7-Day Plan to Start a Raw Food, Vegan Diet
By Taylor Jones
The raw food diet has been around since the 1800s, but has surged in popularity in recent years.
Its supporters believe that consuming mostly raw foods is ideal for human health and has many benefits, including weight loss and better overall health.
However, health experts warn that eating a mostly raw diet may lead to negative health consequences.
This article reviews the good and bad of the raw food diet, as well as how it works.
What Is the Raw Food Diet?
The raw food diet, often called raw foodism or raw veganism, is composed of mostly or completely raw and unprocessed foods.
A food is considered raw if it has never been heated more than 104–118 F (40–48C). It should also not be refined, pasteurized, treated with pesticides or otherwise processed in any way.
Instead, the diet allows several alternative preparation methods, such as juicing, blending, dehydrating, soaking and sprouting.
Similar to veganism, the raw food diet is usually plant-based, being made up mostly of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
While most raw food diets are completely plant-based, some people also consume raw eggs and dairy. Less commonly, raw fish and meat may be included as well.
Additionally, taking supplements is typically discouraged on the raw food diet. Proponents often claim that the diet will give you all the nutrients you need.
Supporters also believe that cooking foods is harmful to human health because it destroys the natural enzymes in foods, reduces their nutrient content and reduces the "life force" that they believe to exist in all raw or "living" foods.
People follow the raw food diet for the benefits they believe it has, including weight loss, improved vitality, increased energy, improvement to chronic diseases, improved overall health and a reduced impact on the environment.
Summary: The raw food diet is made up mostly of foods that have not been processed or heated over a certain temperature.
How to Follow the Raw Food Diet
To follow the raw food diet, make sure at least 75 percent of the food you eat is raw.
Most raw food diets are made primarily of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Grains and legumes are often permitted as well, but usually need to be soaked or sprouted before you eat them.
Foods to Eat
- All fresh fruits
- All raw vegetables
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Raw grains and legumes, sprouted or soaked
- Dried fruits and meats
- Nut milks
- Raw nut butters
- Cold-pressed olive and coconut oils
- Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut
- Raw eggs or dairy, if desired
- Raw meat or fish, if desired
Foods to Avoid
- 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
- Other processed foods and snacks
Summary: The raw food diet is made up of foods that have never been cooked. Processed and refined foods are discouraged.
Is Raw Food Healthier Than Cooked Food?
Raw food diet supporters believe that eating mostly or all raw food is ideal for human health.
However, like many of the core beliefs behind the raw food diet, this idea is not backed by science.
In fact, research shows that both cooked and raw foods have health benefits.
One of the main reasons the raw food diet discourages cooking is because of the belief that cooking destroys the natural enzymes in foods. The diet's advocates believe that these enzymes are vital to human health and digestion.
In fact, the body already produces its own enzymes to facilitate chemical processes including digestion and energy production (3).
Another core belief behind the raw food diet is that cooking destroys the nutrient content of foods.
Cooking also helps inactivate or destroy some harmful compounds in food. For example, cooking grains and legumes reduces lectins and phytic acid. In large quantities, these can block your body from absorbing minerals (9, 10).
Additionally, cooking also kills harmful bacteria (11).
For these reasons, it's important to eat a variety of both raw and cooked foods. To learn more about the benefits of raw versus cooked foods, check out this article.
Summary: Raw food is not any healthier than cooked food. Cooking decreases some nutrients, yet increases others. It also destroys certain harmful compounds and kills bacteria.
Nutrition Review: Pros and Cons
A raw food diet has some positive points. Mainly, it is very high in fresh fruits and vegetables. It also incorporates other foods that are high in nutrients and fiber.
To its credit, a raw food diet limits the intake of foods known to contribute to poor health if you eat them in excess, such as processed junk foods and added sugar.
Additionally, a raw food diet nearly guarantees weight loss because it is low in calories. Yet despite this, there are also many cons to a raw food diet.
When someone switches from a mostly cooked diet to a mostly raw diet, their calorie intake is likely to decrease dramatically. Some people may not find it possible to eat enough raw food to meet their daily calorie needs (12, 13).
This is partially because fruits and vegetables, though healthy, simply don't provide enough calories or protein to make up the majority of the diet.
Additionally, cooking increases the digestibility of foods, making it easier for your body to get calories and nutrients from them. In some cases, your body gets significantly fewer calories from a food if it's raw (14, 15).
Finally, raw diets tend to be nutritionally unbalanced because they must be mostly made up of either fats or fruits to meet calorie needs (13).
This means raw diets may be deficient not only in calories, but also in some vitamins, minerals and protein (13).
Summary: Raw food diets are made up of healthy foods and are likely to cause weight loss, but they are often too low in calories and some nutrients.
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After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.
Seven day rolling average of number of people confirmed to have COVID-19, per day (not including today). This chart gets updated once per day with data by Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins university doesn't provide reliable data for March 12 and March 13. Johns Hopkins CSSE Get the data
To Have a Second Wave, the First Wave Needs to End.<p>A wave of an infection describes a large rise and fall in the number of cases. There isn't a precise epidemiological definition of when a wave begins or ends.</p><p>But with talk of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/new-covid-19-clusters-across-world-spark-fear-of-second-wave" target="_blank">second wave in the news</a>, as an <a href="https://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/mhawkins.cfm" target="_blank">epidemiologist and public health researcher</a>, I think there are two necessary factors that must be met before we can colloquially declare a second wave.</p><p>First, the virus would have to be controlled and transmission brought down to a very low level. That would be the end of the first wave. Then, the virus would need to reappear and result in a large increase in cases and hospitalizations.</p><p>Many countries in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0908-8" target="_blank">Europe and Asia have successfully ended the first wave</a>. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/08/new-zealand-abandons-covid-19-restrictions-after-nation-declared-no-cases" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> and <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus" target="_blank">Iceland</a> have also made it through their first waves and are now essentially coronavirus-free, with very low levels of community transmission and only a handful of active cases currently.</p>
Different States, Different Trends<p>Looking at U.S. numbers as a whole hides what is really going on. Different states are in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html" target="_blank">vastly different situations right now</a> and when you look at states individually, four major categories emerge.</p><ol><li>Places where the first wave is ending: States in the Northeast and a few scattered elsewhere experienced large initial spikes but were able to mostly contain the virus and substantially brought down new infections. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/new-york-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">New York</a> is a good example of this.</li><li>Places still in the first wave: Several states in the South and West – see <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/texas-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Texas</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/california-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">California</a> – had some cases early on, but are now seeing massive surges with no sign of slowing down.</li><li>Places in between: Many states were hit early in the first wave, managed to slow it down, but are either at a plateau – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/north-dakota-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">North Dakota</a> – or are now seeing steep increases – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/oklahoma-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Oklahoma</a>.</li><li>Places experiencing local second waves: Looking only at a state level, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/hawaii-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Hawaii</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/montana-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Montana</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/alaska-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Alaska</a> could be said to be experiencing second waves. Each state experienced relatively small initial outbreaks and was able to reduce spread to single digits of daily new confirmed cases, but are now all seeing spikes again.</li></ol><p>The trends aren't surprising based on how states have been dealing with reopening. The virus will go wherever there are susceptible people and until the U.S. stops community spread across the entire country, the first wave isn't over.</p>
What Could a Second Wave Look Like?<p>It is possible – though at this point it seems unlikely – that the U.S. could control the virus before a vaccine is developed. If that happens, it would be time to start thinking about a second wave. The question of what it might look like depends in large part on everyone's actions.</p><p>The <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1086%2F592454" target="_blank">1918 flu pandemic</a> was characterized by a mild first wave in the winter of 1917-1918 that went away in summer. After restrictions were lifted, people very quickly went back to pre-pandemic life. But a second, deadlier strain came back in fall of 1918 and third in spring of 1919. In total, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm" target="_blank">more than 500 million people were infected</a> worldwide and upwards of <a href="https://theconversation.com/compare-the-flu-pandemic-of-1918-and-covid-19-with-caution-the-past-is-not-a-prediction-138895" target="_blank">50 million died</a> over the course of three waves.</p><p>It was the combination of a quick return to normal life and a mutation in the flu's genome that made it more deadly that led to the horrific second and third waves.</p><p>Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be much more <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104351" target="_blank">genetically stable</a> than the influenza virus, and thus less likely to mutate into a more deadly variant. That leaves human behavior as the main risk factor.</p><p>Until a <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-needs-to-go-right-to-get-a-coronavirus-vaccine-in-12-18-months-136816" target="_blank">vaccine or effective treatment is developed</a>, the tried-and-true public health measures of the last months – <a href="https://theconversation.com/this-simple-model-shows-the-importance-of-wearing-masks-and-social-distancing-140423" target="_blank">social distancing,</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/masks-help-stop-the-spread-of-coronavirus-the-science-is-simple-and-im-one-of-100-experts-urging-governors-to-require-public-mask-wearing-138507" target="_blank">universal mask wearing</a>, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces – are the ways to stop the first wave and thwart a second one. And when there are surges like what is happening now in the U.S., further reopening plans need to be put on hold.</p>
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