Not all raw food diets are the same, far from it actually. This may sound surprising but the mainstream raw food movement is in major need of a facelift! Although there’s good intention, people are still being lead astray when it comes to raw food. So what’s the deal you ask? How do you know where to start so you won’t wind up down the wrong path? Read this post for an overview of the different raw food diets out there.
“Gourmet” Raw Food at One End of the Spectrum
Raw food has quite a wide range. I would say that at one end of the spectrum, you have the “gourmet” raw food diet. Most people discover raw food from being exposed to ‘gourmet’ raw food, whether through a raw food restaurant, raw desserts, or seeing the plethora of raw food products now sold in health food stores. This has definitely served a very positive purpose, as it’s helped many people transition away from processed foods towards more real, whole foods. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the low fat raw vegan (LFRV) diet, which is essentially a high fruit and vegetable based diet. LFRV focuses more on minimizing fat intake and feels a lot lighter than the comparatively “denser” gourmet raw diet.
Gourmet raw foodies (and I used to be one of them) re-create all their favorite and highly addictive foods in their ‘raw’ equivalent. This almost always consists of an unhealthy combination of sugars + fats + salt, a combination that is so highly addictive in the standard America diet (S.A.D), albeit made with healthier, higher quality whole or raw food ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a huge step in the right direction away from SAD, at least due to the reduction of chemical laden, processed foods and animal products. That’s why I share some transitional raw food recipes on this website to help people find a balance within transitioning to a raw food lifestyle.
Gourmet raw diets rely heavily upon nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut meal and oils. Surprisingly, this is essentially a higher fat diet than the S.A.D way of eating. The average American consumes about 40-45% of calories from fat; the average gourmet raw fooder? A whopping 50-70% of calories from fat. (Want to know how much fat you eat? Try inputing your foods into a nutrition tracking site like cron-o-meter, and find out)
In my many years of experience, what I’ve learned is that just because it’s “raw” doesn’t always mean it’s healthy. You can be eating dates and dehydrated crackers all day long and call yourself a raw foodie, but this doesn’t make it an optimal way to eat or live.
I don’t know too many people who are able to sustain the gourmet raw diet for more than a couple of years. Most people either take the step towards low fat raw vegan or return to incorporating more cooked foods into their diets again, claiming that the raw food diet didn’t work for them, which is totally understandable – eating that much fat on a daily basis definitely isn’t sustainable.
Low Fat Raw Vegan at the Other
The Low fat raw vegan (LFRV) diet was for me a natural progression on this raw food journey. It is also called the 80/10/10 diet or rv811 (raw vegan 80/10/10) or simply referred to as LFRV. The 80/80/10 diet was a name coined by Dr. Douglas Graham, whom I’ve had the pleasure to train with personally. The numbers refer to a breakdown of carbohydrates to proteins to fats.
- Carbohydrates = 80% of total calories
- Proteins = 10% of total calories
- Fat = 10% of total calories
LFRV consists of predominantly of whole, fresh, ripe, raw, organic plants (to quote Dr. Graham). Given this criteria, and the caloric-nutrient breakdown, it’s basically a high fruit diet that includes as many veggies (including leafy greens and sprouts) as you care for and a smaller amount of nuts and seeds. I personally don’t count my fat calories (I did for the first few days, just to see how much fat I was actually eating – and I was surprised) but I have become aware of my fat intake on a daily basis and have largely decreased my fattier food consumption, including avocados, nuts, seeds and coconut. It’s not all-or-nothing, I still eat them, just a lot less than I used to, and my body is thanking me for it in return. I also don’t feel like engaging with people in a debate about exactly how much fat our diets should consist of; some say 10% is too low, others say 15-20% is better. My advice: do what feels best for you. For me, I thrive at about 10% fat.
The LFRV diet also avoids the use of salt. Of all the dietary changes I’ve made over all the years of my life, this single change (of giving up salt) has been the most incredible change I’ve ever made. I was totally shocked by how my body changed after I gave up added salt and can’t imagine ever going back to the heaps of salt I used to eat.
Since I’ve transitioned from ‘gourmet’ raw to LFRV, I feel so much better than I’ve ever felt in my life and now help caution new-found raw foodies that it’s important to remember that the very dense, fat-laden raw food meals should be viewed as transitional and to eat more sparingly, like on special occasions, so that they can reap all the benefits of living an optimal raw food diet.
Hope this helps shed some light and clarity on the different raw food diets out there.
Want to join me in Hawaii to learn how to transition to a raw foods lifestyle? Check out our raw food Hawaii retreats.
Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii,
Laura Dawn, Registered Holistic Nutritionist