You may have heard the term “raw food diet.” Health and wellness coaches put a lot of emphasis on eating more fruits and vegetables in general to support overall health. Some take the recommendation a step further and tout the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables raw. While there is no one way of eating that is best for everyone, the question remains: are the raw foodism or raw vegan lifestyles good for your health?
Raw foodism is a dietary practice that involves eating only uncooked and unprocessed foods. Also known as rawism, a raw diet may include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, as well as raw eggs, raw meat, raw fish, and dairy foods. The exact lifestyle and philosophy of someone who follows a raw food diet will vary from one individual to another.
For example, some practitioners of raw foodism choose to include minimally processed foods such as naturally-aged cheese and sprouted seeds, and fermented foods like yogurts, kombucha, and sauerkraut. However, they generally avoid food products that have been produced with the use of synthetic pesticides, solvents, fertilizers, and food additives.
What exactly is Raw Foodism?
Raw foodism refers to the dietary practice of eating plant and animal parts that are eaten raw as well as food items that are minimally processed. People who follow this strict diet typically avoid foods that have been heated over 40 °C (104 °F). They believe that cooking food above this temperature will cause it to lose most of its nutritional value. When they eat meat, they make sure it is not cooked above that particular temperature.
Raw foodism has been described as a fad diet by the British Dietetic Association because it eliminates all cooked foods from the diet without scientific evidence that it is beneficial for health to do so. Raw veganism may not damage your health in the short-term, but it could be damaging in the long-term if the diet is not balanced.
While some people who follow a raw food diet eat animal meat, others follow a vegan raw food diet which excludes all animal products. Among vegans who follow the raw food diet, there are subgroups that have more specific dietary restrictions. Examples include fruitarians, juicearians, and sproutarians, among others. Want to learn more about a plant-based diet? Fitness professionals can enroll in our plant-based nutrition certification program.
A fruitarian diet refers to a subgroup of raw veganism that primarily involves the consumption of fruit, vegetables, and nuts and seeds in moderation. While fruits and vegetables are generally rich in carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and antioxidants, the diet delivers limited protein and fats.
Some fruitarians take dietary supplements to balance their nutritional needs. Followers of this diet may make modifications to fit their needs and lifestyles, but generally 55% to 75% of their diets will consist of raw fruit.
Juicearians consume only fruit and vegetable juices. Juicearians seek to improve their health by consuming freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices.
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of essential nutrients like iron, copper, sodium, magnesium, iodine, potassium, and Vitamins A, C, and E. The idea is that nutrients in juice form are easier for the body to digest and absorb.
However, as you can imagine, in addition to falling short in proteins and fats, the diet delivers almost no fiber. It is also very difficult to meet energy needs with this diet.
Sproutarians are people who only eat sprouted foods. Sprouts contain all the elements a plant needs for life and growth, which means they are very nutritious. They are also generally easy to grow so some people make it into a regular practice or hobby.
However, like with the other categories of raw veganism, it is difficult to meet all nutrient needs with such a limited group of foods.
Is Raw Foodism Good For You?
As you may already know, a well-balanced diet consisting of a variety of foods is instrumental for achieving short- and long-term health and fitness goals. The bottom line is that you need a lifestyle that is going to give you the fuel you need around the clock.
While raw food is often high in vitamins and minerals, our bodies aren’t built to break down the fibrous structures of raw vegetables to access all of those nutrients. And you’re likely no stranger to the raw food disclaimer—the risks of consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, etc. Plus, there are a variety of different nutritious foods that are proven to deliver numerous health benefits that just can’t be consumed in their raw states.
A raw diet is undoubtedly extremely limited and difficult to follow. It is easy to fall short in nutrient intake, especially in essential fats and amino acids. If you are looking to improve your nutrition and health, consider looking into the benefits of replacing ultra-processed foods with fresh, nourishing, local food. With this mentality, you can incorporate raw foods into your diet while still consuming the foods that you enjoy cooked.