So, you want to go raw. You’ve read the books, bought the goods, and acquired some essential skills. You’re ready, right? Wrong. Most people approach the raw food diet from a health standpoint — to reach new echelons of well-being. But like venturing into any new diet, it’s crucial you be aware of the common pitfalls that will do just the opposite of facilitating said health. Here are five cautionary suggestions that will help you live a raw food lifestyle to the fullest:
It happens a lot. Someone reads an inspiring book declaring the virtues of the raw food diet and suddenly there’s no going back. The next day, a usually pasteurized, genetically modified-friendly refrigerator is sprouting with genera of the Brassica family, and only an unreachable stain of leaked ketchup hints at days of yore.
It’s hard not to want to make the drastic shift to raw overnight, especially when the diet promises glamorous health benefits — weight loss, clear skin, unparalleled energy, youthful vigor, and the gamut of disease-reversing effects. But going raw overnight can not only not do all the aforementioned but also be dangerous to your well-being.
By awakening so many toxins in your cells too quickly, your body could face some detoxification symptoms that are anything but glamorous. Think fatigue. Think nasty breath. Think constipation. Think rashes.
Instead of ending old habits cold turkey (pun intended), try increasing the percentage of your diet that is raw every couple weeks. Start at 50% and move steadily upward. Your body (and sanity) will thank you later.
Many raw enthusiasts claim exercise is not necessary on a raw food diet, that the diet alone is the end all be all. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You should always incorporate physical activity into your life, be it a leisurely walk through the park or a half-marathon. Movement gets your blood moving, your oxygen levels high, and your muscles strong. Don’t skimp on exercise, skip as exercise!
If you’ve ever been to a raw food restaurant, you know how large a role nuts play in the dining experience. They act as the base to, well, everything — sauces, dressings, desserts, and anything mock-worthy, such as meat, milk, ice cream and cheese — and it’s hard not to feel like you’ve just swallowed a brick after a night out at the finest raw food establishment.
It’s difficult, if not outright impossible, to avoid the lure of nut-based dishes, especially when fruits and veggies fail to provide the density needed for a sense of satiation and to pique an otherwise indifferent meal.
This is where many raw foodists go wrong. Excessive consumption of nuts can lead to irregularity, constipation, fatigue, and a definitive and very literal block in one’s journey to elevated health. While nuts most definitely have their place in a raw foodist’s diet, portion control is a serious responsibility. Nuts should be a complement, a side-not, a culinary gesture—not the foundation. Think sprinkle, smear, dab, dip.
Like nuts, fats deserve more bench time in the raw food diet. Each of us requires varying amounts of fat, but avocados, coconut meat, and raw butters oftentimes comprise far too much of the diet. Granted these are “good fats”, too much of a good thing is, well, bad.
Premier raw food chef and personality Ani Phyo exclaimed the same sentiment at an Organic Avenue seminar in NYC. She herself learned the pitfalls of consuming too much fat, her cholesterol levels unacceptably high for someone who eats so healthy, and she now restricts her fat intake. Again, fats have their place and a very prominent one at that, but please be mindful, not careless!
Superfoods are defined as those with high phytonutrient content. While these foods are inherently healthy and confer great health benefits, their place in your diet should be more passive and less prominent.
If the blatantly gimmicky fervor surrounding superfoods wasn’t convincing enough of its fad-like nature, lets just simplify this argument with a simple revelation — an apple is a superfood.
Complicating your diet with all these crazy imported dried berries, powders, and supplements is really draining the foundation of a raw food diet. You don’t need superfoods with nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables at your local market.
Also, inside of these superfoods, oftentimes you’ll find superfoods to be too dense in your system. Eat an apple over a handful of raw chocolate-covered acai berries and you’re doing your body a favor.
In order to reap the greatest benefit from the raw food diet, you have to individualize it to your body’s specific needs. Some people need more fat than others. Some can handle nuts, other can’t. Some people react wonderfully to superfoods, others don’t.
It’s really a matter of trial and error to develop a flow in your diet, but keeping in mind these 5 tips will help you gauge the process with more awareness. It’s an exciting and fun journey to health, and your body will be your ultimate judge.