Raw Food Diets: They Actually Do More Harm Than Good

Weird and wacky diets like raw food diets, juicing, liquid diets, intermittent fasting, and carb backloading are becoming more and more common and being followed by everyone in a quest to lose weight and see results.  It’s easy to understand why so many people follow these crazy diets.  When people are desperate they do strange things, and there is also an abundance of miss informed information and clever marketing schemes which litter the internet, ready to take the money off the next poor soul who gets sucked in.  In this article, I’m going to cover all the dangers of a raw food diet.

What Is A Raw Food Diet?

A raw food diet is generally a vegan-based diet that focusses on consuming foods that involve little to no cooking.  These foods will also have gone through minimal processing if any.  There are some exceptions to the rule, which allow some foods to be heated to 140 degrees (F) only.  This is because raw food diet followers believe you are killing all the nutrients in food when heated to extremely high temperatures.  This isn’t entirely untrue as nutrients like protein can become denatured when heated at extreme temperatures.

Following a raw food, diet isn’t all doom and gloom, there are definitely positives, it’s just they are massively outweighed by the drawbacks.

raw food diets picture

Dangers Of A Raw Food Diet

It’s time to talk about some of the dangers of following a raw food diet.  If you are planning to start one of your own, then please make sure you are aware of all the things I’m going to discuss below.

Are You Getting Enough Calories?

A huge problem with raw food diets is the difficulty you will have in consuming enough calories across the day.  You may be thinking fewer calories is a good thing, especially when you are trying to lose weight.  This is true, to lose weight you will need to be in a calorie deficit.  However, if your calories are too low then you will be causing more harm to your body then good.

No matter what you currently weigh your body needs a certain amount of calories just to simply maintain its self and function properly.  This may be 2100 for one person and 2900 for another.  If your daily calorie consumption falls massively below this level your body could potentially shut down any systems it believes to be “not critical”.  Oh, and it’s also important to note your body will also stop using fat for fuel, which goes against what 80% of people actually want from dieting, “to lose body fat”.

Below are some clear signs you can keep an eye out for that indicate you are probably not getting enough calories.  I would like to add I am not a doctor and many of these signs could indicate other problems you might have.  However, if you are trying to lose weight by following a raw food diet and experiencing any of these signs, then the chances are your calories consumption is way to low.

  1. Experiencing dull headaches
  2. An inability to stay warm
  3. Stomach cramps
  4. Extreme fatigue and muscle weakness.

It can be incredibly hard to consume enough calories when following a raw food diet 100% of the time.  Click here to see how many calories you should be having to safely lose body fat.  If your calories from your raw food diet fall well below the safe amount you should be consuming, then you really should consider making some changes.

Eating Raw Food Could Cause Cholesterol Problems…..Yup you read that right

A raw food diet will usually be rich in vitamins and minerals, however, many foods you can eat raw will be lacking in healthy fats.  This may lead to the blood levels of HDL’s (high-density lipids) being to low.   This is your good cholesterol.

The main way to increase your HDL levels is through your diet, however, they can also be increased through losing weight and exercise.  If you are not getting enough healthy fats in your diet then you will naturally increase the risk of heart disease.  I would always see a doctor and get your cholesterol monitored if you are thinking about following a raw food diet.

You May Be Starving Your Body Of Some Important Nutrients

When following a raw food diet you will be getting an abundance of vitamins and minerals, however, you are also at risk of some serious nutrient deficiencies as well.  These mainly being vitamin D, calcium and vitamin B12.

Out of the three, calcium may be the easiest to come by as there are some plant sources which many consider superior to other food sources containing the mineral calcium.  The downside is the lack of variety, and you will need to include the same plant sources every day in your diet.  However, when it comes to vitamin B12 it’s a different story.  A raw food diet has very limited options for vitamin B12.  One of the main non-animal sources I can think of is fortified cereal.  The problem here is, it doesn’t really fit into the raw food equation due to being processed.  This stops many true raw food dieters from having it.  There are many symptoms you may experience from a vitamin B12 deficiency.

  1. A decrease in appetite
  2. Fatigue
  3. Constipation
  4. Depression
  5. Problems with balance
  6. A tingling sensation or numbness in your hands or feet

When following a raw food, vegetarian or vegan diet, you can of course supplement with vitamin B12 tablets, however, this again goes against what many raw food dieters believe in.  The other options are injections or drops.

Osteoporosis caused by a loss of bone density is something you really need to be aware of if you are deficient in vitamin D and calcium.  It’s vitally important to get checked out and make sure you have sufficient levels of these nutrients.  Supplementing is always an option if your levels are to low.

Constipation, Bloating, Excess Gas…Who Wants Any Of These?

By suddenly eating countless amounts of vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, nuts and seeds you will be suddenly adding a large amount of fibre to your diet.  That’s surely a good thing, right?  Unfortunately not.  Yes, fibre is vitally important, however, you should in general only be consuming the recommended amount of 20 to 35 grams a day.  Also if you are looking to add more into your diet, then this should be increased very slowly to allow your body time to adapt.

If you suddenly change to a 100% raw food diet, then you will be suddenly increasing your levels of fibre to some quite extreme levels.  You may then experience stomach pains, bloating, constipation and excess gas.

If you really are looking to change to a raw food diet, then gradually introduce the raw foods over a period of a month or two.  This will slowly increase your fibre and help you to avoid any of the problems above.

Should You Try A Raw Food Diet?

My answer to this question is a simple no.  I truly believe following an entirely raw food diet will only lead to more harm than good.  As well as all the reasons above, I’m going to list below some other things you need to consider before trying this diet.

A piece of raw meat on a chopping board

  • A raw food diet requires incredible organisation, discipline and preparation to make sure
    you are getting an adequate amount of many essential nutrients the body requires.
  • Staying motivated when eating out and socialising will be a huge test for you.
  • Cooking food has its benefits as it kills harmful compounds, bacteria and toxins.

I have talked so much about vegan style raw food diets.  There are, however, some people who will attempt to eat raw meat.  Please take extreme caution when eating raw animal products.

Final Thoughts…Are There Any Positives

As you can see, there are many downsides to doing a 100% raw food diet.  For anyone already doing one, this may have been hard to read, especially when there is so much hype about them on the internet.

Although following this diet 100% of the time, in my opinion, is not a great option, if you have a balanced diet which includes some raw foods then you will experience all the health benefits and none of the negatives.  People who include some raw foods in their diets have reported, increased energy levels, better digestion and clearer skin.  I think the take-home point here, is that balance is key.  Regardless of what it is, too much of one thing will generally always lead to problems.

I really hope you enjoyed and found this article useful.  If you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to leave them below.

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Raw food diets. Do they cause more harm than good

12 thoughts on “Raw Food Diets: They Actually Do More Harm Than Good”

  1. i believe that moderation is key here. I believe taking in a lot of raw foods can be very healthy but not to go over the top and only eat raw whole foods. The same thing goes with the high protein low carbohydrate approach. It is good to eat low carbs, but not no carbohydrates! 

    I’m also sure that some foods are easier to digest when they are cooked, plus for me cooking means that the food is tastier and more fun. Thanks for sharing the dangers of a raw food only diet. 

    • Hi Lynne

      Really hope you found this article useful.  It seems that you have a good understanding on this.  Balance is key.

  2. Thanks for this informative article on raw food. Honestly, I always thought that eating raw food had to be the healthiest thing for out bodies. Reading your post, I saw how wrong I was! 

    I’ve never tried it myself. It just felt like too much hard work. Now, I can stop feeling guilty about it and get on with my (fairly) balanced and cooked diet.

    The section about the amount of fiber we need is also great! I thought one can never consume too much fiber, but it looks like we need to find the balance on this as well. 

    Looking forward to more of your articles on healthy eating!

    • Hi Alenka

      You have hit the nail directly on the head.  Its all about balance in terms of the food we eat.  Consuming some raw food in your diet is absolutely find and you will get the health benefits from it.  But a whole diet of just raw food, means you will be missing out on a lot.

  3. Good afternoon David,

    I must say that was an interesting read. I am 68 now and have gone through many different phases in my life. When I was still working as a tourist guide, a very hectic life I can tell you, eating well and at the same time was out. My digestion was awful. I stopped working in 1986 and started my farm life. I got interested in food and what it does to your body. I got more conscious what is healthy or not and slowly but surely changed the way I was eating.

    I went from white bread to brown, from milk to soja, from butter to olive oil. Time later I skipped soja and went to using coconut milk and oil. Now, for many years I am on different seeds and nuts, vegetables from my own garden, fruits from the garden, Kefir and Greek yogurt, eggs from my happy chicken, during the week some fish, chicken and perhaps one steak, trying to buy bio and sit in the sun nearly every day some 15 min. I take some supplements like beer yeast and my anti-aging doctor is taking care that my hormones are balanced. All in all I think I am doing quite well.

    I am staying away, most of the time, from man-made foods. Ah, I should not forget that small piece of black chocolate and the glass of red wine each day.

    I work in the garden which I consider excercise and I do some in the house.

    I think each person is different and it will take some time till one finds the right balance.

    Regards, Taetske 

    • Hi Tateske

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post.  You are right though.  everyone needs to experiment to see what foods they get on best with.  For example some of my clients cant eat oats as they bloat them out to much.  It is all about balance and making sure you get all the nutrients your body needs.

      Its fantastic that you are able to get food from your garden and chickens and it sounds like you have a great balance at the moment in your diet.

      If there is anything I can help with than please ask.

  4. yeah i agree with well cook meat, but raw vegetables is better. if i wanted to start eating raw food diets, i should at least know the basic of it. Eating healthy, less fating, and digest a clear stomach is something i like to have with my diet. I need to make my stomach to adjust to new food environment, especially vegetables, they have the vitamins i want to have.

    • Hey There

      It’s definitely all about balance when it comes to eating raw foods. You can 100% get some benefits from including raw vegetables into your diet. I think the main take-home point here is, that it’s actually quite damaging if you were to only follow a raw food plan. Your body will be missing out on many important nutrients.

  5. build muscle, have life expand and eat delicious meals every day to start on a raw food diet. However there are side affects on digesting so much raw food can backfire on me. I need to know my system and the food i take in so my body won’t backfire on me and enjoy the savoring. i like to moderate both on fiber and cholesterol on balance. 

    • Hi Noah

      You are bang on with your comment.  Its important to understand how your body reacts.  Keep good balance in your foods and make sure you eat the correct amount of protein and calories for your goals.  If certain foods bloat you out or send you to the toilet than just stay clear of them.  There are always alternatives.  

      Thank you for your comment


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