A raw food diet sounds like one of the most enticing diets to someone whose ever heard of its health claims or just loves healthy food. Raw food is so vibrant, so alive, so untouched, and so pure. It’s one of the best diets to obtain a wide variety of dense nutrients, whether you choose to eat all raw or even high raw. But many people pick up a popular raw food diet book and just go to town. They get the blender, juicer, mandoline, and even splurge for the dehydrator and the spiralizer and think they’re all set to go (though they’re probably now broke!). In all seriousness though, while these appliances and kitchen gems to be treasured all enhance the variety of dishes you can use in a raw food kitchen, they don’t necessarily ensure you get all the nutrients you need.
Some common mistakes often occur for raw food newbies and they’re really easy mistakes to make (most of us know from first hand experience). If you’re considering adding raw food to your routine, we’d like to share some tips to make sure you stay healthy.
Avoid these common no-no’s, and try some other suggestions below instead:
1. Diving Straight In, Head First
Your body is an amazing machine of processes that don’t just come with an on and off switch. Just like jumping into a plant-based diet will take some transitioning, so will jumping into a raw food diet. I remember when I first tried a raw food diet, I didn’t touch anything that had been cooked (which was about 50 percent of my diet). My body went into shock like many people’s do because it was a bit too cleansing and I hit a big pause despite feeling lighter and energized. Jumping straight into raw foods after you’ve been used to cooked foods and even simpler non-raw drinks and foods like almond milk or blanched nuts, seeds, and steamed veggies, can all send your body to a halt because the cleansing nature of 100 percent raw foods is pretty strong. It’s a huge detox for the body, but it’s not the smartest way to go.
Detox doesn’t mean deprivation and it doesn’t mean all or nothing. To cleanse your body with raw foods, ease into it by reducing the cooked foods you eat day by day, week by week, which will help your bodily processes stay regular and also help it adapt more slowly. Chills, constipation, bloating, gas, serious headaches and chronic digestion problems can all happen if you go 100 percent raw in a day or two. How about just working raw foods into your diet at each meal instead and eating some healthy, simple to digest foods at each meal?
2. Not Eating Enough
It’s also important to not live off fruits, vegetables and greens when you go raw. Sure, these foods are rich in nutrition, but ultimately, they can not fully support the body. You’ll need some amounts of healthy fats and denser sources of protein. Hemp, chia, flax, avocado, coconut, almonds, and cashews all make great choices. Some grains can even be bought raw like oats, and soaked overnight to make them easier to digest. These foods are higher in calories and will help prevent your body from going into a nutrient-deprived state that leads to serious health problems.
3. Overdoing the Nuts and Fruit
Fruit and nuts provide large amounts calories for a raw food diet, with fruit providing sugar and nuts providing fat. However, combining these and eating large doses can one, send the body into digestive misery, and two, cause weight gain. Sugar and fat combined will cause weight gain in larger amounts and it also puts a strain on digestion. Fruit is digested more quickly than any other food and should be eaten alone on an empty stomach. Many people that transition into a raw food diet also rely on nuts alone for protein, which isn’t the best choice. Seeds, greens, and raw grains are much better choices, so eat some nuts and fruit throughout the day, but in smaller amounts and mindfully, not without abandonment. After all, if you’re eating too many fruits and nuts, there’s also the chance you’re not eating enough vegetables and leafy greens.
Of course you will hear of some people that eat fruit-heavy diets and feel great, but this is rare. Everyone’s bodies are different, but for the large majority of people, living off fruit is not the best way to support the body. The sugar can cause excessive bloating for new raw food eaters and can also lead to acne, gas, constipation or diarrhea, and symptoms of IBS. If you find this is the case but love fruit, stick to lower sugar fruits like cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados, zucchini, coconut, and berries.
4. Not Listening to Your Digestion
Your digestion will tell you what is really going on in your body. When a food isn’t properly digested, bloating, acne, and stomach issues will occur, along with fatigue from poor nutrient absorption, headaches and general malaise. Don’t let this happen to you, just ease into raw food and listen to your digestion, not a diet guru that promises raw food is the end all be all to great health.
5. Becoming Raw Obsessed
Finally, no matter how beautiful raw food is, it’s unhealthy to actually fear eating cooked foods. Your body will not die from eating cooked vegetables or other plant-based foods, so if you’re eating raw to obtain nutritional perfection, then you’ll be let down. Cooked foods actually do come with many benefits, with some foods containing more nutrition when cooked, and some are just easier to digest. Whatever food your body digests easier, it can obtain more nutrition from. Cooked food is also balancing to the body since it helps calm the nervous system and can also add some grounding nature where raw foods add stimulation. Be okay with the occasional or even regular cooked meal, and welcome the chance to eat a variety of plant-based foods.
All in all, remember that a raw food diet should be balanced like any other form of eating. It’s also not the only way to eat healthy. Everyone tends to find that different approaches to plant-based eating work for them. Find out what is best for you, whether that’s lower carb, higher carb, cooked, raw, macrobiotics, or whatever else form of plant-based nutrition your body tells you it prefers.
Still ready to go raw? See all of our raw, vegan food recipes for some ideas for how to add more raw foods to your routine.
Lead Image Source: Martin Cathrae/Flickr