Certainly you have heard of raw food diets. Typically these diets are vegan, but there are others that focus on raw animal foods. In this article, I’ll be focusing on the vegan raw diet. Yes, there are many people who live completely on raw fruit and veggies (with some nuts, seeds, etc). I have tried this diet for short periods in my life. But I found it very difficult both physically, emotionally, and mentally – particularly in the winter when my body was beckoning for cooked food. Proponents of raw food weight loss have all sorts of theories about why they work. Let’s take a look.
A gentleman named Dr. Douglas Graham has a book “80/10/10 Diet” that advocates eating 80% carbs and 10% fat and 10% protein. He suggests eating mostly fruit, a few veggies, and the rare nut or seed. He has you eating about 1800 to 2000 calories a day, which is a TON of fruit (and can be quite costly, particularly if you buy organic). This “food” is primarily water and certainly does help to clean you out. But is this really sustainable for those of us living in the northern parts of Northern Hemisphere in the middle of winter?
Other raw foodists eat more veggies but include lots of oils and nuts. I went to a class put on by a raw food guru and was astonished with the amount of nuts she used to make raw pastas and other dishes. Indeed they were yummy but so had much fat (due to all the nuts) but I felt was very imbalanced and not terribly healthy. Others follow raw vegan diets primarily of veggies (minimizing nuts) which for most would be exceptionally difficult as most will find themselves very hungry and unsatisfied. Then there is the question of adequate protein. Proponents of raw food eating make the case that in their diet they get plenty of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) from veggies so there is not risk of protein deficiency.
There are many accounts of people using raw food diets for weight loss. Without a doubt, if you stick to a reduced fat, veggie-centric raw food diet, it would possible significantly clean out your body and to lose weight. But for most, it is just too difficult to limit your eating this much. They can do it for a while but it is not sustainable. Furthermore, I feel that most people cannot and should not eat huge amounts of fruit (it’s just too much sugar from fructose). Finding a balance can be tricky when eating as a raw vegan.
In earlier times, it has been suggested that short periods of eating only veggies can help the body heal. This was discussed even in the Bible – apparently Daniel advocated short-term diets of veggies and water to improve health and stamina of soldiers. I firmly believe that our diets should ideally be at least 40% and ideally 60% veggies (and as green as possible). To achieve this, lunches and dinners can be focused on soups, salads, or various steamed veggies. The remainder of the diet can be legumes, whole grains, or healthy animal foods.
Ideally lunch or dinner would be a large salad with some added protein (animal or non-animal). I may wonderful assortments of veggies with a bit of hummus, fresh salsa, and garbanzo beans or with some fish or chicken. My other go to meals are soups – a large pot each week can be prepared in advance and placed in tupperware for several servings during the coming days. Dr. Joel Fuhrman states that life-long good health can be achieved with ensuring that you consume at least one large “meal” salad, lots of other steamed or raw veggies, at least a cup of legumes, and several pieces of fruit eat day. Once you make the healthy food the basis of your diet, you will find that this will work to “crowd out” the unhealthy stuff. And in no time at all, your taste preference will change to prefer the better food.
While I do not advocate a completely raw diet for most people, “high raw” can be beneficial at times. It is good practice adapt your diet to seasonal eating. In the winter, your diet will probably include much less raw food. However, increasing your consumption of raw produce to perhaps 65% in the summer is great as so much fresh, local produce is readily available.
I also think it is a good idea to doing some “cleansing” a few times of year, when you would increase your consumption of raw produce quite a bit. Many raw foodists also advocate juicing or juice fasting. This can be a good strategy for some people who just don’t eat many veggies to get them (and their nutrients) into their diets. However, I’ve found that it is better for most people to focus on eating whole plant foods as they are far better for blood sugar stability and for overall eating satisfaction.
Bottom line – in the words of food author Michael Pollan, “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”