7-Day Plan to Start a Raw Food, Vegan Diet
Health Benefits Review: Pros and Cons
Like most of the beliefs behind the raw food diet, many of the supposed health benefits are not supported by evidence.
Some studies have found the raw food diet to have positive health effects, but much of the research has found it has negative effects.
One study of people following a raw food diet found that it lowered blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, it also lowered "healthy" HDL cholesterol levels and led to a vitamin-B12 deficiency for many (16).
Another study found that people following a raw diet over long periods of time had an increased risk of tooth erosion (13).
Nevertheless, studies have consistently found that the raw food diet is associated with having less body fat.
One study of participants following a raw diet long-term found that it was associated with large losses of body fat (12).
Men lost an average of 21.8 pounds (9.9 kg) after switching to a raw diet and women lost an average of 26.4 pounds (12 kg). However, 15 percent of men and 25 percent of women in the study were also underweight.
Additionally, 70 percent of women on the diet experienced irregularities in their menstrual cycle. And nearly one-third of women developed amenorrhea, meaning they stopping menstruating, which can be a consequence of low body weight.
Another small study found that people following a raw vegan diet had significantly lower calorie intake and body fat than those who weren't following the diet. Nonetheless, they also had low protein, calcium and vitamin D intakes (13).
Overall, following a raw food diet may lead to weight loss or even improve some markers of health, such as blood lipids. But despite this, the significant risk of negative health effects outweighs the potential benefits of this diet.
Summary: Evidence shows that raw food diets are associated with losing body fat. However, they are also associated with serious negative health consequences and the negatives outweigh the positives.
A raw food diet can vary based on the foods that are allowed and the dieter's food preferences.
If you decide to try a raw food diet, here is an example of what one week on a 100 percent raw food vegan diet might look like.
- Breakfast: Green smoothie
- Snack: Carrots and raw hummus
- Lunch: Raw squash noodle pasta with pesto
- Snack: Strawberries and almonds
- Dinner: Raw vegetable pizza
- Breakfast: Chia seed pudding with fruit
- Lunch: Apple and walnut salad
- Snack: Freshly squeezed juice and nuts
- Dinner: Raw zucchini noodle pasta with tomato sauce and basil
- Breakfast: Overnight oatmeal with chopped fruit and nuts
- Snack: Broccoli and raw hummus
- Snack: Raw sweet potato chips and fruit
- Dinner: Stuffed portobello mushrooms
- Breakfast: Fruit bowl
- Lunch: Salad with figs and nuts
- Snack: Banana and raw nut butter
- Dinner: Raw lasagna
- Breakfast: Green smoothie
- Lunch: Sprouted quinoa Buddha bowl
- Snack: Apple and berries
- Breakfast: Soaked oats with berries
- Lunch: Salad with avocado and fruit
- Snack: Sliced bell pepper and sunflower seeds
- Dinner: Raw veggie sushi and chopped veggies
- Breakfast: Raw banana pancakes and fruit
- Lunch: Raw squash soup
- Snack: Orange slices and nuts
- Dinner: Kale and mushroom salad
Is the Raw Food Diet Safe and Sustainable?
In the short-term, the raw food diet is not likely to pose major health concerns.
However, you may develop problems if you follow the diet long-term.
A mostly raw diet makes it difficult to get enough calories, protein and certain vitamins and minerals.
Some people may not be able to get enough calories from this diet. The evidence also shows that the larger the proportion of raw food in your diet, the higher the risk of negative effects (12).
Unless you take supplements, you may develop problems from nutrient inadequacies over time as your body's vitamin and mineral stores are used up. Vitamin B12 and vitamin D are particularly hard to get in raw vegan diets.
However, even nutrition supplements cannot make up for a lack of calories and protein in the diet.
Additionally, the risk of being exposed to a foodborne illness is increased when you consume foods raw (17).
Lastly, a raw food diet can be challenging to keep up for several reasons.
For starters, food choices are very limited and avoiding cooked foods makes it difficult to go out to eat or to eat with friends.
Avoiding cooked foods also means that food preparation methods are very limited, so a raw food diet can get boring. Many people also find eating only cold foods to be undesirable.
Lastly, it can be expensive to buy so much fresh, organic produce, not to mention time consuming to plan and prepare.
Summary: The raw food diet is probably not harmful in the short-term, but you may experience negative effects if you follow it in the long-term.
The Bottom Line
Fresh, raw foods are a valuable part of a healthy diet. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Cooking is important to make certain foods and nutrients more digestible.
A completely or even mostly raw diet is likely to cause weight loss, but also makes it difficult to meet your nutritional needs.
In the end, eating a combination of cooked and raw foods is ideal for your health.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.