Raw veganism is a diet that combines the concepts of veganism and raw foodism. It excludes all food and products of animal origin, as well as food cooked at a temperature above 48 °C (118 °F). A raw vegan diet includes raw vegetables and fruits, nuts and nut pastes, grain and legume sprouts, seeds, plant oils, sea vegetables, herbs, and fresh juices. There are many different versions of the diet, including fruitarianism, juicearianism, and sproutarianism. The definition of a raw vegan diet can be loosened to include vegan diets with at least 75–80% raw foods.
In terms of health, some raw vegans believe that cooking foods destroys the complex balance of micronutrients. They may also believe that, in the cooking process, dangerous chemicals are produced by the heat interaction with fat, protein, and carbohydrates such as advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) and others.
Other followers of a raw vegan diet place importance on spiritual gain. For example, Ruthann Russo, Ph.D, (author of two books on the raw foods diet) says that the movement aims to look at "the way food, living, treatment of the earth, our treatment of each other, and our quest for physical, spiritual, and mental health all fit together."
Forest gardening is a radical raw vegan lifestyle with a number of motives. For example, it can be viewed as a way to recreate the Garden of Eden. Developed by raw vegan Robert Hart, forest gardening is a food production system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables. The three main products from a forest garden are fruit, nuts and green leafy vegetables. Forest gardens are probably the world's oldest and most resilient agroecosystem.
Low fat and gourmet approaches
Raw vegans who follow a gourmet approach to raw veganism are generally concerned about the nutritional characteristics of their diet in terms of vitamins and minerals, however not significantly concerned about calorie or fat intake. This approach to raw veganism typically use dehydrators to "cook" food like crackers, and make dishes such as nut cheeses, "pasta" (usually zucchini cut as long curly strips), "soups", or green smoothies. There are many raw vegan cook books in the market and recipes online. An issue with the gourmet approach is the overconsumption of fat, since by avoiding meat and cooked starchy foods such as bread and pasta, and consuming typical amounts of fruit (i.e. a few portions a day), calories are mostly obtained from fat in the form of nuts and seeds, oily salad dressing, nut cheeses, and avocados.
Raw vegans who follow a low fat approach to raw veganism seek a very specific nutritional balance of carbohydrates/protein/fat ratio from their diet, trying to ensure they have a sufficient intake of calories, and placing greater importance in those ratios than in their foods being raw. Most low fat raw vegans (LFRVs) follow an 80/10/10 ratio, and some a more lax 70/10/20 or more strict 90/5/5, trying to achieve between 2000 and 3000 calories per day, averaged per week, and according to exercise levels (some athletes consume an average of 6000 calories per day). Obtaining such high amount of calories from carbohydrates from raw foods requires consuming large quantities of sweet and ripe fruit, such as bananas, dates, generally blended/juiced. Considering that a typical banana provides 100 calories, a LFRV following a typical 3000-calorie regime requiring 80% of the calories coming from carbohydrates must consume 2400 calories of banana daily, i.e. 24 bananas, or 48 dates, or 5.3 litres of orange juice, which provides almost all the required intake of protein and fat to satisfy the ratio. Most LFRV also consume a large low fat salad daily to ensure the required protein, mineral and vitamin daily intake is covered. The low fat raw vegan lifestyle has been tried by several athletes. Several communities of low fat raw vegans exist, one of which by January 2013 had more than 15,000 members, offering nutritional information and peer support.
Raw vegans must ensure that their intake of vitamin B12 is adequate, since it does not occur reliably in plant foods. Vitamin B12 deficiency can have serious consequences such as anemia and neurodegenerative disease. The Vegan Society and Vegan Outreach, among others, recommend that vegans either consistently eat foods fortified with B12 or take a B12 supplement. Tempeh, seaweed, spirulina, organic produce, soil, and intestinal bacteria have not been shown to be reliable sources of B12 for the dietary needs of vegans. Vitamin D deficiency is possible due to the absence of dairy products, which are normally fortified with vitamin D, but preventable with the usage of supplements and time spent outdoors.
Medical studies on raw food diets have shown some positive and negative health outcomes. According to one medical trial, "long-term consumption of a 70% raw-plant-food diet is associated with favorable serum LDL cholesterol and triglycerides but also with elevated plasma homocysteine and low serum HDL cholesterol" as well as vitamin B12 deficiency.
Another study regarding concentrations of carotenoid compounds associated with chronic disease prevention in the blood plasma of individuals who had adhered to a long-term diet consisting of 95% raw foods indicated satisfactory concentrations of the carotenoid beta-carotene. However, the study also indicated that these individuals exhibited abnormally low levels of lycopene, another carotenoid associated with chronic disease prevention. Additionally, the study subjects were only reported as adhering to a diet of mostly raw foods, but were not reported as adhering to a diet of vegan raw foods.
A study mentioned benefits of a raw vegan diet for lowering obesity and hypertension. A study has also shown short-term reduced fibromyalgia symptoms for some patients who engaged in a vegan diet. Another study indicated that some rheumatoid arthritis patients who ate a raw vegan diet reported relief of subjective symptoms, but showed no measurable change in objective symptoms. The study further notes that half of the subjects had to be removed from the study because they were afflicted with nausea and diarrhea shortly after adapting the raw diet.
German research in 2003 showed significant benefits in reducing breast cancer risk when large amounts of vegetables were consumed. The authors attribute some of this effect to heat-labile phytonutrients. The authors found no significant risk association with or an increased intake of fruits or cooked vegetables.
- Uribarri, Jaime; Cai, Weijing; Peppa, Melpomeni; Goodman, Susan; Ferrucci, Luigi; Striker, Gary; Vlassara, Helen (1 April 2007), Circulating Glycotoxins and Dietary Advanced Glycation Endproducts: Two Links to Inflammatory Response, Oxidative Stress, and Aging, The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences (Oxford Journals) 62 (4): 427–433, doi:10.1093/gerona/62.4.427, PMC 2645629, retrieved 17 September 2013
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- Graham Bell (2004). The Permaculture Garden, p.129, "The Forest Garden…This is the original garden of Eden. It could be your garden too."
- Also see Rob Hopkins (foreword), Martin Crawford (2010). Creating a Forest Garden: Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops, p.10 "Perhaps what Hart created was the closest to what we imagine the Garden of Eden as being."
- Helmut Lieth (1989). Tropical Rain Forest Ecosystems: Biogeographical and Ecological Studies, p.611 "Important food plants, such as sago-producing palms, fruit-producing trees and medicinal plants were purposefully aggregated and tended in convenient places. Eventually, the forest garden, a kind of Garden of Eden, emerged. These jungle gardens on good soils of easy access required little maintenance and hardly any hard work."
- Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier (2005). Edible Forest Gardens - Volume One, p.1
- Robert Hart (1996). Forest Gardening: Cultivating and Edible Landscape, p.80
- Robert Hart (1996). Forest Gardening.
- Patrick Whitefield (2002). How to Make a Forest Garden. p. 5.
- Douglas John McConnell (2003). The Forest Farms of Kandy: And Other Gardens of Complete Design. p. 1.
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- "Vitamin B12 Information Sheet". Vegetarian Society. Retrieved 2007-02-22. "any B12 present in plant foods is likely to be unavailable to humans and so these foods should not be relied upon as safe sources."
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