In the quest of better health and possible “easy” weight loss, people often turn to strange things. There are the one food diets where you eat the same thing over and over again. There are the liquid diets, the shake diets and even the diet where you eat more than your fill of meat. And then there is the raw food diet, a vegan diet that focuses on eating foods as minimally processed as possible usually without any cooking. Some foods on this plan are heated to about 140 degrees (F) but no higher because the followers think it destroys the nutrients. While it does have a lot of positives there are drawbacks. Here are some of the dangers of a raw food diet that you definitely should be aware of before you start one of your own.Are You Getting Enough Calories?
One of the most obvious problems with the raw food diet might be getting enough calories. Yes, fewer calories might be good if you are trying to lose a little bit of weight, but if your calorie count is too low, it is not going to be beneficial in any way. The body needs a minimum number of calories per day just to function and maintain itself no matter what your current weight is. If your count falls dramatically below that level the body will not only stop burning fat for fuel it may also shut down systems that it deems “not critical”. You are not only harming your health you are also possibly ruining your metabolism in the process.
Signs that you are not getting enough calories can include:
- Inability to get or stay warm.
- Extreme fatigue
- Cramping in the stomach.
- Muscle weakness or aches.
- Dull headaches
It is important when you first start a raw food diet that you know how many calories you should be eating and compare that to the number of calories that you are actually consuming. If there is a large gap you may have to consider supplements or different meal plans until you are able to meet your needs properly.
Vegetables Are Only as Healthy as How They Are Processed
The raw food diet plan focuses on things that are as close to nature as possible- unprocessed and served without cooking or other purifying methods. Some of the foods like sprouts and unprocessed grains have a higher risk of problems with contamination so they must be eaten with great care.
Other foods, like fruits and vegetables must be thoroughly and carefully washed to be sure that all traces of possible contaminants are removed. Remember, just because you are not eating meat or animal products does not protect you from food poisoning. Just a few years ago there were several deaths and many others became ill after eating bagged spinach so you must always use caution with all of the foods that you are eating.
Are You Getting all of the Proper Nutrients?
Raw foodists (as they sometimes like to be called) are at risk of some fairly serious deficiencies: Vitamin B12, Calcium and Vitamin D. While there are some plant sources of calcium that are considered superior to animal sources, there are some very limited options for Vitamin B12 in the raw food diet. One non-animal source is fortified cereal but most raw food dieters do not eat these because they are processed. Symptoms of a Vitamin B12 deficiency include the following:
- Decreased appetite
- Numbness or a tingling sensation in the hands and/or the feet
- Mouth soreness
- Balance problems
- Poor memory
- Mental confusion
Most people who are following a vegetarian, vegan or raw food diet can supplement either by taking oral vitamins, sublingual drops or by injection.
A deficiency in calcium and Vitamin D can lead to serious problems with loss of bone density which can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition marked by brittle bones which are susceptible to easy fractures. It is very important that anyone following a raw food diet be tested to ensure that they are at sufficient levels of these important nutrients and to supplement whenever their levels are too low.
Cholesterol Problems, From Raw…Really?
Although the diet is healthy overall, there is still the risk that the blood levels of high density lipids of HDL will be too low. HDL is the “good” cholesterol- it can be increased by increasing exercise, getting healthy fats and losing weight. When this level is too low the risk of heart disease is increased. Again, this should be something that is monitored by your doctor especially when you first make the switch to a raw food diet.
A New & Uncomfortable Problem, Digestion
A final problem that you might see with your new raw food diet is caused by the sudden increase in the amount of fiber you are getting. If you are focusing on getting fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and unprocessed grains then you are probably getting more than enough daily fiber.
The recommendation is 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day for adults- but you should always increase your amounts very slowly. Sudden and extreme increases can cause problems like excessive bloating or pain in the stomach, excess gas, constipation and in some cases may even lead to a blockage that will require hospital care. Add your fiber in slowly and be sure that you are not getting too much of a good thing in your diet.
So, as you can see there are many problems you can have when eating a seemingly healthy “raw” diet. At the end of the day, we all need balance in our diets and too much of one thing, regardless of what it is, is never good.
If you are a raw foodie, if you have tried a raw food diet, or if you have any questions about eating “raw”, I would love to hear it below within my comments.
Founder of HowToLoseBellyFatToday.com
I’m not a fan of a complete raw food diet because of most of the dangers you mentioned above.
You can get Vit B12 from yeast extract and seaweed, spirulina being the more well known one.
Brocoli and dark greens are a good source of calcium. Having been a veggie for nearly 40yrs and a woman of, shall we say more mature years, a recent xray showed no signs of osteoporosis!
I hadn’t thought about the fibre issue but can see how that could be a problem with a raw food diet.
Good article, I enjoyed reading it. 🙂
Yeah, I am definitely an advocate of eating vegetables and totally cool with those that choose to be full vegan. However, some vegetables are much better for you cooked and much easier to digest and there are many other food types that you should be incorporating into your diet as well outside of just “raw”.
Fibre is definitely important and most people don’t get enough (it actually curbs appetites and prevents overeating), but too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. In this case, your digestive system doesn’t thank you.
I doubt I could do raw food, I enjoy cooking too much. It’s just as well it’s probably not such a good thing! 🙂
Exactly, I enjoy cooking as much as I enjoy eating. To me there needs to be a balance in your eating, it is OK to “cheat” sometimes and it is absolutely OK to eat a well rounded diet. I definitely have nothing against being full vegan, but eating raw in my opinion is another fad that people quickly jump on without doing all the research (it’s a vegetable so it must be fine right?).
Ugh. Another fad diet soon to be forgotten. In 20 years, people will laugh at the 2000’s diets: Paleo, Gluten Free, and Raw.
I agree with that, Paleo is a big one that I hear and see so many people doing. They are typically all overweight and they tend to last about a few weeks on the diet, hardly from sustainable. And raw food dieting, it just has too many negatives associated with it…many of the best vegetables we eat are much better for you when cooked.
The article seems to suggest both raw and vegan. In that case, another concern may be getting protein. It was my understanding that vegans get protein from legumes, which are mostly acquired from stores in either dry (needs to be cooked), or cooked/canned form. If not vegan though, a great source of carnosine, b12, and readily digestible protein is from raw eggs which I eat regularly. A Paleo diet is really quite simple and rational; avoid processed foods and you are eating Paleo. The Paleo diet is not practical at a global scale (grains are what make large populations possible), which is why it will always be a fringe diet, but for those who can afford it, there is plenty of scientific evidence to suggest that eating Paleo will provide you with maximal nutrient densities for optimal health; prominently, a strong bone structure free from oral cavities. I’ve read two older studies that showed that large groups of poor children were able to recover their cavity ridden mouths by being switched to Paleo diets high in organ meats which provide high quantities of vitamin A and K2; K2 being a critical nutrient regulating the body’s use of calcium. There is a reason birds and mice have specially evolved digestive systems to neutralize the anti-nutrient acids in seeds and why certain farmers are investing in phytase supplementation for their non-ruminant animals to combat the nutrient-stripping effect of large quantities of grains. Humans are non-ruminant animals.
Hi there, well this is such a good point to bring up. I am currently working with girls in their early 20’s who believe that a raw diet is the way to go because of it’s health benefits. However, they often display symptoms as you describe -always cold, tiredness and cold sores. Raw food diets are out there encouraging people to get fit, be healthy but as you mentioned there is a downside to this also. The cliche -everything in moderation comes to mind. Our diet does need to be balanced in order to nourish our bodies and to be healthy. Thanks for bringing this up.
Yeah, the good ol’ cliche. It is trendy for people to take on diets like this and become so infatuated with them that any other way of eating isn’t good because it isn’t the same as theres. Eating in moderation and even letting yourself “pig out” once in awhile in my mind is healthy. For those that weightlift or train for competitions, there are always cheat meals in a diet and they are there for sanity purposes lol.
Thanks for dropping by Paula!
There are so many praises for taking raw food daily, that it’s good that to read an article on the downsides of it. I have never been a fan of raw food. In fact according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, raw food can be too ‘cool’ for the body, causing imbalances. This said, I think that a balance diet with sufficient amount of both raw and cooked vege is the best way to go about it. Thanks for sharing!
I think the problem is that folks get so caught up in the health of something, that they end up doing too much of a good thing. Raw vegetables can absolutely be great for you, cooked vegetables in many cases can be much better for you. Three prime examples are brocolli, tomatoes and spinach…and some can even be not so great for you if you eat too much of it.
Everything in moderation. I am definitely all for eating raw foods, but I am against the idea of only eating raw foods.
Hi Kyle. Really nice take here on the disadvantages of raw foods. Me myself is increasing my fruits and vegetables intake in order increase my nutrients and lose some weight. I’m never going to the vegan road though – I Ireally love my meats 🙂
I’m taking my fruits and veges (usually leafy greens) uncooked so I’m a bit worried when you said about those contamination issues. May I know what’s the correct way of cleaning veges? Is washing on running water enough?
Although I am not a huge meat eater, I do enjoy a nice hearty meat based meal once in awhile. The problem with these types of diets is that they are often not sustainable or they are very hard on your body after awhile. I have had several friends that have tried this diet, but it didn’t last at all.
I am definitely pro vegetables and fruits, even raw vegetables of all kinds. But it just needs to be done in moderation.
Hi, very interesting read, it would be hard for me to eat raw vegetables, i would have to cook them. I myself am vegan however don’t have a ‘raw’ vegan diet, i have never found myself to be healthier in my mind and body as of today. I have increased muscle mass incredibly and my body repairs so much quicker, i know that there are a couple of athletes with a raw vegan diet one of them being nick diaz. I really think if you go down a diet like this you must research where to find the vitamins and minerals before you do it, hence its great you are showing people the possible outcomes of not receiving these in the diet and what to look for!
Perhaps that might be why he lost his last match? lol
I agree that eating Vegan can be very healthy, not to say there aren’t benefits of meat as well (I am sure you would have other arguments), but cooking certain Vegetables like Tomatoes and Spinach and lead to superior health benefits and can also ease the digestion process.
These are the sorts of things that should be researched as you say, it can be very easy to go overboard when you are dipping into the raw diet world.
Wow, that’s interesting about the raw food diet. I wouldn’t think raw vegetables would be an issue. I like raw and cooked vegetables. I didn’t realize they could cause cholesterol or digestive issues. I never thought of doing a raw food diet and after reading this, I don’t think I ever will.
Everything should be done in moderation. Raw food and vegetables can absolutely be good for you, you just don’t want to go overboard. Sometimes people fall into a craze and they get too fixated on the health benefits of certain aspects of the craze and lose sight of the moderation. Moderation is key folks!
Thank you, this is good information.
We try to follow a very balanced and sane way of eating in our house.
Going completely “raw” would be hard for me on my own, and nearly impossible for my crew.
I think your review is very thorough and brings home the valuable point of moderation in all things.
You mentioned some supplements that those trying a raw food diet should consider when they are monitoring and looking out for possible signs of any type of deficiency.
I know you’re not able to give medical advice, but what are some natural supplements you may be aware of that would be beneficial for some friends who are trying this type of diet?
I appreciate your review!
As a pharmacist myself who believes in scientific way of everything, I cringe whenever I hear people do things just because they heard it’s good. I can even sense when a person explains something and started deviating from scientific way of understanding things.
You are right here. People should not be so radical about a certain way of eating just because they heard it from a holistic doctor (some are even quack doctors). Our family have experienced losing a loved one, because of his devotion to eating raw foods, he acquired some kind of microbes that eat their way into the pancreas triggering growth of abnormal cells. Ordinary people don’t know that, they wonder why would someone so conscious about healthy living succumb to a pancreatic tumor.
Thanks for this article, and I support you on this.
In a lot of cases, it is the blind leading the blind. Stories and information get misconstrued and completely change as they move from one person to the next, health and how to properly eat often times is handed down in this manner.
I know personally that I was raised my entire life until I was an adult without understanding calorie consumption, healthy food, what to eat and what not to eat…thankfully I was very active so I didn’t have to watch my weight.
Sorry to hear about the loss of a loved one, that is awful and it sounds like something that could have been prevented through knowledge. Sometimes though you just can’t do anything right, some of the healthiest people end up getting ailments whereas someone who is completely unhealthy lives longer than a brontosaurus. Everything in moderation is key.
Great info Kyle. raw fruits and vegs are a must in everyone’s diet but be cautious and make sure it is raised in US because other countries are not as strict in how it is farmed. Some countries have been known to use human waste in farming vegs.If you can buy organic it is best but make sure you scrub and wash it properly.One way to get the right amount of protein is add beans and broccoli, which has as much protein as steak./ red meat.juicing is another way to get a quick fix in vitamins/minerals. add a little protein powder and get a big boost. If you’re a purest and want raw foods you can just dip the vegs in hot water for purity.But you are right about Getting enough calories. Great website. I’m jealous . 🙂