Raw Vegan Myths Debunked

by Calista Goh September 24, 2015

Raw Vegan Myths Debunked

The world of Raw is experience a sudden explosion in Hong Kong and Asia at the moment. Even though we specialise in raw vegan cuisine, we're not extremists and we believe in balance. We're not 100% raw because it honestly does not suit our body's constitution. Unlike what loads of people are telling you today (in Hong Kong especially), going 100% raw is NOT good for your body unless it is great for your personal constitution. Even then, studies have shown that 100% Raw for an extended period of time may have more deleterious effects than positive.

Anyway, we'll let science speak for itself. Many studies show that you'll obtain many health benefits by incorporating as little as 50-60% of raw foods in your life.

There's so much misinformation regarding Raw, that we've decided to look at some of the urban myths surrounding going raw. Here's our shortlist.

 

MYTH #1 : Going Raw = Weight Loss

TRUTH:

 If you've been eating a Standard American Diet ("SAD"), i.e. processed foods like breads, cakes, microwaveable meals and all other high sugar, high sodium 'foods', then yes, switching to raw will see you shedding some pounds over a few weeks. But unlike what most raw evangelists commonly term it, it is not so much "the power of Raw", as much as it is that you have eliminated all CRAP foods from your diet. 

So yes, going Raw in the short-term does result in weight loss. Is it sustainable? Not is you yo-yo between Raw and your normal diet (whatever that may be). The problem about many people is that they view Raw cuisine as a quick fix. It is not.

The truth is, and has always been, that in the long term, a steady, consistent eating plan that is balanced and nutrient-dense, coupled with activities and exercise will lead to a sustainable weight loss.

We've all been there. Yo-yo-ing between feeling ecstatic because we achieved our short term weight goals and then feeling demotivated and very much a failure when we pile on all the pounds and extra fats when we slide back into our old eating habits.

Another very important point to remember, is that a strictly Raw diet tends to be carbohydrates, sugars and plant fat heavy. Unless you have a nutritionist/dietician assisting you with a proper menu and recipes, it is entirely possible to be protein-deficient in your Raw meals.

Why is this important? A carbohydrate and sugar heavy diet will cause spikes in blood sugar levels and subsequent 'crashes', which lead you to feel amazing one minute & hungry/lethargic in a few hours (usually 2). What this entails is that you end up consuming more and more carbs and sugars, which eventually leads to an increase in fat storage in your body's cells because it has 'forgotten' how to burn existing body fats for fuel.

So yes, going Raw without proper guidance will lead you to losing weight in the long term.... But what you may end up as is what I call a "Skinny Fatty". Or completely emaciated and sunken in.... You've seen such "raw" and "healthy" people around...  It's not a picture of health and you know it.

This leads me properly into...

 

MYTH #2: Raw is 100% HEALTHY for me!

TRUTH:

Yes, Raw foods are healthy. They truly truly are. But ONLY, and I reiterate, ONLY if it is done correctly. I had a naturopath/nutritionist expert hammer this solidly & repeatedly into me on MANY occassions. As mentioned above, it is entirely plausible to be nutrient-deficient on a 100% Raw diet.

We need a full spectrum of macro & micro nutrients to sustain our body's functions. Granted, we all know that Spinach and Spirulina are good sources of plant protein... But the truth is, how much of those ingredients do we have to consume to meet our body's daily requirements? And even then, the way plant protein and animal protein is absorbed and used in our bodies are totally different.For example, for 100g of chicken breast at least 4kg of spinach is needed to match the same protein composition within these foods. What our bodies do with the protein thereafter is different.

Now let's be honest with ourselves here: for those of us on a strictly 100% Raw diet - do we consume that much plant protein in a day? The answer is NO.

How can we combat this issue? By consuming more beans and legume. Herein lies the problem.... For those who educate themselves on Raw food preparation via Youtube or online blogs, would you really know how to sprout beans properly for consumption? Or if you're a busy, working individual with a 9-5 job and then some.... Would you really have the time to sprout beans properly?

Through my experiences talking with others or giving talks and classes, the general reply is no.

So is Raw a definitive answer to health? No. Can it be? Yes. Only is you have the proper knowledge on nutrition and how your body works. How can you safeguard against nutrient-deficient Raw? Consult your doctor, nutritionist or dietician.

 

MYTH #3: Raw desserts are healthy.

TRUTH:

Generally, they are - but only because they are barren of processed and refined sugars, flours, margarine, yeasts etc. But it could also potentially be hazardous to health, depending on whether the dessert is made with Agave or not.

Yes, yes, I've heard how Agave Nectar is low in GI and organic and supposedly Raw... But no. It is extremely bad for health. A quick search on Google will reveal many links explaining why. But to list a few:

1) http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-truth-about-agave

2) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/agave-this-sweetener-is-f_b_537936.html

3) http://www.rawfor30days.com/blog/how-agave-nectar-broke-my-heart-why-this-%E2%80%9Cnatural-sweetener%E2%80%9D-really-isn%E2%80%99t-that-good-for-you/

Even with the absence of Agave, most raw desserts are, like any other non-raw desserts, extremely high in sugar. And the link between sugar and serious disease has been publushed in scientific literature for a very long timeI strongly suggest taking some time to read this article properly:

http://drritamarie.com/blog/2010/02/23/the-bitter-truth-about-sweeteners/

It aptly addresses the problems with sugar and also discusses the various types of sweeteners. It is a good read. So before you start loading up on raw desserts, comforting yourself that it is "healthy", be careful and think again.

 

MYTH #4: Raw cuisine is a natural disease remedy

TRUTH:

Yes, we've all heard stories of how people have cured themselves with raw foods. The truth is, they've cured themselves because they stopped eating CRAP or adopting SAD.

See here for a quick explanation: http://www.naturalnews.com/033578_processed_foods_cancer.html

Eliminating unnatural foods naturally allows your body to heal itself - something Mother Nature had had the foresight to input into our genetic make up. Remember, our ancestors never had access to processed foods like vegetable oils, flours, processed meats etc... Hell, they couldn't even consume grains! Think about it, in order for us to consume grains (which, by the way, are supposedly healthy for us), we have to process them and then cook them. In fact, scientists note that the only animals that naturally feed on grains are birds. Mammals do not.

When we put unnatural foods into our system, we get sick. When we take them out, our body recuperates and works back towards its equilibrium. So no, Raw is not a godly disease curer by any stretch. It is a constituent, yes, but not the ONLY natural way of doing so.

There are many more misconceptions.... I could go on and on, but the 4 I have listed above, are the most salient. More information can be found by reading these 2 books:

1) Raw Food Controversies, by: Frederic Patenaude 

2) The Raw Food Diet Myth, by: Ruthann Russo 

 

To end of, I'd like to say that whilst I sam a raw chef, I do not pressure myself to adhere to a raw diet strictly nor have any delusions regarding raw. I have been fortunate enough to have had access to a wide variety of knowledge from experts on nutrition and am able to come up with a raw recipe that comprises a balanced spectrum of nutrients to meet my daily needs.

If you choose to go Raw, I say go for it! It is healthy. But do not pressure yourself into doing so just because it's the "in" thing, a fad or because you've heard it works miracles. Remember, our body is a more complex system than we ever know.

And if you're deciding whether Raw is good for your children, I suggest consulting with nutritionists/doctors/dieticians to ensure that your child gets the full spectrum of nutrients he/she needs for proper growth and development.

I encourage you to do your research, seek alternative views before deciding that going mostly Raw is the way for you. Generally, I agree that incorporating more raw foods into our diets will alleviate the advent of serious diseases and illnesses.... But too much of a good thing is bad.

Balance is key.

Like most things, everything is healthy when eaten in the right proportions.

 

For those with an open mind and would like to understand a little more about eating and how our body responds to foods, I strongly suggest watching the independently produced documentary "Fat Head" (2009). It is not the be-all-and-end-all, but it is succinct in its information and good food for thought. Another good documentary to watch is "Food Inc."

 

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Calista Goh
Calista Goh

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