Raw Food Diet: Risks, Benefits & Easy Recipes

Raw Vegan Juice
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Rohtopia

There are a number of nutritional trends that are growing in popularity – following a raw food and vegan diet are some of them. Find out here what the raw food and vegan diet is, how it works, and what you should bear in mind when making a change.

A raw food diet is any long-term nutritional plan which consists exclusively or to a large extent (some sources give a value of three-quarters) of unheated vegetable – and, occasionally, animal – products. The raw food diet, naturally enough, abstains from all animal products and is, therefore, a special form of veganism.

Fruits and vegetables, salads and greens, mushrooms, nuts, and seeds are the building blocks of the raw food diet. Its advocates’ main aim is to preserve the heat-sensitive vitamins, trace elements, and minerals in their food.

In this article, we’ll look at the numerous potential risks, but also the many benefits, of a raw food diet. Then we’ll discuss how to implement it in your everyday life with a few simple tips.

Raw Food Diet: Foods to Include and How to Prepare Them

Pickles Fermentation
Fermentation and pickling are great ways of making raw vegetables last longer. (Photo: CC0 / Unsplash / Brooke Lark)

Raw vegans don’t just nibble raw vegetable sticks! They eat a more varied diet than you might think. Here are just a few foods to include in your raw food diet for a variety of important nutrients.

  • There’s plenty of calcium in a green vegetable juice of broccoli, fennel, or kale.
  • You can prevent zinc and iron deficiency by eating pumpkin seeds, unpeeled flax seeds, and sesame seeds.
  • Certain essential fatty acids can also be obtained from high-fat foods such as avocados or olives. (Bear in mind that most tinned olives have undergone a cooking process during manufacturing).

There are also various preparation methods that require little or no heat. They all result in an amazing abundance of raw food recipes that are also vegan.

  • Soaking: You’ll mainly be using this method for nuts and beans. One the hand, this makes them easier to process; on the other hand, certain beans start to germinate after a soaking period, which can have a positive effect on digestion – if eaten in moderation. Not all nuts have to be soaked though – as this raw vegan recipe for brownies shows.
  • Dehydration: In this process, food is dried for several hours in a kitchen dehydrator (available for example on Amazon**) or at lower heat in a convection oven, thus preserving it. Among other things, vegetable chips and raw vegetable bread can be produced in this way.
  • Pureeing: Fruit and vegetable juices made from all kinds of ingredients are a great addition to the raw vegan cookbook. You can also prepare smoothies and raw vegan soups in this way. Here’s one recipe to try: DIY Pumpkin Smoothie – An Easy, Healthy Recipe
  • Fermentation: The fermentation process retains all a product’s nutrients and forms lactic acid bacteria, which promote a healthy intestinal flora. Cabbage is a popular candidate for fermentation – the process makes it more digestible – but almost all vegetables are suitable. Check out our guide on how to ferment vegetables.

Risks: Dangerous Raw Foods and Potential Nutrition Deficiencies

Raw Potatoes
Potatoes are one of several vegetables which can be poisonous if eaten raw. (Photo: CC0 / Unsplash / Nicolas Dmitrichev)

Of course, almost all conventional diets include some raw food, without any inherent risks. Still, there are a number of things to be aware of if you’re switching to a raw food diet.

  • Not all vegetables can be consumed raw. This is particularly true of potatoes, aubergines, beans, rhubarb, cassava, and legumes or pulses. You should always cook these foods thoroughly before consumption. One of the few pulses that can be eaten raw is the sugar snap pea.
  • You should be particularly careful if you go foraging for wild herbs and mushrooms that you intend to eat raw. There is often a high risk of confusion with poisonous specimens.
  • Note: Eating only raw foods puts more strain on your teeth than a regular diet. You should therefore make sure that you eat fruit and vegetables not only as a whole, but also grated or pureed.

As with veganism in general, there are certain nutritional deficiencies that practitioners of a raw food diet that is also vegan have to watch out for. One vitamin likely to be missing from many vegetarian and vegan diets is vitamin B12. The only proven sources for this are animal products or dietary supplements. Other important elements lacking in a raw food diet may be vitamin D, zinc, iron, and calcium.

Consequently, if you are moving to a 100 percent raw food and vegan diet, it is advisable to have regular medical check-ups to detect possible deficiencies in time. Also important – for everybody, not just vegans! – is to eat as varied as possible, for a good mix in your sources of nutrients.

Raw Vegan Food Diet: Benefits for Your Body and the Planet

Vegan Sushi
There are so many delicious ways to eat healthy raw vegetables! (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Monika Baechler)

Of course, a raw food, vegan diet also has numerous benefits. Any form of nutrition based solely on plants will have any number of positive effects on your health. These include a lower risk for heart disease and diabetes. Improved digestion (because of the increased fiber intake) and weight loss may also be positive side effects.

However, note that these benefits have mostly been proven for traditional vegan or vegetarian diets. There are not enough studies examining the raw food diet specifically to establish whether eating raw is necessarily more beneficial in all cases.

Nevertheless, avoiding many of the things which are automatically off the menu on the raw food diet – foods with too much salt, sugars, alcohol – is going to have a huge positive effect on your health and well-being. In this sense, eating raw is undoubtedly beneficial.

Finally, any diet which reduces or removes its reliance on animal products is going to be good for the environment. We now know that meat and dairy production is soon to overtake oil as the planet’s biggest polluter. And if you’re not using energy to cook at home, that will reduce your carbon footprint, too. Check out our list of tips for preparing food on a raw food diet below.

Summing Up the Raw Food Diet

There are many reasons to consider switching to a raw food diet. There are numerous health benefits, and it’s better for the environment. Last but not least: It’s always a good thing to reconsider our consumer behavior and spend more time on healthy eating.

Still, you shouldn’t rush into a raw food diet. It’s better to increase the proportion of raw foods in your usual diet step by step – this way you won’t immediately overtax your digestive system. Stomach ailments, a feeling of fullness, and even diarrhea are typical symptoms of a rushed conversion to raw food.

Inform yourself beforehand about any new approach to your nutrition by talking to others or by buying a guidebook with detailed tips and information (in your local bookstore or online with Amazon**). If you suffer from chronic deficiency symptoms or diseases, discuss your change in diet with a doctor.

Ultimately: Every person is different and everybody has different needs. If you notice that you don’t feel comfortable with an exclusively raw food diet, you can always reduce the raw food portion as necessary. The most important thing is to eat a balanced diet. You should be taking care of your own health as well as the well-being of animals and the environment.

This article was translated and adpated from German by Will Tayler. You can read the original here: Roh und vegan: Darauf musst du bei dieser Ernährungsform achten

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