Perhaps you’ve already overindulged in the chocolate churros and Tofurky, or perhaps you’ve always wanted to go raw but didn’t know how.
Either way, deciding to go raw can feel like a big deal – and one that loads of people (both vegans and non-vegans) write off as ‘wellness gone mad’.
With devotees like Freelee the Banana Girl making regular headlines in the Daily Mail for her seemingly bombastic lifestyle choices, it’s hardly a surprise that the diet is often met with doubt.
Vegan raw food diet
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. Not all raw foodists are vegan – some even consume raw meat.
It essentially involves getting the majority of your daily intake from uncooked food – i.e. that hasn’t been heated above 48C.
So you can still have nut milks and butters, dried fruits, veg, fermented foods and powdered nutrients, but you’re supposed to avoid cooked or processed food, table salt, refined sugar and flour, tea, coffee, and alcohol.
Pros of a raw diet
Fans claim that consuming mainly uncooked food can help maintain a healthy weight, prevent and fight chronic disease, and maintain the nutritional makeup of foods.
They say cooking can destroy certain vitamins like B and C, so raw food maintains its nutritional value.
So, just how safe is it?
Cons of a raw diet
Well, it’s not without its critics. It’s hard to get a good load of protein, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and vitamin D if you’re not having foods like tofu, which tends to be cooked.
There are also some foods that you really can’t eat raw.
Parsnips are toxic if not cooked, as are alfalfa sprouts, cassavas, kidney beans, and buckwheat. And it also seems to be tremendously hard if you don’t like bananas.
Plant Based News asked Adam Stansbury, The Plant Powered PT, what he thought of it – he essentially said it was a case of horses for courses.
“I’m a believer in a balanced plant-based diet, so would encourage people to eat one that is a blend of cooked and raw food, as both can be beneficial. Some people might thrive on it and some people may not, it’s all about working out what’s right for you and not getting caught up in nutritional dogma and BS.
“I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to live on just a raw food diet in the winter – I love stews and soups for warming so wouldn’t want to miss out, plus cooking can increase the bioavailability of nutrients in some foods such as tomatoes, carrots, sweet potato, and spinach.
“In the summer, however, I do eat much more raw food, because then I’m looking for foods that are more cooling.”
Giving raw a go
But that definitely doesn’t mean that he’d try to discourage anyone from giving it a go if they wanted to try raw veganism.
“I try and step away from diets and labels,” he said.
“I encourage lots of real food, whether its raw or cooked, but most of all I encourage an approach that works for your body and lifestyle.”
Raw vegan online
There are quite a few raw advocates online who have huge followings.
The #rawvegan, has well over 3 million posts, while bloggers like Cami, AKA @rawveganarg has nearly 16,000 followers. They share daily pictures of delicious looking buddha bowls, cheesecakes, and muffins.
But the poster boy for the movement in recent times has been Timothy Shieff, who was primarily a fruitarian, until he admitted to eating some eggs and salmon.
It’s almost like people become evangelical about such an extreme lifestyle choice and then find it hard to sustain – so regress even further back towards old habits.
“That’s the trouble with not having enough balance in your life and going too extreme with anything – you create such rigid walls around you from your belief systems that might work short term but might actually hinder you in the long term,” says Stansbury.
“I can’t comment on Tim’s issues, but getting a blood test would be a good place to start, to see if and where you are actually deficient and then adopting a more balanced approach to eating would give you a much more diverse range of nutrient sources and make following your dietary approach slightly less rigid and more inclusive.”
Raw vegan diet – a study
In 1997, scientists got 43 participants with rheumatoid arthritis to consume either a raw, vegan diet rich in lactobacilli or their regular omnivorous diet for one month.
The participants in the vegan group received pre-packed, probiotic-rich raw meals for the duration of the study. Gut flora was measured through stool samples. Disease activity was evaluated through the use of several questionnaires.
The result? The raw vegan group saw ‘significant’ improvements in their symptoms, while there was no difference in the other group.
The same study found that raw vegans lost nine percent of their body weight compared to an omnivorous diet for three months.
Part-time raw vegan diet?
So there might well be benefits to going raw, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
Maybe it’s better to follow a Raw Till 4 kind of plan, which gives you a break for your last meal of the day and means that you’ll still have a social life.
Saying that, places like Purezza offer raw options for every course…so if you want to give raw a go, you can still live your best pizza life.