The raw vegan diet is again rising in popularity as people seek to enjoy the health benefits of combining the principles of raw foodism and veganism. Some people follow the diet for ethical or environmental reasons, but most combine these two eating ideals for the purported health benefits, including weight loss, improved heart health and a lower risk of diabetes. However, the diet may also pose some health risks, especially without good planning. Here, we look at what a raw vegan diet is, what you can eat on it and whether it is the way forward.
Like veganism, a raw vegan diet excludes all food of animal origin. It then adds the concept of raw foodism on top of that, which means eating food either completely raw or cooked at a temperature of below 118 degrees Fahrenheit. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains and legumes and tends to exclude all processed foods.
“Make it a joyful journey! Get over labels, set an intention for yourself, and look at it every day,” raw vegan pioneer Karyn Calabrese said. If you slip up, practice kindness to yourself, and remind yourself it’s just part of your evolution. We’re here to evolve. Enjoy your evolution; don’t make yourself miserable during the process.
The diet’s heavy focus on fruit and vegetables is linked with improved heart health, including a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. The increased consumption of nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains will likely improve blood cholesterol levels and further decrease the risk of heart problems.
Observational studies have reported that those on a plant-based diet may have up to a 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure and up to a 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease. Furthermore, a number of randomized controlled studies have shown that vegan diets are especially good for reducing ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
More studies are required on the specific effects of a raw vegan diet but its high content of plant foods rich in nutrients will likely yield similar results to the diets conducted in these studies.
“I’d suggest using your high-speed blender lots! Make green smoothie bowls for breakfast (which only take about 10 minutes and taste like ice cream) and blend up sauces for dinner. This will save you so much time on your meals, and provide your food with incredible flavor, so you actually start craving healthy, plant-based meals!” food blogger Marina Yanay-Triner wrote.
“I would also recommend snacking on fruit a lot. Have fruit available all around your house; it has become my decoration! What your eyes see, your taste buds will crave! Fruits are the ultimate fast food, so eat up, and enjoy nature’s candy!”
“In addition, raw diets exclude whole grains and beans, which I believe to be extremely good for you, based on the literature I have read. I love this combination of raw and cooked because making smoothies and eating fruits all day is easy, energizing, and satisfying. Then ending the day with a hearty, cooked meal that includes whole grains and beans, is wonderful!”
A raw vegan diet has been shown to be very effective at weight loss and then keeping that weight off. Studies have linked the diet to lower amounts of body fat and one in particular, which followed people on various diets for over 3.5 years losing between 22-26 pounds, found participants with the highest percentage of raw foods in their diet also had the lowest body mass indexes.
“Appropriately cooking, and not overcooking, food allows for the retention of most vital nutrients,” Stanford nutritional expert Christopher Gardner, PhD said, suggesting that a mixture of a raw food diet and light cooking could be the best way to go. “Light cooking adds enormous palatability and tastiness to very healthy foods that ideally should be a dietary priority. In my mind, the resulting increased consumption of these foods more than makes up for any nutrient losses caused by heat.”
Without proper preparation and maybe even a meal plan, the raw vegan diet can potentially cause health issues. The lack of protein sources could result in not consuming enough, which could result in subtle signs of malnutrition, including changes to the skin color. This can be avoided by eating enough seeds, nuts and legumes and is made easier by tracking food consumption on an app.
The raw vegan diet is at the very least a useful tool for losing weight in a healthy manner. If done correctly, it could provide stunning health benefits and leave the dieter feeling fresh and light on their feet. However, a lack of available food sources may result in a lack of nutrition in some areas, as well as causing boredom for some. For many, the best answer would be to use a raw vegan diet as a short-term tool, or combine it with low amounts of cooking to enjoy a really healthy, well-balanced, sustainable diet.