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Raw vegan diet: Do they work and how should you do one?

amy-talbot

Written byAmy Talbot

Vitamin salad of young vegetables: cabbage, radish, cucumber and fresh herbs.

You’re most likely aware that a vegan diet is based on eating plants like vegetables, grains, nuts and fruit. But a raw vegan detox goes one step further.

Many people commit to a raw vegan detox diet with the aim of cleansing their bodies of toxins. Are you’re thinking of trying a vegan detox?

This article takes a closer look at the possible health benefits. It also contains some practical tips to help you get started on your raw vegan diet journey.

What is a raw vegan diet?

A raw food detox is all about dedicating your daily diet to eating unprocessed and uncooked foods.

Food that is considered raw has never been heated above 42°C, is organic and free of preservatives.

People who follow a raw food diet believe that the enzymes and nutrients that are found naturally in food are destroyed by cooking.1

For instance, up to 30% of the nutrients found in broccoli can be lost during the cooking process.2

The idea behind a raw vegan detox is that you get all of the nutrients you need, fresh and uncooked, without any of the additives that are present in processed food.

Like other diet detoxes, the main principle is that a raw food detox will help eliminate toxins from your body faster.

What is a vegan detox?

Vegan detoxes involve cutting out animal and animal-derived food (meat, dairy, eggs and poultry ) from your diet and only eating a plant-based diet.

It essentially involves going vegan, which can be done gradually or you can do it in one go – the general guidance recommends you do it gradually to give your body chance to adjust to your new eating regime.3

Many people who transition into a plant-based diet experience a detox period in which your body detoxes itself from the animal-based products it’s been used to eating up until this point.

During this period, it’s not uncommon for people to experience detox side effects, such as headaches and digestion changes.

Some people may think that the detox symptoms they’re experiencing are a sign their body isn’t adapting to plant-based eating very well.

However, this isn’t always the case because experiencing changes within your body shows that it is responding to the change in your eating habits.

The vegan detox period can last around a week for some people and months for others.

Meanwhile, it’s also possible for people to experience one or several side effects on and off for a period of time.

Throughout this entire period, the body is ridding itself of any old toxins, hormones, mercury, pesticides, bacteria and other properties that are found in most animal-based foods.

Summary

  • A raw vegan food detox involves eating unprocessed and uncooked foods
  • ‘Raw’ food isn’t heated above 42°C
  • Vegan detoxes involve purely eating a vegan diet

What can you eat on a raw vegan detox?

Well, you can say goodbye to processed and cooked food and pile your plate with lots of raw vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and sprouts - that haven’t been heated above 42°C.

You can simply enjoy them unprocessed and uncooked as they are, in a salad or juice them.

You can also add a small amount of food to your meals that’s been minimally processed, such as vinegar, dried fruit and vegetables.

Don’t forget - organic fruit and vegetables should be washed carefully before eating to make sure they are free of any dirt, as well as pesticides and other chemicals.

A raw vegan detox can include the following food:

  • Cold pressed oils
  • Dried fruits and vegetables
  • Fermented foods such as miso and sauerkraut
  • Fresh herbs and raw spices
  • Herbal tea
  • Nama Shoyu (unpasteurised raw soy sauce)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Raw fruit and vegetables and their juices
  • Raw nut butter
  • Raw nut milk
  • Roots, root vegetables and squashes
  • Seaweed
  • Sprouts
  • Unprocessed olives
  • Unprocessed raw cacao
  • Vinegar and foods cured in vinegar

What can’t you eat on a raw vegan diet?

Now you know about the sorts of foods you can have on the raw vegan diet, what foods should you avoid?

Essentially, it’s best to avoid anything that has been heated above 42°C.

But for more guidance, here are some foods to steer clear of:

  • Crisps
  • Pastries
  • Baked goods
  • Any cooked fruit, veg or grains
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Roasted nuts or seeds
  • Salt
  • Refined oils like vegetable oil, corn oil or margarine
  • Refined sugar
  • Refined flour

Raw vegan recipe inspiration

Knowing the foods that you can and can’t eat is one thing, but thinking up creative ways to put them together is a whole other ball game.

So to provide you with some inspiration, we’ve listed some raw vegan meals to get you started.

Raw vegan breakfast 

Acai bowl

Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp acai powder
  • ½ cup homemade almond milk 
  • ½ cup frozen mango 
  • 1 frozen plum 
  • 1 cup frozen berries 
  • 1 tbsp goji berries 
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  1. Place all the ingredients (apart from the goji berries and chia seeds) in a blender and whizz until smooth.
  2. Pour the mix into a bowl, then sprinkle on the goji berries and chia seeds for an added bit of crunch and extra nutrients.

Raw vegan lunch 

Cauliflower rice sushi

Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients:
  • 4 nori sheets (raw)
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets 
  • 1 carrot 
  • ½ pepper 
  • 2 spring onions 
  • ½ avocado 
  • Handful of coriander 
Sweet and spicy dip 
  • 2 medjool dates soaked for 30 minutes 
  • 1 tbsp tahini 
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger (minced) 
  • 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 tsp tamari 
  • ¼ cup filtered/spring water 
  • Squeeze of lemon
  1. Blend all the ingredients for the dip – add more water if you prefer a runnier consistency.
  2. Slowly pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like rice.
  3. Slice the carrot, pepper, spring onions and avocado lengthways to make your filling.
  4. Chop the coriander.
  5. Place a thin layer of the cauliflower rice on a sheet of nori.
  6. Arrange the filling ingredients on two thirds of the sheet.
  7. Slowly start rolling it up, then right before you’ve done, generously dab your finger in some water, then smooth along the end of the roll to seal the sheet.
  8. Repeat until all your ingredients have been used.

Raw vegan dinner

Raw courgette lasagne

Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients
  • 500g courgette 
  • ½ cup of soaked cashews 
  • ½ cup of soaked, blanched almonds 
  • ½ lemon juice 
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast 
  • 1 avocado 2 cups of tightly packed herbs or greens (such as basil, spinach, arugula, etc)
  • 1 clove of garlic 
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast 
  • ½ lemon, juice
  • ½ cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes 
  • 1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes 
  • Handful of fresh basil 
  • 1 clove of garlic 
  • salt & pepper 
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts 
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  1. Use a vegetable peeler or a mandoline to thinly slice the courgette (to create the ‘pasta’ layers).
  2. To make the creamy sauce, add the soaked cashews, almonds, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and some salt and pepper to a food processer and pulse until it forms a sauce. If it needs thinning a little, add a couple of tablespoons of water and blitz again.
  3. To create a layer of pesto, blitz the avocado, herbs of your choosing, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper until smooth.
  4. Next up, the tomato sauce. Pop the cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil and seasoning in a food processor and whizz until, you guessed it, smooth.
  5. Now it’s time to piece your masterpiece together. Alternate layers of courgette with the creamy sauce, pesto and tomato sauce until you’ve used all your ingredients up.
  6. Top with a sprinkle of pine nuts and poppy seeds then you’re good to go!

Raw vegan dessert

Double chocolate cherry cheesecake

Time: 2 hours

Serves: 12

Ingredients:
Crust:
  • 1 ¾ cups raw walnuts or almonds
  • ½ cup raw cacao nibs 
  • 1/8 teaspoon 
  • Himalayan crystal salt
  • ¾ teaspoon cherry extract 
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder 
  • ¾ cup raisins
Coulis:
  • 1 bag frozen cherries, thawed 
  • ¼ cup raw agave nectar 
  • Dash of fresh lemon juice 
  • Pinch of cinnamon
Filling:
  • 3 cups raw cashews (soak them 1-2 hours, and then strain) 
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 6 dates, pitted 
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice 
  • ¼ cup water 
  • 2 teaspoons cherry extract 
  • 1 cup coconut oil 
  • ¾ cup raw cacao powder
  1. To make the crust, blend the nuts, cacao nibs, and salt in a food processor, using an “S” blade, until coarsely ground.
  2. Pour in the cherry extract and chocolate powder to the mix and pulse to combine.
  3. Add the raisins and mix until the mixture sticks together when gently pressed between your fingers. 
  4. Press into the bottom of an 8 or 9-inch round spring form pan.
  5. To make the filling, use a food processor, with an “S” blade, to process the cashews, agave, dates, lemon juice, and water until creamy. (This could take between 3-5 minutes.) You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a couple of times.
  6. Add the cherry extract, coconut oil, and chocolate powder and process until creamy. Pour the filling into the spring form pan and refrigerate until it sets.

What are the benefits of following a raw vegan diet?

An increasing number of people, which reportedly includes the likes of Venus Williams, Sting, Megan Fox and Gwyneth Paltrow, are switching to eating a raw vegan diet. But why?

What are the advantages of eating this way? We’ve listed some of the main benefits below:

  1. Clearer skin

Studies have found that following a plant-based diet may help with acne.

One of the main reasons for this is that the hormones that are present in dairy products are no longer being consumed.

Milk naturally contains hormones and steroids that provide nutrition to the calves drinking it.

The calves need these hormones in order to develop and grow, but human beings don’t need these hormones as much, if at all.

Eliminating additional hormones from our system can potentially be beneficial to our problem skin.4

Plus the fact, eating a plant-based diet provides the body with multiple food sources – fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts - that are packed full of vitamins, nutrients and minerals that are good for overall health, as well as skin health.

  1. Joint support

A study on people with rheumatoid arthritis showed that a raw vegan diet helped manage their joints more successfully than a standard diet in which people ate meat.

A further study on the same group of people also reported increased weight loss as a result of the group following the same diet for around two to three months.

  1. Healthy nutrients boost

There is no proof that eating a raw food diet will eliminate toxins from your body any quicker than natural digestion and elimination.

But as you munch your way through fresh vegetables and fruits and steer clear of chemicals additives and preservatives, you are supplying your body with naturally healthy nutrients that are bound to do your body some form of good.

  1. Weight loss

Weight loss is highly likely when you follow a raw vegan diet because you’re following such healthy eating habits.

One particularly study found that men who ate a raw food diet for more than three years lost an average of around 22 pounds, while women lost around 26 pounds. 5

  1. Lower risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease

In fact, there is proof that eating a meat-free diet could have several health benefits.

A 12-year study carried out on 6,000 vegetarians and 5,000 non-vegetarians revealed that the people who ate a meat-free diet had lower rates of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Meanwhile, it was also concluded that not eating meat could contribute to a longer life - the study reported lower death rates in non-meat-eaters compared to the meat eaters.

Summary

  • You can enjoy unprocessed and uncooked food like salads or juices
  • Raw vegan detox diets can include all sorts of food, including raw nut butters and milks
  • They can also include nuts and seeds, herbal tea and much more…

How do you start a raw vegan detox? 

1. Stock up with the right food 

As with any new eating plan, if you’re committing to eating raw foods, make a shopping trip to stock your cupboards with the kinds of food you’re going to be eating. Whilst you’re at it, clear your cupboards and your fridge of any processed food; this will help makes sure you aren’t tempted to stray from your new eating plan. 

2. Plan your meals ahead 

Any detox or short-term diet is doomed to fail without proper planning. While many people start with the best intentions, when they’re tired or stressed or feeling a bit low, a new diet and lifestyle often goes out the window. To avoid this, make a weekly plan of what you’re going to eat – and try your best to stick to it! 

3. Make food ahead for convenience 

Prepare your meals and some snacks ahead of time. Knowing you’ve got something tasty and already prepared waiting for you in the fridge can be a comforting thought if you ever get close to throwing in the towel and reverting back to your old eating habits. 

4. Prepare to be sociable 

If you’re following a detox plan, being surrounded by colleagues or family members tucking into processed food can trigger temptation or make you feel like you’re missing out. Take any social encounters, such as parties or office tea breaks, into account and make sure you’ve got something just as delicious to dine on. It’s really important the food you have on hand is something you really enjoy and look forward to eating. Pack delicious raw food treats and snacks in your bag so you always have something on grab if you need to as well.

5. Set yourself up for winter 

When it’s cold outside, the first instinct for many people is to have hot, stodgy food to comfort them and warm them up from the inside out. On a raw vegan diet, spices like cayenne, chilli and ginger are an excellent way to add warmth to your food. Add them to smoothies and juices or chop them up into your salads for a hit of heat. On the other hand, you could also slightly warm your plate in the oven before serving your meal.

Raw vegan diet risks

Below are a few of the risks that come with following a raw vegan diet.

  1. Weight loss

Most people who switch to a raw vegan diet do tend to lose weight because the change in eating habits means they’re now only eating healthy and nutritious food that contains fewer calories.

It’s therefore important to be mindful of your weight; just make sure you don’t lose too much of it.

  1. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Following a vegan diet generally, not just a raw vegan diet, has been linked to nutritional deficiencies, especially Vitamins B12 and D, selenium, zinc, iron and the two omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA.

This is due to the fact that most of these vitamins and minerals are present in non-plant-based food, in some form or another.

So when you cut these food sources out of your diet, you obviously forego these vitamins and minerals too.

It is possible to find plant-based alternative food sources, and you can also take supplements to help prevent any deficiencies too.5

Handpicked content: What vitamins & nutrients do vegans need?

  1. Fatigue

Another common issue associated with vegan detoxes is lack of energy.

Because you are essentially changing what you are fuelling your body with, it can lead to people not having enough energy.

In some cases, it can result in people not taking on enough calories to keep their bodies going.

As with all diet changes, it’s important you plan your daily meals carefully, making sure you are taking on enough calories and vitamins and minerals to get you through every day.

If you experience any adverse side effects from following a raw vegan detox, immediately stop following it and speak to a medical professional if the symptoms are particularly concerning and persist.

  1. May weaken muscles and bones

Another risk to be aware of is the effect this type of diet can have on your muscles and bones.

Research by the American Medical Association found that participants who were following a raw vegan diet had lower bone density than people who were following a standard American diet.6

Handpicked content: 12 ways to support your bone health

Summary

  • The key to raw vegan food detox success is planning your meals, cooking ahead and stocking up on the right food
  • Vegan food detoxes aren’t for everyone – some people can experience extreme weight loss and develop nutritional deficiencies. It’s important to keep a close eye on your health as you go along

Takeaway

Whether you’re planning to try a raw vegan detox for a few days, or you feel that you could follow a raw vegan diet permanently, the key is to make the most of a healthy, balanced diet packed with nutritious fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

It’s equally important your diet plan doesn’t mean you become deficient in certain vitamins and minerals too.

To help prevent this from happening, take a look at this article, it tells you the essential nutrients all vegans need and where you can source them from, ‘What vitamins & nutrients do vegans need.’

Last updated: 21 December 2021

Sources

  1. https://plantbasednews.org/opinion/is-eating-a-raw-vegan-diet-really-worth-it/
  2. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/raw-vegan-diet-benefits-risks-meal-plan-food-list/#the-research
  3. https://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/how-to-deal-with-some-detox-symptoms-when-you-go-vegan/
  4. https://thebeet.com/how-eating-a-plant-based-diet-can-clear-acne-and-brighten-skin/
  5. https://www.livescience.com/26278-risks-raw-vegan-diet.html
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15795346/
 

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
 

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