What You Should Know Before Going Raw Vegan

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Have you ever considered going “raw vegan”? Or eating a mostly raw diet? I’ve been vegan for about eight years, and have done tons of research on and experimentation with raw foods. I often get questions about the raw vegan diet, so I made a list of ten things you should know before going “raw vegan”.

#1: You'll need to eat a lot.
Make sure you are eating enough calories! Most plant-based whole foods have a low calorie density, meaning they have a low amount of calories per pound a food.  If you like eating a lot, you will love being raw vegan! Something to mindful of though is that seeds, nuts, and nut butters are extremely calorie dense! Make sure that you’re filling up on fruits and veggies so that you don’t end up going overboard with the seeds and nuts.

#2: Eating healthy fats is so important (but don’t go overboard).
Make sure you are getting your healthy fats! Having a tablespoon of ground flax seeds in a smoothie each day is an amazing way to get your omegas. It's also great to have a handful of nuts as a snack, a tablespoon or two of seeds sprinkled on your salad or smoothie bowl, or a tablespoon or two of tahini or nut butter in a salad dressing. As mentioned above, remember to make sure you’re filling up on fruits and veggies because if you're really hungry, it can be easy to go overboard with these calorically dense healthy fats.

#3: Know that there is protein in everything.
All foods have protein! Going raw vegan will open your eyes to how much protein you really need and how our society tends to over-consume protein. The RDA for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. This means that someone who weighs 125lbs would need 45 grams of protein each day. A breakfast smoothie with 2 bananas, 2 cups of spinach, 2 cups of blueberries, 1 tbsp of spirulina, and 1 tbsp of hemp hearts contains over 16 grams of protein, which is over 35% of that person's 45g of daily protein.

#4: Greens are the best source of iron.
Vegetables contain non-heme iron, which means they need the presence of Vitamin C to be absorbed. This is not something to worry about at all though, since the raw vegan diet contains so many Vitamin-C rich fruits and vegetables! To get iron, make sure you’re eating a lot of leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and collards. Spirulina is also an amazing superfood that is packed with iron; just one tablespoon has 20% of your daily iron intake. I love putting spirulina in smoothies with blueberries, bananas, and almond milk.

#5: It's important to eat the calcium-rich foods daily.
We all know that calcium is important for our bones. The raw vegan diet is so amazing because it’s extremely alkaline. If we eat acidic foods such as animal products and processed foods, our blood becomes acidic. In order to neutralize the the pH balance of our blood, the body then draws from the alkaline calcium in our bones. Some great raw vegan sources of calcium are dried figs and dates, oranges, pineapple, kiwi, seaweed, tahini, and dark leafy greens such as kale.

#6: Brazil nut the absolute best source of selenium.
I started eating brazil nuts when I learned about how selenium-rich they are from Dr. Greger. Selenium acts as an anti-oxidant and is important for the functioning of our thyroids. Eating just one brazil nut each day gives you over 150% of your daily selenium intake. Brazil nuts are definitely nutrient dense! Chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, sprouted buckwheat, and bananas are sources of selenium too though.

#7: You'll want to get your Vitamin B12 and D levels checked.
The only supplements you may need are Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. This is actually true for everyone, not just those on a raw vegan diet! We used to be able to get B12 from organic veggies grown in B12 rich soil. Soil quality is poor these days though, so B12 is more difficult to get. Vitamin D is produced in our bodies when our skin is exposed to the sun, but many people live in northern climates or work indoors and have limited exposure to the sun. I always recommend that clients get their blood tested and talk to their doctors about supplementation. It’s so important to get enough Vitamin B12 and D, but having too much can be harmful as well.

#8: You can stay balanced with warming and cooling foods.
Our bodies are always seeking balance. Many people who live in cooler climates say they have a difficult time on the raw vegan diet during winter because it’s so cold outside. It’s definitely okay to have some warm vegetable soup or steamed vegetables to warm you up! If you want to remain on a 100% raw vegan diet though, using spices with warming properties will definitely help. Try putting ginger and cinnamon in your smoothies, drinking ginger tea, or putting ginger and cayenne in your salad dressings.

#9: You'll benefit from eating locally grown foods.
When I first went raw vegan, I noticed that my stomach wasn’t too happy with certain fruits that I was eating. I was living in Canada, and I started eating a lot of imported tropical fruits. I then gravitated toward more berries and apples which are grown in Ontario. Local food is more fresh and nutritious because it has a longer time to ripen and spends less time being transported. When you eat locally, you are more connected to nature and your environment as well.

#10: Using Chronometer will help you understand the nutrient levels of different foods.
Chronometer allows you to track what you eat and view the nutrient levels of your diet. I love this app because it gives not only the macronutrients, but also every essential vitamin, mineral, and amino acid. Using this app as you change your diet will help you understand how much food you should be eating to get enough calories and nutrients for your body. Using it every single day may end up being too time-consuming for you, but it’s great to use for at least a week so that you can gain an understanding of the nutrients in plant-based foods. 

BONUS #11: You don’t have to eat 100% raw all the time.
It’s OKAY to eat steamed broccoli. Let’s take a step back here! If you're debating whether steamed broccoli or raw broccoli is healthier, than you must be eating extremely clean! You will gain health benefits from incorporating a lot of fresh raw foods into your diet, but you don’t have to eat raw foods all the time. 

Are you on a raw foods diet? Have you ever considered going raw? If you have any questions about going raw vegan, please leave them in the comments below. And be sure to share this post with anyone you know who is experimenting with the raw vegan diet as well!

Lots of love,

Alessandra