So you’ve been on a raw food diet for a while now and you feel stuck. You have cravings all the time, you have low energy, you haven’t experienced the health and vitality that everyone talks about, and you definitely don’t have “the glow”.
You aren’t alone. There’s a reason you and so many like you are dismayed by your results (or lack thereof) from your switch to raw foods. You’re doing it all wrong.
But don’t worry, it’s an easy fix. Take a look at these 5 common mistakes made by raw foodists to see if one, two, or even all of them can be blamed for your raw food woes.
Mistake #1: Eating Too Much Fat
By far the biggest mistake made on a raw food diet is overdoing it on fat. You may think this is hard to do on only raw foods, but you are mistaken. Avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and oils are all comprised of mostly fat (75%+)
What’s the problem with too much? For one, a diet high in fat is the true cause of high blood sugar, but it also interferes with the transportation of oxygen through blood and has been linked to several mental and physical ailments.
Plus, fatty foods just are not satiating. Even if you get enough calories, you will likely still experience tremendous cravings for foods like bread and pasta because your body need carbs. Lacking fuel, fatigue will set in as well.
Remedy: Limit your fat intake to no more than 10% of total calories. It’s okay to have some days that are higher in fat, but the average should be around 10%. This typically means one to two ounces of nuts/seeds or half to three quarters of a medium avocado.
Mistake #2: Eating Too Little Fruit
The reason it’s so hard to maintain a diet of mostly fat (raw or not) is because your body naturally craves sugar-rich carbohydrates. Your entire body runs on sugar and everything you eat, carbohydrate-rich or not, has to be converted to simple sugar before it can be fully utilized by the cells.
Now, I’m certainly not telling you to go chow down on pasta or garlic bread. Grains should definitely be avoided for optimal health. What I’m saying is that you need to eat more fresh, whole, ripe, raw, sweet, delicious, nutritious, and simple sugar-rich fruit.
If you want to succeed on a raw food diet, you have to get the majority of your calories from fruit.
Remedy: Eat as much fruit as you want for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Make sure all the fruit you eat is good quality and at the peak of ripeness.
Mistake #3: Eating Too Much Salt
Besides eating far too much fat in the form of avocados, nuts, and oils, raw foodists are known for consuming too much salt as well.
If you REALLY want to see your health soar, you need to severely limit or eliminate salt (yes, even “healthy” sea salt) from your diet. You can get all the minerals you need, including sodium, from fresh fruits and greens.
Remedy: Turn to ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice, herbs, and celery powder to add great flavor to your savory raw salads, soups, and sauces.
Mistake #4: Eating Too Many Refined Foods
Even though many raw foodists love to claim that they eat a 100% raw and natural diet, the simple fact is that the vast majority of them eat way too many refined foods. Dried fruit, dried nuts and seeds, and refined sweeteners are used in abundance to make everything from flax seed crackers to chocolate mouse.
Remember, this is a RAW food diet we are talking about here. Refined foods, even if they are only sun-dried, are no longer truly raw.
Remedy: Keep refined foods like dried fruits to a minimum. The bulk of your calories should come from whole, fresh foods.
Mistake #5: Eating Complicated Recipes
Finally, a huge mistake in the raw food movement has to do with complicated recipes that ignore food combining. To show you what I mean check out this popular raw dessert:
1 cup ground pecans
1 cup dates
1/4 cup cacao powder
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon avocado
1 tablespoon agave
1/2 tablespoon cacao powder
Not only is this recipe high in fat (over 50%!), but it’s very poorly combined. It’s full of sugar (dates and agave) and fat (pecans, coconut oil, and avocado) which do not digest well together.
It’s okay to have a complex recipe with multiple ingredients every once in a while. But these should never make up the majority of what you eat.
Remedy: Keep recipes simple by limiting the number of ingredients used (the fewer ingredients, the better) and always remember to follow proper food combining rules.
Staying Raw is Simple
If you want to see fabulous results and succeed long-term on a raw food diet, you’ve got to limit your intake of fatty and dehydrated foods, cut out the salt and poorly combined recipes, and increase your consumption of fruit. Only then will you start to see dramatic and lasting health improvements.
Go raw and be fit,
P.S. So you’re keeping your fat intake low, your fruit intake high, cutting back on refined foods and complicated recipes, and avoiding all salt. You’re doing everything right, but there’s a problem…
You still have massive cravings!
No worries. I’ve got the perfect thing:
“How to Conquer Your Cooked Food Cravings Once and for All”
A Guide for Destroying Cravings on a Raw Food Diet
Think there is no one way to eat a raw food diet that works for everyone? Think some people thrive on lots of fat, while others thrive on piles of fruit?
You Just Aren’t That Special
You’ve got to stop listening to “experts” who espouse the “whatever-works-for-you” diet model. The ones who tell you that there is no one way to eat raw. The ones who tell you that each person’s biological make-up/blood type/metabolism is so unique that everyone thrives on a different diet.
The truth is, you just aren’t that special. In fact, none of us are! We are all human beings. We all have the same basic anatomy and physiology. We all thrive on the same basic diet.
One Diet DOES Fit All
Whether you look to your ancestral past, your body’s biological structures and functions, or even your primate cousins, one thing is clear: human beings thrive on a high carb, low fat plant-based diet.
And whether you eat raw or cooked makes no difference.
If you want to succeed long-term on a raw food diet, you have to get the majority of your calories from carbohydrates and keep your fat intake to a minimum. In practical terms, this means eating lots of fruit, lots of greens, and minimal amounts of nuts, seeds, and avocados.
This is not to say that differences won’t exist from person to person. Personal preference definitely plays a role when it comes to choosing specific foods, i.e. I like papaya, you like pineapple; I like red leaf lettuce, you like romaine; I like pistachios, you like pecans; etc.
But the basic nutritional formula doesn’t change. If you want to thrive on a raw food diet, you’ve got to eat fruit for fuel, greens for minerals, and limit your fat intake.
I recently criticized Mark Sisson’s primal diet, the low carb, high fat diet that he defended during Kevin Gianni’s Great Health Debate. I thought that was everything I had to say, but it seems there’s one more point that I really want to address.
And it actually has to do with a similarity between the two diets that we promote.
Give Up the Grain
One of Mark’s major problems with the typical high carb diets is that they rely too heavily on grains. According to Mark, “there is absolutely no reason to eat grains”. This includes wheat, oats, rice, barley, and buckwheat, among others.
But this critique doesn’t apply at all to a low fat raw vegan diet. Why?
Because grains are not included as part of an optimal low fat raw vegan diet. As Mark has pointed out, grains are full of insoluble fiber, low in vitamins and minerals, and contain toxic anti-nutrients such as gluten and lectin.
Get on the Fruit Train
Instead, a low fat raw vegan diet is predominated by fruit, including but not limited to bananas, oranges, grapes, mangoes, pineapple, peaches, jakfruit, cantaloupe, and strawberries.
Fruit is full of soluble fiber, rich in vital vitamins and minerals, very low in toxins, can (and should) be eaten in its raw state, is alkaline-forming (even “acidic” citrus fruit), is not high-glycemic, and contains no addictive substances.
Okay, I’m not so sure about that last one. I have quite a hard time resisting (read: cannot ever say no to) a perfectly ripe peach or heirloom summer tomato.
Go raw and be fit,
P.S. Have you heard about my raw food friend and mentor Frederic Patenaude’s latest release, Raw Food Controversies? It’s a book all about Frederic’s own personal journey with raw foods over the past 10+ years.
I’ve learned a little bit over the years about Frederic’s experience with the mainstream raw food diet, but nothing as in-depth, personal, or eye-opening as the information he divulges in this book:
Raw Food Controversies
How to Avoid Common Mistakes That May Sabotage Your Health
I didn’t get a chance to listen to most of Kevin Gianni’s Great Health Debate last week, but I was able to make room in my schedule for two night lectures. One of those lectures was Mark Sisson and Frederic Patenaude’s debate on low carb vs. high carb diets.
The foundation of Mark’s primal diet (lots of fatty meat, some vegetables, nuts and seeds, limited fruit, and no cereal grains) is that we should eat what our ancestors ate. According to him, this means lots of meat and fat and very few carbohydrates. These are the foods that our ancestors thrived on and these are the foods that we thrive on today.
Let’s start by analyzing the first part of that statement: Did our ancestors really thrive on animal flesh?
Look to Your Ancestors
Here are just a few points that refute Mark’s argument that our ancestors relied heavily on meat:
#1: Humans Were Gatherers First, Hunters Second
If I learned one thing over and over again from the numerous anthropology courses I attended in college (anthropology was my minor), it’s that humans were primarily gatherers. Over 70% of the foods we consumed were plant-based.
And this makes perfect sense. We are not very adept at hunting. We have dull nails, flat teeth, and we aren’t very fast. It took a lot of work for us to track and take down an animal, even a small one.
#2: Heavy Meat-Eating was Limited to the Ice Age
It is very likely that our ancestors (at least some of them, depending upon the region), lived on a large portion of meat. And even though most vegans may scoff at it, this was a GREAT thing for our species.
If we had not created new tools for killing large animals, (such as long spears with sharp, curved points all over the blade that did a great job of taking down large prey while we remained at a safe distance) rather than relying on small tools for scavenging, and if we had not learned how to track and hunt these animals effectively, our species would not have survived the harsh conditions of this particular glacial maximum (aka the Ice Age).
But the fact remains that this was only a portion of our time on the planet. Anthropologists agree that the rest of our existence as hunter-gatherers was spent eating mostly foraged foods.
#3: Wild Meat was Lean Meat
Even if we did subsist on lots of animal flesh during the Ice Age, this flesh came from wild animals (e.g. elk, reindeer, and mammoths). These animals were forced to traverse the land and fight for their food, just like our ancestors did.
As a result, they were fit and lean (averaging 15% body fat) unlike today’s fatty domesticated animals which Mark and paleo supporters promote eating (even when trimmed, beef sirloin is still almost 40% fat).
And really, I’m being lenient when I say that humans likely ate mostly meat during the Ice Age. Anthropologists still argue about this point, some claiming that we continued our plant-predominated diet.
I think the evidence suggests that we did eat quite a bit of animal flesh and that this helped us tremendously during the harsh weather conditions, but I’m no anthropological expert.
#4: Low Fat was the Norm
Anthropologists also agree that the diet we lived on as hunter-gatherers was low in fat, staying within the 10-20% range.
Meat was a rarity (and as I already mentioned, these animals were lean) and fatty nuts and seeds were only available for part of the year. Everything else, i.e. fruits and vegetables, are low in fat.
This is very different from Mark’s recommendations of eating 50%+ of total calories from fat, most of this fat coming from animal flesh.
#5: Hunter-Gatherers Ate Meat, Pastoralists Ate Milk, Eggs, and Cheese
While it’s clear that humans have always consumed some meat, it’s also clear that we did not consume any animal by-products (e.g. dairy and eggs) until we became sedentary and began domesticating animals.
Why Mark thinks that consuming butter and cream correlates to a hunter-gatherer diet, I haven’t the foggiest.
Look to Your Anatomy
Regardless of the immense research and fact finding that has been done regarding human evolution, the simple fact remains that we were not there to witness it. We will never know for sure what really happened.
So since the past will never be fully understood, is it really a good idea to base an entire diet around what we think our ancestors consumed?
I don’t think so.
I think it is a much better idea to look at what we do know, and that’s the human body as it exists today. And it just so happens that everything we know supports a high carb lifestyle, not a low carb one.
#1: “The Currency of the Body is Glucose”
This is how Frederic phrased it during his portion of the lecture and he’s absolutely right.
Your whole body runs on carbohydrates, specifically the simple sugar glucose. Everything you eat has to be converted to sugar for you to fully digest it.
This fact alone completely plunders the low carb argument. But there’s more…
#2: You Are Not a Carnivore
Nothing about your anatomy or physiology suggests that the optimal food for you is meat.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Your flat teeth, flat nails, long digestive tract, and inability to produce vitamin C practically scream that the foods which support you best are plant-based.
#3: A Meat-Heavy Diet Causes Cancer
The research is clear. If you want to avoid common cancers (e.g. colon cancer, rectum cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer) and other diseases of affluence (e.g. heart disease and diabetes), you have to limit your consumption of animal products.
#4: Ever Experience Withdrawal Symptoms From Fresh Fruit?
When a person gives up animal products, particularly dairy, he or she experiences withdrawal effects. Similar to when people give up alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, or cocaine, it is common to experience headaches, fatigue, runny noses, and break outs when transitioning to a meat-free diet.
And after the detox is over, their health invariably IMPROVES! If animal products were good for us, we would not see this kind of negative reaction or the positive results that follow when we eliminate them from our diet.
#5: Ketosis is a Last Resort
Frederic also pointed this out during his lecture. Ketosis is a process by which your body burns its own stored fat for fuel. This is a way for your body to avoid consuming its own vital organs for as long as possible during times of famine. This is specifically why people can fast for long periods of time without keeling over.
Purposely entering into ketosis, which is what Mark’s low carb diet forces the body to do, is not advantageous. Ketosis is a survival mechanism, necessary in times of famine, and should not be viewed as a viable weight loss or health strategy.
Human beings thrive on whole food carbohydrates, not fatty meats. These are the foods your ancestors thrived on and these are the foods your body thrives on today.
Go raw and be fit,
P.S. I just want to add that Frederic did a FANTASTIC job defending the high carb, low fat lifestyle! And I’m not just saying that because his book was the one that convinced me to give raw a second chance. He was obviously very well prepared and made many excellent points during his lecture.
Great job, Frederic! We need more well-spoken fruit defenders like you.
P.P.S And HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! I hope you have someone special to share it with.