Raw Food Diet for Weight Loss
Is the raw food diet good for weight loss? Is it healthy? These are the questions we cover in this post.
What is the raw food diet?
There are no official or widely-agreed upon definitions of what a raw food diet is and what constitutes a “raw fooder”. Perhaps the most commonly used criteria is a person who eats 75% or more of his or her food raw.
Many raw food authorities say that a food can be considered raw as long as it has not been heated at temperatures above 104 F (40 C). This means that many dehydrated foods are still considered raw and generally acceptable.
A person eating raw usually eats lots of fruits and vegetables. Nuts and seeds may also feature in their diet. Some raw fooders also include soaked grains and legumes into their diet, though these are less common. Even less common are raw dairy and animal products.
Benefits of the raw food diet for weight loss
Let’s look at some of the reasons you would consider the raw food diet.
Low caloric density
Raw fruits and vegetables are bulky, yet they don’t have that many calories. So you are filling your stomach without eating that many calories. Good for anyone interested in losing weight.
High nutrient density
What raw foods lack in calories they make up in nutrients. You are giving your body what it needs. So you are less likely to be hungry later on just because your body craves certain nutrients.
No hyper stimulating and addictive foods
Research now starts to show that when people eat highly processed and hyper stimulating food, they overeat. Such food overrides the body’s satiety mechanisms, and that leads to weight gain. Over time it can also lead to food addiction. Raw food diet doesn’t allow any such foods. Many studies show that just eliminating processed, hyper stimulating foods, people automatically start losing weight.
So what it comes down to is that the raw food diet is a low-calorie, highly nutritious diet. For some people the raw food diet is an enjoyable way to cut down on calories without feeling deprived, or worse, like they are on a diet.
Downsides of the raw food diet
That said, raw food diet is not for everyone, and you should consider these downsides before deciding.
Impractical and difficult to stick to
As far as weight loss diets go, the raw food diet is one of the more extreme ones. It’s highly restrictive, and that makes it very difficult to stick to. What are you going to do when your friends ask you to go out for a dinner? In a normal restaurant your options are severely limited. Even salads usually feature some cooked food.
Are you really ready to give up on all of your comfort foods? Most of the foods you enjoy so much? Because that’s what going the raw food diet means. It’s a huge commitment.
Deficient in some nutrients
As nutritious as raw fruits and vegetables are, they lack certain essential nutrients. For example, those really healthy long-chain omega 3 fatty acids are only found in animal foods. Because it’s so restrictive, the raw food diet can be imbalanced. In the long-term this can lead to nutrient deficiencies and health problems.
Can be hard on self-esteem
Sense of achievement and success are important for healthy self-esteem. People on the raw food diet usually fall off the wagon several times, as happens with all highly restrictive diets. When this happens over and over again you might start feeling like a failure, and that takes a toll on your self-esteem.
Can lead to hormonal deficiencies
There isn’t a lot of research on the health effects of raw food. One German study looked at effect of the raw food diet on body weight and menstruation. What they found is quite alarming. About 30% of women eating 70% or more of their diet raw had partial or complete amenorrhea (absence of periods). The subjects tended to also be underweight. One explanation is that these women were in a sort of starvation mode and the body conserves energy by reducing other functions.
Bottom line: Is the raw food diet good for weight loss?
So should you or should you not use the raw food diet to lose weight? That depends on the kind of person you are. Some people need and thrive with highly restrictive rules. And for such people the rigidness of the raw food diet is great. Others need more flexibility and the restrictiveness of the raw food diet becomes an obstacle.
Nobody denies that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is good for you. That said, most doctors are far less enthusiastic with the idea of restricting yourself solely to raw foods. In the long run you may end up with nutrient deficiencies and health problems.
Perhaps the best solution is to consult your doctor and use the raw food diet for a limited period of time to lose some weight, and then start adding some cooked food back to balance your diet. This way you’ll get the best of both worlds. Quick weight loss without risking the long term consequences.
- Koebnick C, Strassner C, Hoffmann I, Leitzmann C: Consequences of a Long-Term Raw Food Diet on Body Weight and Menstruation: Results of a Questionnaire Survey.
Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism 1999
About the author: Scott Wright is a health and weight loss researcher. Read more of his articles at his web site: How to lose weight fast guide.