Basics of the Raw Vegan Diet
There is more and more interest lately in a diet made up of raw foods. And many of us are now trying to eliminate animal products from our diets to lose weight, treat chronic disease, or increase energy. Supporters of this diet believe that cooking destroys the natural enzymes and depletes nutrients in the food. The Raw Vegan diet is composed of mostly or completely raw and unprocessed foods. A food is considered to be raw if it has never been heated to over 104-118 degrees F or 40-80 degrees C. It should not be refined, pasteurized, treated with pesticides, or otherwise processed in any way. Raw vegans tend to consume many fewer calories.
Of course fresh, organic fruit and vegetables are the staples of this diet. Many raw vegans follow the 80/10/10 rule—80% carbs (fruits and vegetables), 10% fat (avocados, coconut, etc.) and 10% protein (nuts, seeds, and grains). A number of raw vegans follow the “Raw Til 4” rule, eating some cooked foods after 4 pm. Vegetables can be used fresh, pickled, or made into noodles. Fermented foods are very good for the digestive tract, so look for coconut kefir, coconut yogurt, kimchi, miso paste, rejuvelac, and sauerkraut. Canned vegetables and fruits are not considered to be raw. Sources of fats include avocados, raw coconut oil and butter, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, chia oil, raw flaxseed oil, and raw hempseed oil.
If you are considering switching from your current diet to a raw vegan diet, it is best to do it gradually. Cooked foods are generally easier for your body to digest, so do start out slowly, substituting more raw foods for your customary cooked ones over a period of several weeks.
Smoothies are a great option for the raw vegan. All you need is a good blender! Try mixtures of your favorite fruits, vegetables, and greens like kale or spinach and non-dairy milk. Add in some chia seeds for extra protein. Speaking of protein, you will need to make sure that your diet has enough if you are going raw vegan. Beans are a good source of protein, but you will need to “prepare” them instead of cooking them. One option is to soak them for 24-48 hours in cold water. This can neutralize enzyme inhibitors (chemicals that make it harder to digest foods) and toxins. Place the beans in cold water in a container, cover with a lid, and let them sit on the countertop. Pour out the water and rinse the beans every couple of hours during the day to remove toxins. After rinsing them, add more fresh water. When the beans are soft enough to bite into, they are ready.
Even if you soak beans, uncooked legumes can still be hard on the digestive system. Sprouted legumes are easier to digest, and they are also easier to use in spreads, dips, and soups. To sprout legumes, rinse them and put them into a glass jar, and cover them with tulle netting fastened with a rubber band. Keep the legumes moist but not soaking wet. Rinse them often to prevent mold growth. The legumes will usually sprout after 1-5 days. Green or white sprouts will appear, and when the sprouts are about one quarter to a half- inch long, the legumes are ready to use. Rinse them again before using them to remove some of the indigestible sugars that can cause gas. Try lentils, chickpeas, adzuki beans, or mung beans.
Other good sources of protein include: raw nuts (so of course no roasted nuts) and raw seeds such as chia, hemp, flax, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin. Use grains like millet, buckwheat groats, kamut, quinoa, oats, oat groats, spelt, wheat germ, and wild rice. Spirulina (blue-green algae) is high in protein.
You can also get some protein from the vegetables and fruit you eat. For example, 2 cups of kale contains 4 grams of protein. You can use a protein powder to boost your protein intake, like hemp powder or sprouted protein, or vegan rice protein.
It is important to monitor you intake of the amino acids Lysine and Methionine, as these two amino acids are relatively low in the proteins available in the raw vegan diet. Symptoms of deficiencies in these two amino acids include fatigue, depression, and irritability. In children, these deficiencies can cause inadequate growth.
You can use raw seasonings in your foods, including apple cider vinegar, basil, oregano, chives, parsley, liquid aminos, cayenne, Celtic sea salt, parsley, ginger root, dill, curry, cumin, raw chocolate, and raw vanilla beans. Most sweeteners are processed, but you can use raw honey, raw agave nectar, coconut nectar, stevia powder, date sugar, and Yacon syrup.
You should eliminate all alcohol from your diet. The following beverages are permitted: Uncooked nut milks, barley grass, vegetable or fruit juice (freshly squeezed or frozen, unpasteurized), young coconut water, and wheatgrass. And of course, you should still drink half your body weight in ounces of water a day.
Another interesting food option is dried or dehydrated fruit and vegetables. You can make these yourself with a food dehydrator, that blows air over the foods. Or you can buy them already dried.
There are many health benefits to a Raw Vegan Diet, but you must be careful to get enough calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Talk to your health care provider if you are considering the Raw Vegan Diet.
Blessings to you,