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Oct. 29 2009 - 5:36 pm | 204 views | 0 recommendations | 9 comments

What about the raw diet?

I’ve had a number of folks ask my opinion on the raw diet.  I think people view the raw diet as a natural progression after becoming vegan - part of a dietary evolution.  I don’t.  While some people become raw foodists after being vegan for a peiod of time, others move into the raw food diet without ever being vegan.  And, since there are variations on the raw diet that are very unvegan (ex: raw milk), a raw diet doesn’t necessarily evolve from one that is vegan.

A raw diet is comprised of foods that are not cooked and in a very natural and whole state, typically organic and with few processed ingredients (if any).   Foods are not heated above about 46-48 degrees Celsius (114-118 F) to preserve the living energy of the food.  There is a general belief that if someone consumes at least 75% of raw foods in their diet, that they are considered a raw foodist.  I doubt that strict raw foodists agree with this 75% rule, however it seems to be prevalent amongst blogs and other sites.  If you are a raw food vegan, there are no animal products in your diet, such as raw milk, sushi, or honey.  Raw veganism has become a hot marketing trend in cookbooks, food products (ex: energy bars), and restaurant dining.

With all this raw foodism buzz, I think some vegans wonder if they should progress with their dietary changes and become ‘raw’.  Would I?

I estimate that I probably eat about 55-65% raw.  I don’t know if I could, or would ever, eat 100% raw.  Not because I think the diet is uninteresting.  Quite the opposite.  Much like the vegan diet, I think raw foods are greatly misunderstood.  They can be rich in flavor, textures, and exquisitely prepared.  Raw dishes can excite the palate and satisfy any cravings.  I am very intrigued by the raw diet, and incorporate elements in my own cooking and recipes.  Not become fully raw, but rather to enjoy an entirely new branch of vegan cookery that brings new tastes to our table.  I am particularly fond of raw dessert recipes.  Many of them are simpler to prepare than raw entrees, and they are a very healthful way to satisfy that relentless sweet tooth!

Why not eat raw all the time if I love it so much?  It’s simply not for me (and my family) at this time in our lives, and I don’t know if it ever will be.  As a mom raising three children, it would be incredibly challenging to follow a raw diet.  There is a heavy reliance on nuts and seeds on a raw diet.  With children in school, it would be near impossible to pack raw lunches during the week with the prevalence of nut allergies.  I love to eat plenty of raw foods – with every meal.  I feel my digestion benefits from the digestive enzymes in living foods.  However, I notice I do not feel my best if I overdo my consumption of raw foods.  It aggravates my ‘vata’ constitution (Ayurveda).  As a strong vata dosha, I can tend towards eating a lot of cold and raw foods, which creates imbalance for my constitution.  (Ayurveda is fascinating, check out this link through to learn a little more for yourself.)  Also, I think a raw diet can be challenging if you aren’t living in a warm climate that is abundant in a variety of fresh, local organic produce.  Living in Canada, this time of year the variety of organic fruits and veggies is unfortunately waning.   This is the time of year to eat root vegetables, squash, and tubers instead of strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini and fresh basil (sadly).  I don’t know if I could get through fall and winter without cooking up weekly pots of soups, chock full of beans and warm, earthy spices.  Yet, with that soup or stew, I always have a fresh salad on the side – again, the digestive enzymes.   These are just a few reasons that I will not eat fully raw… not to mention that if I yanked baked potatoes, toast, and waffles from our diet, hubby might just sign me up for wife swap!   Nevertheless, I embrace raw foods as a component of my diet, and think eating a large portion of raw, unprocessed foods is very beneficial in our diets.


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    This recipe looks delicious! My husband worked at a raw restaurant in Toronto (Live Organic Food Bar) and they had some incredible raw desserts, often with a coconut or nut base.

    I think too many people still confuse raw food diets with “all salad, all the time” – not even close. Last weekend, I had a great lunch at a raw restaurant in Boston. Walnut-veggie burger with a raw salsa and cashew cheese, on housemade onion bread with kale chips. I would never had made that at home, and it was delicious and so inventive.

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      Goodness, that sounds absolutely amazing, Katie. I haven’t had the opportunity to eat at a raw restaurant, and I’d love to because I too wouldn’t make all of that at home with the time involved to make the ‘bread’, the cheese, burgers, etc. But, wow, I know I’d eat that kind of thing fairly regularly if we had a raw cafe/restaurant nearby!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    While I think we – as a society – should increase our consumption of raw foods, my view is mainly that the foods should not have chemical processing. Still, more raw foods, including but not limited to salads are both tasty and nutritious. Have you considered the notion that cooked foods contributed to our evolution as humans? Below is an excerpt from Michael Pollan’s “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch” (yes – the article goes into eating too many of the wrong things, but also discusses evolution) (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/magazine/02cooking-t.html?pagewanted=all):

    >For Lévi-Strauss, cooking is a metaphor for the human transformation of nature into culture, but in the years since “The Raw and the Cooked,” other anthropologists have begun to take quite literally the idea that cooking is the key to our humanity. Earlier this year, Richard Wrangham, a Harvard anthropologist, published a fascinating book called “Catching Fire,” in which he argues that it was the discovery of cooking by our early ancestors — not tool-making or language or meat-eating — that made us human. By providing our primate forebears with a more energy-dense and easy-to-digest diet, cooked food altered the course of human evolution, allowing our brains to grow bigger (brains are notorious energy guzzlers) and our guts to shrink. It seems that raw food takes much more time and energy to chew and digest, which is why other primates of our size carry around substantially larger digestive tracts and spend many more of their waking hours chewing: up to six hours a day. (That’s nearly as much time as Guy Fieri devotes to the activity.) Also, since cooking detoxifies many foods, it cracked open a treasure trove of nutritious calories unavailable to other animals. Freed from the need to spend our days gathering large quantities of raw food and then chewing (and chewing) it, humans could now devote their time, and their metabolic resources, to other purposes, like creating a culture.

    On a nit-picky note, sushi means seasoned rice – no need to worry about consuming it or vegan nori rolls. Raw fish is sashimi. I get that most people in the U. S. consider sushi to be fish, but if you’ve never eaten a creative nori roll at the vegan restaurant – Angelica’s – in Boone, NC, you haven’t lived it all yet!

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    I totally agree with people thinking that raw is somehow a progression of veganism. I’ve even had someone tell me (derisively) “if you think veganism is so great, just look at the raw foods people!” Um… huh? There is absolutely no ethical imperative to ‘go raw, quite unlike veganism. Great article, as always! :) -Eve

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    About Me

    I am the author of bestselling vegan cookbooks including "eat, drink & be vegan". I am a stay-at-home mom of 3 young children, and find time to cook, bake, create recipes, and blog somewhere in the day between feeding the kiddos, diapers, nursing babe, laundry, cleaning dishes, cleaning house, cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning... school drop-offs and pick-ups, and activities. Nap anyone?

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    Contributor Since: June 2009