Home » Is going “raw” just a fad?

Is going “raw” just a fad?

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I wanted to “put on my RD cap” as some of you sweet bloggies like say, and discuss a topic I’m learning more about each day: raw diets.


Raw diets consist of uncooked, unprocessed plant foods which are believed to result in leaner bodies, clearer skin, and higher energy, as well as reduce the risk of disease. Raw foodists believe that plant foods in their most natural state are most wholesome for the body. Raw diets are approximately 75% fruit and vegetable-based. Staples in a raw diet include seaweed, sprouts, sprouted seeds, whole grains, beans, dried fruits, and nuts. Alcohol, refined sugars, and caffeine are excluded from rawism, as well. While most rawists are raw food vegans, some do choose to consume raw eggs and cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk.

Dehydration is a common means of food preparation which includes heat, but does not exceed temperatures greater than 118 F. Rawism beliefs include the leaching of enzymes and vitamins critical for digestion at high heat temperatures. This contradicts the position of the American Dietetic Association which upholds the body’s production of enzymes for food digestion. Further, food bourne bacteria are not killed with temperatures deemed safe by rawists.

While research supports the anti-cancer effects of raw vegetable intake, there are serious potential health risks associated with consuming a raw diet including B12 deficiency and low calcium, iron, vitamin D, and omega-3 intake.

The American Dietetic Association recommends the below guidelines for those following a raw food vegan diet:

  1. Eat almost 2x the iron as non-vegetarians (sources: tofu, legumes, almonds, and cashews)
  2. Eat at least 8 servings a day of calcium-rich foods (sources: bok choy, cabbage, soybeans, tempeh, and figs)
  3. Eat fortified breakfast cereals, nutritional yeast, and fortified soy milk for B12. Supplements are a good idea.
  4. Eat flaxseed and walnuts. Use canola, flaxseed, walnut, and soybean oils which are good sources of omega-3’s. You may also want to take a supplement.

I consulted a friend and former peer regarding raw food diets, as he is well versed on the topic. He helped clear up a lot of questions I had! There are some foods, contrary to raw belief, that are more beneficial nutritionally when cooked, such as tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels’ sprouts, kale, collards, etc.). He explained that a lot of the information on raw foods is not scientifically-based and that much of the information out there is not reliable.

He also detailed that many raw dieters use coconut and coconut oil because it does not need to be heated. Coconut, however, is very high in saturated fat and has strong atherogenic (plaque-building) properties.

While the nutritional content of raw diets is debatable, I have to question the feasibility of this lifestyle. Some people are vegetarians, few are vegans, and a very small percentage consumes a raw diet. As a lover of wine, chicken, and baked goods, there’s no question a raw dies isn’t for me. But what about the average Joe who occasionally goes out to eat? Or attends the company holiday party? Or shops on a budget? Or is short on time? As you’ll come across in researching rawism, it is a lifestyle, not a diet or simply a way of eating.

Without being presumptuous, I do wonder WHY people opt to go the raw route. It seems trendy in Blogland and I can’t help but be curious as to how much research people do before adopting such restrictive and potentially dangerous eating “preferences”.

Question: Have you prepared raw food items in the past? What do you think of raw diets? Are they safe? Do you know a rawist?

I hope the weather near you is better than Tulsa. I saw my life flash before my eyes (amid a BLIZZARD) several times today (I wish I were dramatizing). My 40-minute commute turned into 2 scary hours there and back. Uggh! At least we had a late start and were let out at 3:30? 🙂 But seriously, this is the SOUTH! What’s up with the crazy winters keeping me from starting to build my garden bed this weekend!?

P.S. Still accepting Q&A questions through the weekend! Send’em on over — [email protected]!

P.P.S. Have a super, safe, and healthful weekend! 🙂

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  1. January 29, 2010 / 11:23 pm

    This was a great post. I wonder about raw diets all the time. Although a lot of the recipes I see online look pretty amazing, I just would not be able to do it. For one, I could NEVER, EVER give up cheese. Im assuming here, but I have a feeling raw cheeses would be far too expensive for my budget. Regular cheese is a little pricy for me even (I dont know why, but cheese is way more expensive here than in the states). Same with wine, I would never want to give up my wine!

  2. Kippy
    January 30, 2010 / 12:08 am


    I am a raw foodist, own a raw organic dessert company, and quite an advocate of a raw diet. My community consists of a diverse group eating raw…meaning some are raw vegans, raw primal dieters, and raw foodist who consume raw dairy such as milk and cheese. The information about Coconut Oil is not correct. Coconut oil and creme in the raw form, is actually a Raw Saturated Fat…..in which all bodies need raw fats….that is how toxins that are in the air, water, food, and all around our environment are able to leave our body. Toxins bind to fat…and that signals our body that toxins are able to leave…otherwise the body stores the toxins….and that is a basis for many different diseases. Raw fats include coconut oil, creme, milk, butter, and cheese. My myself and community advocate raw milk, butter, and cheese from small dairies that feed their cows a natural grass diet without antibiotics or hormones, and the cows are pastured and treated kindly. This goes against most dairy that you buy in a supermarket as the cows are industrially farmed….fed a non natural diet, in a non natural environment, and shot up with hormones and antibiotics…and then put in a plastic container….in which plastic leaches into the food source. People who chose a raw food diet usually chose this path because they see the benefits and logic of eating clean organic food in the natural state, and they support this by giving their time, energy, and money into. It takes more time and money to eat this way, and in exchange you have a healthier cleaner body with more energy, and helping the planet by cutting down on pesticides, plastic containers, and consuming less.

    • Nicole
      January 30, 2010 / 9:41 am

      Kippy: Thanks for your response. I am a dietitian and view the body and diets in a scientific manner. I believe in science and what it tells us. Raw saturated fat is no better than cooked saturated fat or the source of saturated fat (i.e. being a “raw fat” doesn’t make it a “good saturated fat”). Saturated fat should be limited in the diet. Period. If you’d like to send over some peer-reviewed research from medical and/or nutrition professionals, I’d be elated to learn more. In the mean time, I stick to my assertions made above and wish you all the health and happiness in the world!

    • January 30, 2010 / 8:59 pm

      Kippy, I am a RD too and I was wondering if you have an scientific literature to share with us since I know many dietitians are concerned over this as far as the science is concerned. Everything I have read still goes to show the harmful effects of the saturated fats in coconut.

      As for helping out the environment, what about transit time and gas wasted for things like that. I tend to encourage local over just organic as local supports the local economy on top of usually being organic too. Eating organic doesn’t always mean healthier as I have parents feeding kids organic “junk” foods and their kids are still obese. Same goes with “all natural” claims. This does not equal healthy as lead and arsenic are all natural too.

      Every one is entitled to their opinions, and I do still feel this is a fad since it is not mainstream and does not have science to back it up as our other guidelines do. If you do have evidenced based research on this topic, I really would be interested to see this. I have gone to raw vegan restaurants and I do enjoy the food, I just think that this can lead to health consequences, especially in people that are not educated and simply following because they hear someone in Hollywood does it. The restrictions seem to much like an eating disorder as the person on this diet can exert extreme control over this aspect of their life.

  3. January 30, 2010 / 12:18 am

    This was a great read! Thanks for the info. I’ve often wondered why people go raw too.. It seems trendy to me too. We must be on the same wavelength because I’ve been pondering food and nutrition trends today. 🙂 The idea of consuming raw eggs for a population that’s aiming for a healthier lifestyle seems kind of ironic doesn’t it?
    I hope all is well in Oklahoma! OMG, I saw your weather on the news tonight. The south. Go figure. I lived in Chicago in 2002. Worst snow of my life, which is why I’m back on the west coast. Fortunately for us this has been the mildest winter I’ve seen in years!
    Well I’m going to finish my glass of wine while I catch up on blog reading. I could never give up vino.. 😉

    • Nicole
      January 30, 2010 / 9:50 am

      I’m from Chicago and remember the 2002 storm vividly! I must say, southern winters are brutal simply because once the snow and ice fall they don’t DO anything with it. Salt? Zilch! Plows? Psh!

      I’m with ya, I’d never give up vino for anything 😉 Have a super weekend!

  4. January 30, 2010 / 4:12 am

    I agree with about the raw diets and the lack of scientific evidence backing many of the benefits of eating raw. I think garlic’s nutrients are also more bioavailable when cooked? It surprises me how many of my RD-bound classmates (not at my current school) are into both a vegan AND raw diet, when they know if can’t possibly supply all the essentials they needs without supplementation. And we read the scientific literature together. It is a lifestyle choice, and I know people are entitled to live the way they want (as long as they’re as healthy as they can be! 🙂 ).

  5. January 30, 2010 / 4:30 am

    You have the most interesr=ting blog. People who wanted to
    lose weight, will surely get some tips. keep it up!

  6. January 30, 2010 / 6:02 am

    Great post topic! I’ve often wondered about how healthy a raw food diet actually is. I think my concerns are the same as yours. For one, like you said, it just doesn’t seem practical. It’s not something the average person can commit to, and it requires a complete overhaul of one’s lifestyle.

    Also, I always worry about any dietary plan that cuts out entire food groups or types of foods; it just seems so restrictive! You pointed out a lot of potential vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, which makes me wonder if it’s really worth it.

    Then again, I’ve never tried it, so I don’t really know! I’ve heard bloggers say that their bodies feel absolutely amazing when they eat a raw or mostly raw diet. So maybe it does work for some people, but I don’t think it ever would for me.

    Thanks for sharing this information, and have a wonderful weekend!

  7. January 30, 2010 / 6:16 am

    Is it a fairly warm blizzard? This morning I woke up to -28C
    (-18.4F)! Might like snow over freezing my butt off 🙂

    As to the raw diet I’d thought about it but can’t bring myself to do it but if others like it I’m not stopping them. I think going raw is a lot better than what most overweight folks are probably doing. Before I started trying to lose weight again I was survivimg on mainly junk food and I mean junkfood.

  8. January 30, 2010 / 6:56 am

    I could go on about this all day. I do find it to be a fad, with some of Hollywood behind trends as well. Part of the problem is the high use of coconut, which still has strong scientific evidence against it for the saturated fat content, although raw foodists will say it is good for you. The problem is still the lack of science and as you have said some produce is better when cooked or processed, like tomatoes with lycopene, high concentrations in cooked or processed form. I think if you want to eat a raw meal here and there for “health” go ahead, but you need to be very well educated on how to get nutrients from other sources once you start eliminating things. This is not the real way humans were designed to eat food, and also we are not traditionally herbivores only too, so this is a choice we make if we are vegetarian and then education plays a key role in making sure we are healthy. To me it is a fad because I am very science based, I study and practice nutrition as a science and therefore things not based on science are to me, a fad or something not sound in it’s ideas. This doesn’t mean I do not enjoy a raw meal every once and a while and I love visiting raw foods restaurants, but as an addition to my diet, not all of it.

  9. January 30, 2010 / 7:16 am

    We must be sharing brain wavelengths– I listened to a podcast about the raw food “lifestyle” just yesterday afternoon! While I do find it interesting, I don’t think it’s anything I could do long-term…I’d be interested in incorporating one or two raw meals into my life a week, but going full on raw– yeah, that has NO appeal to me 🙂

  10. January 30, 2010 / 7:18 am

    Loved reading this post as well! It seems like there’s some raw hype going on in the blogworld and it’s really interesting to read a post that criticizes it. I have a raw “cook”book and have made some meals of it and really enjoyed them. I bought it because I love trying new things and be creative with food.

  11. January 30, 2010 / 7:43 am

    Great post Nicole!

    I have issues with a raw diet. Its not feasible for everyday life. I’m all about eating food in its natural state, but this has always seemed rather extreme to me, and also a fad. Dare I say this… but to me, it seems like another form of disordered eating. I know this isn’t the case with some individuals, but with the population I work with… MANY have gone to a raw food diet as a way of weight control.

  12. eaternotarunner
    January 30, 2010 / 7:47 am

    It does seem a little bit like a fad right now. I like the idea of consuming some raw foods, but I could never do a raw lifestyle….WAY too constricting!

  13. January 30, 2010 / 8:33 am

    I’m with you on the raw diet thing. I would never want to eliminate warm foods and baked goods from my diet. I agree with Estela…eating a raw diet seems like a socially acceptable way to get away with an eating disorder of some sort. I wrote a blog entry about this a few weeks ago.

  14. January 30, 2010 / 8:52 am

    Very interesting topic! I actually read a few books about raw eating over the summer, and eating a lot of raw food appeals to me. During the summer, I enjoyed eating mostly raw foods very much. However, I don’t think I would ever choose to eat only raw foods. As you mentioned, I think there are advantages to eating some foods cooked. I like to actually eat most foods sometimes raw and sometimes cooked. Plus, I do eat some meat (very little, about once per week or less), fish (once or twice per week), yogurt, kefir, and eggs. I buy raw cheese at my Farmers’ Market and love it. But I have started to eat a lot less cheese and dairy.

    What I personally like most about eating a lot of raw foods is that I really increased my vegetable intake. I have always eaten a lot of vegetables and salads, but I had never truly planned my meals around vegetables. That changed over the summer.

    I think if you choose to eat only raw foods, you have to really educate yourself well. It could be quite dangerous to just jump into eating only raw foods. Also, I think it’s certainly a lifestyle people should ease into if they choose to do so. I think it would be very hard to go from eating a lot of cooked foods to only eating raw foods, and I would be worried about getting a wide variety of nutrients. Also, eating out and social occasions could definitely be difficult (but not impossible with planning I think).

    I think people choose to eat raw for a wide variety of reasons. I have a friend who eats raw because she has lots of food allergies and other health conditions and eating raw has really helped her to feel better. I think there are lots of people who do educate themselves very well and get all the nutrients they need. But, in my opinion, eating raw is not something one can just “jump into.”

    Happy weekend! 🙂

  15. January 30, 2010 / 9:05 am

    Absolutely love this post! Thanks for clearing up some rawism confusion! While I’m all for lots of fruits and veggies (obviously!), I could never be a rawist. A)–Because I don’t believe it will make you any healthier. In fact, if people don’t know what they’re doing, it can make them unhealthier and deficient in major micro–and maybe even macronutrients; B)–I like a variety of foods–not all plant based. Regardless, I totally promote a plant-based diet, believe that it will make you healthier (I pretty much eat like that), but there is no need to “go raw.”

  16. January 30, 2010 / 9:09 am

    I definitely understand vegetarian and vegan diets, even though I would never be able to undertake one (why restrict myself? especially when I love pork so very much.) but the whole raw thing baffles me. The most raw I go is to eat fruit. Raw. I just think it’s extremely hard to get all of your nutrients if you never eat cooked starches/whole grains or proteins. So I’m totally with you on this one.

    As for the blizzard. Global warming?

  17. January 30, 2010 / 9:14 am

    The first half of my San Fran. trip was all raw. That was an experience! I’ve never eaten so many ground nuts before in my life. My stomach had a little trouble adjusting to all the fat in the nuts, but after I went back to cooked food I didn’t feel as great. I’ve heard that one a raw diet your body metabolizes the fat a lot more efficiently so you can eat a fair amount of nuts (which is needed for protein) and still stay lean and energized. Would I make it my lifestyle? No. Am I going to start incorporating more raw foods it my diet? Yes.

    • Nicole
      January 30, 2010 / 9:56 am

      That’s really interesting that you noticed a change. Re: fat being metabolized “more efficiently”, the only scientific reason I can come up with is the lower carbohydrate diet (?). By consuming less carbohydrate and more fat, the body does have to work “harder” to make glucose from non-carbohydrate sources. This is called gluconeogenesis and would make sense depending on what % calories were coming from carbohydrate. Thanks for your input — very interesting to hear someone with good to say about raw and non-raw diets! Have a great weekend : )

  18. January 30, 2010 / 9:29 am

    Great info, I always wonder about raw food diets. I don’t think I could ever do it. I need my cooked food!

  19. January 30, 2010 / 9:54 am

    I could never follow a raw diet. No way, Jose. I do respect and have an admiration for those following one. As long as they’re healthy and happy with their choices, then great. Some of their food looks really good, like raw pizzas, yum! My only “beef” (poor choice of words?) with a raw vegan diet is when some of them (not everyone) get preachy and make others feel bad about not choosing the same lifestyle. Great post!! 🙂

  20. January 30, 2010 / 10:13 am

    Wow! Great post! I’m always intrigued by raw foodists. Honestly, I think to each his own but I’m not sure I could eat a completely raw diet. I mean I suppose if I was committed to it I could but I’m not entirely sure I’d want to. But it’s always interesting to learn about different lifestyles 🙂

  21. January 30, 2010 / 10:40 am

    Informative post…thanks for answering questions I didn’t even know that I had.

  22. Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce
    January 30, 2010 / 11:58 am

    no offense to ANYONE, but i am just not a believer in the raw foods lifestyle. i may be biased bc at the time when i ate only raw foods i was at the height of my ED so it was clearly not a healthful endeavor, but i don’t believe that human beings evolved to eat only raw foods! hello, cavemen + fire = cooked food!

  23. January 30, 2010 / 12:38 pm

    Interesting post. I’ve always been intruiged by raw food diets. Although, I’m not particularly interested in following one to a T. But if raw foods taste good, I’ll eat them!

  24. January 30, 2010 / 12:48 pm

    What a great post. I have been interested in this lifestyle, but because it truly is a lifestyle, I can’t take the plunge. I think it emphasizes a lot of great overall health principles and it’s important to incorporate raw fruits and veggies throughout the day!

  25. January 30, 2010 / 2:36 pm

    I think it would be really hard to maintain a raw diet, especially if you choose to go out and eat with other non-raw dieters. It definitely is about committing to the lifestyle. I’ve never intentionally prepared a raw meal… unless you count salad 🙂

    Thanks for the great post. It’s really interesting to read your thoughts about the diet and guidelines that should be followed to ensure proper nutrition.

  26. January 30, 2010 / 4:08 pm

    Great post! I have noticed the popularity of the raw diet lately, and have been wondering about it. Although I would like to try some recipes, I don’t think it fits in with my lifestyle right now (vegan). I just like… warm food!

  27. lessonstolearn
    January 30, 2010 / 4:26 pm

    I like a lot of raw foods, but I would never adopt a raw food diet. I don’t think it is necessarily any healthier, and in some cases, like those you mentioned, there are greater nutritional benefits if cooked. On top of that, I like a warm meal and things straight from the oven! Do I incorporate raw foods into my diet? Absolutely! Would I only eat raw foods? I can’t imagine why!

  28. January 30, 2010 / 5:01 pm

    I went to this raw foods seminar a couple months ago with a friend. While the information was interesting and the food was really good, at this particular place, they made all of these health claims that I thought were a bunch of BS. Like there was a man with a big tumor on his face and after going through their raw foods program, the tumor disappeared. Yeah right.

    I’m all for trying raw recipes though. They taste good normally.

  29. January 30, 2010 / 5:30 pm

    This is a GREAT post! While I respect people’s food and lifestyle choices, I too question the extreme nature of the raw diet as well as other restrictive diets. It does seem like a lot of bloggers follow these lifestyles, and I really appreciate your more balanced approach :-).

  30. January 30, 2010 / 6:28 pm

    I just heard about a restaurant that only serves raw food and would be interested in trying it, but the lifestyle choice is not for me. I’m a big believer in everything in moderation 🙂

  31. January 30, 2010 / 6:49 pm

    I’ve been curious about the raw diet popularity too. I don’t think I could ever do it because often crave hot food and generally find it more filling. Thank you for the informative post!

  32. January 31, 2010 / 12:22 am

    Wonderful post and read! I love eating raw but know that it isn’t a lifestyle that I could commit to 100%. I love my cooked grains and my body needs them.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  33. January 31, 2010 / 11:29 am

    Great info here! I am not a rawist myself and I actually don’t know anyone who is either, so most of this info was new for me. I can definitely see how this is a lifestyle choice, not just a diet. I don’t think rawism is for me, but I wouldn’t mind trying a raw dish! 😉

  34. January 31, 2010 / 12:05 pm

    As you know I am into balance. I eat cooked, toasted, raw, whatever. If I like it and it likes me I eat it 🙂 Your info is very interesting.
    I am concerned about the Coconut thing as I have just added it to my diet (in moderation) and I love it! In addition to all my other healthy fats I have included about 2 tbs of Raw Coconut Butter into my diet. I love the stuff and it really satisfies. Now I am questioning if this is a good move. Thoughts?? I want the fat…but the saturated, not so sure about that.

  35. January 31, 2010 / 12:40 pm

    LOVED this post. I’ve been seeing more and more of the raw foodists pop up, so it’s easy to assume it’s a trend.

    Without being very informed on the nature of raw foodism (is that a word? hmm), the thing that scares me about it most is the restriction aspect. Of course I am sensitive to this because of my past ED, but I do know there have been some that use “diets” as an excuse for restriction. NOT saying all do that, but some do.

    I would never, ever judge someone for what they eat. But I could never do raw 100% of the time! I like things warm. 🙂

  36. February 1, 2010 / 7:48 am

    Wonderful post! My thoughts on the raw food diet are in line with yours. After seeing coconut oil all over blogland, I did some research of my own to try and find scientifically based evidence of the benefits with no success. Again, great post… I really enjoyed reading it along with the discussion!

  37. February 1, 2010 / 9:55 am

    I completely agree with you about the lack of science regarding raw food diets. However, as with many diets, I think that an individual can make it healthy or unhealthy. For example, you can be vegan and live on soy ice cream and potato chips, or you can eat a well-balanced vegan diet. If I had a patient who was raw foodist and adamant about that dietary choice, I think I would just look at their usual intake and try to find ways to make sure she is getting all of the nutrients she needs.

  38. February 1, 2010 / 10:43 am

    Very informative post! I consume a high-raw diet by choice, and I do notice how much better my boy does feel because of it. I am very well educated on it, I take my vitamin supplements and make a point to include nuts, seeds and dried fruits in my diet. I was one hundred percent for a time over the summer, but it just wasnt my thing. I love my soy milk and my chikin tacos 🙂 I enjoy a cupcake every now and then too. I do think though that the idea behind a raw diet is a good one. Limiting the consumption of harmful fats, overly processed and sugary foods and GMO soy and corn products would make a complete difference in someone’s life. I personally believe that a whole foods diet is best for everyone, its the most economical and the most sustainable for sure.

    Those are just my two cents 🙂

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