Do you think you have to be 100% raw all the time to be a raw foodist or reap the benefits that the raw lifestyle can bring into your life? Or is it possible that a high raw lifestyle might actually be even better for where you’re at in your life right now?
When you first entered into the raw food scene, you may have been overwhelmed with questions that just led to more questions. One person tells you to eat this, another tells you to eat that and often times you’re left with your head spinning and no definitive answer as to what exactly you should be eating. Many evangelists for the raw food movement may have even said that you have to go 100% raw and that cooked food is dead food that will only slow your progress down.
So along the way to coming to your own conclusions you’ve started to hear about the “high raw” lifestyle vs. the 100% raw lifestyle.
What is High Raw exactly?
High raw simply means a large percentage of your diet is raw, while a small percentage of your diet is cooked. Generally that doesn’t include animal products, or fried foods but some baked starches like yams or sweet potatoes, maybe some soaked and cooked grains like quinoa or wild rice, legumes and steamed cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower or collard greens.
Let’s circle back to the “cooked food is dead food that will only slow your progress down” comment for a second though. Is it true? Is cooked food really dead? Will eating some steamed veggies or a baked sweet potato along with a mostly raw food diet ruin all of the progress you have been making to cleanse your body?
Yes and No. Here’s the best answer I can give you. If you’re healing cancer, a chronic dis-ease or something very serious, than going 100% raw for a duration of time as discussed with your holistic physician is certainly something to strongly consider. People have healed themselves of MS, Chronic Fatigue, Diabetes and all sorts of long term or “incurable” illnesses by re-setting their body with raw food. Weight loss also comes naturally to people who choose to nourish their bodies with raw food instead of resorting to calorie restriction.
If you want to go all the way and it doesn’t impede on you being happy and sustained at all times, go for it.
The reason I said Yes and No is because it isn’t really true that all cooked food is dead food. Here’s what is true:
Approximately 85% of the enzymes in your food are destroyed when heated.A large majority of Vitamins are destroyed when heated, or exposed to water through boiling, juices that excrete while baking etc. Some of those Vitamins are:
Vitamin A - Although it is considered “relatively stable” to heat, at a certain point in the cooking process it is destroyed. Sweet potatoes likely still provide you with a source of Vitamin A if they’re baked, but it’s fair to say fried potatoes do not.
Vitamin C - Which is essential for your immune system and protecting you against pre-mature aging, dis-ease, cancer and even depression. So that’s why raw foodies are running around so happy and glowy all the time!
Vitamin B1 - Responsible for helping your body break down natural sugars. A Vitamin B1 deficiency has been linked to diabetes. Another possible reason why centers like the Tree of Life have been found to heal diabetes type 1 and type 2 in short periods of time on a raw food diet.
Vitamin B12 which is sensitive to Water. Another reason why even meat eaters can be deficient in Vitamin B12 is because the juices excreted during the cooking process eliminate the B12 from being absorbed by the body.
With this in mind, what’s the deal with being high raw?
You’ve really got to choose what feels best for you. I went 100% raw for 90 days and totally re-set my body. I shed excess weight, my menstrual cycle that had been MIA for 1 year returned, and my chronic fatigue left town. After that, I chose to integrate some more cooked foods into my diet because that’s what felt right for me. Caleb and I travel a lot, we’re always in between Canada, the US and soon to be other countries. While on the road it’s most likely possible to find fruit somewhere along the way, but in the event that we’re super hungry or we’ve used up our will power for the day having a cooked meal isn’t the end of our world. When we’re in Canada, it gets super cold. Personally, I believe in having some cooked foods when it’s freezing outside. I find a steamed veggie meal, or a big bowl of soup with cruciferous veggies in it can be very grounding for me.
About 90% of my diet is raw, so when I have a cooked food craving I check in with myself before taking the leap. My practice of being self-aware has served me well when it comes to my relationship with food. My cravings for the most part are always fulfilled because I consider them healthful cravings. If you want to stay mostly raw, before you have something cooked just ask yourself a few questions.
- Have you eaten much today? Not getting enough calories can cause unwarranted cravings. Try some fruit first.
- Are you filling an emotional need or a physical need? For example, lightly steaming broccoli actually makes the omega 3′s more accessible to your body – go ahead and eat some steamed broccoli. Craving french fries? Not the best choice.
When being a raw foodist turns into a religion, or has you feeling guilty for craving steamed veggies once in a while it’s time to check in with yourself. I’m not saying there’s no benefit to being 100% raw because there is, but only when you’re truly ready for it and you’re doing it because it’s what you actually want, not what everyone tells you is the right way. Make sense?
Is there a place for cooked food in a raw food diet?
In my opinion and that of many other nutritionists, doctors and raw foodies around the world, yes there is absolutely a place for a small percentage of the diet to be cooked.
Squashes, potatoes, yams, starchy vegetables and legumes should be cooked to be safe for us to eat. A lot of starchy vegetables can be harder to digest when eaten raw, and some legumes are toxic to the body if they are not thoroughly cooked. These foods positively contribute to a healthy and balanced high raw diet. All cooked food is not dead food, and though I have caught myself saying this in the past it’s certainly not true. Steaming a piece of broccoli can make the omega 3′s more accessible and help to break down the goitrogens in the broccoli, the lycopene in a tomato is more accessible when cooked. This doesn’t mean these veggies aren’t beneficial in other ways when eaten raw, so the point is you can have a few cooked meals per week and this will not throw you off path.
In the opinion of M.D Joel Furhman, a 100% raw diet is a disadvantage. While I cannot speak to this, because I personally have expereinced the benefits of a 100% raw and a high raw diet, he makes valiant points based on his experience working with thousands of people. Check it out here.
In our 3 month program How to Go Raw, Not Crazy, we feature meal plans that are “raw until dinner” for anyone who isn’t ready, or has no intention of going all the way raw.
High Raw vs. High Fat
Another great reason to go high raw vs. 100% raw is to avoid the gourmet raw food trap of eating a high fat diet. There have been a lot of change of hearts lately among raw food experts, even those who advocated high fat diets for more than 2 decades. Consistently, science tells us that eating an over abundance of fat contributes to a host of health challenges, raw or not. As Dr. Esselstyn explains in this video, even raw vegans have been showing up on the radar with heart dis-ease simply because they have been consuming far too many omega 6′s (that come from nuts & seeds) vs. not enough omega 3′s (which come from algaes and dark leafy greens). The ratio in which we consume omega 3′s to 6′s is more important than we may have acknowledged in our previous years. While the evidence has been presented to us for more than 40 years now, it’s clearly been ignored.
High fat raw food is no doubt delicious, and can be a great solution to curbing cravings while you transition from a traditional animal food or processed food diet to something more sustainable, but it should be just that. A transition period, not a lifetime commitment to eating 40% and upward of your diet from fat. If you were to adopt a raw food diet and prepare gourmet raw recipes on a nightly basis, you would be over consuming fat for certain.
I recently read a VegNews interview with Victoria Boutenko on what she believes is the “new raw food diet”. What I found interesting about her new discovery was that the theories being presented weren’t new at all, in fact many scientists and plant based physicians have been presenting this information to us for years. We learn about all sorts of studies on the high fat diet and it’s effect on human beings in the book Diet For A New America by John Robbins, and that book was written in the 80′s. We can find more current information today presented by John Robbins in his book No Happy Cows, but we can also go straight to Google and find mountains of legitimate information that shows us how important it is to get an abundance of fruits and vegetables and reduce our intake of fats – whether they are healthy fats or not.
My biggest complain with the interview I read from Victoria Boutenko was that she presented only two options. Either you eat a high fat raw diet, or you eat a high raw diet where a percentage of your diet is cooked. Missing from this entirely was the high carb, low fat diet which can healthfully be 100% raw if you so choose. Why is it that this was entirely ignored? After taking a look at the comments thread on her interview, it’s clear I’m not the only one who wanted to know why this obvious alternative to both diets was left out of the picture.
A high carbohydrate diet does not include refined carbs, white flours, sugars and breads. No, it doesn’t make you fat and it doesn’t leave you feeling sluggish. In contrast to a purely cooked diet or a high fat raw diet, a high carb diet can be energizing, healing and it compliments athletes very well too for those who are concerned about getting enough to eat when training for long runs or weight lifting. Our bodies run on glucose, so on a high carb diet you go straight to the source by consuming your main calories from carbs (fruits) and get your protein from greens and vegetables, enjoying a very small amount of nuts, seeds or avocados. The fact is, if you’re allergic to nuts, that’s no excuse to avoid a raw vegan diet. You don’t need them at all! On our website we provide a range of transition recipes (high fat gourmet) and an abundance of low fat options for everyday (mostly smoothies). If you’re just venturing into the world of raw, go ahead and explore the types of recipes out there that can keep you from relapsing back to regular processed foods, meat or dairy. High fat gourmet raw does serve a purpose, but the challenge is a lot of people haven’t much to go on when they first get started and go straight to high fat without ever questioning how sustainable it is for them long term.
You may have a lot of questions about this topic in particular, and I promise we’ll dive deeper into it on the blog soon but let’s wrap this up and give you some tips to follow so you can go out and take action.
Here are some guidelines for you to follow along your journey:
- Get enough calories. Start your day off with water and hydrate yourself with fresh foods like fruit and greens often.
- Check in with yourself when you have a craving, explore your food cravings and even google the nutrient properties of the foods your body is asking for to get some clues. Hint: If you’re googling anything that comes in a package – you don’t need it. This is an emotional craving, go eat some fruit.
I hope you’re feeling a little more clear about the high raw vs. 100% raw lifestyle now but let me tie up a few loose ends so you really take what I’m saying to heart and draw back on this as reference when you need to.
We’re all unique individuals. Yes our human bodies may be mostly the same anatomically but at the end of the day, your lineage, your emotional background, your spiritual backgrounds and even your family history is unique to you. For this reason, it is ok for you to make choices that are suited specifically to your healthy desires. The goal is to always feel satiated, happy and nourished. If you’re not feeling these things at all times, explore the reasons why and find a solution. A raw food lifestyle does not mean feeling guilty when you eat a steamed veggie, or beating yourself up over every little thing. A healthy raw lifestyle encompasses not only food, but your whole life experience. In summary: be happy, love life, and eat real food. Your body is always talking to you, take the time to listen.
Learn more recipes and tips like this in our 3 month course How to Go Raw, Not Crazy! We’re taking a few more student testers, so if you’d like more details on how you can get a discount on registration you can email us with the subject line “how to go raw”.