
Some people on it were brought in for my nutrition class once to talk about it. I keep forgetting to make some of the salad dressings they mentioned since I want less processed dressings in my usual diet and the ones they mentioned sounded really good. I wouldn't mind having a part raw diet which technically I do anyway.
gabiushka gabiushka 9 years
I do need to eat more raw foods.
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 9 years
Some foods are better for you cooked. This diet is silly.
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
it's funny - i've been a vegetarian for as long as i can remember, and about a month ago i decided to try the whole raw food diet, and to be honest, it's been really easy for me, and i've seen good results for my body. Granted, i was already severely anemic beforehand, which isn't affected by the diet, otherwise it's been pretty easy and nice for me to do this. i love veggies, so this is just an excuse to have more around. i think that my fiance is getting tired of it though since it means that he really has to make something separate from my meal - since he's not a vegetarian and he's not doing the diet.
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
I would love to do this but the preparation is way too much for my schedule. I was going to slowly get into by making raw food for my cat, that way I would get used to handling raw foods and blending things up and alloting time for it. i think the key is to make a lot in bulk.
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