Following a raw vegan diet (or raw foodism) is pretty much what it says on the tin. There are many variations of the raw food diet, some include dairy products, fish and even meat.
However, one of the most popular versions is the raw vegan diet which is, in effect, a vegan diet but without the cooking. The most important element is that the food is never heated or cooked above 40 – 49 degrees centigrade. Furthermore, all the raw ingredients should be unprocessed and organic, that is without any additives, chemicals or pesticides.
Although all medical research promotes the value of eating more fruit and vegetables, most raw foodists aim to eat about 70% of raw foods in their entire diet.
What can you eat on a raw vegan diet?
Well, here is a short list :-
- Unlimited fruits and vegetables
- Sprouted seeds
- Fermented foods, for example, kombucha and sauerkraut
- Nut milks
- Purified water
The Claims behind a raw vegan Diet
1) Cooking foods destroys the Nutrient Quality
Advocates of the raw food diet claim that cooking foods reduces the antioxidant quality, vitamin and mineral content and enzymes necessary for digestion.
A 2014 medical study examines the effects of raw and cooked vegetables on blood pressure. The study concludes that eating more vegetables, whether cooked or raw, lowers blood pressure. Cooking vegetables does indeed change the chemical makeup. Boiling certain vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli lowers the antioxidant content, whereas steaming does not.
However, this is not the full story, the absorption of many protective nutrients is actually enhanced when certain vegetables are cooked. This is especially true of vegetables that contain carotenoids, such as squash, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, spinach and kale.
2) Raw food detoxifies the Body
Another claim for the raw vegan diet is that eating fruit and vegetables raw detoxifies the body. There is absolutely no doubt, from a lot of research studies, that adding more fruit and vegetables to the diet is beneficial for health.
However, interestingly enough, there is very little evidence that detox cleanses and eating raw vegetables and fruits actually remove any toxins from the body. Indeed, there are many, many articles that promote the amazing benefits of the detox effect of a raw food diet, but very little scientific proof.
The liver and the colon are the two main organs said to benefit from the detoxifying effect of the raw vegan diet. However, the liver is an extremely effective chemical processing plant and actually does not store toxins but rather breaks them down as they pass through. Whilst a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and nuts will certainly prevent constipation and improve gut health, the colon, again, is surprisingly low in toxins.
Suffice to say, there is very little true scientific evidence to date that supports the idea that eating raw foods detoxifies the body, in a way that eating the same foods cooked does not.
3) Weight Loss and the Raw Vegan Diet
Yes, you will lose weight on the Raw Vegan Diet. No doubt about it. However, this is more about the foods that are NOT permitted on this diet, rather than whether the food is raw, or not. If you cut out fattening, unhealthy processed foods, typical of the American diet, and replace them for fresh, organic produce, then weight loss is inevitable.
One of the main advantages of the raw vegan diet is the fact that classically unhealthy foods such as trans-fats, sugar, refined carbohydrates, sodium, preservatives and additives are avoided.
Fresh vegetables contain NO, or very little amounts of, cholesterol and fat. Indeed, fruits and vegetables are very nutrient rich, especially in:-
- Vitamins A and C
There is scientific evidence that shows increasing the intake of fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of disease including :-
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Some Cancers
4) Food Enzymes are destroyed by cooking
Raw food advocates maintain that cooking food destroys essential enzymes present in raw foods that aid digestion and absorption of the nutrients.
However, some medics argue that although heat does destroy enzymes in food very few of these actually make it to the digestive tract. So, it is the body’s own digestive enzymes that actually break down the food.
Raw foodists claim that the enzymes in raw foods save the body from using its own store of digestive enzymes. However, this is not true. If the enzymes in food are not destroyed by heat in the cooking process, then once they hit the acidic stomach they are destroyed.
But, this is not the full story. Although the enzyme theory may be questionable, there is no doubt that raw plant foods are the easiest of all the food groups to digest.
Known Advantages of a Raw Vegan Diet
Known Disadvantages of a Raw Vegan Diet
- The raw vegan diet is insufficient in some essential nutrients including Vitamin B12, protein, zinc, iron and calcium. Therefore, supplements may be necessary to maintain health.
- Cooking makes some nutrients more available for the body’s absorbtion
- Very HIGH effort diet. There is a lot of preparation, blending, germinating and chopping. Also shopping for ingredients as all produce has to be organic and fresh.
- Increase in the risk of food-borne illness as all the food is unpasteurized. Fresh ingredients need to be washed very carefully. Cooking also kills bacteria and so helps prevent food poisoning
- This diet can be expensive as organic ingredients are more pricey
- There is NO concrete scientific evidence that a raw vegan diet has any more health benefits than a normal vegan diet
Example Meals on the Raw Vegan Diet
If you are on the go, one secret to a successful raw vegan diet is to prep the foods in bulk beforehand. There is no doubt that the raw vegan diet is time consuming. Sprouting legumes, soaking grains and nuts and dehydrating foods usually takes the longest amount of time. An example of a good raw food diet breakfast, is slices of apple or pear with raw nut butter.
As an alternative, you can soak a few portions of raw oatmeal overnight so that it softens and is ready for the morning. The next day simply add fresh berries. Oatmeal is high in dietary fiber, which is essential for a healthy digestive system and the berries are low in sugar and high in vitamins and antioxidants.
A good example of a raw vegan diet lunch is vegetable wraps or stuffed cucumbers. So, firstly, fill a collard leaf with sprouting shoots. (Make sure that you prepare a batch of seeds for sprouting, such as alfalfa or mung beans in advance). Next, add some soybeans to provide you with many essential amino acids. Finally, throw in some antioxidant-rich veggies, such as tomato, onion, mushrooms, bell pepper or avocado and roll up the collard or large lettuce leaf like a burrito.
Collard greens are a cruciferous vegetable that are a rich supply of vitamins K, A and C and calcium. You can substitute the collard leaf for nori seaweed. Another alternative is to scoop out the seeds of the cucumber and pack the above ingredients inside. Raw vegan diet or not that sounds like a healthy and delicious lunch.
Dinner can include raw vegan diets soups that are quick and easy to prepare. For a tomato soup blend roma tomatoes and add Italian herbs and olive oil. Warm the soup to just below 116 degrees F, which helps to make the lycopene easier for your body to absorb. Lycopene and other nutrients in tomatoes help to prevent prostate cancer. For a creamy soup, blend nuts like soaked cashews, water and spices.
Cashew nuts offer healthy oils and contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat similar to olive oil. Add veggies like crimini mushrooms for a high amount of selenium, which supports your antioxidant system to protect you from free-radicals.
Make a fairly large batch of fruit or vegetable smoothies to keep handy if you need to snack between your raw vegan diet meals.
Always carry raw snacks with you, like a bag of raw trail mix with dried fruit and nuts, or simply a whole apple, orange or your favorite fruit or veggie. See, now raw vegan diets don’t sound too bad at all, do they?
Weight loss, improved digestion, clear skin, more energy, and improved overall health are some of the benefits that raw foodists say they enjoy. This raw vegan diet has seen a major increase in popularity over the past years with raw vegan diet restaurants open in most main cities. It remains to be seen if this trend is here to stay, or just another passing fad!
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