As our understanding of our food and its health, environmental, social, and political implications increases, more of us are turning to plant-based lifestyles. Within this realm, however, there are many ways in which we can express a plant-based lifestyle. One of these is a raw vegan dietary approach.
Origins of Raw Veganism
What are the origins of raw veganism? That depends on who you ask. Some people are under the impression that this is just another wild, new fad diet. Others will focus on the roots of raw veganism within the last few centuries, while others yet will look towards prominent people of ancient times who have some reference to raw veganism as part of their life. However, if we allow ourselves to think consciously about this for a moment, trying to put aside our conditioned beliefs about food, diets, and history, we can perhaps begin to appreciate a whole other origin.
Many experts and laypeople alike who are followers or proponents of this movement understand that raw veganism goes all the way back to our earliest human beginnings. Think about it: what animal do you know that cooks its food? Secondly, what food source is easier to obtain in nature by humans without any weapons: plant or animal food?
If we look beyond our advanced and convenience-packed modern lives for a moment and consider what would happen if we were dropped in the middle of a remote land without anything, it becomes much easier to appreciate the natural and obvious approach of a raw vegan diet. It is only when we started making tools and using fire that we moved towards the consumption of animal foods and cooked foods. Taking these steps may have helped our ancestors get more calories from their food to combat periods of scarcity, and improve food safety, specifically when dealing with animal flesh. Unfortunately in modern times, most have accepted this latter approach to eating as the “normal and obvious”, shunning almost anything outside of that realm. Let’s also make a note here of the simple, yet the very important, fact that natural is not equivalent in meaning to normal. The former is based on the laws of nature, while the latter is based on mass acceptance at any given time.
Therefore, what may seem as a fanatical dietary approach to some, isn’t actually as crazy or unconventional as it may at first appear. And this brings us to the present time.
Why Choose Raw Veganism
If we look at the current trends, the results are clear: veganism is on the rise, and quite sharply at that, integrating itself amidst the mainstream. The reasons why increasing numbers of people today are showing an interest in veganism and following this path, are many. Each person will have their own unique motivation for making this choice. However, it is safe to say that in all cases some combination of health, environmental, social, political, and spiritual reasons is behind the decision.
As I teach via my other platforms, our human consciousness is awakening and evolving. We are becoming increasingly aware of the unnecessary and unjust suffering that is caused to the animals due to our food choices. We are learning about the unspeakable inhumane and torturous acts that are taking place every single day impacting the lives of hundreds of billions of animals. And when we learn that not only is there no need for us as humans to consume any animal products (dairy, eggs, or meat), but that we are actually better—physically, mentally, emotionally—for it, the choice becomes obvious.
So what about raw veganism? The reasons for choosing this path share a common foundation, as all that I have shared above. However, with raw veganism, participants take it a step further by not heat-treating (beyond the point of life) any of their food. This means that foods are eaten fully raw, soaked, sprouted, dehydrated (at low temperatures), or gently warmed up.
Whether for a temporary, long-term, or lifetime period, raw veganism is appealing to an increasing number of people as it really brings us to our most natural roots: to eat living, unadulterated plant foods. And in a world where most food is not worthy of having the word food associated with it, and where corporate interests and diet fads reign more supreme than the health of people and the Earth, it is not hard to see why some wish to strip it all away and connect with something of the most integral purity.
Therefore let’s explore 12 benefits that can result from raw veganism and further attract people to this way of eating and living.
1. Makes You More Health Conscious
It is next to impossible to be a raw vegan and not be health-conscious in some meaningful way. In fact, a raw vegan dietary approach tends to make people the most aware, conscious, and mindful about their food choices, compared to any other dietary approach. Those who follow this approach are not only intentional about what food they are eating but typically about the source of that food and its quality as well.
Food is meant to nourish and keep us healthy, and raw veganism helps us learn just how our food can do this in the most optimal ways. Raw veganism allows us to explore the highest potential of nutrient integrity and density of food, which naturally translates to making the healthiest choices possible, especially given today’s challenges when it comes to food.
People who are raw vegan aren’t only more conscientious about their food but tend to adopt overall, healthier lifestyle habits, and be more mindful of all of their lifestyle choices, and how any of these choices impact the health of our Earth.
2. Helps You Avoid Processed Food
Unlike regular veganism, raw veganism adheres and refers most specifically to whole food and clean eating. A person who is just vegan can easily eat lots of processed and unhealthy foods, but if you are raw vegan, then nearly all, if not all, of the foods you eat, will typically be whole, real, unrefined, and unprocessed. All processed foods involve some thermal treatment during their processing, like high-heat cooking, roasting, pasteurization, etc. All of this processing strips the food of so much of its beneficial attributes while introducing many harmful properties. So many nutrients are destroyed or denatured, while health-destroying compounds, like acrylamide, heterocyclic amines, and advanced glycation end products - AGEs are often created in the process. (This all applies to home-cooking of foods at high temperatures or for prolonged periods of time as well.)
And unfortunately most processed foods today are made up of ingredients that are themselves refined, processed, or synthetic, leading to a final product that is far removed from being any kind of nourishing or healthful substance. Therefore, a raw vegan approach helps a person automatically (and easily) avoid the thousands of unnatural additives that are found in our “food” today, effectively decreasing the stress and toxic load on the body. These include refined sugars and oils, genetically modified organisms, colors and flavors, synthetic vitamins and minerals, preservatives and other food additives, which are all linked to health problems in numerous ways.
3. Offers the Highest Nutrient Density
When veganism is done via whole, real plant foods, it offers us the highest nutrient density and the lowest amount of problems, as related to our food. There is ample research showing how overall plant-based diets are the most healing and protective. This can be further increased by raw veganism, given the overall negative attributes of heavily heat-treated food.
Most plant foods are the highest in nutrients and the lowest in calories. These foods are also the richest in heat-sensitive nutrients, though really all nutrients are impacted by heat in one way or another. This includes carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. (Low heat for short time = least destructive; high heat for a long time = most destructive.)
Finally, if raw plant foods are eaten in their whole forms, and come from organic sources, as well as from fresh and/or local sources, we also get the benefit of ingesting the highest quality of food possible! This significantly increases health benefits and decreases health risks. Fresh foods have more nutrient density than foods that have been picked or stored for long periods of time, and/or include chemical pesticides, drugs, hormones, and biologically deviant species, like GMOs.
4. Offers a Diet Naturally High in Fruits and Vegetables
The diets of raw vegans have a high composition of fruits and vegetables, which are the most healing, preventative, protective, and valuable foods on Earth. All plant foods provide lots of wholesome vitamins and minerals, as well as phytonutrients and some antioxidants, but fruits and vegetables specifically excel in all of these areas. In addition, they are loaded with fiber and naturally ultra-low in sodium and fat.
It will come as no surprise to hear that most Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, and the negative health and weight results are highly reflective of this dietary deficiency. To date, numerous studies have proven what most health-conscious individuals already know and don’t need a study to prove: fruits and vegetables are essential key players in creating optimal health, weight, and longevity.
Diets high in fruits and vegetables are most beneficial for healing and protecting us from pretty much every diseased condition, including cancers, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, infections, as well as cognitive and age-related degenerative diseases. They also support optimal mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
5. Offers a Diet Naturally High in Fiber
Being solely based on plant foods, the diets of raw vegans are exceptionally high in fiber, which has numerous health and healing attributes. Fiber provides bulk; this helps to optimize satiety and intestinal health. It keeps our intestines clean by collecting, moving, and removing waste along in a timely manner. This, in turn, keeps our elimination regular, which is one of the most important detoxification mechanisms of our body. (Those who eat natural, high-fiber diets typically have healthy bowel movements more than once each day.)
Fiber also acts as a prebiotic, optimizing the healthy and beneficial microflora (microbes) of our intestines. While most people are preoccupied with probiotics, not enough understand the value and importance of prebiotics. We can keep putting in supplemental probiotics religiously, but if our intestines do not provide a hospitable environment for them, they are of little use and benefit to us. This is where prebiotics, via fiber-rich, whole plant foods excel again.
The benefits of diets high in fiber include optimal blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure regulation, decreased risk of colon cancer and protection from cancer, decreased risk of heart disease, and increased longevity. Fiber also helps us lose weight effectively, and sustainably maintain a healthy weight for our body.
6. Offers the Most Alkalizing Diet
The acid-alkaline balance is one of the most vital components for health and wellbeing, yet it is still one of the least emphasized and appreciated health topics. In a nutshell, our body’s overall biochemistry is slightly alkaline (basic), with reference to the blood. Your blood must stay in a tightly controlled pH range of roughly 7.4 for you to be healthy, and stay alive. Everything that enters the blood influences the blood pH, though our body will do everything in its power to keep that blood pH slightly alkaline.
After digestion, nutrients and other end-products of digestion enter the blood to be transported to cells and tissues. Wastes from these cells and tissues also enter the blood to be transported out for elimination. As long as the right things come in and the wrong things come out, everything works smoothly; the health of our blood is a direct indicator of the health of our body. Unfortunately the Standard American Diet (SAD), high in refined carbohydrates, animal products, and oils, and low in fruits and vegetables is highly acidifying. Diet-induced acidosis is considered in holistic medicine, and increasingly so in conventional medicine, as a major contributing factor to all states of disease.
So what are the most alkalizing foods? Fruits and vegetables. Diets high in fruits and vegetables, as is the foundation for raw vegan diets, are therefore the most alkalizing. Not only do they contain the most of the “right foods” but they also contain the least or none of the “wrong foods” — the most acidic foods: animal protein and refined carbohydrates. As I share in my book Healing & Prevention Through Nutrition, a proper acid-alkaline balance is associated with a decreased risk of and strongest protection against lifestyle diseases like cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. It is essential for optimal immune function, decreasing or altogether eliminating our susceptibility to infections, and optimal weight maintenance.
7. Offers Most Support for Beneficial Enzymes
Living bodies and living foods contain enzymes; cells require enzymes to survive and function. Enzymes are biological catalysts, which help to bring about and increase the speed of essential reactions. Even though enzymes are known to withstand the reactions they catalyze, they can become damaged, destroyed, and depleted. Over time, poor diets, which are high in processed and animal food, stress, smoking, and similar negative lifestyle factors catch up to us, and one of the most common results is poor digestion and systemic inflammation. The result is sometimes referred to as enzyme exhaustion, which results in poor health, increased aging and/or decreased longevity.
So how can the raw vegan diet benefit us in this regard? Like most other biological compounds, enzymes are sensitive to various conditions, including temperature and pH. To maintain the integrity of enzymes, temperatures should be kept below 48C/118F. Of course, typical cooking is done at temperatures higher than this. (For reference, the temperature of boiling water is 100C/212F, and baking is done above temperatures of 150C/300F.) This means the destruction of not only the enzymes found in our living plant foods, but as mentioned earlier, a denaturation of most (if not all) nutrients to some degree. In his book Enzyme Nutrition, leading enzyme researcher, the late Dr. Edward Howell also explains the mechanism by which raw foods decrease the exhaustive load on our body’s enzymes, by essentially coming in with their own “tools” to help the digestion process.
The result of raw versus cooked foods appears to be two-fold: Raw foods create the least stress for our body and most support (especially where enzymes are concerned), whereas highly cooked foods create the most stress and the least support for our body. The benefits of enzyme-supportive diets—ones that are high in natural enzymes in food, and low in factors that cause stress or damage to enzymes, are wide-ranging. They include improved digestion and sustained proper digestion as we age, decreased inflammation and thus a decreased risk of common lifestyle diseases, as well as optimal longevity.
8. Offers Most Support for Life Energy
Amongst all diets, the diets of raw vegans provide the highest amount of life energy. [Please note that life energy from food is not the same as caloric energy.] All living beings contain life energy — you, me, other animals, plants, etc. This is our essence, the foundation of life, and is known as “Chi”, “Qi”, “life force”, or “prana”. Life energy is literally the key to life and not something that needs to be proved but simply experienced. Holistically-oriented disciplines like Traditional Chinese Medicine understand its importance, our reductionist science, unfortunately, does not. We are born with abundant life energy and as we go through life that energy fluctuates, increasing or decreasing, depending on our lifestyle choices. When life energy becomes too depleted or blocked, from a metaphysical stance, this is what creates fatigue, ill-feeling or disease.
Everything in our life has an impact on our life energy—it will either enhance, deplete, or provide a neutral effect on it. The same goes for food, which is one of the biggest reasons why those who are spiritually-attuned often turn towards a raw vegan diet, as raw vegan food is “living food” and has the highest potential of life energy. When an animal is killed, its life energy is destroyed, and so eating meat for example by its very nature is eating “dead food”. On the other hand, when plants are picked for food, they are still alive and contain life energy. As they age (in the store or on the counter), or are processed, or cooked, their life energy begins to diminish or becomes destroyed, to the point that any plant food that has been heavily cooked or processed is also considered “dead” food. Kirlian photography can exemplify some of this visually, as it can show the bio-energetic field of the food.
The practical consequences of this are that most raw vegans benefit from excellent energy, mental clarity, and vitality levels, as compared to the majority of the public, who are lethargic and plagued with fatigue, mental fog, and disease. Raw vegan diets are simply put highly energizing—high-frequency diets. However, life energy also influences our emotional, mental, and spiritual health, as well as longevity, creativity, and overall wellbeing. This is just another reason why it is common to experience profound surges in these areas as a raw vegan.
Speaking of energy, but now of the caloric kind, eating lower on the food chain also provides more energy and wastes less energy for us and the ecosystem. Food is also “lighter” and easier on the body, leaving us energized, rather than sluggish after meals.
9. Increases Consumption of the Optimal Form of Foods
As we establish a fresh relationship with our food, a natural consequence and benefit of the raw vegan path is to consume food in its most optimal form. For fruits and vegetables, this is easy, as they can easily be consumed just as they are. For nuts, seeds, grains, and beans, it is a little different.
Nuts, seeds, grains, and beans are all botanical seeds. As such, they have two main phases to their lifecycle: a dry, dormant one and a wet, living one. The differentiating factor is the presence or absence of water. As we all know, water is essential for life, and it serves as the main catalyst to bring dry, dormant seeds into the living phase. As such, the biochemical makeup of the seed changes. Upon soaking and/or sprouting the seed’s nutrient inhibitors are neutralized/diminished, while its various life-giving processes and nutrients are activated and increased. This process begins the growth of new life, activating enzymes, higher nutrient-density, and life energy. As you can imagine, this translates to even more benefits of these foods for us, than if they are just eaten in their dry or cooked forms.
10. Avoids Problems Associated with Animal Foods
All vegans, raw or not, avoid problems related to animal foods, including meat/seafood, dairy, and eggs, regardless of how they are farmed or sourced. The problems associated with these foods go above and beyond our health and the environment. Although it is great that more emphasis is placed today on how destructive animal foods are to our personal health and that of the Earth, many people are completely unaware of the more subtle, yet all-encompassing, problems related to these foods. These include mental, emotional, social, and spiritual.
To what degree any of us is ready or willing to explore each of the above mentioned four areas to understand the impacts of animal foods on each of them, will be a personal choice. However, as we begin to expand our mind and evolve spiritually, and understand that everything is energy, we begin to understand the immensity of our food choices. It is bad enough that animal flesh and secretions contain the health problems of the animals themselves, mainly associated with their unnatural food, foraging, and lifestyles, but they also contain the energies of stress, fear, and victimhood. This brings a whole new meaning to the statement “you are what you eat”. However, the brutal treatment and killing of animals, as well as the consumption of flesh has also been linked to more aggressive and violent tendencies. Though don’t hold your breath for a study to prove this, at least not anytime soon. Regardless, there is no doubt that our mental health is linked to the quality of our diet, which brings us a big step closer to understanding the meat and violent behavior connection. Though to become aware of this in its fullest scope, it is fundamental to understand the energetic and interconnected nature of all life.
Perhaps the most comprehensive exploration of this subject comes from Dr. Will Tuttle. In his book, World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony, he does an excellent overview of the history, research, and societal implications that arise from the herding and consumption of animals on our mental, emotional, social, and spiritual wellbeing.
11. Supports Optimal Digestion for Optimal Longevity
Digestion is a taxing process and the more we eat, and the worse we eat, the more digestive problems and other health problems we tend to encounter. For example: the harder the foods are to digest (i.e. meat), or the more undesirable qualities they bring with them (i.e. processed food), the more we literally “wear” out our body. However as I mentioned in earlier parts of this article, cooked foods add in their own slew of problems that can interfere with optimal health, and thus longevity.
Raw vegan diets provide the body the food in its most natural form. And although some experts or laypeople alike argue that cooked food is easier to digest, which in some ways it is, I feel it is rather naive for us to think that our body wasn’t designed to best handle food in its raw and natural form. The fact that we have conditioned ourselves into cooked foods, and today many people whose diets are based on cooked foods have a hard time digesting raw foods is a whole other story. Unhealthy gut flora, backed up intestines, sluggish or stressed out organs, chronic acidity, chronic dehydration, chronic infections, and the like, are just a few of the areas that can interfere with optimal digestion.
Additionally, the diets of raw vegans tend to be naturally lower in calories, since raw vegan food is predominantly rich in nutrients, not calories. This connects us back to the outstanding health benefits of nutrient density we talked about above. People, therefore, tend to eat less, as the body is getting all that it needs more efficiently, and this translates to greater longevity benefits.
12. Financial Benefits
In addition to all of the above health and nutrition benefits, a raw vegan approach also offers some outstanding economical benefits. At first glance, people often rate the raw vegan diet as more expensive. But the question we need to ask ourselves is, compared to what? If comparing it to a diet based on highly processed food, especially refined carbohydrates and fast foods (think Kraft dinner, burgers, fries, soda, and chips), then yes it will be more expensive, but that really isn’t a fair comparison as the other stuff isn’t even real food. On the other hand, we compare raw veganism to a whole-food omnivore diet, then it can easily come out cheaper. An average meal can easily be $3 (or less) per adult, as I have discovered daily in my life over the past several years.
What else we need to take into consideration here is that both cooked vegan and omnivore diets require just that: cooking. Consider the number of hours each household may spend on running the stovetop, oven, toaster, toaster oven, grill or barbecue, and similar appliances, and how this stacks up the financial costs of such diets. We can also add in the variety of cookware required and how much the mentioned appliances add up to costing us on their own. Factor in the lower environmental and health costs associated with raw vegan diets and the benefits just keep stacking up.
The economic benefits, however, are just one part of this equation. From a practical perspective, raw vegan meal preparation can also be one of the easiest, quickest, and simplest. Of course, this will all depend on us—our personal approach, motivation, ambition, education, creativity, and habits, as to whether we get the most or the least benefits from the raw vegan diet.
Is Raw Veganism Right For You?
Despite these, and many other, wonderful benefits it goes without saying that raw veganism is not for everyone, at least not yet. Unfortunately, all too many of us have a very unhealthy relationship with food today, and it is not guaranteed to get any better by going raw vegan. This reality stems from a much deeper problem in our modern society. This being that we are severely disconnected from our own body and mind, and of course our food. All too many people are fanatical in their behaviors and heavily influenced by external sources (i.e. friends, family, media, etc.). One headline of something like “Raw veganism almost killed me” and all of a sudden one may start feeling like everything wrong in their own life is due to their raw vegan approach, or completely dismiss what can be a most beneficial path. Due to someone’s uninformed, misinformed, or careless approach, a perfectly healthy and natural dietary approach can then easily (and unjustly) get labeled as “fanatical”, “extreme”, or “dangerous”.
To take on raw veganism in this day and age, and do so successfully and sustainably, we need a certain level of emotional and spiritual maturity, and connection to our own inner authority—our inner knowing. Raw veganism can be the safest, healthiest, and most beneficial way of eating, but only if it is approached in an intelligent and responsible manner. Otherwise it, like anything else done blindly or recklessly, can prove more harmful than helpful.
The Best Part of Raw Veganism
The best part about raw veganism is that we do not have to go 100% or fully raw vegan to experience many, if not all, of the benefits described above. In fact in my own life at this time, I maintain a diet that is high, but not fully raw vegan. This means that typically one of my meals of the day includes cooked vegan food, where all other meals and snacks are raw. As I teach, if we can get to about 75% or three-quarters of our daily food being raw vegan, we are in a really good place, where we optimize the healing and prevention benefits of food for us. In practical terms, this would mean that two of the three main meals and most snacks are raw vegan.
As you go on this journey yourself, you must remember to be your own authority and always work with what you feel is best for you. However, this needs to come from an examined and educated mind, not one that is influenced by, or operates from, a state of fear; whether that fear deals with your health or your social status. You will learn that there are times in your life when a fully raw vegan approach may be the best for you, and times where some cooked or warm vegan foods will prove best. The latter is especially applicable if you live in cold climates. However, this is where that 75% range gives us the flexibility to stay within an optimal health range, while still leaving room for some healthfully cooked vegan foods.
Additionally, the more that a person has a deep and authentic spiritual component as part of the raw vegan journey, the more the latter is enhanced. Regular meditation, time in nature, time in silence, grounding, breath work and the like, all complement a raw vegan journey and increase the likelihood of our success with it. Each of these can also help us further understand and appreciate this lifestyle approach.
Either way, it is important that if one chooses the raw vegan path, they do so with proper education, mindfulness, and maturity. This diet can provide dietary excellence, and in many more ways than any other diet, but we have to be sure that we are:
- Eating enough for our metabolic needs.
- Eating a good variety of foods regularly.
- Listening to our body, and adjusting as needed.
To your best health always!