Specialized diets are becoming a thing. This is because most of them are said to offer many health benefits. All of us want to stay healthy as this helps increase our life span among other things. Good examples of specialized diets include the keto diet, the vegan diet, the paleo diet and many others. Another diet that is quickly gaining popularity is the raw vegan meal plan.
The raw vegan diet is quite different compared to most diets you might have heard of. This diet combines the principles of veganism and raw foodism (3). Is the raw vegan meal plan healthy?
Can the raw vegan diet promote weight loss? What are the advantages of this diet? Everything you need to know about this food plan is highlighted in this informative article.
Types Of Raw Diets
Before anything else, it is important to discuss the different types of raw diets. Eating raw involves making a transition from eating cooked, processed, and refined foods to eating food that is not refined, pasteurized, cooked or treated with pesticides or processed in any way. There are three famous raw diets. These are: (14)
- The raw vegan diet. This food plan excludes all animal products. Its primary focus is on plant-based foods.
- The raw vegetarian diet. This diet is very similar to the raw vegan diet. The only difference is that this diet allows raw eggs as well as unprocessed dairy products to be consumed.
- The raw omnivorous diet. This is an inclusive raw diet. It allows plant-based food, raw animal products, and raw or dried meat.
With that said, what is the raw vegan diet all about?
What Is The Raw Vegan Diet?
Just as stated above, this is a diet that combines the principles of veganism and raw foodism. Vegans keep away from all animal food products. They do this for health reasons as well as ethical reasons. Raw foodism involves eating raw food (uncooked) or heated at temperatures below 104–118°F (40–48°C) (3). This then translates to eating non-animal food products in their uncooked nature. The raw vegan diet is a subgroup of veganism.
When on this food plan, you can only eat fresh, whole, unrefined plant-based foods. No cooking or steaming is allowed in this meal plan. One is encouraged to eat everything in its natural form. There are many benefits of this diet. That is why more and more people are migrating to the raw vegan way of life.
When you are on a weight loss journey, you are always advised to include lots of vegetables and fruits to your diet for better results. Now imagine what being on a strictly vegetables and fruits diet would do to your body and health.
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About The Raw Vegan Diet Menu
When you are on this diet, your menu is composed of raw nuts and seeds, unprocessed plant oils, soaked raw grains, vegetables and fruits (5). It is important to make sure you are able to satisfy your body’s nutritional needs when you are on this diet. This is due to the fact that there are some nutrients you can easily find in animal foods that are difficult to find in plant-based foods.
Just like most specialized diets, different people interpret the raw vegan diet differently. There are some that make sure their diet is 100% raw while others eat a small percentage of cooked foods. It should be noted that this is not a new diet as it has been in place since the 1800s. People during that time believed that this food plan would help prevent and cure some diseases.
Pro raw vegans believe that cooking food destroys the enzymes in the food as well as nutrients. There are two sides to this belief as you will see in later parts of this read. They also believe cooking food destroys the life force of food.
Anything that is believed to acidify the body is not allowed in this diet. This means no sugar, alcohol, animal products or caffeine. One major upside of this diet is that there is no counting calories (9). This is due to the fact that vegetables, fruits and other plant-based foods usually contain very low calories.
Foods To Eat And Foods To Avoid While On The Raw Vegan Diet
Since you have chosen this way of life, it is important to know which foods you should eat and which foods you should avoid. This makes it easy to plan for your meal plan. The success of any food plan rests upon the preparedness of the person starting the diet. You don’t want to be practising the raw vegan diet, only to open the fridge and find an assortment of all kinds of animal foods and products.
Foods To Eat
It is easy to identify raw fruits and vegetables. There are other foods like nut butter that might seem raw but aren’t always raw. This is why it is important to double check the labels and ask for help in case you don’t understand the labels. Foods that have the words roasted, dry-roasted, toasted, cooked or baked indicated on their label are not raw foods. Canned foods are also not raw. With that out of the way, you should eat (16):
There are different ways you can consume your veggies. You can use them in salads, in dressings, and in smoothies. Remember, in order to survive a restrictive diet you need to tap into your creativity. You can pickle your vegetables or even turn them into noodles. Tutorials for doing such things can be easily found on YouTube.
Fruits are another staple food in this meal plan. They can be eaten whole, they can be dried, dehydrated, used in juices and smoothies as well. Some superfoods like raw cacao powder and goji berries are allowed on this diet.
Nuts And Seeds
Raw organic seeds and nuts are a crucial part of this food plan. They can easily be added to smoothies and even salads.
Whole grains are also allowed on this diet. Some common examples of whole grains include millet, buckwheat groats, kamut, quinoa, oats, wheat germ, spelt, and wild rice. When consuming these grains raw, you need to make sure they are germinated or sprouted.
Beans And Legumes
There are some raw beans that you can consume while on this diet. These beans need to, however, be soaked and sprouted before they can be eaten. Such beans include; chickpeas, lentils and others. There are some beans that are not recommended to be consumed raw. Kidney beans and soybeans are among them.
Fats are important components of a nutritionally balanced diet. There are raw sources of fats which are recommended for this particular diet. They include avocados, raw coconut oil, chia oil and others.
In any diet, hydration is important. Most beverages in this diet come from blended vegetables and fruits. Water is very important and one should make sure to drink at least 2 liters of water in a day. Coffee and tea are not allowed on this diet.
Foods To Avoid
Foods thats should be avoided by people who follow this diet include (13):
- Cooked fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains
- Baked items
- Roasted nuts and seeds
- Refined oils
- Table salt
- Refined sugars and flour
- Pasteurized juices and dairy
- Coffee and tea
- Alcoholic drinks
- French fries
- All other processed foods and snacks
Foods In The Raw Vegan Diet You Should Be Cautious About
There are a number of foods that you are likely to find on this diet that should be handled with care. Here are those foods and why you should handle them with care (14).
This food is said to be toxic when raw. Although there is very little research on this, this food is said to cause sun sensitivity when you eat it in large amounts.
This type of bean contains phytohaemagglutinin. When eaten raw they may be toxic to one’s body.
Alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts are examples of sprout seeds that are said to carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella and listeria. This can cause food poisoning.
This is another food that may be toxic when raw.
How To Prepare Foods While On The Raw Vegan Food Plan?
It goes without saying that you can’t just find raw foods and start eating them right then and there. Cooking is not the only way to prepare food. When you decide to follow this meal plan, you need to first learn some new ways of preparing you food. These new ways are: (14)
Soaking And Sprouting
This process involves putting the plant-based foods in water and allowing them to germinate. There are benefits of doing this and of course this is not done on all plant-based foods. This is done to foods like raw beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods are said to contain enzyme inhibitors. These inhibitors are usually destroyed when the legumes are cooked. Since cooking is out of the picture, soaking them or sprouting them helps release the nutrients in them.
Since germination is involved, it is important to know different foods have a specific time it takes them to germinate. Some germinate in two hours while some can take even a day. Most people usually just leave raw beans, legumes, nuts, or seeds in water overnight.
Most people use dehydrators to dehydrate food. Dehydrators are enclosed containers with heating elements that warm the food at low temperatures. It is important to remember as long as food is not heated past 104–118°F (40–48°C), it is considered as raw.
Blending And Juicing
This is another important way of preparing food. You can use a food processor or a blender for this. This is how you make smoothies, pesto, humus, and soup.
Other ways of preparing food include just plain chopping and fermenting.
Raw Vegan Meal Plan And Weight Loss
As with most diets, what matters most is if the diet can promote weight loss. Can the raw vegan meal plan cause weight loss? The answer is yes. This food plan can easily promote weight loss. For a person to lose weight they have to consume less calories than they burn. This food plan is a low-calorie diet. Most of the vegetables, and fruits contain low calories (7). It is for this reason this diet is known to promote weight loss. There are so many studies that link raw foods with low amounts of body fat. Here are some of these studies.
A study on people following raw diets for over 3 ½ years showed that the individuals lost between 10kg and 12kg. The study also showed that the participants who had the highest percentage of raw foods in their diet had the lowest BMIs (4).
A study on individuals who followed a raw vegan food plan showed that they had a body fat percentage of between 7 to 9.4 % (8). This is lower compared to people on normal diets.
This food plan also promotes weight loss due to the fact that most of the foods on this diet are low in calories and high in fiber. Fiber is known to have a filling effect. This makes a person feel full for a longer period hence reducing the calorie intake.
These studies prove that the raw vegan meal plan is quite effective when it comes to weight loss. However, there is a problem associated with this diet. The problem is that this food plan can sometimes be too good at promoting weight loss that it can lead to individuals being underweight and lead to complications such as amenorrhea and low bone mass.
A study was conducted in 1999 to examine the relationship between long-term raw food diets and body weight. The study found out that the body mass index was below the normal weight range in almost 15% of the men in the study and 25% of the women. In addition to this, almost 30% of the women in that study under the age of 45 years had partial or complete absence of menstrual periods. This was observed in individuals whose diet was composed of 90% or more raw food. This is one of the problems with this diet (4).
Benefits Of The Raw Vegan Diet
The many benefits of this diet is the reason so many people are adopting it. Here are some of the benefits:
This Food Plan Is Highly Nutritious (14)
The saying, ‘an apple a day…’ didn’t just come out of nowhere. This diet is mainly composed of fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables. All these foods are highly nutritious. These foods contain many vitamins and mineral salts. These are useful in promoting one’s health and overall wellness.
To add to that, cooking is said to destroy some nutrients in food. Examples of nutrients destroyed this way include vitamin B and C. Eating foods with these nutrients raw helps preserve them.
This Diet Promotes Healthy Eating (14)
There are so many unhealthy foods not allowed on this diet. Processed and refined foods are an example. Processed foods usually contain added sugars, saturated fats, and other unhealthy components. These unhealthy components in processed food can lead to inflammation of blood vessels and also many heart conditions. Being on a raw vegan diet cuts the risk of contracting such diseases.
This Diet Promotes Retention Of Enzymes In Food (14)
Apart from nutrients, cooking is also said to destroy enzymes in food (10). Enzymes are important to our bodies. Enzymes help in breaking down food so that the body can absorb the different nutrients in the food (11). There are different enzymes responsible for breaking down different nutrients. For example, enzyme amylase is responsible for breaking down starch and sugar. If you lack the necessary enzymes, your body is not able to fully absorb the nutrients it needs. This can lead to malnutrition among many other things.The raw vegan diet may be responsible for preserving the enzymes in food.
Another benefit of this diet includes better digestion due to the high fiber content in the foods you are encouraged to consume when on this diet. It also promotes weight loss and clearer skin.
Risks Associated With The Raw Vegan Food Plan
Just like any diet, there are some risks and misconceptions associated with this diet. One major risk is the lack of some important nutrients that can only be found in animal foods.
A study that was published in 2005 showed that raw vegetarian diet is associated with low bone mass.
The raw vegan diet is based on the belief that cooking destroys the natural enzymes in food. This is true, but that does not mean that the nutrients won’t be absorbed. This is because the body produces its own enzymes (12). These enzymes are responsible for digestion as well as other chemical processes.
The raw vegan diet also believes that cooking destroys nutrients in food. This is true especially for water soluble vitamins like vitamin B and C. While cooking does destroy some nutrients, it increases the availability of other nutrients (1). Examples of such nutrients include lycopene and beta-carotene. Hence people on this diet are likely to miss or have little amounts of these nutrients.
Cooking is also important for making food safe. What does this mean? Cooking helps destroy some harmful compounds in food. If you cook legumes, you reduce lectins and phytic acid. These two compounds can prevent absorption of minerals if they are in large quantities (1). Cooking also helps kill bacteria that may cause foodborne illness.
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Tips For Starting A Raw Vegan Diet
This diet is highly restrictive. Here are some tips that can make the transition into this diet a little bit easy.
This is not an easy diet hence you should not just jump into it. Try as much as possible to get into this diet slowly. Start by swapping out one meal of the day for a raw vegan meal. If it wasn’t a shock to the system and you feel fine, next try a day of full raw vegan meal, then two days and so on, until you are fully comfortable following this diet.
Do It With Others (15)
Everything becomes easier when done with other people. Find friends, colleagues, relatives who would like to try such a diet and try it with them. This will keep you accountable and motivated.
Ask An Expert For Help
When you think of trying this diet, the first person you should ask for advice is a dietician. They will tell you if the diet is good for you and how to follow the diet.
Try Fun Raw Vegan Recipes (11)
For a diet to be sustainable it has to be enjoyable. One way to make this diet enjoyable is by trying many different recipes. This helps prevent you from getting bored with the diet.
Stock Up On The Necessary Ingredients
Find out all the things you may need to follow this diet and go get them. If it means buying a dehydrator, then go ahead and buy one. It will make your raw vegan journey less bumpy.
The Bottom Line
The raw vegan meal plan has numerous advantages, but also comes with serious risks. If you are looking for a diet to help you lose weight and reset your body, this could be the diet you should go for. But think twice before doing it long-term and before jumping into any diet, always consult a healthcare professional.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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