This diet excludes all foods that contain animal products or are of an animal origin, foods that have been processed or altered in any way, and foods cooked at any temperature at or above 115°F (48°C). Proponents of the diet report a number of health benefits (weight loss, clearer skin, better digestion, etc). This diet typically consists of any raw fruits/vegetables, nuts/seeds, roots, herbs, and seaweeds. Unprocessed foods, such as kimchi and pure maple syrup, are also acceptable to this diet’s practitioners.
Why do people choose this diet?
Raw vegan proponents typically cite animal rights and protection as a main motivation for taking on this vegan diet. However, some practitioners also speak to the spiritual aspects of the diet: that cooking removes vital life energy from food. Raw vegans also suggest that some nutrients are destroyed during the cooking/preparation process.
Are there any health concerns associated with this diet?
The short answer is: yes. Some raw food can certainly be nutritious. However, cooking and food preparation can be very useful in preventing food-borne illnesses and infections. Cooking food can actually release some nutrients trapped within and behind food fibers and cellular walls, which can lead to better bodily absorption. For example, cooking carrots increases the bioavailability of beta-carotene.
Healthfulness is not totally guaranteed by this raw vegan diet meal plans. Practitioners often suffer certain nutritional deficiencies, most notably: vitamins D and B12, zinc, Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and selenium. Dietary supplements for these nutrients are available, and they should be taken by raw vegans to ensure a higher level of health. Some of these nutrients, like B12 and Omega-3, can only naturally be obtained in high quantities by eating meat and fish.
A reliance on access to raw foods can also mean a tendency toward single-food sources, which can also lead to an unhealthily balanced diet. Not all staples of this diet are available throughout the year, as crops and harvests will dictate availability.
Finally, a lack of calorie-dense starches and carbohydrates can mean low energy levels. This deficiency can be satiated with lots of nuts (high in fat and unhealthy when eaten in excess) and bananas (which should only be consumed once or twice per day).
Most diet experts recommend a combination of cooked and uncooked foods for a healthy, balanced diet.