Last week I decided to try an all (or as close as possible) raw vegan diet. What this means is you eat raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. That’s it. The huge benefits of this diet right off the bat are:
- No animal products
- No processed foods
- No refined sugars
- No caffeine/alcohol
- No chemical or preservative ridden foods
- TONS of raw fruits and vegetables - Raw foodists believe that cooking food above 118 F kills off all of the digestive enzymes and may start to produce toxic bacteria. I don’t claim to know if this is true or not. There is a lot of evidence on both sides of the debate.
I approached this experiment with the mindset that it would be more of a detox/cleanse rather than a sustainable lifelong approach to eating. However some of the results I got were very enticing. Overall I felt much lighter, happier, brighter and clearer. The mental clarity was the most notable thing. Physically I had more energy and alertness. This continued pretty steadily. It felt like I had taken a happy pill that also increased my focus 500%. I went through some mild detox symptoms but nothing too bad. I wasn’t eating incredibly unhealthy before this diet but it did help me break some habits. Mainly a slight addiction to refined sugars and the habit of overeating. Often I’d eat way more than necessary at a sitting just because the food was available and tasted good. This would result in becoming quite sleepy after meals and often a little bit of a dulled mental effect/feeling sluggish.
Some happy results from this diet that I am very pleased with:
- Tried a BUNCH of new fruits and vegetables, many of which I will continue to eat because they’re delicious (dragonfruit, papaya, guava, tangelos, jicama, sunflower sprouts)
- Got very creative with recipes (some were gross, some were great)
- Shed a few unnecessary pounds around the waist. Yes I’m skinny to start with but that doesn’t mean my body fat % is ideal
- Definitely gave my body a nice detox period
- Did a TON of research and learned lots of things.
- Kicked some unhealthy habits
- Learned how to sprout nuts and seeds (AWESOME by the way. Will keep doing this.)
A few diet downfalls:
- Difficult to get daily calories since raw diet foods are all quite low in calories
- Lots of research is required
- Lots of food prep is required
- Huge adjustment from the way most of us are accustomed to eating
- Questionable longterm sustainability (some people are able to follow the diet longterm but the majority don't
What did I learn?
One huge breakthrough for me was finally coming to the terms with the fact that the amount of protein that is widely thought of as necessary is extremely exaggerated. There is firm science behind the fact that our body’s only need around 5-6% of daily calories from protein to thrive. 10% is the number that these findings settled on as a comfortable goal. But going over the 10% is unnecessary and can cause more work for the body to break down the excess proteins. I know that stocking up on protein is quite a widely accepted theme at the moment (and I also know that lots of companies benefit from promoting this belief) but do your research and gauge it for yourself. Replace the excess protein intake with more HEALTHY carbs and see how you feel and what results you get.
Also if you’re researching a diet with the idea that there should be a ubiquitous answer that everyone agrees on you can drive yourself crazy. For every style of diet, food and “superfood” there are 100 doctors who believe it’s great and 100 doctors who say it’s rubbish. So what do you do after you come back from the brink of insanity poring through conflicting findings as I did last night?
You listen to the only person that matters and that’s yourself. Listen to your body and common sense. Pay attention to how you feel after certain foods. There are some universal things that we all know we could change to be healthier (mainly the list at the top of the page) but apart from that I don’t believe there is ONE diet that will work 100% for everybody all the time. Experiment. Do your own research and be honest with yourself.
IF YOU TRY IT:
You are going to find it hard to get your daily calories in the beginning. Some helpful tips are:
Try to recreate all of your favorite foods to fit into the raw diet. This is hugely time consuming and for me it resulted in many bad meals and wasted money on expensive ingredients. Also the amount of fats in a lot of the raw recipes that try to imitate popular foods is unhealthy and gave me quite a few stomach aches.
- Eat a ton of fruit - this is where you will get most of your calories
- Shoot for roughly an 80/10/10 split of carbs/proteins/fats
- Recognize any negative symptoms you have and see if they line up with detox symptoms. Chances are that’s what will happen in the beginning.
- Read this guys blog. He's experimented extensively and maintains a mostly raw diet with beneficial effects to his health.
Where am I now?
As most people do I struggled to get enough calories per day on the raw diet in the beginning. Eating the amount of fruit that you need to stay full on a raw diet is definitely an adjustment. I decided this morning that I would start to incorporate a few more foods into my diet (mainly oats, beans, legumes, quinoa etc) but will definitely stay vegan and off of processed foods and refined sugars as much as possible. This morning for breakfast I had a concoction of oats, hemp seeds, chia seeds, berries and almond milk. It definitely filled me up but I did notice feeling a little dehydrated afterwards and made a 16 oz fruit/veggie juice to balance it out. No idea if this was connected to my breakfast or something else entirely.
As this week progresses I’ll see how my diet changes and if I have any interesting new developments I’ll be sure to share them with all of you.
I hope this helps you become healthier and more informed in one way or another!