Focus On: The Raw Food Diet

Raw food is sexy.

Make dumpling thumb 565x377

[photo source]

There’s really no other way to put it.

Even though I’ve strayed from my mostly-raw ways of the past, it is a lifestyle that I enjoy and (for the most part) support. In this post, you’ll find more details about a high-raw life and why it didn’t really work for me.

What does it mean to eat raw? The basis of the raw food diet is that the nutritional value of food decreases when foods are heated past 105 degrees (some will go as high as 118 degrees). By consuming food in an uncooked state, they are getting a higher density of nutrients, while utilizing only plant-based, whole foods. Upon hearing this description, you may visualize simple raw foods such as pureed raw veggie soups, chopped salads and smoothies, but a variety of cooking methods are used, including fermentation, dehydration, sous vide and sprouting.

Coconut

(And coconut hacking.)

It’s fairly easy to get fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds to mimic the conventional or animal-based foods many of us consume. Mandolin slicers transform squashes and root veggies into “pasta,”

Spspaghetti

cashews are soaked and blended with nutritional yeast and spices to resemble cheese, and hearty mushrooms can serve as the proverbial meat.

Pizza 1

(Totally raw pizza I made for a client)

As I mentioned above, raw food can be strikingly beautiful, as the vibrant colors and textures of the foods are showcased instead of squandered. At the same time, it can also be a brownish green bowl of pureed salad 😉 Some of my all-time favorite meals and treats are inherently raw.

Here are some of the pros and cons I experienced while learning more about this diet, which was about 3 years ago:

Pros:

-Energy and vibrance. When I was following an almost entirely raw diet, my skin looked the best it’s ever looked. I felt energized and really enjoyed experimenting with all the new-to-me foods, like sea veggies and Thai coconuts.

Aniphyo

(The awkward moment when all I could say to Ani Phyo was that I love her donut holes.)

-Improved digestion. Unprocessed foods are much easier for the body to digest, so it can take what it needs and get rid of the rest with considerably less difficulty. Improved digestion can lead to weight loss (which I didn’t experience), and less bloating or stomach issues. This may be TMI but sometimes I was extremely bloated from eating so many fruit and veggie servings.

-It can be fairly simple. Just like anything, if you have a plan in place, you can prep and make it happen. The basics of raw food (green juice, robust salads, pureed smoothies and soups) can easily be implemented into a busy lifestyle.

Juice and fruit  1 of 1

-It helps to restore the body’s pH balance. Raw foods are alkalizing and by consuming them in an unprocessed state, many of them are highly bioavailable, meaning the nutrients are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

-It can contribute to a green style of living. When you consume less animal products, it can have a positive impact on the environment from less waste and pollution. Even if you roll with organic produce, it’s also beneficial to be mindful its source, as organic produce with a long transport contributes to pollution.

Cons:

-Some foods have more nutrients when they’re cooked, such as tomatoes. Some foods also just taste better when they’ve been cooked. Many raw foodists follow a mostly raw diet, eating either raw until dinner, or adding in some cooked grains or steamed vegetables. I find that it’s easier to follow as a lifestyle that way, as you’re getting the best of both worlds: nutrient-dense raw foods + the cooked foods you enjoy.

Dinner  1 of 1 2

(This is also a good option for those who don’t want to fully commit to a vegan lifestyle, but would like to include more plant-based meals)

-Too many nuts and sugars. This was just a personal problem that I experienced with the raw food diet. Instead of emphasizing the basics, I was always trying to get fancy and replicate other dishes, hence using way too many nuts, seeds and sugars. I eventually gained weight and started to feel sluggish (which is what any high-fat high-sugar combo will do you you) and the intense preparations complicated my experience. I determined that it wasn’t something I could sustain, or wanted to commit to, in the long run.

-It is very possible to get all of the nutrients you need from a raw style of eating, but in order to do so, supplementation (or thorough nutrition knowledge and research) could be necessary. I would not advise going totally raw (ever), but if you want to add more raw foods into your diet, that could be a good thing. If you’re skeptical or curious, talk to your doctor or a local RD.

At first, the raw food diet can seem to be a severely restrictive style of eating. No animal products, and no cooked but otherwise totally healthy foods? There are some raw food diehards out there, but I don’t personally align with their beliefs.

Instead of thinking of raw foods as restriction (the things you CAN’T have), it’s preferable to focus on increasing the amount of raw foods in your diet and the things you want to ADD, not take away. Have a chopped salad with your lunch, a morning green juice, a fun raw dessert and you’ll get some benefits of the raw lifestyle without taking the staples out that you love.

Thank you to the Pilot for all of the raw dishes you consumed on my behalf. I’ll never forget when we ate at Pure Food and Wine for the first time. His beet “ravioli” was gone in about one bite, and while he liked it, he was starving after dinner. We stopped for pizza on the way back to the hotel.

Favorite recipes:

The BEST raw chocolate tart

My favorite green juice

Red velvet macaroons

Jalapeño crackers

Kale chips and onion bread

 

Resources:

Girl on Raw

Choosing Raw

Crazy Sexy Life

The Raw Food Detox Diet

Ani’s Raw Food Essentials

Everyday Raw

How often do you incorporate raw foods in your diet? What’s a raw recipe or combo that you enjoy? An easy, lovely snack: a medjool date with a smear of almond butter.

xoxo

Gina

More Focus On Diet Posts

 Intermittent Fasting

Weight Watchers

South Beach

Paleo

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Comments

  1. Interesting! I’d always assumed “eating raw” meant any form of a veggie or fruit that wasn’t processed, fried, etc. I didn’t know that there were certain temps that also meant they were raw. I am trying to go more of this route, but not entirely, basically learning to eat more whole foods consistently rather than an allotment of “diet” or low-cal, low-fat foods. Thanks for this post!

  2. I eat a significant amount of raw foods and agree that it does wonders for your skin and digestive system!

  3. Oh great post! I try to incorporate raw foods (in the form of juices and smoothies mostly), since my digestive system isn’t very strong right now, and it’s very hard on my digestive system. I’m sensitive all over and I notice raw food is hard on me, but I know its benefits are really great. It’s just what works for me I suppose.
    Juicing has definitely made my skin improve a ton though!

  4. Really liking this post – so nice to hear a balanced view on raw & vegan diets 🙂

    I don’t know if you’ve heard about Freelee, the Banana Girl? She runs a website (www.30bananasaday.com) and does a variation on the 80/10/10 diet (by Doug Graham) – there’s an all-raw lifestyle you can try, or you can do a mix and have raw for breakfast & lunch, then a cooked evening meal. Anyway, I pretty much follow the ‘Raw til 4’ idea.

    At the minute I’ll have a large fruit smoothie for breakfast (usually 9 or 10 bananas, with some frozen berries & coco water) then some other fruit for lunch (I can happily munch my way through a load of medjool dates, haha) – I try to make sure I consume at least 2,000 cals from fruit each day, then I’ll have a cooked dinner. I’m experimenting with going gluten-free, salt-free and oil-free – I feel like it’s a whole new world, I had no idea it was possible to cook without oil, haha. It’s pretty much high-carb-low-fat…I used to be scared of calories, but now I’m eating upwards of 3,000 cals a day and losing weight/toning up – and I’ve got tons more energy!

  5. I’m happy you pointed out that some foods need to be cooked to release the mineral and vitamin contents in them. A lot of people don’t know the theory that our ancestors cooking food with fire is what catalyzed our evolution because our brains got bigger!

  6. My biggest problem with the raw food diet is the restriction and food obsession that can result from it. I was strictly raw for about 8 months, and I’m pretty sure that was the beginning of my downward spiral into what went on to develop into an eating disorder. Maybe that makes me a little bit biased, but I wouldn’t recommend a raw diet for anyone. While I did experience a lot of health benefits for the first little while, those eventually died away and I was left feeling worse than I ever have… Not to mention the bloating and discomfort from all the roughage. I think that including plenty of raw foods in your daily diet is great, but taking it to the extremes is definitely not.

  7. Marisa Lee says:

    A few years ago, I followed a raw diet until dinner and rarely ate any meats. I lost a significant amount of weight (I was also training for a half marathon) and was told by others that I was too skinny/unhealthy looking. I think one can fall into a trap of not getting enough nutrients on the raw diet, especially protein. I believe that nutrients from their natural sources are the best. This past year, I’ve opened up my diet to more variety, meat, dairy, grains, which enabled me to get pregnant. Although I felt “lighter” on the raw diet, I realized it wasn’t particularly healthy for me.

  8. I freaking love that you’re so “real”. I never look at your lifestyle and think, “Well sure, SHE can do it, but I couldn’t!” These are some awesome suggestions for including more raw food, which is something I’ve been trying to do. Working across from the mall food court, however, is less than helpful in this pursuit.

  9. This is so interesting. I tend to eat a smorgasbord or different healthy eating styles, clean, paleo, raw… I’ve read up on so many tactics that now I’m starting to get confused. My main conundrum is calorie counting. I’m so interested to hear what your stance is on it. Do you count calories? Do you believe that restricting calories restricts your fitness goals? I’m so confused over here. I’m trying to lose weight without losing the muscle.

  10. Haha, the Pilot’s experience reminded me of Sex in the City, when they ate at that raw restaurant and were starving afterwards.

  11. Very interesting post. Honestly, I don’t think I could ever follow a raw diet. I have to say I like getting my protein from meat. I just think for me I would feel too deprived and miss regular food.

  12. My husband probably would have asked for pizza after a raw meal too. 🙂 I used to eat about 80% raw, but these days, I just focus on getting lots of fresh produce in my diet instead- especially since I react poorly to nuts which makes a raw food diet even more restrictive.

  13. Hahaha, isn’t it awful when you spend a pile of money on a super health meal and then are starving afterwards and need to stop for a second meal? We’ve totally done that!

  14. It feels like it was yesterday when you were posting about all your fancy and fun raw eats and classes. I loved those posts. I like the idea of incorporating more raw foods into my diet and I try to rarely use the microwave anymore at all (just stovetop and oven).

    While it is time-consuming and I like meat 🙂 I try and pack raw fruits and veggies to eat as snacks at work. I think even the little things can help, it’s just a process to work on figuring out what makes the most sense for your diet needs and lifestyle. It’s a fun process though – especially when you love food! 🙂

  15. This is definitely not a train that I could get on board with. I know you say not to think about the foods you CAN’T have and focus on what you CAN. Honestly though, I KNOW I’d think about the foods I couldn’t have. I never want to go through life having to tell myself all the time,”I can’t have that.” (Unless, of course, there’s a health reason)
    It’s just not for me but I do believe occasional raw meals and snacks are a good break for my system. I really need to try that raw tart. My mouth waters every time I see it!

    • Fitnessista says:

      that’s why i think being entirely raw isn’t smart or necessary. if you like raw foods, ADD them in instead of removing the foods you love and know work for you.
      let me know if you try the tart! 🙂

  16. I like your idea of adding in raw foods to your diet! I could never go totally raw but I think adding more fruits and veg to a healthy diet is extremely beneficial.

    On a side note, I have to say that I keep trying green juice and it just tastes terrible! I mean you are literally drinking something that tastes like parsley and celery. The only time I like it is when you add in nuts or sugar! Go figure!

  17. While I appreciate the idea of adding raw foods into your diet, I could never do raw…or even the ‘raw until dinner’ sort of approach. It feels much too restricted for me! That being said, I do want to try that tart sometime 😉

  18. I’ve never tried the raw food diet but like many, I am intrigued. As a believer of all things in moderation, I don’t think I’d ever fully commit and since I’m already vegetarian, I don’t need to do it to consume more plant based products, but rather just as something to try and to up my nutrients. 🙂

  19. Going 100% raw is not for me, but I do believe adding more raw foods into our meals is a great idea! 🙂

  20. I love these posts.

    My sister was high raw, vegan for awhile- and it seemed as though she spent most of the day preparing her food. When we would eat together the food she prepared was amazing, but it would have taken her half the day to prepare. It seems like it wasn’t very sustainable for the average person?

    I like a mix of cooked and uncooked- typically my breakfast is raw, as I have a smoothy, and then parts of my lunch and dinner will be cooked and parts uncooked. When it’s winter outside, I would never be able to eat only raw food- I need hot soup to keep me warm!

  21. I love that you’ve tried and tested ask these little styles as you’ve made your way through this journey. Similar to me, but you’ve been way more thorough and dedicated. I’ll never go raw but i already eat plenty of raw. But i sure loved reading the why’s and science behind it. Thanks!

  22. I try to incorporate a lot of juices, smoothies, and salads to my diet – and I agree that it does wonders for your skin and digestion! I’ve been curious about this type of eating for quite some time, though I don’t think I could life the lifestyle.

  23. Thank you for sharing this Gina, it’s so interesting!! I never thought of going raw, I am sure it’s not for me. Though I love to incorporate raw foods into my diet, I am a smoothie monster and I love raw veggies to snack on. But coming from an Eating Disorder I know that anything that goes near restrictive isn’t good for me.

  24. This is a really informative and reasonable post! I love so many raw foods but when I tried going mostly raw, I found that I wasn’t getting in nearly enough calories for my lifestyle. I was starving all the time even though I felt like I was eating plenty. It made me a little skeptical of the diet. Now I just incorporate all the raw foods I like without worrying about exactly how much of my diet is raw. Like you said, best of both worlds.

  25. Great post! I agree, when I ate mostly raw my skin was the clearest it’s ever been, but many times digestion can suffer and calories can be too low or too high (as with too many fats and sugars as you mentioned). I think the easiest way for anyone to incorporate more raw food into their diet is salads or really simpel snack plates with a bunch of veggies on it! Favorite raw snack: carrots and homemade cashew butter!

  26. I loved this post! It was very relevant to my life right now.

    I ate almost 100% raw foods for about two years and felt amazing; super vibrant and healthy, and I was so excited to invent new dishes. I eventually eased out of all raw, as it was difficult to maintain during travel, especially to foreign countries. It is nice now to not stress about finding food that I can eat. I still eat mostly raw, with a few cooked things thrown in during the day. When I have dessert it is usually raw.

  27. I love your focus on posts! I definitely try to include a lot of raw foods in my diet including at least 1 green smoothie a day, and a salad at lunch and or dinner. I agree with you, going completely raw is tricky nutrition wise, but I do strive to get a ton of raw foods in my diet. Favorite super simple raw snack: Almond butter banana green smoothie
    1 tbsp almond butter
    1/2 frozen banana
    huge handful of spinach
    unsweetened almond milk

  28. ” His beet “ravioli” was gone in about one bite, and while he liked it, he was starving after dinner. We stopped for pizza on the way back to the hotel.” <– Haha!

    What a guy 🙂

    Interesting read — thanks for these posts!

  29. Great post Gina! I pretty echo your own thoughts on the raw food diet.
    I like to include some raw foods sheerly out of deliciousness. The kale chip & macaroon aspect of the diet appeals to me :D.
    Xxx

  30. I went Raw for quite some time and it was difficult, always felt sugar highs from the high fruit consumption and my hair fell out (FUN TIMES) either way I still incorporate juices, raw vegetables and at least 40% of my diet is all raw vegan. I love going to a Raw Restaurant and I love Ani, she is a friend of mine and such a beautiful soul! Thank you for sharing your story, I want to learn how to make raw foods so bad but have yet to find the time to go take a class! Love + Shine CourtStar

  31. I was introduced to raw food over a year ago and follow it as closely as possible. I love Ani Phyo and Judita Wignall, too! I follow a little differently though. Everything is raw but lunch. I know, weird. But I like the cooked food- boost in the middle of my day. I also believe in smaller dinners. Your body needs to rest when you sleep- the more food you consume, the more work it has to do to digest it. You don’t want it to be up all night digesting your food!
    Typical day:
    Bfast: Smoothie/Chia seed pudding/overnight oats/bfast cookie
    Lunch: whatever healthy
    Snack: raw fudge/ raw salsa and chips/smoothie
    Dinner: Green smoothie (no almond milk or banana here! Water, greens, citrus, and in-season fruit)

    Plus tea and ACV, and lotsa water.

  32. I have digestive issues similar to IBS and raw food is bad-news-bears for me. Although raw foods are easier to digest then processed foods, lightly cooked foods are easier to digest than raw foods. If I ate raw food all the time I would be constantly bloated and full of gas. If you have digestive issues, a raw diet is probably not the best for you. Focus on lightly cooked veggies (do not overcook them), and you will be getting all of the nutrients you need!
    Plus, I was once told by a nutritionist that eating raw foods because you think they have optimal nutrients is like going on a great vacation with no means of getting there. Raw foods have the most nutrients, but cooking is the first stage of digestion, so when raw our body cannot readily get to those nutrients.

    Just food for thought!

    • I was thinking the same thing about digestion. I can certainly understand the benefits of unprocessed vs processed, but raw veggies are extremely hard to digest for most people! Plus, I just don’t like nuts enough to use them as a complete replacement for meat and eggs.

  33. Great post!!

    I love how eating raw effects my skin… but I can totally see how eating to much nut butter or nuts will hurt the waste line 😉

  34. Hi G! Great post! I just want to chime in that I have been fully raw for almost 7 years, and it totally can be done! Just eat simply, close to the earth, with love and gratitude. Totally important to listen to your body, but it does not have to be complicated 🙂 <3

  35. Hey Gina!

    Thanks for the shout out! I actually agree with pretty much everything you have mentioned and have for sometime. I was only ever 100% at 105 degrees and for a week last year when we were at a detox resort in Thailand. I lost 6kgs in my time at 105 but so many others didn’t due to the high fat content and all the food that abounded. But I do agree on balance and actually NEVER recommend extremes to any of my clients 🙂

    Bravo another great post lady x

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