A shift away from veganism in the raw world?

by Gena on January 29, 2010

veganism Greetings, all!

Glad you liked my cabbage cups. I love having readers who appreciate the joys of simple food as much as I do.

A few days ago, blog reader Lisa sent me a link to this article, which details ongoing controversy about whether or not a 100% raw, vegan lifestyle is optimal. A few notable raw figures have recently announced that they’re adding small amounts of animal proteins back into their diets in response to poor bloodwork, or as a concession to personal preferences. As a result, various experts on raw and vegan nutrition have offered their opinions on whether or not the raw vegan lifestyle is sustainable, optimal, or even feasible.

I found most of the responses, with the exception of Doug Graham’s unintelligable rant, interesting. What strikes me as noteworthy about these revelations is the fact that the impulse in all cases has been to move away from veganism, rather than away from raw. The response to certain perceived flaws in the raw vegan diet has been (in most cases) to eat raw dairy. This seems relatively common: in my own personal navigations through the raw community, I’ve known many men and women who ultimately felt that a 100% raw vegan diet was far too limiting, and chose to add either goat milk products or eggs back into their routines.

These are personal choices, occasioned by unique circumstances. I’m not familiar with the full range of health and psychological factors that prompted the decision to eat animal products again. I do, however, wish to offer an alternative course of action to anyone who’s been trying an all raw vegan approach, and is encountering either deficiencies or a sense of limitation.

The alternative? Rather than adding animal products to your routine try adding a wider variety of cooked vegan foods to your diet. Many new raw foodists become unbelievably zealous about being as raw as possible, and in the process they eschew grains, legumes, root vegetables, minimally processed soy, and other mainstays of veganism. This, in conjunction with giving up all animal products, certainly can lead to feelings of deprivation, and it can, especially when paired with undereating, lead to nutritional deficiencies. (Note that I say “can,” not “will”–I know scores of vegans who are 90-100% raw at all times and feel incredible.)

One of the reasons often cited for rejecting raw veganism is low levels of vitamins D or B-12. While it’s true that vegans can be susceptible to deficiencies in both of these, it is also true that simple supplementation can easily prevent them. If you’re low in B-12 or Vitamin D, you needn’t feel pressured to abandon veganism! Seek out a high quality vegan or raw vegan supplement or multivitamin (I’m currently loving Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code line). This route is, in my opinion, a better first alternative to abandoning veganism, and I encourage you to consider it if you’ve been told that you’re low in either vitamin.

But as I mention above, another common reason for giving up on the raw, vegan lifestyle is the feeling that one’s diet is simply too restricted and narrow. And it’s this concern that I really want to talk about today.

As you guys can imagine, I’m often asked whether or not I am, or think others should be, 100% raw vegan. The answer is no. Do I believe that there are some people who can thrive on a 90-100% raw vegan diet in the long term? Absolutely. Do I believe that most people–women especially–are well suited to eat a completely raw and vegan diet forever? No. But is omnivorism the answer?

It’s interesting: people who are interested in raw veganism tend to fall into two camps. Some were preexisting vegans who became gradually intrigued by eating more raw food. And some are are former omnivores who were interested in the idea of raw food itself.  I would say that most raw vegans I’ve met–and that’s most, not all–fall into the latter category. They were generally healthy eaters, though not necessarily vegans, who were attracted to the idea of “raw” more than the idea of veganism.

Not me. Veganism was an important part of my life long before I got interested in raw foods. When I started eating more raw, my goal was to boost alkalinity and digestion with more raw food, not to switch to an entirely uncooked diet. To this day, raw foods are only a part of my vegan lifestyle. Eating them has made a world of difference in my life–my skin, my energy, my digestion, my mental clarity, my moods, and my overall well being. I love preparing them and sharing them with you all. But they’re only one component–albeit a major component–of my well-rounded vegan diet, which also includes non-raw foods.

beans What are these? Cooked grains, legumes, root vegetables, sprouted breads. Some raw foodists choose to sprout these instead; I don’t. (I actually find grains and legumes easier to digest cooked.) I believe that these foods–along with a combination of raw and cooked vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, sea vegetables, and fruits–is the key to a balanced vegan diet. They’re important sources of protein, minerals and nutrients for most aspiring vegans, and they lend a sense of variety and wholeness to a plant-based diet.

If a client who was trying to maintaing a 100% raw, vegan diet came to me with the complaint that he or she felt undernourished or limited, I would first ask a bunch of questions:

  • Are you eating enough? New raw foodists often overdo it with fasting regimes and abstinence–long before their bodies are ready for such measures. If you’re feeling tired or weak on a raw protocol, it may well be because you’re not taking in adequate portions of food.
  • Are you eating enough healthy fats and protein? While I certainly believe that many new raw foodists overdose on fats in the form of nuts and seeds, I maintain that fats are important for energy and overall health. Avocados, coconuts, healthy oils, and nuts/seeds are all important components of brain function, immunity, hormonal balance, and reproductive health. Protein, meanwhile, isn’t as hard to get as some new vegans assume it will be, but all vegans do nevertheless need to be vigilant.
  • Are you eating enough variety? This is usually the crucial question. As dearly as I love giant salads–and boy, do I love them dearly!–man was not made to live on greens alone. Eating a variety of vegetables (in addition to grains, nuts/seeds, fruits, sea vegetables, and legumes) is important.

Oftentimes, a client who has been complaining of being stuck in a rut with raw foods will agree to eating a few more cooked meals weekly, with legumes and grains. The result is an immediate increase in energy and mood–if only because said client feels grateful to have more food options. And if she can maintain a sense of balance by eating raw and cooked, she’s far more likely to thrive on a vegan diet in the longterm.

Every body is different. Some people who hit a rut with the 100% raw vegan diet  really do believe that they’re in need of animal protein. But to those who find themselves in this situation and wondering which course of action to take, I’d say this: expand your veganism before you turn to animal products again. Try eating a wider variety of vegan foods, even if this means eating some that are cooked. It may be the key to sustaining a mostly raw, all vegan diet in the long run, and it will save you the ethical and nutritional ambiguities of eating animal products once again. Your body, the planet, and animals will thank you.

And to any of you who have been diving whole hog into raw veganism, remember: you’re aiming to create a lifestyle for yourself that’s sustainable not just for a month or a year, but for the rest of your life. Think carefully about how narrowly you want to set your parameters. There can be huge pressure, as one enters a mostly raw or all raw lifestyle, to give up a huge number of previously cherished foods. Always be smart about maintaining a diet that’s feasible and, most of all, pleasurable for you! If this means maintaining some variety, please do. Be gentle and realistic with yourself; you’ll be grateful later.

Happy weekend, friends!

xo

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

rachey January 29, 2010 at 10:08 am

Hooray!!! *cheers*

This was something that was bugging me too; thanks for such a calm and cogent response. I literally said, “Hell yeah, Gena” out loud :) This is a good reminder for all vegans, no matter what level of raw we eat- if you’re getting pizza cravings, have beans and rice instead!!

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Krissy January 29, 2010 at 10:14 am

Gena – I am so grateful to you for writing this post. I couldn’t agree with you more. I love raw foods and I love eating mostly raw, but know that it continues to be important for my body and my mind to continue to eat some cooked foods as well. Like you said, I want my this to be a lifestyle not something I do for a month here and there and I think adding some cooked vegan food is definitely the answer to maintaining the lifestlye for life!

What a wonderfully written, informative post :) You’re Amazing!
xoxo
Kristin

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TrilbyDrew January 29, 2010 at 10:14 am

Awesome post as usual, Gena! I’ve been flirting with the idea of veganism for awhile (read The China Study and it scared the pants off me!), but was always worried about feeling too deprived. Thank you so much for the great and encouraging post! You rock!

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Krysta January 29, 2010 at 10:17 am

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this post! Lately (and especially last night) I found myself struggling with my diet. While I am not 100% raw or 100% vegan, I am pretty high raw, almost always vegan. I am also a type A, perfectionist who has struggled (stills truggles at times) with disordered eating habits. It is so nice and refreshing to read this! To feel like it is ok to not be 100% all of the time. To allow yourself variety. And it is so nice to read it from someone who’s insight I really value. Thanks so much for this!!

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Julie Lynn January 29, 2010 at 10:20 am

This is a very good post. Thank you for sharing it.

I have one other suggestion for folks who aren’t sure they are getting the nutrients they need on a raw vegan diet, try entering what you eat each day (for a week or two or even up to one) into a diet log such as fitday.com to see where you might be coming up short. You can then add the raw or cooked vegan foods you need to maintain wellness without giving up your vegan eating style.

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Diane January 29, 2010 at 10:26 am

As someone who is trying to get into the raw food movement, I really appreciated this post. Just a quick question- I know the point of raw food is that it’s easier for your body to digest, but if you include something that ISN’T raw into your meal, does that mess up the whole thing? Like if I had an all raw smoothie but then had a piece of non-raw bread?

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Gena January 29, 2010 at 10:32 am

Diane,

Different raw-ies would say different things. A strict raw foodists would say yes, because you’re eating a non raw food; he/she might posit that your body will be releasing white blood cells to cope with it, and that it will weaken immunity and impair digestion.

I’d say that’s a bad idea because fruit and bread combine poorly, making the meal tough to digest. We all have our philosophies :)

Gena

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RedAvocado February 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Hi Gena,

I think it is great that you encourage people to make small changes instead of doing things 100% which can be unhealthy in a different sense.

However, I do find it odd how you state that a too restrictive diet (in terms of rules etc.) can lead to deprivation and nutritional deficiencies but at the same time say that it is a bad idea to combine two certain kinds of foods. From a pure restriction point of view, it seems to me that worrying about food combining is one of the most restrictive and complicated nutritional guidelines.

Furthermore, there is no credible research that supports the food combining theory. There is, however, a lot of research that shows how it is important to combine certain foods (contradicting the food combining theory). But if scientific research alone is not convincing, I think it makes sense to just think about it a little. As you know, most foods are already a mix of carbohydrates, fat and protein to begin with, so if certain macro nutrients should not be digested together, a lot of foods could not be eaten at all. Of course you could say that well it depends on what a food has MOST of. But again just because we see meat as “protein” or bread as a “carbohydrate”, they cannot be regarded as such in chemistry (and ultimately that is what the biological function of our body comes down to). I would be interested to hear how you would explain the food combining theory with scientifically sound statements. A common pitfall is to think that when something sounds scientific, it is scientific. A lot of people have abused words and concepts to explain things that actually just do not make sense with respect to what we truly know about chemistry/biology (like the enzyme theory of some raw foodists).

But don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that because of this, raw food is not healthy etc. I eat a very similar diet to yours, but I guess our reasoning as for why differs in some ways. :) I just feel like people should be more careful about what they believe or even what they say. I am sure you would agree that a common problem in nutrition/diet is that there are a LOT of different and often contradictory theories out there. And overall I think this might be a big factor in why some people cannot make effective diet changes — it is just too confusing and one is always worried if their choice was the right one. To take the food combining theory as an example, assume for the sake of this argument it is complete BS: How many people have felt frustrated because they were confused about the theory? How many people were turned off from making healthy changes because they thought eating this way was optimal and since they couldn’t do that, they would just stick with what they usually ate? Of course there is the other argument that even if a certain theory is not actually true, but has helped people nonetheless to feel better (placebo or other coincidence), then it does not matter, right…? I can see both sides and in the end it comes down to a philosophical argument.

Sorry for the long response and for going off on tangents. Love your recipes your views even if I do not agree with some of them. Keep up the good work!

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Jessica @ How Sweet It Is January 29, 2010 at 10:30 am

Wonderful post, as usual! I have always wondered how can one possibly eat enough? Even myself, if I ever considered eating raw, I never thought I could possibly eat enough!

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happyherbivore January 29, 2010 at 10:32 am

Beautiful — amazing and well spoken post, Gena.

I don’t understand how eating “raw dairy” is a solution for these folks. Consuming the breast milk of another species, whether raw or pasterized, is completely unnatural. Nor is it optimal.

To turn to eating raw dairy, instead of adding in a few cooked foods, is no different than shoving pills into your system to mask a problem rather than figuring out the underlying issue and working at that. It’s a “cheap” fix and completely contradictory to the purpose of raw foods IMHO.

Instead of 100% raw, why not instead eat natural foods – like steamed root vegetables or gently cooked whole grains? At least those foods are natural in the sense that these foods come from the earth and are intended to be eaten by human. Raw dairy is not intended for humans, it’s ended for cows, goats or whatever species it’s taken from.

If you choose to eat dairy, fine — we all have the right to choose, but to say it’s necessary or even healthy, is a convenient lie. Esp when studies show that the cholesterol and proteins in those foods — even when raw, are dangerous, addictive and open the gate to sickness.

In any event — I think some of the people you’ve mentioned in the post have gone beyond the extreme. It’s not optimal to live on green juice alone… in the end we are animals, and what elephant has a wheat grass juicer?

Eat whole, natural foods — the more raw, the better — but leaving natural plant-based foods just because they are cooked for breast milk of another animal or chicken menstration to stay healthy? ridiculous… not the best solution IMHO.

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Kaitlin January 29, 2010 at 10:46 am

I agree with happyherbivore. I’ve been pretty confused by all of these figures suddenly integrating raw goat’s milk into their diets. I understand that it’s supposedly closer to human milk than that of cows in terms of the amount of protein and such but I too am unclear about how that would remedy the wide range of nutritional issues they’re encountering. I’d hazard to guess that most of those people were not drinking raw goat’s milk before they went raw so it’s not as though it’s like the magic ingredient that their bodies once had and must now have in order to regain balance. Clearly, they need to return to a state where they feel more balanced by focusing on eating a wider variety of plant-based foods even if they need to cook them a bit. I think you really hit the nail on the head, Gena. Thanks so much for posting this and for having the courage to bring some much-needed sanity into this increasingly polarized conversation.

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happyherbivore January 29, 2010 at 6:34 pm

On that great note, I’d like to further extend the point and follow-up my original response by also saying:

Above all else, since when is it “optimal” or “ideal” or “good” or “necessary” to need and consume to have breast milk as an adult? We’re not growing anymore…

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LC @ Let Them Eat Lentils January 29, 2010 at 10:45 am

Thanks for the post, Gena. My bf said the other day, “What kind of HEALTHY diet requires you to take supplements?” I do believe that we should be able to get all of our nutrients from food sources, but sometimes, it’s just hard to be so rigid about it.

My goal in the new year is to get my blood work done and concentrate on getting all those numbers to where they should be, whether by diet, or supplement, or both.

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Gena January 29, 2010 at 10:48 am

LC,

You should also remind your boyfriend that a lot of this is environmental. We’re not in sunlight enough (hence some of the D3 issue) and our air and soil is depleted, which is partially responsible for the B-12 issue.

Gena

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Ameena January 29, 2010 at 10:56 am

Great response!

I am not a vegan or raw foodist but I do practice many of the same eating habits as those who are. Hence why I love reading what you have to say!

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Whitney @ Lettuce Love January 29, 2010 at 11:12 am

Another great post! On Oprah the other day, Alicia Silverstone mentioned “flirting” with the vegan diet. I absolutely loved that idea. I know that it is unrealistic for me (and most people) to be 100% raw and 100% vegan every day for the rest of time. But it is possible to live a mostly raw, mostly vegan life rather easily. It takes so much of the pressure off when we don’t think in absolute terms.

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Priscilla January 29, 2010 at 11:14 am

Hi Gena,
Thanks for the informative and down-to-earth (as always!) post. I am going to the doctor soon for my annual exam. I was interested in getting my bloodwork done to check on nutrient levels. Are there certain nutrients that you check for every year? (I know you’re not a medical doctor, but I also know that my doctor is not well-versed in the particular needs of a vegan diet.)
Thanks!
Priscilla

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La January 29, 2010 at 11:15 am

Great post. Doing the cleanse with you, I came to recognize many of the points you made in this post. I’m really making a greater effort to up my veggie intake, because for many years I was that vegetarian girl who eats mostly grains but very few actual vegetables, but I feel so much healthier when I’m eating a lot of vegetables. I think it’s really easy to get bogged down with the intricacies and nuances of diets and therefore incredibly easy to fall into extreme ways of thinking: Either I do it all exactly right or I shouldn’t do it at all. I’m realizing that I don’t need to think this way, my dietary habits are a part of *my* personal journey and I’m the only person I need to answer to.

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Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg January 29, 2010 at 11:46 am

WOW!!! Thank you so much for this post! As someone who has “flirted” with the idea of a vegan/raw diet, it’s so nice to read a take on it from someone who is clear-headed (read: not EXTREMIST!) about the issue. I really admire your approach to health, eating, and life, Gena!! Thank you again!

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melissa January 29, 2010 at 11:50 am

amazing post. one of my all time CR favorites.

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Amy January 29, 2010 at 11:57 am

Great post, Gena! I really appreciate your balanced and reasonable approach to this issue. I am trying to incorporate more raw foods into my vegan eating habits and I like reading your blog because I don’t feel “judged” for not being 100% perfectly raw! I recently attended a “raw food for beginners” workshop and it was very intimidating because I got the feeling that there was no middle ground for the teachers. I think it is so important to encourage people to make whatever small steps they can in the right direction and I think you do that very well – so, thanks!

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katherine January 29, 2010 at 11:58 am

Gena, this is an incredible post and I can’t wait to check back this weekend to read everyone’s comments. So often, the panicky restriction that can come with being the “perfect” raw foodist (or perfect anything else for that matter) so often leads to a boomerang effect – the immense change isn’t sustainable b/c it’s just too much for the person. Soon, rather than being honest, the person makes excuses and, inevitably, ill-informed decisions and then spends far too much time and energy justifying said decisions to the whole world. When it comes down to it, I agree with what Lindsay said:

“Eat whole, natural foods — the more raw, the better — but leaving natural plant-based foods just because they are cooked for breast milk of another animal or chicken menstration to stay healthy? ridiculous… not the best solution IMHO.”

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KRISTEN'S RAW January 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Terrific post, as usual. I go back and forth between all raw and high raw frequently, with some days as even moderate raw. All vegan though. I supplement with B12 and I live in sunny AZ so I get plenty of vitamin D naturally. I sleep great, feel great, and love my choices… proud of them to tell you the truth. One of the reasons I love this plan is that it’s flexible. :)

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Alkalize January 29, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Excellent article.

A lot of people jump too fast into it without learning about themselves and their food choices.

Food isn’t everything. Food is just small part of the whole picture.

Thanks again for the great article :)

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Gelareh January 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Very informative post, as always. I have to say that when I started in my health journey I did start as a vegetarian and tried to become raw… I read all of Natialia Rose books which I enjoyed and learned a lot from but realized that her view is very different than Natasha Kyssa. Natasha believes in 100% raw, no beans or grains… no cooked meals etc… where as Natalia considers some cooked grains.. I was also surprised to see Natalia was ok with raw cheese and goat milk but Natasha was vegan… I also read Natasha’s Simply Raw Detox Manual and tried to follow her raw detox plan and half way through it I had to stop… I just could eat cold things all the time.

I had new hope and was happy to hear on the last cleanse call you saying that it is ok to have some cooked food… and beans.

I have to agree with you though that I can’t believe that animal protein would have more benefit then plant based protein. I guess because I noticed a big health improvement once I stopped consuming animal protein.

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Christine January 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Great post, thanks! Though I am increasing my raw intake more as I learn and get comfortable with balancing nutrition, I still enjoy a slow-cooked bean soup and an occasional piece of bread while eating out.

At this point, I don’t believe animal protein is more beneficial than plant-based just from how much better I’ve been feeling from switching, but do still take a b-12 supplement while I convert until I master getting that from raw foods.

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pure2raw twins January 29, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Great post! Honestly we do are unsure where we stand on this issue. Due to both of us still trying to figure out our own bodies with high raw diet. Though, one thing for sure is that eating a very high raw diet (mostly raw) we do not feel deprived. I think there is so much you can do with raw foods, really the sky is the limit if you have an open mind and willing to be different. I hope more people ‘flirt’ with the idea of raw foods and/or vegan! It is all about finding out what works for your own body. Especially eating healthy fats has made a huge difference in how we feel! LOL!

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Naomi (onefitfoodie) January 29, 2010 at 3:33 pm

great post! so insightful. I am not raw or vegan but do dabble in these foods quite often so I loved reading what you had to say about it!!! i always wondered if I went all vegan or raw if I could really keep up with it? this has given me some great things to think about!

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Kitchen Monki Dan January 29, 2010 at 3:54 pm

For the last 3 months of ’09 until Christmas rolled around I was raw vegan along with my wife. Our friends thought we were crazy. Honestly, we did it mainly out of curiosity about how we’d feel and if we could shed a few pounds. Prior to that, we ate fairly healthy but weren’t vegans or even vegetarians by any stretch of the imagination. It was hard and frustrating at first and many times I wanted to quit but soldiered on. Minus the cluster headaches and 8 lbs later, I believed. I think the best thing about it was the fact that I finally woke up out of this lifelong food coma I was in. I appreciate the food that I eat so much more than I did before. Unfortunately, I slipped out of it after christmas and definitely felt the effects. I’m slowly but surely getting back to where I was before. Thanks for giving me confidence through your post.

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Evita January 29, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Gena,

This was so important to say and you said it perfectly! I too have heard the story from people of feeling too limited, nevermind on just a vegan not even raw diet, and when I look at it in depth, it always comes down to the choices people are making.

There are hundreds of fruits and vegetables out there. Most of the time I find it is just a “bad” or “lazy” habit to keep buying the same old, same old.

You also hit the nail on the head when you said:
“Rather than adding raw animal products to your routine (like goat’s milk kefir, raw cheese, or eggs), try adding a wider variety of cooked vegan foods to your diet”

Exactly! For example I started vegetarian, when I was ready went vegan and in the past year had a great call towards raw. What I found is that I loved emphasizing raw each day, but did lock myself in to feeling restricted in any way. Like you I still have legumes and grains, and sometimes they are sprouted, most other times they are not. What worked for me is being high raw in the warm months, and less raw in the winter months for example.

I also will take a moment to add in a few points here:

1. Vitamin D is or should be sun related. We don’t need to go to milk and fish to get it, when the milk itself 90% of the time is fortified. Get a good supplement if you can’t get enough sun (in a smart way of course).

2. B12 same thing. Even though some people go without supplements on vegan diets and are fine, most people approaching veganism know enough that to be on the safe side you take a supplement of B12.

3. Variety….well that all comes down to personal choice. Ever since I went vegan I have actually never felt better, or ate a more diverse and balanced diet.

Ultimately we know enough today that our body can get used to anything almost, given the right state of mind. What I find too is sometimes when people got into veganism or raw for the wrong reasons, they are the first to succumb to peer pressure or doubts and hence drop out. Which of course is fine…everyone has to be happy with their choice. But I cannot emphasize how much what is in our mind affects any and every outcome.

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Lauren January 29, 2010 at 4:03 pm

VERY WELL SAID! :) I couldn’t agree more, I have been told NUMEROUS times that I have low levels of vitamin D and calcium, due to my crohn’s but I would never go back to eating animal products. I just supplement with Garden of life Raw Code Vitamins and other cooked foods like beans, grains, and high calcium veggies. My levels went back to normal as soon as I was well again. No need to add any milk or meat, just had to wait it out! :)

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Frankie January 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I would like to address the “if veganism is SO healthy, why do you need supplements” question? First of all, ALL people are now being told to supplement their B-12 intake AND Vit D (especially if we live in cold climates), vegans, omnivores, meat-eating die-hards ? WHY??
Well, (raw) veganism is an attempt at a diet that is as natural as possible in an incredibly UNnatural world. We have depleted our soil, and no longer eat produce straight out of the ground, meaning low B-12 levels. We live in cold climates and spend most of our times indoors at work and at home (and when we go out, we cover up, and wear sunglasses), resulting in low Vitamin D levels. Yes, it would be lovely to pull our lunch off of a tree, root around a little in the ground without worrying about “dirt”, and hang out in the park, BUT I live in a completely different reality. Therefore, I have to be educated about where my vitamins and minerals are coming from. Sometimes that may mean adding some gluten-free Floradix to my diet in the cold weather to boost my iron levels, or maybe it just means ensuring that I am adding a little chlorella to my green smoothies to get my vitamin B-12 (I see the first as more of a supplement, the second as the inclusion of a food). Lucky as I am to be in Brisbane right now – it’s summertime here, I am ensuring that I spend time outdoors without sunglasses. I include MSM, chlorella, and Maca in my diet (which have to be imported). What I want to stress here is:

Natural diet in an UNnatural world = supplementation + conscious choices

PS THANK you Gena about addressing (over and over) the cooked food issue – it’s amazing to me how, when I began learning about the raw vegan food movement the “gurus” stressed 100% raw and VEGAN. When I have cravings, when I ate something that wasn’t raw, if I couldn’t handle a total fast for a day or whatever, I felt like a failure. NOW these same “gurus” are promoting consuming animal products, both familiar (raw goat’s cheese) and very strange indeed (deer antler velvet). Yet another reminder to listen to my Self and trust my Self!

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) January 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm

“Many new raw foodists become unbelievably zealous about being as raw as possible…”

AND

“you’re aiming to create a lifestyle for yourself that’s sustainable not just for a month or a year, but for the rest of your life. Think carefully about how narrowly you want to set your parameters.”

AMEN to both!

I am a high raw vegan due to food allergies. As I have told my readers, this life path and lifestyle chose me, I did not choose it. I never set out to be either. I was always vegetarian but realized that it was dairy that was my issue to out it went. I was left with being vegan b/c I never did enjoy eggs.

I also am such an advocate of doing what’s best for the individual; and that this can change over time. At age 22 to say you’re going to be a raw vegan is very different from a 32 mother of a 4 yr old who’s nursing a 2 yr old and pregnant with her 3rd. Who’s very different from a post menopausal woman. Life changes, so do our needs. We need to respect that and not become so staunch in our mindsets as to possibly miss the trees b/c we are so darn lost in the forest type of thing :)

Excellent post, Gena! And it reminds me of another one you did about 6 weeks ago where within the post you said, really people if you’re that miserable then change it up! I will always remember that line of yours (paraphrasing but close to that) :)

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bitt January 29, 2010 at 4:58 pm

GREAT response to the article. I just read it today and I am glad people are finally distinguishing the ethical vegans from the trendy health-only vegans.

However, it doesn’t work for me to add cooked food back into my diet at this point (I keep trying, but it coincides with increased inflammation each time). But I’d never ever add animal products. So I just have to look longer and harder for raw options. Personally I look to the animals for ideas–they eat grass and algae, so that’s what I do.

Thanks for posting your stance on this.

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Mimi (Damn the Freshman 15) January 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Well, I can certainly answer the goat’s dairy question. ;-) I got a tub of goat’s milk yogurt from Trader Joe’s and whoa that stuff is what yogurt is supposed to taste like. I loooove goat’s milk.

But in all seriousness, as I’m neither raw nor vegan, I find these “trends” interesting from a ethnographic-ish perspective. I definitely agree that a few supplements can ensure a nutritionally-rock solid vegan diet…haha, I’ve let go of the idea that you need animal protein to physically thrive.

I wonder though, and this is an outsider’s pure musing, if some of these people (not just the ones speaking in the article) who went raw vegan went into it and felt pressured to never go back…and if this is a lessening of that pressure’s effect. I only mention this because of some of the people who approach going raw/vegan as an all-or-nothing thing. Anyway, just a thought.

And yeah Dr. Graham is weird. If I ate 80% fruit, you’d swear I was a hypoglycemic on speed. Fat and Protein = Happy Mimi

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Evelyn January 29, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I really appreciate this post. I have been struggling about how I should eat, especially after hearing others say they’ve added animal products back to their diets. I didn’t understand why they chose animal products, when there are so many more alternatives out here.

I do not desire to add animal products to my diet, I will look for alternative ways to get what I need.

I have been thinking along the same lines as what you are saying in this post. I have started eating lentils, brown rice and steamed vegetables more so than I did when I first started on this lifestyle change and I find that I feel pretty good.

Awesome post! :)

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emptyjar January 29, 2010 at 7:27 pm

I am always impressed by the things you come up with write about and the depth to which you delve into it. A great writer and obviously with strong opinions of your own. I am not raw or vegan….and I have my own opinions on it…however, I respect individual differences. This post was interesting nonetheless for any reader who is simply interested in learning about different perspectives. I don’t necessary agree or disagree with things…but I think your presentation of the info. and your thoughts is impressive.

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Katie January 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Hey Gena! Thanks so much for this post. I have been struggling with this issue for a few days. I have felt that I have to be 100% or almost 100% raw to improve my digestion. But, I know that I am depleting my body of essential protein and nutrients; therefore, I am adding some cooked whole grains, legumes, and lightly steamed or roasted veggies back into my diet. I do have a question about tofu, though. Is it bad for digestion? What are your thoughts on it? I know there is a lot of bunk/facts out there about soy. Since you’re a nutritionist, I thought I would ask you what works best. Also, I am trying to eat the best grains for my digestion. What do you suggest? Is cooked oatmeal digested well? I think I want to stay in a gluten-free direction. And, what about hummus made with cooked beans? I tried raw hummus with sprouted chickpeas, but it always has a weird taste to it that I am not fond of.

Sorry for this long comment and questionnaire! Thanks for any help, I would appreciate it so much! :)

Katie

PS: If you could reply on my blog, it would be helpful! Thanks so much! :)

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Akemi - Yes to Me January 29, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Very interesting. I was thinking in a similar line, so I linked to you.

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Elena January 29, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Gena, great article and a sound approach. I read the same article that you referred to and felt the same way. I became vegan before I started to add more raw foods into my diet. To this day I eat cooked foods and I don’t ever feel compelled to go on all raw diet. There has to be a balance. Like you said: if we lack certain vitamins we have to see why. I know many omnivores who are deficient in vit D more than I could ever imagine to be and the same for B12. Because of where I live [WA state] I supplement with vit D, and take folates for B vitamins. Not sure why people feel that they have to eat decomposing flesh to feel healthy.

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Kate January 30, 2010 at 2:23 am

This is such a great post. Although I got into high raw veganism for my health, I can’t say imagine ever going back to eating meat. I know, i know, circumstances change, never say never, etc, but after coming across a TV program called Kill it, Cook it, Eat it while channel surfing tonight, and seeing a terrified calf hanging upside down about to be killed, I cannot imagine ever willingly being the cause of that terror. A lifestyle that is amazing for my health and my karma is something I plan on sticking with.

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shannonmarie January 30, 2010 at 4:54 am

I am so glad so many of these discussions are popping up lately. I was a bit fearful myself to address the topic on my site, but felt I needed to be honest with my readers. I’ve been adding back some cooked lately in an effort to eat more seasonal and a greater variety of foods this time of year. I am still vegan, mostly raw with just some cooked to keep me in balance.

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Michal January 30, 2010 at 7:53 am

A really excellent post! One of the things that I have noticed with a raw lifestyle choice is that many people are all or nothing. Your are 100% raw or you arent and thats it. On my blog I really try to show that eating cooked vegan foods is okay, its not going to harm you. Many people become infatuated with the idea of a raw life style and they jump in without supplementing, without doing their research and they may become sick or deficent.

The vegan/raw vegan is so lucky that they have someone like you who is open and honest about the issues! I will be sharing this post on my blog as well. :)

Have a nice weekend Gena!

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Heather January 30, 2010 at 8:54 am

This was an excellent post, Gena! I saw this controversy stirring among the raw/vegan blogs and it’s great to hear a thoughtful response about it. I think it’s important that people not give up on veganism so quickly. If you feel bad, it’s time to re-evaluate what you are putting in your body, which might not necessarily include giving up on veganism.

I also find it interesting that so many non-vegans are drawn to raw foodism. Raw foodism (at least at its 100% level) is a bit more restricted than the vegan diet, yet veganism is often what is given up on first when the path becomes difficult. Very interesting.

I always say I am a vegan first. It was the suffering of animals that brought me here, and the health benefits I enjoy are a wonderful bonus. I hope that others who experiment with veganism/raw food will take the time to learn about the suffering of animals and the impact our food system has on our environment, in addition to the many health benefits of vegan food (either raw or cooked).

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Jess - The Domestic Vegan January 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Brilliant post as always, Gena. I recently read that article & actually wondered what you’d think of it. I’m so glad you chimed in with your thoughts/advice & I agree with you 100%!

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Jess - The Domestic Vegan January 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm

P.S. I honestly feel relieved that you said Doug Graham’s input was an “unintelligible rant.” ;-) I thought maybe I was being dense because I had to read his part about 50 damn times & was still confused!

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Earth Mother – In The Raw January 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Tweeted this yesterday, but didn’t have a chance to leave a comment.

First off, my kindred-spirit-sister-friend, get out of my head! ツ

Seriously, you channel my thoughts quite frequently. I just posted 15 Tips To Transition To A Raw Foods Lifestyle yesterday, in which I touch upon many of the same points you mention here. The rigid, narrow, zealous mindset has got to go. Lose the labels. Lose the percentages, I say!

YES to healthy fats. I think I’ve eaten at least one avocado every day for the last 18 months, and I’ve shed 140 pounds in the process. Hmmm.

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Marcia January 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm

great post. I think the most important thing about all of this is that everyone is different. And people will thrive on different diets.

Supplementation, for example, might not be the solution for everyone. I have a friend who was vegetarian and mostly vegan for about 15 years. As she hit her late 30′s, she just didn’t feel as good. Found out that she was low on iron and B-12. She tried injections and other methods of supplementation – didn’t work. In the end she had to reintroduce meat to her diet. So she eats one single small piece of grass fed beef per week.

Some people’s cholesterol go through the roof with beef. Other folks are allergic to gluten, nuts, soy, dairy.

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bitt January 30, 2010 at 5:17 pm

i’m pretty shocked that iron injections and b-12 injections didn’t work. they worked really well for me. maybe it was the wrong type. i know meat-eaters who are both low on iron and b-12 and had to supplement.

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Marcia February 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Yep, she was pretty shocked too.

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Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) January 30, 2010 at 9:28 pm

I still opt to avoid all the dietary labels, keep my food package free and eat what I feel I need. It’s working so far!

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Gena February 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm

That’s great, Meghan! As I’ve discussed before, I find labels really helpful in some contexts, and veganism is definitely a label that I enjoy embracing.

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The Mind Relaxer January 31, 2010 at 8:21 am

Awesome long but very informative post, just be yourself.. you know what is good and bad for you. Enjoy!

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elizabeth January 31, 2010 at 2:13 pm

I know people for whom 100% raw has been a release from a life time of disordered eating. It seems when people who have a lot of guilt around eating, in general, find raw foods, it allows them to redefine food in a healthy way, to eat with pleasure and without guilt. Many of them avoid cooked food by labeling it “bad.” For these people, dabbling with cooked food, even the healthiest vegan food, is a slippery slope.

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Greenling February 1, 2010 at 1:52 am

Conversely, someone with disordered eating patterns might find that deliberately adopting a restrictive diet might only make matters worse. I personally find that for my own (mental) health, it’s better if I purposely ‘break the rules’ by forcing myself not to conform to a fully-raw diet.

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elizabeth February 2, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Greenling, I completely agree with you, I don’t do well with restriction myself. I’m referring to some dear real life friends for whom the 100% raw diet was the ticket to wellness.

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www.purefoodlife.com January 31, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Hey Gena!

Very interesting post. It is very interesting for me to see the views of the raw community and the vegan community.. often two very extreme views. I love the way you mesh the best of both worlds for the healtiest diet while still maintaining your personal beliefs in what you say.

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Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble) January 31, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Very interesting post, Gena!

As someone who is leaning towards a significantly more vegan, high raw diet I find it interesting that people would turn to animal proteins before cooked food. The more natural the food, the more digestible it is, the better it is for your body! I agree, cooked vegan food is far better than many of the animal protein alternatives for optimal health and nutrition. And I am a person who still consumes a significant amount of animal protein, slowly cutting back.

Thanks for your intelligent insight!

xo
K

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caronae January 31, 2010 at 8:22 pm

What a thoughtful and interesting commentary on the article Gena! Although I don’t necessarily agree that animal proteins are a “nutritionally ambiguous choice” for everyone (for example, I am quite insulin resistant and I find that I physically thrive when eating meat and dairy), I do agree that each person (and their health needs) is different and each person has the right to decide their own diet and not be judged on it. So, although I’m (happily) a meat and dairy eater, I happily read your blog. Thanks for this wonderful post! I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings by talking about meat! I honestly respect you for making the right choices for you :)

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zucchinibreath February 1, 2010 at 11:13 am

Money and marketing for the fail.

IMO, it’s marketing. they are losing the market of people who are afraid to go vegan or who still buy into the myth that we need animal products for human nutrition.
“Tell people they can still eat (cheese/meat/milk) and they might be more likely to buy the useless “raw” cosmetics, supplements and repetitive, derivitive e-books and classes we sell!”

They (again IMO and I am being purposefully general, not referring to any one in particular) don’t really care about your health as much as they care that you buy the products they sell. They were losing the “omnivore” demographic.

It’s hard to tell who really wants to help you and who just wants to get you involved in their MLM. I’m not saying people shouldn’t make money doing what they love, but I’m vegan and I don’t want advice, certainly not advice I have to PAY for, from someone who kills and eats my friends. I’ve been very sad to learn that some people I have been listening to are advocating just that.

I’m glad you addressed this issue. Your article was, as usual, a calm voice in a whirl of hype and buzz.

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Laura February 1, 2010 at 10:55 pm

What a great statement and discussion! I was on the Natalia bandwagon before with hi raw + eggs and goat cheese. I am now focusing on vegan foods- adding hemp and legumes has helped greatly. The one food I’m not convinced about not eating (now and then) is eggs- when raised ethically, which I know is very rare, but I have found sources. Would be interested in info. I also thought it was odd that “Eating Animals” did not discuss dairy- although there I am much more on board with the “not natural” argument.

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Jenn (www.j3nn.net) February 2, 2010 at 5:21 am

I’m an omnivore, but I try to be an ethical eater. I’ve already reduced my meat consumption over the past 12 months or so and have replaced a lot of meat with more legumes, grains and dairy. And while I don’t see myself committing to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, I have decided that it would be a great idea to incorporate more raw food meals in my weekly menus. Substituting 3-6 meals a week can be a healthy way to include more fruits, veggies, and nuts into your diet.

What fascinates me about eating raw is the creativity. Food is a form of art to me, so seeing all of the creative ways raw food is prepared is very alluring. :)

Excellent post, thank you for writing it. I agree, there’s no need to go from raw to animal products, there’s a stage in between. :)

Jenn

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Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) February 4, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Wise input as always Gena. I love how you always emphasize that everyone is different, and that you promote fats like avocados and coconuts. I’m always amazed by how many people, especially women are still so scared of fats. It’s the one macronutrient we should be the least frightened of.

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Yardsnacker February 17, 2010 at 12:36 am

Really interesting take on the whole vegan lifestyle and the problems some folks have. Thank you!

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kristin February 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm

i can’t thank you enough for writing this. i have strugged for years with diet, from eating disorders to the Standard American Diet to vegan to raw and just totally out-of-whack. while i feel great for a short time on 100% raw, i find it impossible to stick with. then i’d beat myself up about it. but i’ve always thought – how could beans and legumes be bad for you? i buy dried beans in bulk and cook my own (no chemicals from cans that way) and i just don’t see how that can in any way be unhealthy. i think the best thing about raw is getting vegans away from white flour, white sugar and all the processed fake meats and fake cheeses that are so easy to rely on. so thanks, for making me feel better about enjoying my two all-time favorite meals: homemade refried beans and homemade corn torillas with salsa and guac, and quinoa pasta with cashew-cream tomato sauce and roasted veggies! i mean, how can those be bad?!?!

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