What is a Raw Veganism?
Raw vegan is a form of veganism where only raw or slightly cooked plant-based foods are eaten. All products or foods derived from animals are excluded as well as any food cooked at a temperature higher than 107°F. Foods that are included in this diet are uncooked fruits and vegetables, unroasted nuts and seeds, sprouted grains and legumes, cold-pressed plant oils, herbs, and sea vegetables. So instead of grilling, boiling, baking, broiling or sautéing, these foods can be prepared by dicing, cutting, blending, juicing, dehydrating, or fermenting. The core philosophy of raw veganism is that heating food diminishes its nutritive value, makes the food less digestible, and makes the food toxic.
The raw vegan diet is comprised mainly of fruits and vegetables. These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals as well as phytonutrients. They are naturally low in saturated fat and sodium, while being cholesterol free.
Eliminates unhealthy processed foods
Just because a food is labeled vegan friendly doesn’t mean it’s healthy. There are tons of food items that are technically vegan, made with excess oil, refined grains, and processed sugar. Raw vegans typically only eat foods that are whole, unrefined, and unprocessed.
Loaded with fiber
Diets of raw vegans are exceptionally high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. These fibers bulk up our stools, keeps the gut clean by moving and removing waste in a timely manner, helps lower cholesterol levels, and provides healthy bacteria in the colon with food.
Concerns of Raw Veganism
Difficulty obtaining some nutrients
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a concern for all vegans. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world where all of our produce isn’t meticulously washed and comes from untainted soil. This makes it essential for this vitamin to be obtained from fortified foods or by supplementation. I know that most raw vegans would prefer to just stick with whole foods in their approach to health and healing, but vitamin B12 deficiency is not something to play with and needs to be supplemented. Calcium and omega-3 are other nutrients that deficit for raw vegans to obtain. Studies have shown that raw vegan diets can be associated with increased risks of osteoporosis.
Cooked foods are more easily digested than raw foods. Eating strictly raw foods can be problematic for someone with digestive issues.
Myths of Raw Veganism
Heating destroys plant enzymes
Enzymes are promoters for specific biochemical reactions in the body, and can definitely be destroyed by heating. But heat is not the only thing that can destroy enzymes. When food is consume and enters the stomach, the stomach secrets hydrochloric acid to further breakdown the food. This hydrochloric acid will breakdown plant enzymes from raw foods and render them useless. The breakdown of plant enzymes is not that big of a deal because those enzymes are only useful to the actual plant and have no need for human digestion.
Cooking destroys nutrients
Cooking can definitely destroy nutrients that are heat sensitive. For instance most B vitamins and vitamin C can be greatly be reduced if foods that contain them are cooked at high temperatures of a long period of time. With that being said, there are nutrients that are enhanced when cooked. This happens because cooking breaks down the plants cell wall making some nutrients more bioavailable or easily absorbable. For instance cooking tomatoes increases the bioavailability of the antioxidant lycopene by 5 times. Potassium is another nutrient that can be enhance after cooking. Cooked greens (collard, spinach, mustard, etc.) for example are significantly higher in potassium when compared to raw greens. Finally orange/yellow foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, and squash are significantly higher in the antioxidant beta-carotene after cooking.
In my personal opinion, I think that someone can live a long healthy life on a well plan raw vegan diet. I personally don’t follow this diet because as stated in the article, there are nutrients that are enhanced with cooking. I believe that adopting a diet that comprises a mixture of both raw and plant-based foods provides that best bang for your buck.