- Strict adherence to raw veganism involves no animal products — and also no cooked or processed foods of any kind.
- Some vegetables contain more nutrients raw — but others contain more nutrients that are accessible to our bodies when they’re cooked, and it’s important to know the details.
- Raw veganism can be healthy in the short-term but can present significant negative health effects over long periods of time — including nutrient deficiencies, low bone mass, tooth erosion, and irregular or completely absent menstrual cycles in those that have them.
- Health experts agree that most people could stand to get more fruits and vegetables into their diets — whether raw or cooked.
Although it’s been around since at least the 1800s , diet trends seem to come in waves — and raw veganism is no exception. It’s been gaining in popularity — and piquing curiosity — in recent years.
Here’s what you need to know — including positive and negative aspects of this diet. As always, you should talk to your doctor before making any significant dietary changes.
Here’s what’s included in the raw vegan diet.
Vegetarianism and veganism have been in the mainstream public consciousness for a while. Raw veganism is a subcategory of veganism that takes the entirely plant-based diet down a slightly different path.
In raw veganism, all foods consumed are plant-based and do not derive from animals — but ideally, they’re also never heated above 104-118F (that’s 40-48C). Additionally, those foods should be as unprocessed as possible — in other words, no refined sugars or flours, no pasteurization, and especially no treatment with pesticides if at all possible.
It’s worth noting that unless you either grow your own vegetables or know every tiny detail of how the veggies you consume are grown, even produce labeled “organic” in the US is typically bathed in pesticides, according to Scientific American — so it’s pretty difficult to adhere to this goal.
Soaked and/or sprouted legumes and grains are also a part of the raw vegan diet — as are nuts and seeds of all kinds.
What’s not included in the raw vegan diet
Some people may choose to only eat raw foods in general — including some meats, fish, and dairy. That’s a different practice than raw veganism since it involves animal products — and by nature, also involves different nutritional and food safety concerns.
Some foods are healthier cooked than raw — and vice versa.
Health magazine spoke to registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner about which vegetables are healthiest when they’re raw — and why .
It turns out that beets lose a whopping 25% of their folate content when they’re cooked — shaved beet salad, anyone? Raw broccoli is rich in the enzyme myrosinase — which some research has shown to have cancer-fighting abilities .
Red peppers and other veggies high in water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C are also best enjoyed raw — when you cook them, the vitamin C starts to break down. However, it’s worth noting that there are many sources of vitamin C available throughout the edible plant-based kingdom — so if rarer nutrients are made available by cooking, you might want to take that compromise and eat something else to get sufficient vitamin C in your diet.
Crudite platters wouldn’t be the same without crunchy, sweet carrots — but cooking carrots boosts the concentration of their cancer-fighting carotenoids by as much as 14% according to registered dietitian Amy Keating of Consumer Reports.
Mushrooms are also better for you when cooked — boasting double the amount of potassium, magnesium, niacin, and zinc. Cooking spinach also helps break down the high amounts of oxalic acid that are naturally present in Popeye’s favorite leafy green — and which can keep your body from absorbing all the lovely iron and calcium that’s also a huge part of that vegetable.
By now, health-conscious people have probably heard that tomatoes are a great source of lycopene — the phytochemical that’s associated with lower heart disease and cancer rates.
Amazingly, cooking tomatoes at a temperature of 190.4F for 30 minutes — as you do when making soup or sauce, for example — can boost the amount of lycopene that your body can absorb from those tomatoes by 35% according to a 2002 study .
There are some health concerns surrounding the raw vegan diet.
If you suddenly switch from many traditional diets to a raw vegan diet, your caloric intake will probably drop dramatically . It’s possible to get the same amount of calories from raw vegan foods alone — but you’ll need to eat a lot more of them, and you still may not get enough protein.
If decreasing calories is a goal, that might seem like a good thing — and in the short term, it may be. But over time, the constant need to ingest more calories and the common nutrient deficiencies associated with this diet can prove to be difficult and possibly detrimental to your health. As always, you should discuss this and any other major dietary concerns with your doctor before pursuing radical changes that may impact your health in serious ways.
Other potentially negative impacts seen in raw vegan diet studies found vitamin B12 deficiency was common — as was an increased risk of tooth erosion and low bone mass, according to Healthline. Additionally, around 70% of women on this diet in one study experienced menstrual cycle irregularities — including amenorrhea, or complete stoppage of menstruation due to low body weight.
The unsurprising verdict: Nutrition professionals agree that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is best.
Health experts agree — most of us should be getting more fruits and vegetables into our diets, whether they’re raw or cooked. Cooking vegetables often improves their taste — and if that helps encourage us to eat more of them , it’s a good thing, according to Healthline.
But if you’re going to cook them, the method matters. Obviously, deep-frying is out if you’re concerned about health — but a little fat with your veggies is actually helpful for absorbing certain nutrients.
Registered dietitian Wendy Bazilian told Runners World that the best way to cook vegetables is whole, boiled in around two to three tablespoons of water to help retain both flavor and nutrients. Then drizzle with a healthy fat such as olive or avocado oil for additional flavor and health benefits.
Perhaps the most helpful advice came from Cornell University associate professor of food science Rui Hai Liu, who told Scientific American that while there are still many mysteries to be solved regarding the relative healthfulness of raw and cooked vegetables, the most important thing is to eat them any way they’re presented to us .
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