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Ask The RawVegan

Q: What is a raw vegan diet?

A: While the answer to that may seem simple, “foods that are not cooked”, successfully eating raw involves meeting several objectives.

1. Achieving nutritional completeness with regard to carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
2. Decreasing your vulnerability to inflammatory diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
3. Limiting the intake of foods that may be counterproductive to eat in their raw state.

In order to meet these three important nutritional needs, the focus of a healthy raw diet needs to be on what variety of foods is available to you, rather than merely on eating food that have not been heated. In other words, it’s not just about eliminating, it’s about building up.

The “official” definition of raw varies within the raw community. Some people define it as food preparation that does not exceed a specific temperature threshold (anywhere from approx.104◦F to 118◦F), while others define it as food that is prepared without being heated, using techniques such as soaking, sprouting, juicing, dehydrating, fermenting, and pickling. What matters most is what definition works for YOU and having concrete plans for successfully acting on that definition.

While most raw foodists are also vegan, raw food technically includes foods like raw milk, sashimi, ceviche, and carpaccio.

Raw Lifestyle Expert Grace Shore, a Raw Vegan Guru,and Founder of MyRawVegan has a very flexible definition of raw, in which she refers to the percent of your diet that is raw. While eating a 100% raw diet may be so challenging, costly, and impractical that it may not work, a 50% or 75% raw diet may be perfectly workable. The important thing is that you define for yourself what you would like to achieve, then map out practical steps for how you can get there.

Q: Should I be eating raw?
A: Whether or not you eat raw is a personal choice. If your choice to eat raw makes it easier to avoid processed foods that may be interfering with your health, and/or to eat more fruits and vegetables, then raw eating may benefit you. If you are already balancing other food sensitivities and medical conditions with nutritional considerations, increasing your consumption of raw food may be compatible, but a 100% raw diet may be counterproductive. It is important if you have medical conditions to work closely with someone supportive of your raw food choice who is also qualified to help you manage your medical condition to be sure the choice is promoting the best health possible for your individual situation.

Q: What are vegan protein sources that can be eaten raw?
A: See below for our Vegan Protein Chart

Q: What can I expect when starting or considering a raw food diet?
A: Depending on your planning, time, and level of devotion, following a raw food diet can fortunately lead to a slew of health benefits or unfortunately lead to severe undernourishment. The raw food diet can be very restricted especially if you are a highly dedicated enthusiast. Despite this fact, it should be known that by excluding or restricting certain foods from any diet, you risk the potential of eliminating some nutrients necessary for normal biological functioning. It is extremely important if this is the case, to ensure that all your nutrient needs are being met by consuming alternative sources of those nutrients. Remember, it’s not just about eliminating; it’s also about building up.

Q: What are the most common nutrient deficiencies seen in raw foodists?
A: The most common nutrient deficiencies seen in persons following a raw food diet are B12, calcium, iron, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Though not always, these deficiencies may be strongly associated to lack of protein intake (which would ordinarily be obtained from animal products) so it is imperative to take precautionary measures by consuming sufficient raw, plant-based proteins instead. B12, iron and vitamin D are commonly sourced in animal proteins, which are usually avoided by raw foodists. A B12 deficiency can lead to serious conditions like anemia and neurological problems.

Calcium and vitamin D are necessary for bone growth and formation. A decrease in bone mass may occur during the beginning stages of this diet change, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis development. Additionally, this diet is high in sulfur-containing amino acids, which can increase bone calcium loss. Some calcium-rich plant foods you may consider consuming are figs and bok choy. Vitamin D can be obtained from a vitamin D supplement or vitamin D-fortified foods, including soy milk, rice milk, some breakfast cereals, and margarine.
Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can be obtained by eating plenty of flaxseed, walnuts and walnut oil, soybean oil, and canola oil.

Q: What foods should not be eaten raw?
A: Certain foods, most notably meat and poultry are not consumed raw by raw foodists. Although other protein sources like raw eggs and cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk are consumed by some. The issue with raw foods like these is that they run a higher risk of food-borne pathogens.

Foods like eggplants, potatoes, certain mushrooms, beans and grains are not eaten raw because of texture, taste and some toxic and digestive issues. Cooking these foods improves taste, texture and allows the body to utilize its nutritional content properly. For example, cooking tomatoes improves their lycopene content—a powerful antioxidant. Cooking may also help to remove small quantities of naturally occurring toxins. In other words, some foods may be toxic in their raw form and not in their cooked form. For animal proteins especially, cooking at high temperatures ensures the death of harmful pathogens.

Q: What are the benefits of consuming a 50% vs. 75% vs. 100% raw food diet?
A: The benefits of consuming a 50, 75 or 100% raw food diet will be based on your individual beliefs and whether or not all nutritional needs are being met. If properly planned and followed, a raw food diet—being that it is heavily based on fruits and vegetables, will likely provide increased health benefits. Not only does this diet provide a good amount of fiber, raw produce is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and several antioxidants and phytonutrients. Though medical research on raw food diets is scarce, some studies have shown raw foodists do tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than other people.

Additionally, other studies do show that some raw foods contain more antioxidants than cooked versions do. However, the antioxidant capacity of foods is only measured in test tube experiments, which cannot explicitly ascertain the effects it will produce in a human body. The benefits of consuming a lower rather than a high level of raw food will also be affected by the types of foods consumed in the remainder of the diet as well as how well all nutrient needs are met.

Q: Why would a 100% raw food diet NOT be necessary or beneficial?
A: Though it may be possible to obtain all nutrients from a carefully planned raw food diet, a poorly planned 100% raw food diet may provide a plethora of antioxidants and phytochemicals, while lacking (as mentioned above) in essential nutrients like vitamin D, calcium, omega 3 fats, iron, and caloric needs in general. Protein needs may also fall below requirements especially for raw foodists not consuming animal products. A deficiency in any of these may impede in normal biological function and ultimately lead to poor health and/or decreased quality of life.

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