A raw food vegan diet consists of unprocessed raw vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). Adherents of this diet, called "raw foodists", believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost their enzymes and thus a significant amount of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body, whereas uncooked foods provide living enzymes and proper nutrition.
Proponents of a raw food diet claim that there are many benefits to eating raw foods, including weight loss, more energy, clear skin, improved digestion and improved overall health. Many people clarify that they eat a "high raw" or a certain percentage of raw foods in their diet, such as "75% raw diet" or a "90% raw diet". A few people include unprocessed dairy products in their diet, but most follow a raw vegan diet. The raw diet has seen an increase in popularity in recent years with raw food restaurants open in most major cities. It remains to be seen if this trend is here to stay or is another passing fad.
See also: Six Myths About the Raw Food Diet
What Do Raw Foodists Eat?
A raw food diet includes:
- All raw fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Roots, root vegetables, and squashes
- Fresh herbs and raw spices
The raw foods diet includes these foods in their unprocessed and uncooked state and omits most other foods.
Raw foodists also drink fresh fruit and vegetable juices and include herbal teas in their diet as well. Most people who follow a raw vegan diet include a limited amount of foods that have undergone some processing, as long as the processing involves does not involve heating the food over 115 degrees.
Some of these processed raw vegan foods include:
- Cold pressed oils
- Unprocessed olives
- Raw nut "milks"
- Fermented foods such as miso, kimchee, and sauerkraut
- Pure maple syrup
- Unpasteurized raw soy sauce (nama shoyu)
- Dried fruits and vegetables
- Vinegars and foods cured in vinegar
- Unprocessed raw cacao (raw chocolate)
There is some debate as to whether certain items are in fact, truly raw and thus suitable for a raw foods diet, and many people prefer to exclude some processed foods from their diet, even though they may be raw. If you are preparing food for others, its best to err on the side of caution, and prepare a dish that you know is 100% raw, such as a salad or fruit dish.
How Do Raw Foodists Prepare Their Meals?
Raw food preparation is often light-heartedly referred to as "uncooking". While many raw food recipes require lots of processing and preparation, many meals require little or none, such as a salad or fresh fruit.
If you are exploring the raw food lifestyle, you'll probably want to have a blender and a food processor at the minimum and may want to invest in a food dehydrator as well. Many recipes use a dehydrator to make raw vegan flax crackers, breads, and cookies. You may also want to purchase a juicer for making fresh fruit and vegetable juices.
See also: 10 Tools for a Raw Vegan Kitchen
Shopping for Raw Foods
Raw foods are everywhere! Fruits and vegetables are readily available, but you may like to shop around for variety. Try farmers markets for heirloom produce, and browse ethnic markets for exotic fruits and vegetables. Most health food stores now have a small raw food section where you can find raw breads, cookies and other snacks and treats. Can't find what you're looking for? Try ordering online. Sunfood.com is one of the oldest and largest purveyors of raw specialty items online. They've got raw chocolates, superfoods, coconut oil and just about everything.
See also: A raw food Thanksgiving
More Raw Vegan Resources:
- Getting started on raw foods
- Eating raw during the holidays
- Getting protein on a raw vegan diet
- Raw food tips for cold winter months
Concerned about raw food nutrition? You may want to consult a vegetarian RD.