A Raw Vegan Diet is Not for Everyone
Why a Raw Vegan Diet Fails
By Don Bennett, DAS
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,
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
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.
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.
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).
let's look at those who are on the other side of dietary issues.
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.
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.
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.)
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).
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.
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.
are some actual statements...
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."
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).
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:
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."
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.")
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.
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).
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:
person may initially need a higher intake of certain nutrients
than they would when those nutrient levels are "full"
because of preexisting insufficiencies/deficiencies;
time must be allowed for complete healing so that erroneous
conclusions aren't drawn;
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;
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.)
those were some of the reasons people fail to thrive after transitioning
to a raw began diet.
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
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.)
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.
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.
"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
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.
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).
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).
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".
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.
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.
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"
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
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
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.
there are other ways to not get enough fat, even when eating tropical
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.
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
take-away: The most popular health info is not necessarily the
most accurate, nor the most beneficial.
"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
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
take-away: Don't assume a popular raw vegan advocate is qualified
to be a health educator or coach.
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.
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.
isn't one way of looking at healthy living that is right for
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.
more thing that I hear a lot...
raw-veganism is the new (untested) kid on the block ... there
aren't yet any long term raw vegans."
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
the raw vegan diet does work if you do it right,
and by that I mean the diet must square with Natural Hygiene...
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'".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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