How many times have you come across the benefits of vegetarianism on the internet? Even though a semi-plant-based diet is pretty healthy, 100% vegetarianism, i.e., veganism, is in a league of its own.
Combine the benefits of veganism with raw foodism, and you have raw veganism. You may have never heard of it before, or if you have, you may have assumed it’s quite restrictive.
But this diet has a surprising range of foods that you can eat, and there are some definite health benefits (as well as drawbacks)..
In this comprehensive guide we cover exactly what is a raw vegan, including the science-backed health benefits and drawbacks, what raw vegans eat, and how you can add variety to your menu if you decide to go raw vegan.
What is a raw vegan?
Just like vegans, raw vegans adhere to the basic concept of veganism, i.e., they don’t consume any animal-based product, be it poultry, meat, fish, dairy, or even honey. Raw vegans follow a completely plant-based diet consisting of foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, beans, and whole grains that have been previously soaked in water.
Moreover, in addition to this, raw vegans prefer unprocessed and partially or completely uncooked food over the ones treated on high heat. Raw vegans follow the dietary practice of raw foodism. As mentioned earlier, they believe that raw food is more nutritious and healthy for your body.
Therefore, raw vegans eat plant-based foods whose cooking temperature never crosses 117° F (47° C). The reason behind this is that the temperature destroys the food’s nutrients and denatures enzymes. Raw vegans claim that it’s quite unhealthy as these enzymes and nutrients boost digestion, and prevent chronic diseases.
What are the different types of raw vegan?
Veganism is a kind of vegetarian diet. And raw veganism is a subclass of veganism. But this is not where the division ends. Raw veganism has three other types, each of which are explained below.
High raw vegan
A high raw vegan diet is like any other vegan diet. However, the difference lies in how much raw food you consume. High raw vegans consume more raw food than cooked food. This could be anywhere from 51% raw food to 99% raw food.
Fully raw vegan
Wondering why ‘FullyRawChristina’ shows up every time you google raw veganism? She is the most popular follower of fully raw veganism — a diet that only contains completely plant-based, organic, and raw foods.
Fully raw vegans don’t consume any cooked food, even if heated minimally.
Raw keto vegan
People looking to lose weight may already be familiar with the term ketosis. You see it often when reading about losing weight and diabetes. It is a process that occurs when your body doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy. So, it burns your fat and makes compounds called ketones, which fuel the body.
Raw keto vegans reach ketosis by consuming foods like coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. A raw keto vegan diet isn’t designed for long-term adherence as it has little carbs, more fat, and a moderate amount of proteins.
Is raw vegan better than vegan?
Although the benefits of both diets are more or less the same, raw vegans will tell you that their dietary habits are healthier as the food they eat is more nutritious in all ways. However, is this claim backed by scientific evidence? A subsequent section of this article will discuss its benefits in detail.
But there is truth in this statement; cooking really devalues plant-based foods’ nutrition count. For example, cooking, especially broiling, food at high heat causes vitamins, B and C in particular, to leak from the vegetables. So eating them puts you at risk of nutrient deficiency.
But, all is not lost. You can still ingest those vitamins. All you have to do is take the water in which you boiled the vegetables and instead of pouring it down the drain, bottle it up and sip away! This is delicious, convenient, and a double win for you.
So, where raw food is healthier, it is harder to chew and digest. You have to chew properly before swallowing because raw veggies take longer to break down and digest in the body than cooked veggies.
Another drawback of raw veganism is that you have tothoroughly wash the items before eating. Fruits and veggies are coated in pesticides and microorganisms, which can harm your health. Moreover, peeling is not a solution for all plant-based foods as many have their nutrients deposited in the peels. And since you won’t be cooking them on high heat, a method that kills bacteria, you have to make sure you scrub the fruits and veggies properly.
But, all in all, these differences are minor and easily handled. Both diets have their pros and cons, so you can follow whichever is convenient for you.
What is considered raw food?
Food that is completely organic, free of refinement, pasteurization, and other processing methods, and has never been cooked at 104–118°F (40–48°C) is called raw food.
All plant-based foods that qualify for these merits are fit for consumption in raw veganism. But instead of cooking by heat, this diet allows you to prepare these foods differently. Raw vegans use five methods, namely:
Although not all raw vegans believe that the food should be completely organic. Generally, the degree of heat used to cook it is a widely accepted way of categorizing raw foods.
What do raw vegans eat in a day?
Raw vegans try to consume as much raw food as possible. This includes staple foods like raw fruits and veggies, sprouted grains, soaked legumes, and beans. However, you can make exceptions for condiments like maple syrup, soy sauce, and plant-based milk and butter, which are heated for preparation.
On the other hand, plant-based processed foods like alcohol, tea, coffee, chips, pasteurized juices, and baked goods are typically avoided and rarely consumed.
Raw vegans eat fermented foods like miso and pickles, which are rich in gut-friendly probiotics. In addition, nuts and seeds are eaten completely raw, and whole grains and legumes are either soaked or sprouted.
Is it healthy to be raw vegan? Science-backed evidence
Yes, raw veganism is a nutrition-packed diet. But does it have any benefits in the long run? Or are you better sticking to your current diet? Researchers have found that raw veganism has a handful of surprising benefits, including:
It helps improve symptoms of auto-immune diseases
Plant-based diets are known to decrease mortality and metabolic risk. But how does it manifest in people with auto-immune diseases? A six-week study on the effect of raw veganism on Lupus Nephritis showed that consuming plant-derived whole foods can dramatically lower the symptoms of auto-immune disease in the body.
It is neither a cure nor prevention. However, you can use it to manage such conditions. The subjects ate a customized, raw, whole-food, plant-based diet rich in leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and water.
It led to lower inflammation and improved oxidative stress levels in the body, consequently decreasing joint pain, swelling, increased energy levels, and improved the eater’s kidney function to the point that she no longer needed dialysis or a kidney transplant.
You benefit from more dietary carotenoids
Dietary carotenoids like β carotene and lycopene give vivid colors like red, yellow, and orange to fruits and veggies. Apart from this, they are essential to your health. β carotene is converted to retinol or vitamin A in the body. It is responsible for eye health and also contributes to the proper functioning of the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
On the other hand, lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that prevents cell damage. In addition, it also provides protection from the sun, reduces the risk of specific cancers, and improves heart health. Lycopene is present in tomatoes and other red or pink vegetables.
Plant-based diets are a good source of carotenoids. However, there is a difference in consumption levels of carotenoids and plasma levels. The plasma count shows how much carotenoids were actually absorbed.
Following a long-term strict raw vegan can increase the level of beta carotene and lycopene in your blood plasma. It is an excellent thing as it can reduce the risk of muscular degeneration by 35% and improve general health.
Improvements in cholesterol levels
Western and transitional societies are plagued by the tidal increase in the incidence of nutrition-related diseases. The major reason behind this is eating highly processed or nutritionally lacking food. Therefore, your body fails to work optimally and becomes at risk of such conditions.
High levels of bad cholesterol are the biggest reason behind diseases like cardiovascular disorders and gallstone diseases. Since most people consume high-fat foods day and night followed by a sedentary lifestyle, their body never gets rid of the excess fat and begins storing it in the body.
High cholesterol can further lead to obesity, cardiovascular disorders, and diabetes. But consuming a raw vegan diet canreduce the amount of cholesterol and triglyceride concentration in your blood. Moreover, it also reduces the risk of ischemic stroke by 6%.
Less risk of cancer
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, and despite advances in treatment, there is still no permanent cure. Meaning there are certain treatments that can prevent it from spreading and also leads to its remission. However, the chances of the cancer coming back are high.
Therefore, your best shot is to prevent it from occurring in the first place, which is why it comes as such a pleasant surprise that a raw vegan diet can exponentially reduce the risk of gastric, breast, and esophageal cancers.
We can attribute the inverse relation between raw plant-based food and cancer to a number of factors based on different theories, such as human evolution, which states that humans evolved to their current some one hundred and fifty thousand years ago.
However, we’ve only recently started consuming diets rich in animal and cooked food and little fresh fruits and veggies. Therefore, our bodies have yet to adapt to these changes in dietary circumstances. Still, there isn’t enough work to give an explanation for this decrease.
Better gum health
Sweets are a hazard for oral health, so we were told at primary school. So does eating healthy raw vegan foods have an opposite effect?
Yes, it does. Eating raw plant-based whole foods can decrease the risk of periodontitis— a common gum disease that can cause tooth loss. Raw vegans typically have less plaque and calculus build-up on the teeth and stronger teeth in the long run.
Losing weight and maintaining a low body mass index (BMI) is an aim of many young men, women, and people in general today. Everybody wants to stay fit, lithe, and agile. This desire has also gripped the older population. No doubt, raw veganism has a hugely positive role in helping you lose weight. When planned and followed properly, such a diet is your key to losing weight.
However, you mustn’t exploit its benefits and go in for a rapid weight loss regimen as it will have a negative impact on your body in the long run. Moreover, raw veganism can lead to severe weight loss if not planned optimally.
This was observed in long-term followers of raw veganism. These people lost a lot of weight exhibited underweight and amenorrhea; missing or skipping the menstruation cycle.
What are the pros and cons of raw veganism?
Like all diets, raw veganism has pros and cons which make it worth it or not. Currently, not many people are a fan of this diet. Still, it is pretty beneficial, and some of its benefits are:
Pros of raw veganism:
Can lead to weight loss since the diet is fibrous and contains more unsaturated fats, unlike animal-food-based diets, which are rich in saturated fats. However, you can also plan your diet to a no-weight loss plan.
Cons of raw veganism:
You can’t consume all raw plant-derived foods as some are toxic when uncooked. Such as kidney beans, parsnips, alfalfa sprouts, and buckwheat have to be cooked, or you risk harming your digestive system.
Even though this diet is pretty diverse, it can be quite difficult to maintain such a dietary lifestyle in all circles. Yes, you have many options at home, but what about when you are attending an office gathering, wedding ceremony, or simply having a friend’s night out?
What is a raw vegan meal plan?
Many people believe that a raw vegan diet can be quite restrictive and monotonous when it comes to delicious foods. Even though there is a measure of truth to these words, you can still choose from a large variety of recipes.
The following sample one-day meal plan aims to give your raw veganism journey a delicious start. You can create your own recipes with a dietician’s guidance or search online for a good weekly raw vegan meal plan.
Were you a big fan of pancakes back in the day? Make raw banana pancakes and top with caramel paste and almond butter.
Have a perfectly delicious and healthy lunch ready in just five minutes. Make raw zucchini pasta with basil pesto as seasoning.
Make your dinner decadent with raw lasagna filled with cilantro pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and marinated vegetables.
Craving some side delight? Try making these healthy and delicious pistachio and matcha truffles, or boost your day with raw vegan granola bar crackers.
Raw vegans strictly adhere to a raw or minimally cooked plant-based diet. This diet has a boatload of benefits. However, it has a little less variety comparatively. Therefore, let’s not sugar-coat it. Raw veganism is even more difficult to follow than veganism, especially if you don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables all year long. It requires self-efficacy to be continued in the long run.
However, it is quite beneficial for your health as it reduces cholesterol levels in blood among other things. Since cooking food denatures enzymes and makes the food lose its nutrition. But, sometimes cooking enhances nutrition. In such cases, raw vegans minimally cook their food, but the temperature never goes above 118 Fahrenheit.