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A Raw Vegan Diet is Not for Everyone
and
Why a Raw Vegan Diet Fails

By Don Bennett, DAS

 

In this booklet-sized article you're gonna get two articles for the price of one. This is because there has developed far too much incorrect, ridiculous, erroneous, and potentially harmful memes on the Internet about raw vegan diets, and there needs to be some perspective, and some rational, unbiased, truth-telling. So strap in and be prepared for some enlightening and possibly disturbing news. But you'll want to hear it if you truly value your health. (And if you want to digest this article in multiple sittings, I'll understand.)

First, let's be clear, a raw vegan diet is not for everyone. It's not for people who don't care to have the best health their genetics will allow. It's not for people who care more about "fitting in" with their family or existing social norms than they do about achieving optimal health. And it's not for people who prefer to do what they'd rather do rather than do what's best for their body (the singularly Self-Indulgent-Pleasure-Seeking-Behavior folks).

The healthiest of the raw vegan diets is for those who truly care about their health, and their future health; it's for those who realize that every day they are alive they will have a level of health, and they possess the foresight to want to have the best health and quality of life for each and every one of those days. They have high levels of wisdom, can think for themselves, have the ability to do skeptical interrogation, and they have an intolerance for misrepresentation and misinformation; these traits are necessary because of all the inaccurate information out there regarding raw vegan diets, courtesy of those folks who care more about making money than they do about your health, and courtesy of those who allow their personal biases and philosophies to color their judgment.

And then there are the people who will embrace the healthiest of the raw vegan diets to deal with a serious diagnosis, but when they resolve their malady and are "cured", some go back to their normal lifestyle, seeing a raw vegan diet in much the same way as the general population sees their cures. The folks in this category, who do not see their sickness as a wake-up call, do not have the wisdom to make prudent investments in their future health. Many have the "it's all good" mantra... but in reality, it's not all good.

Oh, and yes, a raw vegan diet is for those wanting increased athletic performance, but this relatively small subset of raw foodists are often willing to sacrifice optimal health for high levels of achievement whether they realize this or not; they don't have the same priorities as truly health oriented raw foodists, or if they do, they have, for the time being, fooled themselves into believing that they can have both maximal performance and optimal health... at least until they "crash and burn" and experience the payback for overworking their body, but this can take decades, and due to endorphins, they will feel great during this time, and this can color any good judgment they do have. This is why I am not only an advocate for an appropriate diet, but also for appropriate physical activity (and sunshine, and sleep, and hydration, and nutrition).

Now let's look at those who are on the other side of dietary issues.

Promoting an all-raw fruit-based diet is also not for every health educator. Some health educators who are avid vegans for ethical reasons seem to care more about getting people to switch to a vegan diet that's best for the animals than they do about promoting the diet that's best for people's health; subconsciously they know that the healthiest diet won't be embraced by as many people as a vegan diet that contains cooked food, and turning more people towards veganism is their ultimate goal, and thus their priority. Unfortunately some of these educators – because of their concern for animal suffering – have convinced themselves that a vegan diet that contains cooked food is superior to a vegan diet that is all raw. But since humans have the ability to perceive reality as something other than what it actually is, these otherwise well-intentioned educators unintentionally mislead people while doing great work for the other animals. Ironic.

And we can't have a proper discussion of this issue without visiting the less-than-altruistic side of human nature. Some health educators are doing what they're doing solely as a business, and they employ the potentially lucrative "profits-before-people" business model, and therefore will promote the diet that stands to get them the biggest piece of the pie within their market. We recognize these dishonest people in the cooked animal food industry ("butter is back!" Dr. Perlmutter), but they also exist in the raw vegan community because raw vegan food has become an industry too. The diet humans are best suited to eat is not rocket science, so there is no excuse for teaching inaccurate dietary information. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts, and the healthiest diet for humans is a matter of fact even if it's portrayed as an unsettled issue with multiple hypotheses.

Fortunately these health educators are the exception and not the rule, but unfortunately they don't play by the same rules as honest people, and they are often perceived as sincere, caring, honest, and well-intentioned when in reality they are not, and they employ this persona for the same reasons all corporations that engage in underhanded things do... marketing. But when they are good at what they do – and most are – it is, for most folks, difficult to tell them apart from the truly sincere, caring, honest, and well-intentioned educators, and as such, these charismatic miscreants will have hordes of ardent fans and followers who will support and defend them when those who can see through their BS call them out on it (one of my endeavors). This is a really sad state of affairs because most if not all of their followers truly want optimal health and will end up not getting it (unless they can eventually see these people for who they really are). But since less-than-optimal health will not be obvious for a very long time, these reprehensible people will be responsible for much pain and suffering down the road, but because of their sociopathic tendencies, they don't care; more to the point, they care more about themselves than anyone else. (And I'm not "bad behavior shaming", it is an attempt to raise awareness of a profoundly serious problem.)

I know that you may find it difficult to relate to the people I've just described, and you may believe that, while they exist within the mainstream industries, surely not in the raw vegan community. But it's a sad fact of life that they are everywhere, and this is why it's important to know about, not only dietary info, but also about the educators themselves and their motivations so you can better vet their info (assuming you want the best health your DNA will allow).

So even though everyone deserves to reap the benefits of the healthiest of the raw vegan diets, it's clear that, for one reason or another, everyone won't. And advocates of the healthiest of the raw vegan diets should peer-to-peer with each other so they can keep up to date with the best info so those they teach and counsel can have the best odds of being successful, which means thriving for their entire lives, and not just short term improvement.

Next, why a raw vegan diet fails to work for some people, and why some people think that it may not be the diet that everyone is designed for, even though it is.

Here are some actual statements...

"The raw, vegan, fruit-based diet doesn't work for everyone. It didn't work for me, so you are wrong in saying that there is one diet for all humans."

First, what I am contending is that there is a basic diet that is the same for all humans, just as there is one basic diet for each animal species on the planet. So why should we be any different? Because we'd like to be? Sorry, that's not a good reason; I prefer using the scientific method to determine what humans are designed to eat because this method guards against personal preferences, biases, and philosophies that color judgment, and guards against information borne out of profit motives. There is no law that says you must eat this way, but fooling yourself into believing something that doesn't square with Nature is breaking one of Nature's laws (which can't be broken without there being some punishment at some point).

To anyone who maintains that humans are designed for different diets, I'd ask the following: Are you saying that the person who laid the foundation for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature and was the founder of modern taxonomy, and who invented the classifications carnivore, herbivore, folivore, frugivore, and omnivore for animals' dietary dispositions – Carl Linnaeus – was incorrect when he said:

"To say that humans have the anatomical structure of an omnivore is an egregiously inaccurate statement ... Man's structure, internal and external compared with that of the other animals, shows that fruit and succulent vegetables are his natural food ... Fruits are the most adequate food for man according to that demonstrated by the analogy of quadrupeds in the structure in his teeth and digestive apparatus."

To argue against that which is self-evident is simply not reasonable, and will never result in a discovery of the truth. (By-the-way, Linnaeus also said, "To live by medicine is to live horribly.")

So it's been known for quite a long time what humans are designed to eat. But our design is not respected by those industries that want us eating other things, yet, to have optimal health, our design must be respected or we will suffer the consequences in some form or fashion at some point. Remember, Nature wants us to eat one thing while profit-motivated people want us to eat something else, and make you think you can or should.

What I am contending is that there is one basic diet for all humans, and that it is incorrect to say that some humans will only be able to achieve optimal health when eating some animal food, or some cooked plant-based food, or a starch-based diet. And I am contending that the diet that all humans are designed for must be consumed properly, with attention paid to getting enough of all the nutrients the person requires in order for them to be able to have optimal health, and that this state of nutritional sufficiency is not a foregone conclusion just because someone is eating the foods of their biologically adapted diet. Eating a perfect diet doesn't mean the foods you're eating are perfect; a very long time ago these were not two separate and distinct issues, but they are today. But take heart, there are things that can be done to compensate for the nutritionally sub-par food many people are eating – health-enhancing things that the body would approve of (even if some philosophy-based people don't).

Further, I contend that if a person is coming from a state of ill-health, when they transition to the healthiest of diets (consumed properly), certain considerations need to be made:

1) This person may initially need a higher intake of certain nutrients than they would when those nutrient levels are "full" because of preexisting insufficiencies/deficiencies;

2) Sufficient time must be allowed for complete healing so that erroneous conclusions aren't drawn;

3) The person may want to check for genetic polymorphisms that might prevent optimal health even when eating a "perfect diet" if they don't improve as expected (rare but it happens), and;

4) All health educators promoting a raw, vegan diet are not created equal, meaning, some teach (and make sure to teach) 100 percent accurate information, and some teach a lesser amount, meaning, they teach some inaccurate information, and it is this misinformation (and disinformation) that can prevent a person from healing and attaining optimal health. (By-the-way, the two basic reasons for this scenario are ignorance and/or egotism, and having a profits-before-people business model which usually requires some level of arrogance and a heightened level of self-importance.)

So those were some of the reasons people fail to thrive after transitioning to a raw began diet.

Also important to note: There isn't just one "raw vegan diet"; there are multiple versions with only one being the healthiest. This is why I don't like the term "the raw vegan diet" and prefer "a raw vegan diet". Let's list them in order of least healthy first...

• The raw animal food diet

• The high fat, low carb raw vegan diet

• The high greens, low fruit raw vegan diet

• The "high raw" sort'a raw vegan diet

• The high carb, low/appropriate fat raw vegan diet

The raw animal food diet

I won't dignify this version with a comment, except to say that, if you're reading this, you're not a carnivore, and you didn't just roam far away from equatorial regions where it's winter and you must now eat animals to survive, so eat this diet at your own peril. (And if you are convinced this is what we're meant to eat, from an evolutionary perspective, it is best if the diet takes its toll on you before you've had a chance to procreate so that your defective cognitive genes don't get passed on. Just say'n.)

The high fat, low carb raw vegan diet

Sometimes known as a "gourmet" raw vegan diet, but since our future health will suffer from eating lots of fat – even uncooked/undamaged plant-based fat – it would be wise to avoid this diet. And just because type 2 diabetes can be cured with a high fat low carb diet just as it can with a high carb low fat diet, don't assume these two diets are equally as healthy in the long-term.

The high greens, low fruit raw vegan diet

A.K.A. the Hippocrates diet. Some say that it's necessary to limit fruit while healing. Not true. I'm not saying that healing can't occur in the absence of fruit eating, but when you stop eating the Typical Western Diet, no matter what healthier diet you eat, healing will ramp up and there will be noticeable improvement. But if you're not fasting and instead are eating, you'll need to get fuel (measured in calories) from something. So where are the calories coming from in a high greens, low/no fruit diet? Not from the greens, that's for sure! What you can't tell from the title of this diet is that the calories come from fat, via nuts for the most part. Again, while it's healthiER, it's not the healthiEST. And some low/no fruit diet "educators" recommend this as your normal diet! A red flag for sure.

The "high raw" sort'a raw vegan diet

Let's get real here; in modern societies it's way easier to eat a diet that contains some cooked food than it is to eat an all-raw diet, at least in the beginning. This fact is not lost on those health educators who want to make it easier to adopt a vegan diet because they themselves are ethical vegans, and their passion for this philosophy can color their judgment to the point where they end up misrepresenting the diet. And the above fact is also not lost on those "health educators" who run their practice, not as a people-before-profits model, but as a profits-before-people business… like 99.9 percent of all businesses do. They will think of ways to carve out a niche for themselves in the community by convincing you that some cooked food is okay. And even that some cooked food is necessary. A meme that's still in circulation is that you can be just as healthy on a high-raw diet, like the Raw Till 4 Diet, as you can on an all-raw diet. And let's face it, if this were true, a person would be nuts to eat an all-raw diet given the way society is structured. But in reality (which is where your body exists) this is not true. It doesn't even make sense that it could be true, yet it does to those who want it to be true. And for reasons that are totally understandable, there are plenty of people like that in the raw vegan and health improvement communities, and the marketeers who pass themselves off as health educators take advantage of this, and in so doing, take advantage of those who would buy into their sincere-sounding BS.

Am I being too harsh? Well, those people who adopt a high raw diet thinking that they can have their cake and eat it too (optimal health and some cooked food) will probably be in for a rude awakening at some point down the road. But since the more serious fails don't happen immediately, the irresponsible and uncaring hucksters feel safe in promoting their disinformation (incorrect information that is known to be incorrect by the person giving it yet is presented as correct).

The take-away: If you truly care about your health, apply the ethos of science to any and all information you receive (open questioning, no authorities, honesty, transparency, reliance on evidence, with no biases – yours or anyone else's).

The high carb, low fat raw vegan diet

While, generally speaking, this is the diet that humans are biologically best suited to, it is still possible to fail on it. Just because you're eating the foods of the healthiest diet doesn't automatically mean that the foods you're eating are in the healthiest shape, and that you'll get enough of all the nutrients your body requires for optimal healing and optimal health, now and throughout your entire life ("future health"). And this is one of the reasons for raw vegan diet "fails".

Some people come to the raw vegan diet to heal something, and if their ill health doesn't resolve after doing everything right and going "by the book", the diet is often assumed to not be what works for them. Or if a person on the healthiest of the raw vegan diets sees their health going downhill after the initial honeymoon period is over, they incorrectly assume the diet doesn't work after all, and that the anti-raw vegan educators were right all along. But this is not the case either, and there are reasons why the diet a person is designed to eat didn't work.

If a person who is coming to the diet is in ill health, a dramatic change in diet can be difficult at first. There may be digestive issues that need to be dealt with first so that digestion and assimilation can work properly. And there can be detox symptoms that can also be misinterpreted to be a sign of "I'm obviously not designed for a fruit-based diet". Not everyone can simply go 100 percent overnight and have it be smooth sailing. But the fact that there can be an acclimation period which could involve detox and some healing is no reason to believe that this is not the diet you're designed to eat. Here, being an educated consumer of information is important so as not to draw erroneous conclusions.

Here's another major reason for raw vegan "fails". The meme made popular by a popular raw vegan educator that says, "Once you start eating enough fruits and vegetables you don't have to worry about nutrition" will end up doing more harm than good in the long run due to the nutritionally sub-par fruits and greens most people are buying. When a person switches to the healthiest of diets from a relatively unhealthy diet, there will usually be health improvement (the "honeymoon" phase), but improvement in the short-term does not automatically guarantee long-term thriving. Anyone who states that they are thriving after eating a raw vegan diet for a few years may be fooling themselves because, technically, you can't know if you're thriving on a diet (and lifestyle) for a very long time.

 

"But the tree roots reach way down below the depleted topsoils"

The notion that because the roots of trees go way down into the soil, the fruits they bear will have a plentiful amount of nutrients is a false meme that has been circulating for quite a while. The evidence that this is not true can be found in nutritional assays done on agri-industry fruits. When compared to what is supposed to be in those fruits (according to nutritional database charts), there is not only a stark difference, but the amounts that are found today are less than what were found just two decades ago. The fault of this degradation of nutritional content is the way these foods are grown. (And even though those database charts are not reliable sources of what's in the foods you're actually eating, those numbers have been adjusted downward over the decades to reflect the diminishing nutritional contents; something that people who put a lot of stock in nutritional database charts should be aware of.)

 

Another potential issue with this diet is the definition of "low fat". Just as you don't want too much fat, you don't want too little either. And even though you are eating a "fruit-based diet" which is what humans are designed to eat, we are not designed to eat only temperate zone fruit like apples, grapes, pears, berries, etc. because these are very-low-fat fruits. Optimally, we need some tropical fruits which are creamier than the above fruits, and this is because they contain more fat (and some essential saturated fat).

And by-the-way, when a fruit has both carbs (sugar) and fat in one package, and you make a meal out of just that one fruit, it should digest just fine.

So what can you do if you simply can't get any creamy tropical fruits? You can have a little bit of avocado, which you should be able to get, but there's a reason that avocado shouldn't be your main source of fat (which I'll get to in a moment). To compensate for not being able to get enough of the tropical fruits that we have a symbiotic relationship with, consider adding one tablespoon each of hemp and chia seeds to a banana smoothie. "But that's not natural!!!" you may say. But neither is not eating tropical fruit. Let's get used to the idea that to thrive, we will have to do things that we wouldn't have had to do many millennia ago in order to compensate for the unnatural environment most of us are living in today. If you live in the tropics and have access to tropical fruit, disregard the above.

But there are other ways to not get enough fat, even when eating tropical fruits.

There's a notion that as long as you keep your intake of fat under ten percent of total calories, you're golden. But this assumes you are appropriately active so that you'll be eating an amount of food that will provide a sufficient amount of fat. In reality, not everyone is active enough, but if inactive folks are eating according to true hunger, they will be getting sufficient carbs but maybe not enough fat. Why? If their fat intake is, say, seven percent of total calories, the percent is technically fine, but the amount may be too low. Huh? The body requires amounts of things and not percentages. Looking at carbs/fat/protein as percentages is an accommodation of sorts; it makes it easier to see the relationship between these "caloro-nutrients", but it's not a good way to know how much fat you're actually getting. So if a person is sedentary, and they eat a diet of seven percent fat, they can bump up against an EFA insufficiency, which can turn into a deficiency if it goes on long enough, and this can account for ill-health issues. But a person who is appropriately active who is eating a diet of seven percent fat can be getting enough fat. Again, we require amounts and not percentages.

So anyone who tells you to just eat "80-10-10" without explaining the above is under-educated. A catchy name chosen for its marketing value does not tell the whole story, but that's forgivable if there's information that explains the fine-points... which the book by that name fails to do. In fact, when an organization revisited the issue of how to define how much fat the healthiest of the raw vegan diets should advocate, the author of that book argued that "less than ten percent" should remain the recommendation even after the above scenario was mentioned to him. Instead of acknowledging what is self-evident, the author said, "So you're saying that it's okay for people to be sedentary?" which was not at all the point that was being made. Hmmm.

The take-away: The most popular health info is not necessarily the most accurate, nor the most beneficial.

Another "fat" issue of the healthiest of the raw vegan diets is the type of fat. Avocados are very popular... too popular. Why? Fats are made up of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), and two of the most commonly discussed are the Omega 3s and Omega 6s. The 3s are the anti-inflammatory EFAs and the 6s are the pro-inflammatory EFAs (the ones needed to allow inflammation – a normal bodily process – to occur). Both these EFAs are processed by the same enzyme, so if there's way more of one EFA than the other, the lion's share of your finite enzyme production will go to the larger of the two, and there might not be enough to process all of the smaller amount of the other EFA, and this can (and does) result in an EFA insufficiency (usually an Omega 3 insufficiency).

This can happen when eating lots of avocado. Why? The ratio of these two EFAs should be about 1:1 and certainly no higher than a 4:1 ratio of 6s to 3s. But an avo is 17:1 which is very unbalanced, meaning that, accordingly, avocados should be eaten, not in moderation, but sparingly. Yet there are raw vegan proponents blogging and vlogging about how they eat ten avocados at a sitting. And they defend the practice by saying that they are not overweight. But clearly, that is not the only consideration (and when they are alerted to this EFA imbalance issue, most of them double-down and defend their dietary practice instead of acknowledging this important info, and then they feel the need to "kill the messenger" by trying to discredit him/her. Nice.)

The take-away: Don't assume a popular raw vegan advocate is qualified to be a health educator or coach.

 

There you have it, the raw vegan diets. But before deciding what diet to embrace, first decide how healthy you want to be. Think about it, if you don't care at all about your health, your dietary options are huge! You can eat any diet that humans have come up with, and eat as much of it as you like. True, if you don't care about your health but you do care about the suffering of animals that are used for food, you can eat any one of a number of vegan diets; there are unhealthy ones all the way up to the healthiest one (raw, fruit-based). But if you care as much as a human being is capable of caring about their health, your dietary options are limited to one diet... the one you're designed to eat.

And please don't shoot the messenger. My purpose in conveying all this to you is because I hate seeing people fooling themselves into thinking the diet they're following will result in robust, vibrant health when I know that it won't... because it can't... because it's not the diet they are designed to eat. If you remain of the opinion that different people require different diets, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but diet is not a matter of opinion, it's a matter of fact.

I also hear...

"There isn't one way of looking at healthy living that is right for everyone."

Although this statement does revolve around the word "right", if optimal health is the ultimate goal, I contend that there can be a basic philosophy that can be applied to all humans regarding the needs of the human body in general in order to operate optimally, and that this philosophy is that of Natural Hygiene, properly understood. (I say "properly understood" because there are those who see Natural Hygiene through the lens of their own biases and personal philosophies, and who refuse to take into account the environment we are currently living in.) More on Natural Hygiene in a moment.

One more thing that I hear a lot...

"But raw-veganism is the new (untested) kid on the block ... there aren't yet any long term raw vegans."

Not so. There are long term raw vegans, they just don't participate on Facebook, and they don't blog about it or make videos, they just live their lives in the same manner as those eating the Typical Western Diet, i.e. they don't think it necessary to talk about their diet. I've met these folks who were members of an organization (this was decades ago), so they do exist, and they're doing just fine.

So the raw vegan diet does work if you do it right, and by that I mean the diet must square with Natural Hygiene...

"That branch of biology which investigates and applies the conditions upon which life and health depend, and the means by which health is rebuilt and maintained when it has been lost or impaired; it is the study of the 'science of health'".

A further, very enlightening definition of Natural Hygiene can be found at the end of this article. And these folks I spoke of were members of the American Natural Hygiene Society. But they represented just the tip of the iceberg being that they knew others who ate the way they did but did not feel the need to join an organization... and those folks, some in their 90's, were doing just fine too. What did they all have in common? They took a reality-based, real-world approach to health and healthy eating, and their philosophies reflected this.

Folks, this information may be new to you or to a community of people that you're in, but it's been known for a very long time.

Then there's me, researching health issues for 45 years, and almost a quarter century on a properly consumed raw, vegan, fruit-based diet. I should say that my mind is always open to new information because there are issues that are not yet fully understood and thus are subject to multiple hypotheses. But it should be understood that certain issues are considered well-settled and, although open to discussion, are no longer open to debate, at least not by rational, critical-thinking people; issues such as whether the Earth revolves around the sun or vise versa, whether evolution is a fact or a hypothesis, whether the earth is 6,000 or 4.5 billion years old, or what is the natural dietary constitution of humans. No longer are any of these issues unknown or a mystery, regardless of how many people believe them to be.

And true, I'm only 65 years old, so I can't know for 100 percent sure if this way of eating works for me until I know that it worked for me, and I can't know that until well into the winter of my life as exemplified by never having gotten a diagnosis of a serious illness and having a great quality of life (assuming I also paid equal attention to all the other equally important requisites of optimal health like appropriate amounts of exercise, sleep, hydration, sunshine for D+, and stress management). But knowing what I know from my 45 years of research into the requirements for optimal health, I can be reasonably sure that this way of eating will work for me. And it can work for you too, but you need to want it to work, and you need to do your due diligence to ensure that you end up following 100 percent accurate information.

So, just as optimal health is not just about diet, it's also not just about the quality of the food... it's also about the quality of the information.


Don Bennett is an insightful, reality-based author, and health creation counselor who uses the tools in his toolbox - like logic, common sense, critical thinking, and independent thought - to figure out how to live so we can be optimally healthy.

 

Further reading (after a well-deserved break):

The Ethos of Science

What is Natural Hygiene?

"But we need meat!"

"I was helped by eating an animal product"

"When I ate a fruit-based diet I failed to thrive, but going back to the Typical Western Diet, my health improved! Does this mean that I'm not designed for that diet?"

 

       


COUNSELING