During the month of July I decided to try my hand at eating a raw diet for a week. There were a few factors that went into my decision to try this out:
- I had experienced so many positive changes after switching to a vegan diet — and apparently, eating raw is like a level 100 vegan thing to do, so I figured this might improve my health even more.
- I thought it would serve as a “boost” or catalyst in my daily diet to help with my continued journey at becoming healthier and more fit — in other words, I’d probably lose some weight.
- I just really wanted to see if I would be able to eat raw for a week, because I was definitely skeptical that I could.
Going in to this challenge, I decided to create some tangible health markers so I could measure the effects, if any, that eating raw had on my body. These are a few things I was looking out for:
- Did my energy levels improve?
- Did I feel satiated/hydrated?
- Did I feel stronger in any way(s)?
- Did eating raw affect any other aspects of my body externally or internally?
I monitored these things beforehand, then, after eating raw, the plan was to self-assess and see how I felt after the week was through. Now let’s be clear — everything on that list had already improved since I went vegan. I definitely had more energy, I never really felt dehydrated, and many of the things I suffered from during my pre-vegan life were either gone or drastically reduced (i.e. – random weakness, dizzy spells stemming from iron-deficiency, lots of headaches, always having a stuffy nose, the list goes on). So I wondered: would eating raw make me a super vegan?? Would I become completely invincible?
The week prior to going raw, I started prepping — I looked up some raw recipes and tips from well known raw foodies in the Instagram community like Neto of The Raw Boy, and Kristina from Fully Raw Kristina. I reached out to the Instagram community via my own Instagram page to ask for tips for someone going raw. I was kinda surprised and overwhelmed with all the helpful info I received! I also did my own research and discovered that eating raw did not necessarily mean I could never eat warm foods or cook anything ever. On the contrary, both of these things were allowed, there were just a few stipulations to them.
So, What Exactly Does it Mean to Eat “Raw”?
Let me back track a bit and explain exactly what eating raw means in the first place. A raw food diet encompasses eating a diet of foods that are whole and that have not been processed at all or cooked on high heat. As I just stated, you can still cook your food or heat items up if you wish, but the purpose of a raw diet is to eat foods in their natural state so that you are able to obtain the full amount of nutrients in them — the raw foodists ideology is that all of these nutrients become drastically reduced or obsolete when foods are processed and cooked at high temperatures. If you wish to heat something up, the standard for raw foodists is that you can not consume any foods cooked above 118 degrees Fahrenheit (some agree that nothing above 115 degrees Fahrenheit is allowed, but that’s still within the same range). Aside from the low to no heat factor, the majority of the foods consumed on a raw diet usually consist mostly of fruits and vegetables. Other foods, such as nuts, grains and legumes also fall into the raw food category, but only if they are actually raw. I say that because most people don’t realize that a lot of foods they consume which they believe are uncooked are in reality, cooked in some form prior to being sold in the markets. Most nuts, canned legumes and even grains like oatmeal have all been steamed, roasted or heated in some way before they are packaged. So when you think of “raw” oatmeal (oats that haven’t been heated on the stove in water or milk), they are still not a raw food by raw food standards, because most oats have been steamed and then rolled flat prior to being sold.
This is also why you may have seen a distinction between raw foods and non-raw foods in the market. You know how people often tend to see something a bunch of times, and may not be sure what it means, but just never get around to taking the time to find out what’s up? Well, until I started investigating a raw diet, this is what was happening to me every time I saw “raw cashews” or “raw almonds” in the supermarket. I had no idea why they were “raw” or how they were different (if at all) from the cashews and almonds that didn’t have the word “raw” in the title, but it never occurred to me to look up what it meant.
When nuts are roasted or heated prior to being sold, this is usually done to kill any bacteria that may be on them after harvesting. They are also roasted to improve their taste and texture. This means the risk you run of eating raw nuts is that they may contain higher amounts of bacteria — but the thing is, the bacteria is very unlikely to cause any harm or illness. Furthermore, by exposing them to heat, what often occurs is a huge loss of antioxidants and a breakdown of healthy fats that naturally occur in many nuts — so the very health benefits we rave about from eating nuts are usually taken away in some part before we buy them. I am not against eating nuts that aren’t raw, but if given the option, I would certainly eat raw over non-raw any day, because the benefits certainly outweigh any “risks”.
You Also Don’t Have to Eat 100% Raw to be a “Raw Foodist”
Another rule of thumb that many raw foodists follow is the 80/20 rule. Some raw foodies do eat a 100% raw diet, but many follow this rule meaning that approximately 80% of their diet should be raw vegan while they have more flexibility with the other 20%. I kind of adhered to this rule during my week of eating raw — I consumed a few foods that weren’t 100% raw (more on that below). I did this for both convenience and to save a few bucks because I didn’t want to sepnd additional money on items such as raw peanut butter — yes, peanut butter is not raw because, although the ingredients on something like organic peanut butter are pretty simple, the peanuts are roasted before being turned into smooth peanut butter.
The Week I Ate Raw
Having armed myself with fruitful (no raw food pun intended) knowledge of a raw vegan diet, I felt more prepared to take on a week of eating raw. My main worry was that I would give up mid-way through, suffering from feelings of deprivation, or that I wouldn’t be consuming enough calories and I’d get sick (can you tell I like to think in worst-case scenarios?). I had already decided that it would be unlikely that I would consume foods such as legumes because, although it is possible to consume them raw, the process is too time consuming and I just didn’t feel like going through it. It involves a bunch of soaking and sprouting and I didn’t want to embark on that when I’d only be eating raw for one week. Because of this, I knew I’d be eating lots of fruits and veggies — I actually saw these limits as a fun challenge! At first I thought, “oh crap, am I really gonna be eating smoothie bowls, drinking juice and eating salad for a week?” But then the creative and competitive side of my brain kicked in and I thought: “this is the perfect opportunity to really let your creativity shine! How amazing would it be for you to try eating raw for a week and come out of it with a couple of bomb homemade recipes?” So that was a little bit of “behind the scenes” info — I was originally not planning on developing any raw recipes; but I’m also (usually) always up for a challenge. 🙂
On the first day I kept my meals pretty simple. Because I was already vegan, I didn’t feel
weird or deprived with my food choices that morning because I started out eating stuff I would have eaten normally as a non-raw vegan. For breakfast I had a super simple meal consisting of juice that I made the previous day for the week (beets, celery, carrots, and a few more goodies), along with some apple slices and (non-raw) peanut butter. Again, this was totally something I would have eaten on my regular vegan diet. Surprisingly, even though I usually have a big appetite, I wasn’t extremely hungry on my first day out. Later in the day I made a giant salad that consisted of spinach, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, snow peas, hemp hearts and spouts, with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing along with some tahini — it was so big and filling that I didn’t finish it and I had the rest of it later that night. The tahini was also the second “non-raw offender” I consumed during the week. I actually thought tahini was a naturally raw food; I was wrong. I ended up finding raw tahini during my raw week, but since I already had a jar, I figured I’d just use that (I got mine from Trader Joe’s). Non-raw peanut butter and tahini still kept me within the 80/20 rule for sure. I also snacked on fruits and raw nuts throughout the day. The first day was probably the easiest of the week. I had this “new project” energy from starting a raw diet challenge so I was pumped to make things from scratch and enjoy really fresh food.
I kind of made different variations of the same meals I had on day 1 — for breakfast I had apple slices and peanut butter again, but this time I added celery stalks and also had a bowl of chia pudding topped with agave, raw cashews and hemp hearts. Again, this was food I would have eaten as a non-raw vegan, so all was good. I was also still snackin’ on fruits, seeds (pumpkin) and nuts throughout the day, because, well it was kind of the only stuff I could snack on. Oh, and more celery stalks with PB… one thing I loved about this week was eating so much peanut butter… for some reason I think I ate more of it during this week than I did when eating non-raw vegan — I was thinking this raw thing wasn’t too monotonous yet…
… I did the whole giant salad again with all the same ingredients, but this time I made a raw green goddess style dressing (minus the avocado)– I was going strong, but what surprised me was how alert I was to the fact that I wasn’t cooking any of my food. I was so used to making tofu scrams for breakfast or making meals to plate and take pics of and I hadn’t done that in two days. I realized that maybe it was because I had been cooking so much over the past several months that to suddenly stop doing that felt weird. Thank goodness eating raw still required to me to at least prepare meals and food to some extent, or I wouldn’t have known what to do with myself!
This was somewhat of a pivotal point in the week for me. I had a smoothie with fruit, peanut butter and spinach (almond milk base — the almond milk was also not raw), along with an apple for breakfast. I had my usual snacks but also bought a whole watermelon on this day because I knew it would carry me through the rest of the week for snacking and meals and what not. It was a good thing that I got such a hydrating fruit to carry me through because I got a huge headache on this day. I was surprised that I got a headache when I was in the middle of eating this super clean and healthy diet, so I attributed it to a couple of possible reasons:
- maybe my body was not used to consuming such fewer calories than it had been?
- Maybe I wasn’t self-hydrating as much?
The second reason made sense because I was eating a lot of fruits and veggies which contain a whole bunch of water naturally, so I didn’t think much of consuming a lot of liquid H2O. Also, since day 2 I had to pee — a lot. Well, more than I usually do in a day, so I thought “dang, I must be getting a lot of water in with all these fruits and vegetables I’m eating!” Either way, I’m still not sure what caused the headache to come on, but I let it go away naturally. And even with it’s arrival, it didn’t stop me from getting my chef skills on — day 3 was my first time really cooking and creating food– just without heat. I had a really decadent bowl of chia pudding for lunch, but it didn’t hold a candle to my dinner: I had green and yellow zucchini squash noodles (aka zoodles) with a raw sun-dried tomato and basil pesto sauce I created. The sauce was so, so good, and it was cool creating a recipe within the realm of raw food.
I didn’t eat a lot on this day because I went to the beach, so I left to start my day really early. I ate mostly fruit and nuts/seeds for the first half of my day — for breakfast (peaches, apples, peanut butter) and as snacks that I brought with me to the beach (raw cashews, pumpkin seeds and watermelon). When I got back, I had the leftover zoodles I made the day before, and I also ate a lot of fresh salsa. I bought a big container of fresh salsa from the supermarket near me — although I can easily make fresh salsa, sometimes I like to buy things like this to support small business — the salsa was locally made with fresh ingredients and not mass produced like the typical jarred salsa we usually see sold next to the tortilla chips.
I also created another raw dish and recipe later that night — a raw mushroom pate. I stuffed some Italian sweet peppers with the pate and added some of the sun-dried tomato pesto on top which gave it an extra kick. That was my dinner. This day was also when I first experienced that “light” feeling. You know when you’re sick or have a really bad cold (or even the flu) and you can’t eat anything or can’t really keep food down for several days? And so after about a week of being sick you just feel physically lighter because your body hasn’t consumed that much? Well, that’s how I felt on this day, minus the being sick and throwing up. It was interesting though because I was eating until I was full everyday, but because I was consuming mostly only fruits and veggies, my calorie intake was reduced a lot. Eating a good amount of peanut butter and nuts and seeds helped keep my calories up, and that’s one reason (aside from them tasting so good) why I made sure I ate a decent amount of them. When I asked the vegan community on Instagram what I should (and shouldn’t) do when prepping to go raw, some people said to be careful of consuming to many nuts and seeds and avocado because of the high fat content. Although I kept that in mind, my experience is one reason that everyone should listen to their body instead of only listening to what other’s say based on their own experiences. Had I not been eating a lot of nuts, seeds, and peanut butter, I probably wouldn’t have been consuming enough calories each day — and even with eating these high (healthy) fat foods, I was still feeling lighter on my feet.
Things started getting hard by day 5. I really missed hot and cooked food. I was also getting tired of snacking on the same things, because I think my taste buds get bored easily, but I didn’t wanna keep buying foods just for that reason when I still had fruits
and veggies to use for the week which I got specifically for eating raw all week. I got fancy with chia pudding and made a strawberry-kiwi chia pudding bowl for breakfast, topped with hemp hearts and raw cashews. The fruit variations in the chia pudding I had throughout the week kept the flavors varied so I never got tired of having it. Even though things were starting to feel a little “difficult”, there was no way I was gonna throw in the towel at this point, because I only had two days left.
This was the third day in a row where I developed a dish– this time I created a raw mushroom alfredo sauce for dinner, which I had with zoodles, mushrooms and broccoli. It was one of my favorite dishes I ate the whole week, and although it sounds a bit cheesy, because it tasted so good it gave me the extra strength to push through the last days of the week.
I woke up feeling refreshed but still missing my old vegan diet. Morning is easy to get through because if I’m not having tofu scram, I am used to having smoothies or chia pudding already — this morning it was a smoothie. My body was also craving some sort of physical activity — I purposefully didn’t exercise the entire week because I knew I would be consuming less calories and I didn’t know how that would work with me running or doing some sort of strength training and then eating meals that were based only in fruits and veggies — I know there are raw vegans who do this all the time but everyone’s body is different and I tried to listen to my instincts which were telling me to hold off on vigorous exercise for the week.
I also made a really tasty dish using cauliflower rice — sure, I plated it like a 3rd grade science project, but that raw vegan life had my creativity on a whole new plane. It was actually quite cute, but not necessarily in my usual plating style, where I like to simultaneously acknowledge that I’m an amateur chef while also pretending that I’m a gourmet-chef.
The final day! It was bittersweet — I was excited that I made it through the whole week, but I couldn’t wait to devour cooked food again. In honor of finishing the week strong, I made a dessert smoothie — I put a whole bunch of strawberries, cacao nibs, and banana in there and it was sweeeeet! I had my usual snacks and I had an early dinner consisting of cauliflower rice, with mushroom caps that I stuffed with my mushroom pate. I never posted this dish but I’ll probably post it on my Instagram page sometime in the near future.
I also have to confess, I didn’t go all of day 7 as a raw vegan. I didn’t wait until the next day to start eating cooked food again. I ate cooked food at the end of this day. It was calling my name like crazy. So what was my first non-raw meal after 7 days (or six and a half days? Maybe six and three-quarter days?) of eating a raw diet? Drumroll please… I had cilantro-lime white rice, black beans and my chili-lime fried tofu — but let me clarify: I didn’t prepare this meal because I was going crazy over not having hot food! I actually made food for a friend earlier that day and had extra. The plan was to save it for the next day, but I caved that night, go figure. The interesting thing was that my body did react to having cooked (or maybe just hot?) food after having not had it for a week. My teeth were really sensitive! When I took a few bites of food, it bothered them like crazy and it was uncomfortable to say the least. And my stomach felt a little weird shortly after eating. So obviously, my insides had to adjust. And that’s what happened immediately after going back to a non-raw vegan diet. But what about all the stuff I wanted to compare from earlier?
The Results of Eating Raw Vegan
After eating a raw vegan diet, I looked over the health markers again to see if there were any noticeable differences.
- I did feel more energetic — I also felt lighter and more refreshed overall.
- I definitely felt more hydrated; as I mentioned before, I had to pee a lot more and that wasn’t solely from increased water consumption, but also from eating foods that had a high water content, lending toward my feelings of super hydration.
- I didn’t feel stronger in the sense of what I was thinking of when I thought of “stronger” — I didn’t feel an increase in my physical strength, but I would say that my mental strength was increased in maintaining this way of eating for a week and having the discipline to stick with it (even with my day 7 early ending)
- Being 100% honest, other than feeling a little lighter and then the few moments of discomfort I experienced once I ate cooked/hot food again, I didn’t notice any major changes. I did have to use the bathroom a bit more because my fiber intake was up’ed that week, but that was nothing major. I attribute this lack of noticeable change to the amount of time I spent eating this way.
The same thing happened when I went vegan; I didn’t notice any changes in my health after just one week. Most people take on entirely new ways of eating like this for the purpose of losing weight. I did lose a pound or two, but everyone knows that weight-loss from a drastic diet change over the course of a week is usually not real weight-loss. If I wanted to see real health benefits, I would have to eat raw for way longer than a week. This may seem like common sense, but initially, I wasn’t sure. I had heard so much about eating raw, and how all the nutrients of your food stay intact more, making your health stellar, and how it was the fountain of youth and so on. Again, maybe eating raw long-term does yield these affects, but the only way I could know for sure if it was some sort of miraculous way of eating was to try it for myself — because what if it was the best way of eating? And what if it was possible to notice drastic health changes from eating raw after just one week?
As with any diet, there also exists those who say that eating raw is unhealthy because of how many restrictions are placed on one’s diet. I say listen to your body. There are raw foodists who have eaten their raw diets for decades and suffer no health issues — in fact, they experience the exact opposite — they have increased health and live long, happy lives. Personally, I would never change to a raw vegan lifestyle permanently. Not only do I enjoy eating cooked food too much, but I also enjoy cooking food! But after this week, I am certain of another thing — I will absolutely incorporate eating raw into my normal diet. I even plan of eating raw for another week before the official end of summer. It’s like a body detox or like a week of shooting your body up with vitamins and preparing it to take on the world for the next several months. Sure, I could eat raw for just a day or two, but if I’m gonna do it, why not do it big?
So that’s it! That was my week of eating #rawvegan. I hope it was not only entertaining to read about my experience but also informative in some way. Feel free to email me if you have any questions! And stay tuned for more updates of me eating raw vegan meals on my Instagram page, and look out for the raw recipes I created during this week, which can be found in the recipes sections of this site.