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What Is the Raw Food Diet?
There are so many ‘diets’ and ‘lifestyles’ these days that it’s difficult to keep up. Am I right? From counting micros and dangerously low calorie diets to no carbs (no thanks) and high protein, what on earth does it all mean, and what should we be eating for optimum health?
When I first discovered the raw vegan lifestyle, I assumed it carried the same restrictions and false promises as the others I’d tried before it. But, having followed the raw vegan diet for several years now, and feeling more energetic, brighter and lighter than ever before, it’s safe to say that raw vegan trumps all others in the health stakes. Oh, also, there’s no calorie restrictions. *Does a little dance*
And, despite the fake news around this epic lifestyle, it’s not at all complicated. Essentially, countless studies have shown that diets high in fresh fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds can prevent and fight everything from diabetes to heart disease to cancer. So why wouldn’t we load our diets with them?
Studies have also shown that heating these nutrition powerhouses can damage some of their effectiveness and decrease vitamin and mineral content.
And you’ll be pleased – or elated, in my case – to discover that pizzas, chips, sushi, cakes and candies can all be made from raw plants. Just without the health warnings.
What can you eat on a raw food diet?
Of course, raw vegan diets, or a fruit-based diet as they might be described, involve an abundance of fresh and crispy salads, smoothies, juices and soups, but there’s an endless list of recipes for dishes fit for royalty, like raw enchiladas, strawberry shortcake pies and even a bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich. Check out my raw books guide for some seriously mouthwatering recipe books you need in your kitchen.
And, apparently, Megan Markle is partial to a plant-based meal or two. And if it’s good enough for her… just saying.
Related Post: Complete Raw Vegan Food List
What’s more, no animals were harmed in the making of these dishes, and vegan is the best diet for the environment. So you’re changing the world by eating raw vegan. Humble brag.
Of course, you don’t have to be super fancy to be raw vegan. Raw fruits and veggies in abundance are the staples, and the staples that’ll fill you with energy, fight disease and save the planet.
Foods to avoid as a raw vegan
Given that meat and dairy consumption has been proven to increase the likelihood of several serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, it’s best to avoid these altogether. Not only do they increase the risk of life-altering illnesses, but they destroy the environment, and involve the killing of billions of animals a year. As much money as the meat and dairy lobbyists like to spend on keeping us unaware of these facts, fortunately, there’s more awareness than ever about the risks involved with eating meat and dairy, and so many alternatives to munch on that you will not miss it.
Is raw food healthier than the cooked food?
How about eating a cooked vegan diet? As much as this is a preferable alternative to the standard American diet, and certainly a way of introducing yourself to a plant-based lifestyle, for optimum nutrition, raw is key. This is because, however you cook food, its molecular structure changes and new chemical configurations are formed – carcinogenic byproducts too. So not only does the vitamin and mineral content suffer, but it can be harmful to your health.
Related Post: Raw Food vs. Cooked Food Nutrition
On the flipside, raw vegan food contains some epic nutrients and disease-fighting properties that are completely unique. Phytonutrients, responsible for the beautiful colors of fresh fruits and veggies, fight harmful viruses, strengthen our immune systems and reduce our risk of cancer.
Why start a raw food diet?
So I’ve mentioned some benefits of a raw diet already – can you tell I love this lifestyle? But there’s so many more that make this lifestyle the best for your health, the best for the environment, and the best for the planet.
I’ve already mentioned (possibly a few hundred times already) that the raw vegan diet can prevent major diseases. I mean, that’s reason enough to give it a go, really… but the benefits of the raw vegan lifestyle really know no bounds. From increased energy – because your body hasn’t got to use it all digesting a multitude of complex foods – to better, glowing skin, raw vegan will have you living your best life in no time.
Related Post: 7 Epic Benefits of the Raw Vegan Lifestyle
Oh, and it doesn’t harm the animals or the planet.
And it can be much less expensive than the standard American diet, contrary to popular belief.
Right, this is ridiculous now. Suffice to say, it’s awesome.
How to start a raw vegan lifestyle in 10 steps
I know that it might seem worlds away from the standard American diet, which is undoubtedly a good thing, but allow me to show you how to make the change in 10 simple steps. You’ll be a raw-food-lifestyle-connoisseur, looking and feeling your best in no time!
1. Stock up on raw vegan goodness!
We all know how tempting it is to have 1 or 2 cookies if your cupboard is full of them, which quickly turns into 3 or 4, and then 5, and then before you know it, the packet’s gone, and you’re trying miserably to plead ignorance when the kids get home. So, to avoid this temptation, get rid of as much toxic, sugar-laden, processed foods as you can, including meat and dairy, and stock up on some beautiful natural foods.
You don’t even have to change where you shop to start living the raw vegan life. Simply explore the fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds aisles, stocking up on the staples.
Related Post: Complete Raw Vegan Food List
Foods I tend to eat daily are bananas, mangos, blueberries, grapes, zucchinis, peppers, carrots, apples, avocados and spinach, with a handful of almonds, cashews or brazil nuts, although, normally I order pounds of raw nuts from Amazon. It is cheaper than paying premium prices at the grocery store.
Anyway, feel free to fill your cart to the brim with any natural foods that are simple enough to eat without cooking. And if you don’t have the time to munch your way through it all piece by piece, whip it up into an energizing, on-the-go smoothie. Well, the fruits and spinach at least – save the carrot for juices!
2. Make gradual changes
The best way to go partly or fully raw vegan is to make very gradual changes to your diet and lifestyle. Completely changing your diet overnight from the standard American of processed and fried foods, including meat and dairy, to a completely raw vegan diet, might prove too overwhelming, driving you to give up before starting to feel the life-changing benefits… especially if you’re a one-apple-a-day kind of person. Whichever doctor said an apple a day was enough clearly didn’t research the healing powers of fruits and veggies.
So, first things first, try replacing one ‘typical’ meal, breakfast preferably, with a juice or smoothie, and maybe team it with a Larabar, for a snack that tastes like a decadent treat, but is actually made purely from fruit, nuts and seeds.
Then, replace ‘typical’ lunches, with a raw vegan soup like this one: a creamy tomato soup that’s a doddle to make, or a beautiful bowl of raw pasta. After a week or two of eating mainly raw vegan, you’ll start to notice clearer skin, and increased energy. Long-term, you could reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
3. Get creative in the kitchen
Once you’re feeling the effects, you may want to give fully raw a go, with a plethora of beautiful dinner recipes at your fingertips to get you creative in the kitchen. Try this luxurious recipe for BLT lettuce cups with coconut bacon or this truly stunning Spinach Quiche for dinners that will please the whole family. They might even want a second slice. Ensure that you bat their hands away swiftly and declare that they may not; it’s all yours.
4. Invest in guides and cookbooks
There’s so much brilliant information about raw veganism online, but it’s great to have a comprehensive guide to help you access this amazing lifestyle, like ‘Becoming Raw’ by Brenda Davis, ‘The Fully Raw Diet’, by Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram or ‘Raw for Life’ by Sunita Vira, aimed specifically at those with hectic lives, who need quick and simple ways to unlock the health benefits of raw veganism. Once you’re completely au fait (I certainly feel fancier since eating raw vegan) with the lifestyle and its nutrition benefits, you’ll feel confident, and full of life.
5. Invest in some kitchen tech
You’ll want to consider investing in some tech that will make preparing raw food simple and quick. Juicers, blenders, mandolines and dehydrators are tools I find myself using almost every day. ‘What on earth is dehydrator?’ I hear you cry! Telepathy is another skill I acquired when I started eating raw vegan..
For an explanation of everything from dehydrators to spiralisers, to the best juicers and blenders, take a peek at my guide to the raw vegan kitchen essentials.
6. Eat… a lot!
Yes, you read that right. One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying raw vegan is not eating enough calories. I know I certainly didn’t when I first gave it a go.
As with any diet, getting too few calories will leave you tired, grouchy and wanting to give up at the first hurdle. Contrary to popular myths about being raw vegan, we do not simply eat green side salads, with limp lettuce and 2 slices of tomato. This is not enough for a meal. Many raw vegans strive for around 2500 calories a day, although adapting to suit your height, weight, lifestyle and exercise regime, of course.
You are also likely to lose excess weight on this diet, considering that not all calories are created equal, so don’t panic about the numbers; your body needs energy to thrive.
7. Find like-minded people to share your experience with
Thirty years ago, I imagine you’d have to walk a few hundred miles, across barren deserts and through vast forests to find another living, breathing vegan, never mind raw vegan. Now, we’re everywhere. You can’t look at Instagram without seeing another friend who’s gone vegan or another celeb who’s gone raw. Restaurants are shouting about their plant-based options and we’re slowly starting to recognize the life-threatening dangers of meat, dairy and processed foods. Luckily, it’s now easier than ever to connect with like-minded people, who want to extend their lives and boost their energy with a raw vegan diet.
Social media was made to connect us, so use it! Search for raw vegans on Instagram and Pinterest, follow them, ask them questions, have a look at their posts. Find Facebook groups and see if your local vegan or raw vegan café is holding any events. They’ll offer you tips, keep you on track, and you might even make friends for life.
8. Watch YouTube channels and follow Instagram stars for inspiration
As a busy person (aren’t we all!), it’s certainly tempting to research a new idea or lifestyle using YouTube rather than a printed guide. So if you’re rushed off your feet, with little time to brush your hair, never mind read, try YouTube videos and social media for quick, bite-size chunks of raw vegan inspiration. It’s certainly a big part of my transition to the lifestyle. You’ll find everything from ‘What I eat in a day’ videos, to simple recipes you can follow along with, to the basics of the raw vegan diet.
I’d need yet another book to detail all of the raw vegan accounts on Instagram that inspire me, so here are my favourites:
- @rawvana: Yovana Mendoza, it’s safe to say, is nothing short of an Instagram star. With 1.2 million followers on the social media platform, and 2.3 million views on YouTube, she offers inspiration in abundance, from rainbow fruit platters to easy recipes and weight loss advice. And she looks incredible too, showing us first-hand what a raw vegan diet can do for your body and your skin.
- @fullyrawkristina: So I talk about this lady a lot, I guess because it was Kristina that really inspired me to go raw vegan. Her creations are truly amazing (check out her raspberry coconut whip vanilla ice cream) and she’s been raw vegan for 13 years, proving, yet again, what the diet can do for your health. She, like Yovana, looks seriously incredible, no anti-ageing creams or chemical fillers required.
- @rawforhealth: This account perfectly illustrates the health benefits of the raw vegan lifestyle. Catherine is healing her MS symptoms with the lifestyle and offers both meal inspiration and nutrition facts. Follow her to see first-hand, how powerful raw veganism truly is.
9. Get enough exercise
Before you scoff and think that I’m one of those preachy, lives-at-the-gym types, it’s safe to say I have no idea what #legday actually means, and I certainly don’t have the time to go to the gym, get changed, work out, shower, get changed again, and carry on about my day, like some superpeople seem to be able to.
If you do have the time and inclination to be on top of your fitness, that’s fantastic (and I’m quite jealous), but I personally take a more laissez-faire approach, and prefer to do my exercise outdoors. This normally consists of a simple 20-minute walk on most days of the week. Linked to a plethora of health benefits, from helping to fight cancer, to improving our mood, walks are free, quick and get you back in touch with nature. Remember, the raw food lifestyle is about more than just a diet, it’s about improving your overall health for life.
10. If you fall off track, don’t give up
Imagine if Ross had given up on Rachel, if Jim had given up on Pam, if Beyoncé had given up on Jay-Z… no comment. Nothing in life that’s worth having is easy, and you may find that you temporarily fall of track at the beginning, but, as Fully Raw Kristina puts it, this is not a failure.
This is a change for life, so don’t worry if you have a bad meal, or a bad day. Of course, you can try to prevent this by following the steps above, especially eating plenty (have I mentioned you should eat plenty?), stocking up on fruits and veggies, surrounding yourself with like-minded people and reminding yourself why you’re making such an amazing lifestyle change.
Have a read of this post to get reacquainted with the infinite benefits of the raw vegan lifestyle. But don’t be harsh on yourself if you do fall off track. Just get back on it as soon as you can. This lifestyle is about overall wellness, so we must be kind to ourselves!
Raw Diet Myths
The Protein myth
But where do your get your protein though?
Every vegan or raw vegan will have been asked this question a time or 2… or 20. Unfortunately, society is cool with you eating 3 lots of McDonalds a day, but you’re suddenly gonna meet a fatal end if you dare eat a diet abundant in fruits and veggies. The mind boggles.
Luckily, you do not need to worry about lack of protein on a raw vegan diet, and, actually, one of the biggest health myths out there is that we need to eat a whole cow daily to get the protein we need. We do not need much protein. Sorry to break it to you, meat lobbyists…
David Gerow Irving, who penned ‘The Protein Myth’, explains how we only lose about 10 grams of protein every day, so we need to eat a lot less than we think to make up for it. And if we eat too much? An ‘accumulation of by-products’ stores in the body, because we can’t store protein, potentially leading to illness and disease. And if that wasn’t enough, even the World Health Organisation say that 10% of our daily calories from protein is plenty.
So where do we get protein from on a raw vegan diet? It might shock you, but plenty of fruits and veggies are very high in protein, including spinach (the most obvious one, cos, Popeye), kale, mushrooms, avocado and apricots. Then, we find huge amounts of the stuff in nuts and seeds (there’s a huge 25g protein per 100g peanuts, as if you need an excuse to eat nut butters…) and in fancy pants foods like the superfood spirulina, with 57g protein per 100g.
Suffice to say, you should stay upright, and live a long healthy life on a raw vegan diet, all muscles and limbs intact.
Raw veganism is expensive
Contrary to popular belief, raw vegan does not cost the earth (just saves it – a little environment joke for you there). Of course, if you’re eating decadent raw vegan fudges and cakes and cheesecakes at every meal, your wallet might take a bit of a hit, but that’s not what raw vegan is about.
We’re looking to maximize nutrition with an abundance of beautiful, fresh fruits and veggies, which do not have to cost you any more than your current shopping list. In fact, if you consider the high price of meats, dairy and processed foods, it’s likely you’ll end up saving money. Did I mention that the raw vegan lifestyle is awesome?
Check out my tips for eating raw vegan on a budget, including buying in bulk, looking for special offers, and which stores to stock up on produce!
Raw veganism is inconvenient
We’re certainly bombarded from all sides when it comes to temptation in today’s society. We’re all so busy, and so look for quick, cheap and convenient, but that does not mean raw vegan is out of reach. If anything, it’s super convenient, and there are more and more raw vegan options available from cafes, restaurants and grocery stores.
From raw vegan cafes to a crazy number of raw vegan energy bars found in store and online, not to mention shelves and shelves of gorgeous smoothies and juices, it’s easier than ever to grab raw vegan on the go.
Plan ahead, make sure your kitchen is stocked with kitchen tech that’ll make preparing vegan food a doddle, and remind yourself of why you’re making this incredible lifestyle change – for your health, for the animals and for the planet. That’s definitely becoming my slogan…
Will I be eating too much sugar on a fruit-based diet?
Fruit is, of course, full of sugar. But there’s a world of difference between the sugar found naturally in fruit, and the stuff added to processed junk. Whilst all simple sugars, including those found in fruit and processed foods, are broken down by the body into glucose, refined sugar is the only one that has negative effects on the body.
Fruit sugar is broken down into glucose, but it also gives your body a whole host of wonderful vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants. The fiber it contains helps to slow down the process, and these incredible nutrients work to lower your risk of the diseases that refined and added sugar causes.
So, in a nutshell, no, you won’t be eating too much sugar. The carbohydrates and sugars found in fruit are what fuel our body and mind, and will fill you full of the energy we so desperately crave on the standard American diet.
Will I get enough protein on raw food diet?
I know I’ve covered this, but it’s worth saying again, and several times after that. Fruits and veggies have protein, and we don’t even need as much as you might think. Try asking Serena Williams, advocate of raw veganism, if she gets enough protein…
Can you loose weight on a raw food diet?
Absolutely. Although, I’m certainly a fan of body positivity, and it’s much more important to focus on how you feel than the number on the scales. Having said that, if you’re looking to lose excess weight in the healthiest way, without depriving yourself, you’re knocking at the right door.
Whilst a significant number of popular diets include calorie counting, micro counting, macro counting, number of melons humanly possible to eat in any given day counting, and adapting your diet based on your daily horoscope readings, etc, raw vegan is simple, and will result in weight loss if it’s necessary. Read more about raw vegan for weight loss here!
How many calories should I eat?
Raw vegan really isn’t a calorie counting deal. But, if weight loss is your goal, the best way to achieve it is to simply eat an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies every day, with just a handful of nuts and seeds. Whilst it may be tempting, especially when starting your raw vegan journey, to go crazy on the raw vegan desserts and nuts (if you’re anything like me, at least), it’s best to limit these, whether you’re trying to lose weight or maintain it, as they contain high amounts of fat.
You might have heard of the 80/10/10 diet, created by Dr Douglas Graham. And it’s really not as complex as it sounds. Essentially, for optimum health, we should aim to get around 80% of our calories from carbs – fresh fruits and veggies – with 10% protein and 10% fat – easily accessed with a small handful of nuts and seeds a day. Plus the protein found in fresh produce of course. As Dr Colin Campbell explains in ‘The China Study’, high carb diets like 80/10/10 help to shed excess weight, and prevent chronic diseases. Which is a decent bonus, I’d say…
What does a raw vegan eat in a day?
As is the case with any lifestyle, what raw vegans eat daily varies wildly, although one thing is for sure: limp lettuce does not make an appearance.
In terms of my daily meals , I normally start the day with a thick and creamy banana and date smoothie, with at least 3 or 4 bananas and a handful of dates. It’s a great energy booster to start the day. I might have some grapes throughout the morning if I need a top up, and lunch is usually a huge (and when I say huge, I mean it) salad of spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers and perhaps some avocado, with a fresh dressing. Dinner is anything from veggie burgers to lasagna and, if I’m feeling fancy, I might whip up a raw vegan cheesecake for afters. Unless my husband and kids’ greedy mits get their hands on it first.
This, depending on what I have planned for the day, will vary. And as much as I’d like to, I don’t eat raw vegan desserts every single day and, instead, focus on ripe fruits and veggies, as these leave me feeling like Superwoman. Not to brag…
Mono-mealing is also a favorite among some raw vegans. This simply involves eating a meal of a single fruit, like grapes or mango. It’s much easier for the body to digest a single type of food, so mono-mealing can give an overworked system a much-needed break. But, you need to make sure you’re eating plenty at each meal. So I’m not talking one mango; I mean 4 or 5. When I say it’s a berry abundant life, I mean it…
For more information on raw vegan meals and plans, there’s a huge variety of books available, as well as handy YouTube videos. Becoming Raw by Brenda Davis and The Fully Raw Diet by Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram are some of my faves (and read more about top raw food books here!) and Fully Raw Kristina has got our backs on YouTube with a whole host of videos on raw diets, including this one on meal plans and this one on how to start a raw vegan lifestyle!
Is the Raw Food Diet safe and sustainable?
Yes… and yes. The raw vegan way of life is not only safe, but the best diet for your short and long term health. And, trust me, once you jump on board the raw vegan train, you will not wanna get off.
From glowing skin to increased energy to excess weight loss (not to mention the wonderfully beautiful and fresh dishes you’ll munch at every meal), you’ll fall in love with this way of life.
Such an incredible, life-altering change might not happen overnight, so release your inner snail, and think slow and steady when it comes to this amazing lifestyle; you’ll be well on your way to winning the health race.