What Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Says:

Does It Work?

You’ll probably lose weight on this diet, since most of its foods are low in calories, fat, and sodium, and high in fiber. One study found that people who followed a raw foods diet lost a significant amount of weight.

You’ll also get nutritional perks. Most of what you eat will be high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and disease-fighting phytochemicals.

But there are lots of drawbacks. The diet is difficult to follow and inadequate in many essential nutrients, such as protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and more.

Plus, contrary to the claims of many raw food fans, cooking does not make food toxic but instead makes some foods digestible.

Cooking also boosts some nutrients, like beta-carotene and lycopene, and kills bacteria, which helps you avoid food poisoning. There is no scientific evidence that raw foods prevent illness.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

It is not recommended for any specific health conditions. But losing extra weight is good for general health.

If you are considering a raw diet, talk to your doctor before starting the plan.

The Final Word

A raw food diet is low in calories, high in fiber, and based on primarily healthy whole-plant foods, so eating this way will lead to weight loss.

But the diet is a nutritionally inadequate and highly restrictive plan that will be hard to stay on for the long-term. The risk of food poisoning from eating raw or undercooked foods outweighs the benefits of this plan.

In general, cooking makes your food more easily digestible and safer.

There are some nutrient-rich super foods that can’t be eaten raw, such as beans, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Raw Food For Dummies Cheat Sheet

How to Introduce Raw Food to Friends and Family

You may find that your friends and family are a little reluctant to try raw foods. By considering these do’s and don’ts, you can reduce their anxiety about how your new lifestyle may impact them:

  • Don’t be preachy or pushy! An aggressive attitude doesn’t win friends or influence people. Instead, offer your family and guests delicious raw foods that you know they’ll love and let them open the door and ask questions if they’re interested in knowing the why and what of raw food.

  • Prepare recipes that include familiar and favorite foods. Rather than forcing your food choices on others, make foods for others that you know they like. (Who doesn’t love fresh salsa and guacamole or fresh veggies and dip?) If the raw options are delicious and you can avoid judging others on what they’re eating, you may find that your family and friends are willing to try the new foods you prepare.

  • Introduce delicious green smoothies and juices. Nutrient-packed smoothies and juices are delicious raw options for newbies. It’s tough to argue the convenience of getting vital vitamins and minerals from these quick and easy treats — no matter how much raw a person chooses to consume each day. Even kids often enjoy making and consuming raw smoothies and juices.

  • Make an irresistible raw dessert or treat every week. Choose a raw version of a traditional sweet treat that your family enjoys and invite the kids to help make it. Raw desserts are remarkably delicious because they’re prepared with fresh whole ingredients.

  • Get your family involved in the kitchen. Encourage others to help you prepare raw meals. People of almost all ages and cooking abilities can peel vegetables, decorate the table, and help choose menu items, and your family is more likely to enjoy eating a raw meal if they’ve helped make it.

Ultimate Guide to the Raw Food Diet

­For cavemen, the raw food diet was nothing new. More than 1.5 million years ago, prehistoric people had no fire — everything they ate was raw, even the mastodons they sometimes managed to catch. So the raw food diet wasn’t just a popular diet — it was the only diet. And then humans harnessed fire, and all things culinary changed.

Today, supporters of the raw food diet believe that a diet of raw, unprocessed natural fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and other supple­ments (with little or no meat) provides the most vitamins and nutrients of any diet and also helps the body detoxify itself naturally . This should make it the healthiest, easiest and best diet for everyone, right? Maybe for some, but the raw food diet can be taken too far.


­A close cousin to veganism, which forbids the consumption of any animal-based food, like meat and­ its byproducts (cheese, yogurt, eggs), raw foodism follows basic guidelines but can be tempered with the addition of fish or eggs, depending on the raw foodist’s preference. Because of its focus on food that is still in its natural state, or “alive,” the raw food diet is also sometimes referred to as the living food diet .

Many crash diets involve a few days, weeks or months of restricted eating, but the raw food diet goes beyond a relatively short time commitment to an investment in a lifestyle of consciousness and dedicated eating habits .

Fad diets have sprung up through the centuries, from the Puritans to Dr. Atkins, but are they really all that they’re “cooked up” to be ? And is the raw food diet really as healthy (and safe) for you as it claims to be? In this article, we’ll sample the basic menu of raw foods, cover the benefits and risks of such a restrictive diet, and give you a taste of what it means to be a raw foodie. Let’s start with the menu.

How to Follow a Raw Vegan Diet: Benefits and Risks

A raw vegan diet may also come with some risks — especially if you don’t plan it well.

May Be Nutritionally Unbalanced

Vegan diets can be appropriate for all life stages — as long as they’re well planned.

One of the prerequisites to a well-planned vegan diet is to ensure it provides all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. You can do so by consuming either fortified foods or supplements to compensate for the nutrients it is naturally low in.

Vitamin B12 is one example of a nutrient naturally lacking in a raw vegan diet. Getting too little of this vitamin can lead to anemia, nervous system damage, infertility, heart disease and poor bone health (33, 34, 35).

While anyone can have low vitamin B12 levels, vegans not taking supplements are at a higher risk of deficiency (36, 37, 38)

In fact, one study found that 100% of participants following a raw vegan diet consumed less than the recommended 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per day. Moreover, more than a third of the participants were vitamin B12 deficient at the time of the study (39).

However, the use of supplements is often discouraged on a raw vegan diet, due to the belief that you can get all the nutrients you need from raw foods alone. This can increase your risk of nutrient deficiencies.

Raw vegan diets also appear to be low in calcium and vitamin D, and proponents often discourage the use of iodized salt, which may further put you at risk of deficiency (23).

May Weaken Muscles and Bones

Several aspects of a raw vegan diet may result in weaker muscles and bones.

For starters, this way of eating tends to be low in calcium and vitamin D — two nutrients needed for strong bones.

In one study, people on a raw vegan diet had lower bone mineral content and density than those following a standard American diet (23).

Some raw vegan foodists may be able to get enough vitamin D from sun exposure.

However, older adults, people living in northern latitudes or those with darker skin may be unable to consistently produce enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone.

What’s more, a raw vegan diet tends to provide very little protein — often less than 10% of your total number of calories per day (23).

Though such low protein levels may theoretically be sufficient to meet basic biological needs, some evidence links higher intakes to stronger bones (40).

Protein is also important for preserving muscle mass, especially during periods of low calorie intake that lead to weight loss — such as can be expected on this diet (41).

May Promote Tooth Decay

Raw vegan diets may also increase your likelihood of tooth decay.

This may be especially true of diets which include a lot of citrus fruits and berries (42).

These fruits are thought to be more acidic and more likely to cause erosion of your tooth enamel.

In one study, 97.7% of people on a raw vegan diet experienced tooth erosion to some degree, compared to only 86.8% in the control group (42).

However, more studies are needed before strong conclusions can be drawn.

May Reduce Fertility

In some cases, a raw vegan diet may reduce fertility.

In one study, 70% of women following a raw vegan diet experienced irregularities in their menstrual cycle. What’s more, about a third developed amenorrhea — a condition in which women stop menstruating entirely (43).

Additionally, it was observed that the higher the proportion of raw foods, the stronger the effects. The researchers calculated that the women eating only raw foods were seven times more likely to experience amenorrhea than other women (43).

Scientists note that one of the main ways a raw vegan diet may impact a woman’s fertility is by being very low in calories. This may cause women to drop too much weight, reducing their ability to menstruate.

Summary A raw vegan diet devoid of supplements can be low in vitamin B12, iodine, calcium and vitamin D and may provide too little protein and too few calories, leading to an array of health issues. It may also cause tooth decay and fertility issues.

The Raw Food Diet

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What Is The Raw Food Diet?

The raw food diet is exactly what it sounds like – restricting yourself to foods that haven’t been heated (over 104 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit) and haven’t been pasteurized, treated with pesticides or otherwise processed. This limits consumption to raw fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts, all of which should be part of any healthy diet. The diet provides plenty of fiber. It contains no animal foods, although some followers consume raw milk, cheese made from raw milk, raw fish (sashimi) and some types of raw meat. Foods can be prepared by juicing, blending, dehydrating, soaking and sprouting.

How Healthy Is The Raw Food Diet?

While the raw food diet is healthy in that it eliminates processed foods and fast foods and provides an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, it also presents a number of serious health risks. A study published in 2005 shows that vegetarians who eat only raw foods have abnormally low bone mass, a sign that they may be vulnerable to osteoporosis. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that while other markers for bone health among those on the raw food diet were normal, the intake of calcium and vitamin D was very low (only 579 mg per day of calcium and 16 units of vitamin D) compared to 1,093 mg of calcium and 348 units of vitamin D among a control group that ate a typical American diet. (Taking vitamin and mineral supplements is often discouraged with a raw food diet.)

The raw food group also consumed fewer calories than participants in a control group and had a body mass index (BMI) averaging 20 (in the normal range) compared to just over 25 in the control group. While a BMI of 20 sounds healthy, that result was the average, suggesting that it was lower among some study participants. A BMI of 19.5 or below poses a risk of low bone mineral density because your bones won’t be bearing enough weight to keep them strong.

Beyond that, a different study found that 70 percent of women on the raw food diet experienced menstrual cycle irregularities – nearly one third stopped menstruating entirely, which can happen when body weight drops too low. This change also negatively affects bone strength.

In addition, some research indicates that following a raw food diet long-term can lead to tooth erosion.

On the plus side, a study published in 2013 that followed 2,195 people from the U.S for three years looked at the effects of eating raw or cooked vegetables (potatoes were not included) on blood pressure. The investigators reported that eating raw vegetables was associated with lower blood pressure overall. Research has shown, however, that while following a raw food diet can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, it also can reduce healthy HDL cholesterol.

How Popular Is It?

Reportedly, the popularity of the raw food diet has been increasing in recent years. According to findings from a 2018 Gallup poll, a growing percentage of U.S. consumers seem to be eating more plant-based foods. Sales of plant-based food totaled $3.1 billion in 2017, an increase of 8.1 percent over 2016. These changes appear to reflect increased interest in vegetarian and vegan diets (potentially including the raw food diet). However, according to a 2018 Gallup Poll only 5 percent of Americans identified themselves as vegetarians and 3 percent as vegans, numbers virtually unchanged from 2012.

General Principles Of The Raw Food Diet:

People whose diets consist mostly of raw foods believe this way of eating is ideal for human health, leads to improved vitality and energy and also reduces the impact of food production on the environment. Proponents also believe that cooking destroys foods’ natural enzymes and nutrients. Because their food choices are so limited, most people on a raw food diet only consume about half the calories they would get if their food were cooked.

Despite beliefs that a raw food diet is beneficial, science tells us that many of the vitamins and minerals found in vegetables are less bioavailable when these foods are eaten raw than when they’re cooked. For example, lycopene, the carotenoid pigment that protects against prostate cancer is available only from cooked tomatoes, not from raw ones. The carotenoids in carrots are more bioavailable from cooked carrots than from raw ones. In addition to killing potentially harmful bacteria, cooking also destroys phytic acid, a compound found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds which impairs absorption of iron, zinc and calcium, possibly promoting mineral deficiencies. Cooking also neutralizes lectins, plant proteins found in legumes, grains, tomatoes and various fruits. If foods containing high amounts of these proteins are uncooked or undercooked, they can make you sick with symptoms of food poisoning – nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, although these symptoms usually subside within hours.

What Can You Eat?

It’s estimated that people on this diet consume 75 to 80 percent of their food raw. In addition to fruits and vegetables, the diet includes nuts and seeds as well as uncooked grains, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, raw virgin coconut oil and raw coconut butter. Herbal tea is also permitted.

How Many Calories On The Raw Food Diet?

The number of calories depends on how much you’re eating. While not intended as a weight loss diet, a raw food diet involves consuming, on average, approximately half the number of calories you would likely be eating on a vegan or vegetarian diet. One study found that after switching to a raw food diet, men lost an average of 21.8 pounds and women lost an average of 26.4 pounds over 3.7 years. This same study found that 15 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women routinely consuming a raw diet were underweight.

What Do Doctors Say?

If doctors are familiar with the negative health consequences of a raw food diet discussed above, they are unlikely to recommend or endorse it. A panel of physicians and nutrition experts that rated 41 diets for U.S. News & World Report in 2019 ranked the raw food diet 33rd best overall among the 41 diets reviewed, 38th for healthy eating and 41st as the easiest diet to follow.

Dr. Weil’s Take On The Raw Food Diet:

Dr. Weil is not a proponent of a raw food diet. He maintains that by eating everything raw, you lose much of the best flavor, texture and appearance of food. More importantly, many of the vitamins and minerals found in vegetables are less bioavailable when you eat these foods raw compared to their yields when they’re cooked. Another disadvantage in Dr. Weil’s view stems from the fact that cooking inactivates many of the natural toxins in edible roots, seeds, stems and leaves. Alfalfa sprouts contain canavanine, a natural toxin that can harm the immune system; button mushrooms contain natural carcinogens, and celery produces psoralens, compounds that sensitize the skin to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. All of these potentially harmful compounds are broken down by cooking.

Luigi Fontana et al, “Low bone mass in subjects on a long-term raw vegetarian diet.” Archives of Internal Medicine, March 28, 2005

C. Koebnick et al, “Consequences of a Long-Term Raw Food Diet on Body Weight and Menstruation: Results of a Questionnaire Survey,” Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, March-April 1999,


Back in 2010 I decided to go on a raw food detox. I’d been on a yoga retreat in Bali and had eaten raw foods the whole time I was there. I loved the food, and it got me curious to learn more, so I decided that when I returned home that I would try and go 100% raw for a while.

It was partly because I wanted to lose weight, partly because I felt like my body needed a cleanse after many years of partying it up and not treating it so great, and partly because I love a good challenge.

I threw myself into this new raw food lifestyle. However, in order to be able to follow it, I couldn’t live the same way anymore. It really meant overhauling everything I ate and the entire way I lived.

Without my even realizing it, going raw became the catalyst for dramatic positive change in my life, bringing more benefits to me than just weight loss and a cleaner body. Here are seven benefits that I did not see coming:

1. Going raw got me back in the kitchen.

Eating out or ordering in every night was the first habit I had to break. Raw food restaurants in Jakarta (where I now live) are nonexistent, and the closest menu item I could find that was suitable to eat at most places was a very unsatisfying garden salad (which just doesn’t cut it for an evening meal!).

So I started going grocery shopping again, began making green smoothies for breakfast, packing my own salad for lunch at my office, and then experimenting in the kitchen at night.

This habit alone was one of the best things I could have gained from my year on raw. Eating home cooked meals is not only better energetically, but it means consuming better ingredients. It saves heaps of money, too.

2. The raw food diet helped me discover food intolerances.

Following a raw food diet means the common allergens in food are completely avoided: eggs, soy, wheat (gluten), sugar and dairy. These get cut out completely. By not including those items in my diet anymore, I started to feel amazing.

3. Eating raw made me more intuitive.

I started to eat such a clean diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, cutting out all the processed crap and the above-mentioned allergens, that something changed inside me spiritually. My clean body seemed to open the passage for my intuition to soar.

It’s like my mind was no longer hazy from drinking too much booze the night before, or my brain fogged up from eating gluten, that I could see things with clarity. I could tap into my intuitive side, and I started to notice the beauty in the world around me. I became more focused and started to see the world differently, noticing the small and beautiful things around me.

4. Going raw changed my taste buds.

I stopped craving coffee every morning, and no longer needed alcohol to end my night. Sugar cravings got replaced by more savory ones, and if I did crave sugar I’d feed myself a super indulgent yet still healthy raw dessert, which did not have the same negative effect as eating a whole roll of Mentos or Skittles, my former vices. I now miss it when I don’t have a green smoothie for a few days if I’m traveling, and junk foods don’t even factor into any of my decisions around food anymore.

5. Following a raw lifestyle meant cleaning my act up.

The raw food lifestyle changed all my former party girl ways. The thought of sitting in a smoky bar while drinking all night seemed absurd when everything else in my life was now so clean. I much preferred to stay at home experimenting in the kitchen on a new recipe, learning about raw foods and healthy living, and practicing yoga and meditation than going out partying on a Friday or Saturday night. I had found a new passion, and that really fueled me more than any of more former bad habits had.

6. Eating raw foods taught me about diet and nutrition.

As I started to change my diet and lifestyle, I began fielding questions from curious friends and colleagues. So I started writing a blog to share recipes and other aspects of my experience.

This led me to begin learning even more about food, nutrition and health. My thirst for this new knowledge was almost insatiable. Reading novels got replaced by reading nonfiction books on nutrition and diet, and I became obsessed with healthy, raw and vegan cookbooks as I devoured all the information I could get my hands on.

7. Going raw led me on a new career path.

I then discovered a new career I could have: health coaching. I never knew that this job even existed, but as soon as I found out about it, I just knew that I had to become one.

So I did my diploma, trained as a raw food chef and started teaching classes in my home. Then I started seeing clients and decided to take my career in a whole new direction.

These days I eat a mostly raw diet, but it’s actually a plant-based diet mixed in with raw and cooked food. But if it hadn’t been for raw foods I don’t think my overall well-being would be the way it is now, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing this article. It really is amazing how things can change by making one decision. All it takes is the first step, and it can lead you to just about anywhere!

32 Vegan Before and After Transformations

Stories of personal health transformations fascinate me because we live in a society that’s full of unhealthy, addictive temptations. Let’s face it – our whole economy is based around “wanting” – the creation of desire in human beings so we react and buy. Needless to say, this has gotten us into a lot trouble when it comes to food and eating. We all know about the obesity epidemic. And lifestyle-related health care costs are sky rocketing. Undoubtedly, the basis of this problem is the amount of addicting food products that permeate our culture.

As a person who struggles with food addictions, this is a subject I have thought about extensively. I am not an eat-a-few-corn-chips kind of gal. I am an eat-one-corn-chip-devour-the-whole-bag kind of gal. Thus, it’s best that I simply avoid corn chips altogether. I can’t go cold turkey from food, but I can go cold turkey from corn chips, and that works for me. To a person who doesn’t struggle with food addictions, this might seem trivial. But to the food and other self-acknowledged addicts among us – I’m sure you can relate! This is why I feel indebted to the people who share their own stories about overcoming addiction and other personal challenges. They make us realize we are not alone, and that if they can do it, we can too.

You can click these jump links if you want to skip more of my intro!

The Problem with Food Products, Which Are Not Food

We have a problem with addicting foods in our culture. In order to be competitive and economically viable, food product companies have gone to great lengths to ensure there’s a high degree of repeat wanting for their products. At the same time, as businesses, they have pressure to keep costs down while creating products that have a long shelf life. Factory farming, preservatives, and added sugar, salt, and hydrogenated fats are just some of the unhealthy byproducts of those economic drivers. The more addicting a food product is, the better it sells. And the lower the cost to produce it and keep it on the shelf, the more money the food product company makes. The result is fake food – products that barely resemble the whole foods that nature has been perfecting for eons.

Capitalism Gone Awry

I call this capitalism gone awry. It’s when business people, scientists, and technologists get too micro-focused on one metric – how much money can be made, while losing site of the broader ramifications of what they’re creating. I think one of the best aspects of the modern world is that we have easy access to information that gives us the bigger picture, if we care to look. We may not be growing our own food in our gardens, but at least we can get the background story on our food – where it comes from, what’s in it, what impact it’s having on our bodies, as well as on other people and animals. Finally, the medical establishment is starting to catch up, and we’re seeing more studies on the role that whole foods play in our overall health, well-being, and longevity.

Miraculous Transformations from Everyday People

In addition to scientific studies, one of the most vital ways that we’re getting the bigger picture on how whole foods make us feel is when people share their personal stories. The people profiled here overcame additions and other lifestyle-related challenges that held them back from realizing their full potential. At once, they are extraordinary. At the same time, they’re just normal people like you and me.

They make me think about Roger Bannister, who was the first person on record to run a sub-four-minute mile. He showed us that, yes, it’s humanly possible. And after he showed us, more and more people went on to run sub-four-minute miles. Today, it’s become a standard of athletic performance vs. an anomaly. Every person who overcomes a challenge like an addiction is a Roger Bannister in my book. They help us to set a higher standard for a more vibrant way of being. Without further ado, here are:

Vegan Before and After Photos


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Vegan Before and After Transformation Videos

11. Plant Based Guerilla

This video by vegan lifestyle guru the Plant Based Guerilla is a montage of vegan diet transformation that will help turbo charge your motivation to live a healthier lifestyle.

12. The Good Life Project (with Rich Roll)

In this video by the media company The Good Life Project, which focuses on helping people live more enriched lives, founder Jonathan Fields has a very candid conversation with Rich Roll. Rich talks about being a recovered addict and the positive influence that his wife Julie has had on his life. He also talks about how important it is to seize moments of clarity that can serve as a catalyst to help us change our lives for the better.

13. Rich Roll

Rich Roll’s book Finding Ultra is a must-read for anyone who needs that extra push to go all out vegan, and not to mention – get in great shape. This book had a huge impact on me. I had been a vegetarian for over 30 years, flirting with veganism, but never being able to remain consistently vegan. (I had a hard time giving up cheese!) Finding Ultra was one of those catalysts that turned me into a committed vegan. This means more than my saying, ‘Oh, that Rich Roll guy got me to give up cheese!’ I can truly say that this book is aptly named because it helped me to discover more of who I ultimately knew myself to be.

14. Hannah McNeely

Hannah McNeely shares a very candid story about her path to becoming not just vegan, but a healthy, fit, and vibrant vegan. This video is super helpful for those of us who can be roller coaster eaters – erratic eaters who have trouble maintaining consistently healthy eating habits

15. Raw Synergy

You’ve probably heard about the glow you get from eating a vegan diet that’s full of fruits and vegetables. In this video by Alicia Grant of Raw Synergy, she shares her personal story about suffering from acne and then discovering the key to having healthy, radiant skin.

16. Light Twins

With more men embracing a vegan lifestyle than ever before, it’s great to have as many male role models as possible helping them along the path. But whether you’re male or female, you’ll be sure to find some inspiration by checking out this video and others by the Light Twins.

17. Lissa’s Raw Food Romance

Lissa of Raw Food Romance changed her body and her life by adopting a raw food vegan diet. For outsiders, a raw vegan diet might seem extreme. But when you listen to Lissa speak in her sincere and no nonsense way, you’ll be convinced that the standard American junk food diet is the real extreme, and raw food vegan should be the norm.

18. Full Raw Kristina

Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram infuses positive vibes, authenticity, and sheer vibrancy into everything she does. Quite simply, we need more people like her. Whenever I watch her videos, I want to immediately start taking better care of myself and eat more fruits and vegetables!

19. Simnett Nutrition

A certified nutritionist, Derek of Simnett Nutrition is all about being a super strong and fit vegan. Some people want to lose weight when they go on a vegan diet; others want to build muscle mass. Derek shows you how to get it done.

20. Elle Tayla

Elle Tayla’s story is hard to watch on YouTube, as she struggled on and off with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder. With the support of family and friends, good old self-reliance, and discovering a high-carb, low-fat vegan diet, she found her way back the health.

21. Infinite Waters

Renaissance Man Ralph Smart of Infinite Waters is a self-described “Infinite Being.” Watch his videos, and you’ll realize that you are too.

22. Sarah Nourse

Sarah Nourse and her husband went vegan after hearing activist Gary Yourofsky speak. With humility and generosity, Sarah shares her story about how in just six months, she and her husband lost weight and changed their lives for the better by embracing a vegan lifestyle.

23. The Urban Black Vegan

A recovered diabetic, The Urban Black Vegan was inspired to change his life after watching the groundbreaking movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. He’s on a mission to help people in his own community and beyond fight lifestyle-related chronic diseases and to get on the path to health.

24. High Carb Hannah

High carb Hannah drank too much, smoked, and overate. She chronicles her 70-pound weight loss and the life transformation that resulted from eating a whole food, plantbased diet.

25. – 32. More Vegan Transformations from Plant Based News

Vegan advocates Plant Based News also shared a great series of vegan before and after transformations that you must check out! (A couple of then are also above, so I didn’t double count them! :o)

Be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channels of these inspirational heroes, and best of luck on your own journey to health and vitality!

(As with much of the content you find on the Web today, take these videos as anecdotal, personal stories and consult with a medical professional if you have questions about making major dietary changes!)


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Over the past couple years, there has been some pretty amazing vegan body transformations. Even I, myself, underwent a major transformation after I switched to a high-raw plant-based lifestyle.

There’s no doubt that going vegan can turn your life around, and these people prove it. Not only does it help change the way your body looks, but it can help get rid of disease and illness. Many of those who have adopted a plant-based diet have been cured of acne, diabetes, obesity, and even cancer!

When I went high-raw vegan, not only did I lose weight, but my skin got better, my moods improved, and even my eyes changed colour. I also experienced a new energy to life I never knew existed.

Veganism and Weight Loss

Why does adopting a plant-based diet help you lose weight? Studies have shown that those who adhere to a vegan diet have a lower body mass index than that of their meat-eating counterparts. In addition, meat-eaters consume more calories and fewer vegetables, on average, than vegans do (1).

Randomized controlled trials have even shown that when all other factors are controlled for, vegan diets can help participants lose significant amounts of weight (2, 3).

Plant-based diets, when properly followed, can help anyone lose weight. They are high in fibre, which helps reduce hunger and increases feelings of fullness, and also lower in saturated animal fats. They also keep us from eating things that would otherwise make us stack on the pounds (like sweet treats and other gourmet foods that typically aren’t found in the vegan version).

One study conducted in New Zealand, called The BROAD study, found that a whole food vegan diet was one of the most effective methods for weight loss in obese people at 6 and 12 months without added exercise or calorie restriction (4).

While weight loss is only part of the equation when re-vamping your life, it certainly helps to adopt a plant-based diet while doing so. You’ll achieve your goals faster than you could ever imagine – and the people below prove it.

Vegan Body Transformations

Here are some of the most breathtakingly life-changing vegan body transformations you absolutely have to see to believe! Just so you know, the photos on the left are before, and those on the right are after eating a plant-based diet.

1. Victoria Rose

A stunning transformation by Victoria Rose, a professional photographer and co-owner of Candid Chef. She battled health and weight issues since she was 18 years old, and eventually decided to adopt a vegetarian diet after she realized that consuming animal products were contributing to her years of struggling health. “Soon all the ailments and excess weight started to disappear! My longstanding acne went away within a few months of dropping dairy (5).” Not only did she lose weight, but if you compare photos, it doesn’t even look like the same person!

2. Osha Key

After switching to raw foods, Osha Key lost a whopping 40 pounds. After learning about how animal products affect our health (plus the horrible practices of our meat and dairy industries), Osha could no longer justify eating these foods. She started drinking green vegetable juice and green smoothies every morning, ditched processed junk food, and reduced her refined sugar and oil consumption. Her transformation is truly remarkable!

3. Lissa

Lissa, founder of Raw Food Romance, went on a raw food diet and lost around 70 pounds. Her before and after photos are pure proof that you can get rid of cellulite on a plant-based diet. The low levels of inflammation as a result of consuming a plant-based diet also ensure the skin stays tight and less “poofy” as can be seen in Lissa’s before and after photos.

4. Keyrah Lee

This vegan body transformation is truly remarkable. After many years of unhealthy eating, Keyrah found herself at 288 pounds. After many failed attempts at multiple weight loss tricks, programs, and diets, she was still stuck. However, on March 1, 2015, Keyrah decided to become vegan, and her life was forever changed. She started with a plant-based instructional detox, which was a vegan meal and exercise plan. She lost 100 pounds in 10 months, and has inspired thousands on social media.

5. Miranda Martinez

Miranda Martinez started experimenting with raw, living foods, superfoods and live supplements, when she first started her Master Cleanse in July 2007. She lost over 60 pounds and experienced a multitude of health benefits such as increased energy, reduced hereditary LDL cholesterol and spider veins. She also no longer has cysts (cased by a low-carb diet), knee pain, constipation issues, or food addictions.

6. Nina

Nina tried going vegan a few times, but always went back to her meat eating ways, because she didn’t know how to build muscle without consuming animals. Eventually, Nina took the vegan plunge for good, and decided to take-up body building while doing it. Not only does she look amazing, but she also won a $80,000 grand prize for her vegan body transformation. For information on how Nina achieved this amazing transformation, check out what she did here. Good work Nina!

7. Megan Elizabeth

YouTube sensation and author of four raw food books since 2010, Megan Elizabeth, made a dramatic transformation on a raw food diet. Since switching, she has recovered from severe adrenal fatigue, leaky gut syndrome, candida overgrowth and chemical sensitivity. Her before and after photos are proof that a raw vegan diet can seriously transform someone not only on the outside, but the inside too.

8. Ashley Chong

Ashely Chong of Raw and Radiant has a truly inspirational story. Instead of following doctors’ orders who were telling her to restrict calories, eat meat, and to take a popular weight-loss drug called phentermine, she did the exact opposite. She went on a 100% raw vegan diet overnight and never looked back. She lost over 125 pounds in a little less than a year, and then her husband followed suit about five months after (he lost over 85 pounds!). Ashley and her partner Andrew’s weight-loss story was also featured on the front cover of PEOPLE Magazine for “Half Their Size” issue where her raw food journey was featured nationwide.

9. Essena O’Neill

While this isn’t so much a vegan body transformation, switching to a plant-based diet has been confirmed by numerous individuals to help with acne – and Essena is one of those girls. Essena suffered from a wide range of ailments, including depression, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, recurring Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), and chronic acne. Switching to a plant-based diet helped her skin, and also had a positive impact on her other conditions. Essena used to be a huge online star, but in 2016, she quit all social media as it became too overwhelming for her.

10. Rich Roll

A former mega carnivore, Rich Roll was pushing sedentary at 198 pounds when he turned 40. He was sick and tired of being out of shape, so in January 2007, he decided to do a 5-day cleanse. He bought a juicer and basically fed himself on organic fruit and vegetable juices as well as herbal broths. He eventually switched to vegan after being vegetarian, and noticed a huge energy shirt. He felt lighter, and his energy levels escalated. Six months into the vegan diet, Rich dropped 30 pounds. He now loves doing triathlons and is as active as he’s ever been.


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The Raw Food Diet Facts You Need to Know

Every other month, some new diet is trending. Remember that time when South Beach was huge? Or when you walked into a CrossFit box and heard the word “paleo” 32 times within five minutes? Sure, buzzy diets go in and out of the limelight, but one recent GrubHub study reveals that the raw food diet is soaring in popularity. With a 92 percent increase in raw food orders over the past year, it appears that customers like their food uncooked and with a lack of preservatives.

But why? Well, eating a slew of raw foods means you’re getting an abundance of good-for-you minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals, and fiber in your diet. One University of Giessen study of 200 people eating a raw food diet found that they had higher levels of beta-carotene, which is commonly associated with disease prevention. But what other reasons are there to hop on board the raw food diet train? Here’s everything you need to know about the raw food diet.

The Rules of a Raw Food Diet

The raw food diet involves exactly what it sounds like: a whole lot of raw food. The foods you consume can be raw (cold) or slightly warm, but nothing can be over 118 degrees. While some followers of the raw food diet allow raw fish, eggs, meat, and unpasteurized dairy into their ingredients list, it’s more common to stick to mostly organic, uncooked, and unprocessed foods. Think vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, and some sprouted grains. Vegans and vegetarians may feel right at home on this plan.

Off-limits? A whole lot. Essentially anything on the inside aisles of your grocery store is out of the picture here, like pasta, junk food, salt, flours, sugars, juices, and anything processed or pasteurized.

And although everything is raw, you’ll need to channel your inner Martha Stewart if you want to do this diet well and not just eat salad after salad. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Through preparation techniques involving blending, dehydrating, and food processing, you can make loads of meal options. For example, you can make zucchini chips that fall into the green zone of this diet by slicing zucchini thinly and dehydrating for about 24 hours until they’re dry.

The Benefits of a Raw Food Diet

Cooking food may decrease the amount of certain water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Plus, a diet high in fruits and vegetables can be great for digestion and lower blood pressure, according to one University of Southern California study. It can also lower your chance of stomach cancer and stroke, and halt the progression of kidney disease.

And there are some unique benefits of consuming produce raw: “Raw foods require more chewing than cooked food,” says Deanna Minich, Ph.D., C.N., author of The Complete Handbook of Quantum Healing. “And when we chew, we stimulate different parts of the brain that correspond to learning and memory.” One Cardiff University study of 133 volunteers zeroed in on the benefits of chewing gum (which isn’t allowed on the raw food diet, FTR) during a testing period. Those who chewed gum reported a more positive mood, greater alertness, and improved selective and sustained attention than those who didn’t.

Plus, eating a raw food diet means you’re slashing the consumption of processed foods. That’s a good-for-you idea whether or not you’re following the raw food diet, as cutting them out could prevent weight gain, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers analyzed the diets of more than 120,000 Americans over two decades, and they found that people who consumed sugary drinks, processed meat, and chips regularly were most likely to put on the pounds.

The Negatives of the Raw Food Diet

First off, it’s really restrictive. Limiting yourself to raw foods means you unfortunately need to cut out some healthy non-raw foods, like a lot of whole grains (think quinoa, brown rice, freekeh). No one wants to feel frustrated when they walk into their kitchen, and just like with any diet, that’s possible here when you’re tired of eating the same things day after day. If that’s not enough, you’ll likely have to skip out on the restaurants. As with any diet, it’s tough to eat out when you have so many limitations.

It’s also pretty pricey. Shopping organic can cost an average of 47 percent more than standard produce. While you can follow a raw diet without going organic, most traditionalists would say you’re not doing it right because, well, chemicals. The pesticides applied to food can have detrimental effects on the body (ruining some of the purposes of going raw in the first place).

Eating raw or undercooked foods can also put you at risk for food poisoning, as bacteria, molds, and parasites might be in your eats (eeek!). Just because you may not be cooking your food doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself, though. The FDA recommends you run both fruits and vegetables under water before eating or cutting them.

And although losing excess weight can be great for your health and a major reason why most women choose diets in the first place, this meal plan may take you a step too far. Dieter, beware: In the numerous studies done on the raw food diet, experts agree that weight loss should be monitored. One University of Giessen study cautions fans of the trend, saying that 30 percent of the 297 women under age 45 who were involved in the study developed partial or complete amenorrhea (aka losing your period, which isn’t a good thing). Make sure to continually check in on your progress. Evidence shows that people who lose pounds gradually and steadily (at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off, according to the CDC.

Is the Raw Food Diet for You?

First and foremost, Minich recommends that anyone who is interested in starting a raw food diet consult with a health professional. If you get the go-ahead and feel like you have all the tools to execute this new diet safely, make sure to do a pulse check every once in a while and gauge how you’re feeling.

“Always be in tune with your body,” says Minich. “You’re not supposed to feel horrible, and if you do, the diet isn’t for you.”

If you want to give it a try, consider not going 100 percent raw. Instead, try eating high raw (80 to 99 percent raw foods) or what is commonly referred to as “raw until dinner.” Making a gradual transition to raw can help ease into a new habit and make it easier to maintain.

  • By Emily Abbate @emilyabbate

After going on vacation with a very good friend of mine and splurging just a little too much, we decided to try out a detox week when we got home. I had recently read a book about the energy you get from raw food and decided it was worth a shot. My friend, who’s a vegetarian, making the raw food diet a bit easier for her, also jumped on board. We agreed to share daily notes on our meal plan, weight loss, and overall mood. The raw diet may not be for everyone, but my results were pretty incredible!

How I Got Started

Creating a grocery list was incredibly important, and it was my first step in figuring out how I was going to get through a whole week of raw food. I knew I needed to stock up on plenty of fruit, veggies, and nuts, but I also wanted some food variety.

After a quick Google search and walking the aisles of Whole Foods, I also tacked on balsamic vinegar, avocados, honey, raw bars, some dried fruit, and sashimi for the week. I planned out two to three servings of fruit for each day; veggies, avocado, and nuts to consume at lunch; spinach salads loaded with veggies for dinner; and snack bags of dried fruit and raw bars to carry with me throughout the day. I felt pretty good about my plan and how much fresh food and nutrients I would be taking in on a daily basis.


How My Body and Mood Changed

When I started the raw food diet, I was ready to eat healthy, but it was a lot harder than I expected it to be. The first few days, I felt moody and had a slight headache as I detoxed from caffeine and processed food. By day three, I was feeling a lot better and felt my energy levels begin to rise! Days four through seven were a lot easier, and I felt more in control of what I was eating and how I was feeling.

I began each day with some fresh berries, apples, bananas, honey, and almonds. Within hours, I was hungry and continued snacking on cucumbers, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, and avocado. I consumed two or three raw snack bars a day, as I found myself to be continuously hungry while I followed this plan. I needed to make sure I had food around me constantly, and I felt as if I was eating all day long. However, when I added up the calories, I found the total was much lower than what I was eating previously, and everything I ate contained a lot less sodium. I made sure to get some sashimi or protein in the evening along with the nuts, as I felt this was the nutrient I was lacking the most.

I wasn’t sure what to expect for weight loss, but I certainly was not prepared for the seven pounds that came off my body. I was on the phone every day with my friend, comparing our weight-loss notes, and we both were experiencing about a pound-a-day loss. This was probably the most surprising thing about the diet altogether. Even after completing the diet and going back to cooked food, the weight didn’t come back on right away for myself or my friend. I think some of the weight was water weight that we were hanging onto post-vacation, but the rest was truly from flushing out our bodies with all the raw goodness.

Would I Do It Again?

As a detox, yes, but as a lifestyle, I did not find the raw food diet sustainable. I am a fan of eggs and chicken, and it would be very difficult for me to give up those kinds of foods long-term. And although I enjoy salads, cooking my vegetables and having a variety of recipes is something that I need. For example, one of my favorite recipes and staples is a healthy chicken noodle soup, and there’s no way I could go for very long without it.

I will say that after the detox, I made an effort to eat more raw fruit and veggies, and I felt my taste buds were slightly reset, causing me to crave healthier, fresh food. I do think raw food should have a strong place in everyone’s diet, and I encourage all my friends to eat as much natural unprocessed food as they can!

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne

Despite what you might have heard, a raw food diet is not another “fad diet” as we normally think of one. In fact, some experts on raw diets say that they’re essentially the opposite: “anti-diets” and more like a lifestyle that simply promotes eating more real foods in their natural state.

A raw food diet, also sometimes called “raw foodism,” is about eating mostly or all unprocessed and uncooked foods so you get all the nutrients without the dangerous additives. So are you ready to take part in the raw food revolution? Let’s take a look at what a raw food diet is, who can benefit from one and how to do it.

What Is a Raw Food Diet?

The goal of eating more raw foods is to obtain plenty of nutrients in an easy-to-digest manner, one that our bodies are naturally suited for. While there’s no need to go completely raw or to declare yourself a “raw vegan,” making sure to consume at least some raw vegetables and fruits every day is important for just about everyone.

Raw foodism has been around since the 1800s, and both studies and anecdotal evidence show the benefits of a raw food diet include: (1)

  • lowering inflammation
  • improving digestion
  • providing more dietary fiber
  • improving heart health
  • helping with optimal liver function
  • preventing cancer
  • preventing or treating constipation
  • giving you more energy
  • clearing up your skin
  • preventing nutrient deficiencies
  • lowering the amount of antinutrients and carcinogens in your diet
  • helping you maintain a healthy body weight

Maybe you’re wondering how much raw food it takes to consider yourself someone who eats a mostly raw food diet. There isn’t one single type of raw food diet that you should strive to follow — rather there’s all sorts of different variations of raw food diets out there, all with different advice and degrees to which foods can be cooked.

Depending on the exact type you choose to follow, raw food diets can include far more than just fresh produce. In addition to raw fruits and vegetables, you might consume fish, sea vegetables, fermented foods, sprouted grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, and even some meat and raw dairy products. (2)

The thing that ties various raw food diets together is that generally no foods that have been pasteurized, homogenized, or produced with the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, industrial solvents or chemical food additives are included. This means avoiding, or at least greatly reducing, most popular packaged and processed foods sold in the grocery store like breads, bottled condiments, cereals, crackers, cheese, refined oils and processed meats.

It can be hard to transition from the diet you currently eat to one with more raw foods — especially if you currently think you “don’t like” raw fruits and vegetables much, which are definitely a major proponent of a raw food diet. If you’re skeptical of raw food diets and worried about whether or not you can tolerate eating more raw foods, remember that it’s all about taking small steps. There’s no need to completely make over your diet overnight. In fact, you’ll likely maintain a healthier way of eating when you transition things slowly.

Studies show the more you rush into a new way of eating and the more you consider it just a quick-fix “diet,” the likelier you are to gain any weight you’ve lost back and to give up, which only sabotages your efforts. Plus, adding in more high-fiber foods and raw foods slowly might mean you experience less digestive problems and cravings, which can happen when you change up what you normally eat.

Related: Macrobiotic Diet Benefits, Theory & Foods


We can all afford to eat a healing diet with more raw fruits and vegetables, and here’s the primary reasons why …

While you might think otherwise, cooked foods are usually harder to digest than raw foods, plus cooking nutrient-dense foods tends to destabilize some of their valuable enzymes and destroy certain antioxidants and vitamins.

Raw foods also help alkalize the body, reduce acidity, and have less of a chance of fermenting in the gut and causing inflammation/autoimmune reactions. This applies to all of us, but some people who can especially benefit from eating more raw foods include those with:

  • cancer (3)
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure and high cholesterol (4)
  • osteoporosis
  • kidney disease
  • gallstones or gallbladder disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • autoimmune disorders
  • food allergies
  • fatigue
  • joint pain (5)
  • muscle aches and pains
  • headaches
  • PMS
  • hormonal imbalance
  • trouble with weight gain/obesity

Let’s first take a look at how enzymes in foods are impacted when they’re cooked.

There’s some debate over this topic, but many experts feel that foods heated over about 112 degrees Fahrenheit retain less vital enzymes. Digestive enzymes are used by the body to break down foods to smaller and more operable nutritional units. This point shouldn’t be overlooked, because it’s not only how many nutrients a food has to offer that matters, but how we are actually able to absorb these nutrients. (6)

Within the human body, the pancreas and other cells produce enzymes to help with digestion (called endogenous enzymes) while raw foods also supply some enzymes (called exogenous enzymes). The greater our intake of exogenous enzymes, the easier time we have fully digesting nutrients without overly taxing our systems.

Each food is a bit different in terms of when it starts to lose some of its nutrients. Many high-antioxidant foods are sensitive to cooking because phytonutrients don’t stand up well to high temperatures. The temperature at which a food starts to be depleted of nutrients due to cooking is called the “heat labile point.” At this point, chemical configurations start to change within the food, enzymes are lost and the food becomes less beneficial.

Another reason to eat more raw foods is because of how they easily make their way through our digestive systems. The longer a food sits in our digestive tracts, the likelier it is to ferment and cause problems. Pre-fermented foods themselves are good for you (more on that below), but a food fermenting in your gut causes gas, inflammation and toxic waste to accumulate. During fermentation in the gut, proteins putrefy and fats go rancid, which negatively affects the mucosal lining of the gut and can lead to intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome).

Finally, raw foods have a big impact on the acid/alkaline balance in our bodies. Diseases develop more easily within the body when acidity rises, because acidosis lowers immunity. The body can become overly acidic due to environmental pollutants, stress, processed and refined foods, lack of nutrients, and mineral-deficient water. Cooked foods create even more acidity in the body, but on the other hand, raw foods neutralize acid and help alkalize the body.

While weight loss isn’t the primary goal, you’re also likely to feel full when eating lots of raw foods from consuming plenty of fiber and nutrients, so this can help you curb cravings and eat less overall if that’s one of your goals.

Raw Food Diet vs. Vegan Diet

Thinking of becoming a “raw vegan” and wondering how a raw vegan diet differs from a general raw food diet? The two have a lot in common, but eating a diet high in raw foods doesn’t necessarily mean you need to avoid all animal products, which vegans do.

Some raw food diets include raw fish, raw dairy products, raw meats or eggs, and even some cooked animal foods too. Again, there isn’t an ideal percentage of cooked versus raw foods you should try to live up to. The goal is just to move your food intake to one that’s more natural, nutrient-dense and unprocessed.

What do vegans eat? Raw vegans don’t consume any animal products whatsoever and very few cooked foods, which means this way of eating can be hard to keep up with and unattainable for many people. On top of that, there are plenty of nutrients available in animal foods and benefits to including some of them in your diet. For example, organ meats, like chicken liver or kidneys, are often called superfoods and are some of the most nutrient-dense foods there are, extremely high in things like vitamin A, B vitamins, phosphorus and iron.

Some nutrients are simply more easily obtained when you include some animal foods in your diet. For example, if you compare the nutrient density of organ meats to that of vegetables like spinach or carrots, the organ meats outperform many of them. Other animal foods make smart food choices, too: Eggs are a great source of choline, fish are the single best way to get anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and beef is rich in things like zinc and selenium.

I don’t recommend a raw vegan approach because it’s too easy to run low on critical vitamins and minerals, plus protein. It’s true that some plant-based foods have protein, but they aren’t “complete proteins” — meaning they don’t supply all of the essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own like animals foods can.

The reason I recommend avoiding raw veganism and including high-quality animal products in moderation is to make it easier to obtain enough amino acids, healthy sources of saturated fats and omega-3s, iron, B vitamins (especially vitamin B12 and folate), zinc, and selenium. (7)

Vitamin B12 benefits red blood cell formation and improves cellular function; iron prevents anemia and fatigue; folate is important for converting chemicals in the body for proper cellular functions and cellular division; and omega-3s lower inflammation and improve heart health.

If you struggle with low energy, fatigue, being underweight, infertility, depression or neurological issues, loss of muscle mass, or weak bones, a vegan or vegetarian diet will likely make it harder to recover. I recommend, in addition to eating plenty of fruits and veggies, that you include some organic, pasture-raised or grass-fed animal proteins — calf liver and chicken liver, cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, raw/fermented dairy products, and pasture-raised poultry are all great options.

Quality of animal foods is very important — and that’s one of the reasons I don’t promote a “Paleo diet.” The Paleo diet has some great things about it (and also usually includes plenty of raw foods), but in my opinion, people eating this way tend to consume too much meat and don’t stress eating organically as much as I do.

Diet Plan

As you’ve probably gathered by now, it’s all about balance. You’ll likely feel your best when you consume plenty of raw foods in addition to some that are lightly cooked.

Here are some of my favorite raw foods to start eating regularly:

  1. Leafy greens
  2. Citrus fruits (several servings per day)
  3. Sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds
  4. Avocados
  5. Coconut kefir/raw and organic regular kefir
  6. Raw veggies like carrots, celery, peppers, tomatoes, etc.
  7. Raw yogurt
  8. Extra virgin coconut or olive oil
  9. Cultured veggies (like sauerkraut or kimchi)
  10. Watermelon and cantaloupe

In order to move your diet in the right direction, try taking these steps below, which will help you incorporate more raw and anti-inflammatory foods into your diet:

  1. At each meal, plan to fill half your plate with fresh, non-starchy veggies and fruit. Make a reasonable portion of those raw, but some cooked can be beneficial too (which you’ll learn more about below).
  2. Lightly cooking food at temperatures less than 100 degrees, steaming, juicing, sprouting and using slow cookers are ways to gently cook the food you aren’t eating raw. Remember that you have the power to individualize your diet and choose what works best for you. Typically on a mostly raw food diet, about 75 percent to 80 percent of what you eat each day will be plant-based foods that were never heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit, but here’s room for variation.
  3. Replace bad fats with good, healthy fats. Get rid of any hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, soybean oil, canola oil and vegetable oils. Replace these with good fats like extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocado and nuts/seeds, which are essential to hormone production, cancer prevention, brain development, weight loss, cellular healing and lowering inflammation.
  4. Focus on having quality animal products in moderation. This greatly lowers your exposure to pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones in meats while supplying important nutrients and fatty acids like arachidonic acid, conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids.
  5. Replace all sugary snacks and refined grains. This includes all white rice, white pasta, cereal and white bread, plus pizza, sugary sauces/condiments, soups, crackers, fruit drinks, canned foods and sweetened yogurt. Instead, have soaked/sprouted grain products (like sprouted beans, Ezekiel bread or sourdough bread) in moderation. The fermentation process turns the normally inedible (raw grains and legumes) into the edible. Also eat real fruit for a sweet treat instead of sweetened snacks.

You’ll find that roughly eating this way helps you easily consume lots of superfoods like fresh fruit and vegetables, sprouted seeds and nuts/nut butters, cold-pressed extra virgin olive or coconut oil, fresh herbs, freshly squeezed vegetable juices, fermented veggies, and herbal teas if you’d like. Plus, you’ll get to eat a lot of food and feel very satisfied since raw foods are large and so low in calories.

The Importance of Fermented Foods in a Raw Food Diet

A staple of nearly every civilization on earth in one form or another, fermented foods are some of the healthiest things about eating a raw food diet. Fermented foods are raw and naturally develop probiotics during the period when they undergo fermentation, which happens when oxygen converts some of their nutrients. Fermented foods have been eaten for thousands of years in the form of yogurt, kefir, sourdough breads, kombucha, and cultured vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi and kvass.

Probiotics supplied by fermented foods, which are “good bacteria” that reside in your gut, are responsible for nutrient absorption and supporting your immune system. They help you to repopulate your gut with beneficial microbiota after you’ve begun the process of clearing away built-up toxins and waste. Probiotic foods encourage a healthy microbiome, are great for your digestive system, improve immunity, help clear up your skin, and are even beneficial for maintaining hormonal balance and a healthy weight.

Regardless of whether you eat a raw food diet or not, you can benefit from including more fermented foods in your diet to prevent digestive disorders, skin issues, candida, autoimmune disease and frequent infections.

Risks and Side Effects

Why might an all raw food diet not be the best option? There’s merit for cooking certain foods to bring out more of their nutrients — plus cooking allows you to eat some animal products that many people would be hesitant to eat raw. In other words, cooking does degrade some nutrients, but it also makes others more digestible.

Cooking foods with antioxidants called beta-carotene and lycopene (like squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, for example) helps release their nutrients and make them more absorbable, plus it makes them taste a lot better! (9) Cooking is also useful for killing bacteria and pathogens that can live in some foods, like certain fish or eggs and meat.

In addition, some vegetables like those in the cruciferous vegetables family (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens and Brussels sprouts) contain goitrogen compounds, which in excess can block thyroid function and contribute to hypothyroidism, but these are mostly deactivated by heat and cooking. And some studies have also shown that peppers and mushrooms become more nutrient-dense when cooked.

Is there anyone for whom a raw food diet isn’t a good fit? Yes. Keep this in mind: While including more raw food in your diet has plenty of benefits, a raw food diet tends not to work so well for people with certain gut types. Raw foods diets aren’t for everybody, since raw fruits and vegetables can be hard to digest for some people lacking certain enzymes or digestive capabilities and because they’re high-fiber diets.

If you have a sensitive digestive system, such as inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis, cooking more of your food might be a better option. If we’re unable to digest the vitamins and minerals in foods, we risk nutrient deficiencies and other illnesses. This can happen when we can’t break down fibrous vegetable cell walls to unleash stored nutrients, so in some cases cooking with low to medium heat can help predigest fibers for us and release more essential vitamins and minerals. (10)

Final Thoughts

  • A raw food diet is considered an “anti-diet” and more like a lifestyle that simply promotes eating more real foods in their natural state that’s about eating mostly or all unprocessed and uncooked foods so you get all the nutrients without the dangerous additives.
  • Raw food diets supply more nutrients than vegan diets, because there are some nutrients and proteins you simply cannot get without consuming animal products. In addition, raw food diets sometimes include a few cooked foods.
  • You can eat more raw foods in a balanced way by following the following steps: at each meal, plan to fill half your plate with fresh, non-starchy veggies and fruit; lightly cook food at temperatures less than 100 degrees, steam, juice, sprout and use slow cookers to gently cook the food you aren’t eating raw; replace bad fats with healthy fats; focus on having quality animal products in moderation; and replace all sugary snacks and refined grains.
  • Fermented foods also play a key role in a raw food diet.

I get it. Meal prep is a huge pain in the ass. And honestly, literally no one is ever in the mood to cook a huge dinner at the end of a long day at work.

Which is why a diet that involves zero cooking has obvious appeal. No ovens or stoves, you say? That’s what the raw food diet is essentially—no foods that were cooked on high heat.

But before you dive into the crudité, there are some pretty key things you should know about this majorly-hyped diet.

Okay, I’ll bite: What is the raw food diet?

In a nutshell, the raw food diet is essentially a modified vegan diet that limits you to foods cooked below 116 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, you can juice, puree, soak, or sprout your meals.

“The raw food diet is based on the idea that the natural enzymes in raw foods are destroyed through the cooking process,” says Abbey Sharp, a Toronto-based dietitian and blogger at Abbey’s Kitchen. In theory, heat does indeed destroy many enzymes in food—i.e., chemicals that help us to digest and absorb our meals—along with some vitamins and phytonutrients.

Nutritionists, however, say that’s an oversimplification. “Most of the enzymes in food are destroyed in the gut with stomach acid anyway,” says Sharp. What’s more, our bodies make digestive enzymes that have the same effect as the ones found in foods, explains Robin Fourutan, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Where did it come from?

The raw food diet has been around since at least the late 1800s, according to the New York Academy of Medicine, when Swiss nutritionist and physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner advocated for it. His book, The Prevention of Incurable Disease, recommended eating 50 percent raw veggies, fruits, seeds, and nuts, and the rest “conservatively cooked” veggies, eggs, meats, and whole grain breads.

More recently, the diet got a boost when Gisele and Tom Brady’s chef told they followed it.

What exactly can you eat on the raw food diet?

Foods that get the green light on the raw food diet include raw fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains; seeds and nuts; extra-virgin olive oil; and raw coconut oil and butter, says Sharp. Some people even eat unpasteurized milk, cheese, and honey, as well as raw fish and meats.

The raw food diet in a nutshell

Raw fruits and veggies Raw grains and legumes Nuts and seeds Extra-virgin olive oil and raw coconut oil

Anything that is cooked or heated above 118 degrees, as mentioned before, is strictly off-limits. That means you have to avoid most stuff that’s heated in your oven or microwave as well as all processed foods. A few not-so-intuitive foods that are off the menu include table salt, pasta, and pasteurized juice (since pasteurization involves heating foods to kill bacteria).

Are there any benefits to a raw food diet?

The main benefit of the raw food diet is that it cuts down on processed foods and gets you eating way more fruits and veggies that are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients. “Getting more plant foods in your diet can help reduce the risk of any condition linked to inflammation,” says Fouroutan, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

“Including raw fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and fermented foods is really healthy without committing to a 100 percent raw vegan diet.”

Getting more greens works wonders for your cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well, says Sharp, lowering your risk of heart disease.

Are there any downsides to eating this way?

Plenty, say nutritionists. For one, “the theory that all raw food is more nutritious than cooked is really just a myth,” says Sharp.

It’s true that heat does break down some antioxidants like vitamin C, she says. But other nutrients, phytochemicals, and antioxidants, including lycopene, potassium, and zinc—found in foods like tomatoes, mushrooms, and asparagus—actually get a boost from cooking.

All that restriction also puts you at greater risk of nutrient deficiency. “It’s difficult to maintain a 100 percent raw food diet and get all of the nutrients you need,” says Fourutan.Missing out on meat, dairy, and fish cuts back on healthy protein sources and fats like omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins like B12, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamin D. And if you skip beans and grains—which are tastier when cooked—you’ll also miss out on good sources of fiber, notes Sharp.

Bloating and gas are another unpleasant side effect of the raw food diet. “A lot of raw vegetables are rich in insoluble fibers that we don’t digest, which get fermented in the gut by bacteria, causing gas. Cooking helps to soften those fibers,” says Sharp. “People with IBS especially may find that a raw diet is particularly hard on their gut and causes digestive distress.”

Adding uncooked animal foods to your diet can even be dangerous. “There’s a reason why Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization: so we don’t get sick,” says Sharp. Unpasteurized dairy can carry Listeria, while raw meat and eggs can carry other food-borne pathogens that are especially risky if you’re pregnant or have a compromised immune system.

Should you try the raw food diet?

Given all of the potential downsides of a strict raw food diet, it’s not backed by many nutritionists. “We have healthy cooking methods for a reason,” says Sharp.

With that said, the raw food diet doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. “As long as your digestion can handle it, including raw fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and fermented foods is really healthy without committing to a 100-percent raw vegan diet,” says Fourutan.

Keep in mind that some cooking methods are better than others for preserving the nutrients in plant foods. “Boiling any veggie diminishes the nutrients because they leech into the water,” explains Fourutan. Instead, lightly steam or sauté—especially notoriously gassy cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, which are easier on your digestive system when they’re cooked.

The bottom line: Eating raw fruits and veggies is always a good thing. But they shouldn’t be the only thing you eat—otherwise, you risk nutrient deficiencies and other health problems. The stove, oven, and microwave really are your friends.

Colleen de Bellefonds Colleen de Bellefonds is an American freelance journalist living in Paris, France, with her husband and dog, Mochi.

The Raw Truth About the Raw Foods Diet

As you may already know, a well-balanced diet is instrumental for achieving short- and long-term health and fitness goals. But when it comes to shifting your diet and lifestyle, which one is right for you? When we consider adjusting our lifestyles, whether this involves buying local or going vegan, the move is ultimately initiated in order to make a positive change, right? The bottom line is, however, you need a lifestyle that is going to give you the fuel you need around the clock. Much of the attention we see today is on the consumption of eating more raw fruits and vegetables, aka the raw food diet. The question is: Is this lifestyle as healthy as experts claim?

Raw foods diet 101: What it means to go raw

A raw foods diet is exactly that, consuming food in its most natural, raw state. Your essentials are rather limited, yet always fresh and cleansing—think: fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts and sprouted grains. Some of the raw foods community, however, still consume dairy, meat, fish and eggs as long as they are unpasteurized.

While many believe that the staples of the raw foods diet resemble veganism, it’s much different, as the raw foods diet puts an emphasis on the temperature of the food that you consume. For example, the vegan diet doesn’t have any rules for cooking. With the raw food diet, however, food can never be cooked or consumed at more than 118 degrees.

“By placing an emphasis on plant foods, the diet is a rich source of the foods that are in turn the richest sources of valuable nutrients, writes David Katz, M.D. in a contribution to The Huffington Post. “The diet renounces most processed foods, and thus eliminates trans fat, and provides generally very low levels of saturated fat, sodium, and sugar—while providing nutrient-dense foods, rich in fiber. And because food choice is subject to rather strict constraints, calories are caged—making raw food diets an effective answer to the prevailing problems of weight control.”

While raw food is often higher in nutritional value, some have argued that our bodies aren’t built to break down the fibrous structures of raw fruits and vegetables. And you’re likely no stranger to the raw food disclaimer—the risks of consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, etc. Plus, there are a variety of different superfoods that are proven to deliver numerous health benefits that just can’t simply be consumed in it’s most natural, raw state. So how do you find a balance?

Instead of taking the extreme approach and adopting a strictly raw diet, why not look into the benefits of replacing processed foods with fresh, nourishing, local food. With this mentality, you can still incorporate raw foods into your diet, while still consuming the foods that you enjoy, at more than 118 degrees.

Is a raw diet healthy

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