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Transitioning to a Healthy Raw Food Diet
By Don Bennett, DAS

There are two well-traveled roads to a raw food diet, and several other lesser paths. There used to be just one main route; it was via the typical Western diet, then the vegetarian diet, then a vegan diet, and eventually a raw vegan diet. A lot of people have traveled that road. When they were eating the typical Western diet, they had no idea that they would ever change their diet. When they became vegetarian, they had no idea that a vegan diet was in store for them. When going vegan, most people would never have imagined that a raw vegan diet was in their future.

Today, a new shortcut has become the preferred route for many raw foodists. It is best described as the “cooked, not cooked” route. On this route, many of the detours to successful raw foodism are avoided. Some, however, are not. On this route, the primary consideration – and detour – often becomes, “Is this raw?” rather than, “Is this healthy for me?”

Backsliding has always been an issue surrounding any dietary change. As new dietary habits become ingrained, backsliding becomes less severe and less frequent. People get back on track more rapidly. When someone goes from the typical Western diet to a raw vegan diet, with little or no transition, the backsliding can be quite severe. This is not only hard on the person physically, it can pose difficult challenges both mentally and emotionally. Successes on the raw road invariably lead to more enthusiasm and better adherence to the raw food way of living. Successes provide such positive feedback that they often encourage more experimentation with a raw food diet. Failures, or even perceived failures, often leave novices feeling like quitting, as if the rewards simply aren’t worth the effort.

There are many challenges in going raw. Family and social pressures, learning about new foods and new ways of eating, finding quality foods that are ripe, creating tasty recipes, mastering food prep techniques and nutritional concerns are just a few of the obstacles to be overcome. The biggest challenges revolve around learning what foods to eat and developing the skills required to eat those foods.

Whatever our eating style, we tend to take our eating habits with us. Overeaters continue to overeat, comfort eaters persist in using foods as drugs to numb themselves, and picky eaters are still often very picky after going raw. The typical Western diet is composed of approximately 42% carbs, 42% fat, and 16% protein, a very unhealthy mixture that can lead to diabetes, chronic fatigue, candidiasis, and being overweight. When we go to raw, we usually continue eating this unhealthy mixture of caloro-nutrients. Changing this nutritional formula to a healthier ratio is the raw foodist’s biggest challenge, yet in many ways, it is the easiest.

Many of the healthiest and fittest Americans have switched to the “high carb” diet. Doing so on a raw regimen is challenging, for three basic reasons. Let’s evaluate each and see how they can be easily overcome.

The typical Western diet is a very low fiber diet

Animal products supply no fiber and most of the grain products consumed in America have their fiber removed. This lack of fiber means that there is also a lack of volume. When we switch to a raw diet, we are not practiced at consuming healthy amounts of volume, therefore we often unintentionally undereat. The resulting weight loss may be viewed as a positive, but being constantly hungry is not encouraging to recently initiated raw foodists. As they search for a way to consume sufficient calories, the concept of removing fiber creeps back into play, as a way of concentrating the calories. Removing fiber is known as “refining.”

Whole foods are considered inherently more nutritious than their refined counterparts, and rightly so. Still, refined fruits, vegetables, and fats are being touted as “health foods,” in fact, the healthiest foods. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fiber is an essential nutrient. Removing fiber to make fruit juices, vegetable juices, or free oils or fats is removing an essential nutrient, thus removing essential nutrition. Juicing may remove the fiber and therefore lower the overall volume to be consumed, but this can in no way be considered a healthy practice.

Only through the practice of eating whole foods will we develop the habits and abilities to make entire meals of whole foods.

The typical Western diet is a very low water content diet

This lack of water also contributes greatly to the inherent lack of volume in the typical Western diet. The diet is so low in water, in fact, that a person eating this diet needs to consume almost a gallon of liquids per day to fulfill their water needs. Raw foodists, on the other hand, get most of their water from their foods.

The process of cooking is the main way that most people remove the water from their foods. Foods cooked at 400 degrees for an hour will lose much of their water. So will foods “cooked” at 100 degrees for 40 hours! The practice of dehydrating, endorsed by some raw foodists as a viable method of transitioning to a raw diet, actually simulates the low-water-content foods that cooked foodists eat. The use of dehydrated foods actually holds the eaters bound to the low-volume foods that they are used to, a captive to the cooked food mentality.

Water-rich foods are also very filling, if only because of the sheer volume they provide. To develop the skills necessary to eat high-volume, water-rich foods, one must eat exactly and only these foods... but this is a great tactic because these are the foods we're biologically adapted to eat.

The typical Western diet is a very high fat diet

The typical Western diet is, on average, comprised of about 42% fat. Many people on this diet eat over 50%, even 60%, of their total calories as fat. They have learned to satisfy their appetite with fats. This is not what our physiology is designed to thrive on however. A diet dominated by the simple carbohydrates found in fruit more closely matches our physiologic needs. When "going raw", most people continue consuming a high-fat diet. As they eat more vegetables, they get hungrier, and eat even more fat to satisfy themselves. The simple carbohydrate deficit increases with almost every meal.

When prospective raw foodists go off their raw regimen, they almost invariably find themselves eating cooked, complex carbohydrates. Until they learn to consume high amounts of sweet fruits to fulfill their carbohydrate needs, they will invariably fail in their health and raw food efforts.

The high-fat raw food diet is a recipe for failure, both in regards to health and to staying all-raw. Utilizing the high fruit diet is the ideal, logical, and healthful method for achieving the low-fat, high-carb diet that every knowledgeable health practitioner on the planet recommends. Simply by increasing, slowly but surely, the quantity of fruits in your diet, you will reap huge health benefits.

And because the foods of a healthy raw vegan diet are grown by agri-industry who grows for profit and not nutritional content, and because the foods of a raw vegan diet are not fortified with any nutrients like the foods of the typical Western diet are, it's important to add to this "best" diet a nutritional complement to the diet to compensate for the nutritionally sub-par fruit and greens that most people buy (I don't sell it). This is something you're not going to hear from those raw vegan educators who have a philosophical aversion to nutritional supplements.

"The news isn't that fruits and vegetables are good for you. It's that they are so good for you they could save your life."
                           – David Bjerklie, TIME Magazine, October 20, 2003


See also:

Tips For Transitioning to a Healthier Diet

What You May Experience When Transitioning to a Healthy Diet

How to be Successful on a Raw Vegan Diet


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