I’ve been going through a process of trying various techniques and practices to see if they make me feel more in control of my emotions and more balanced. I’ve tried mindfulness meditation, daily writing, even a silent meditation retreat. This week, I thought it was time to see what happens if I change my diet.
I’ve been vegan for around a year and a half, having turned vegan two weeks before my 30th birthday and a week before my first ever marathon. I’d been vegetarian for eleven years and then, in a weird, warped logic, I went pescetarian for two years. I know, weird, right? At the time, I was fed up with not being very adventurous with my diet, and I decided it was time to go either full-blown vegan or eat fish. After two years or trying various fish dishes, I still couldn’t shake the creepy feeling of eating a once living thing. In fact, I can still feel the antennae of the prawns I tried once, in a rare barbaric moment that I still can’t forget. So, I decided it was time to go full vegan.
There are reams and reams of advice out there for people transitioning to a vegan diet. And, when I first started researching how to have a balanced vegan diet a year and a half ago, I kept stumbling over the raw vegan diet. Raw vegan, I thought, that’s weird. Why would I not want to cook my food? As long as I eat enough fruit, vegetables, nuts and good fats, why does it matter if I cook my food or not? I was fascinated and confused. I even got caught up in the YouTube cycle of watching passionate advocates of the raw vegan diet, including Freelee the Banana Girl and FullyRawKristina. But I wasn’t convinced.
So, what is a raw vegan diet?
A raw vegan diet involves eating any vegetables and fruits that are raw, which means it’s not been cooked at a temperature above 40 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit). It includes nuts, grains, legume sprouts, herbs, plant oils, fresh juices, and obviously excludes any animal products.
What are the benefits of a raw vegan diet?
Supposedly, when you heat food it destroys any nutrients and natural enzymes which help to boost digestion, fight chronic disease and keep you healthy. Some say that eating your food raw will help you get the full benefits of the nutrients contained within it.
I want to try the raw vegan diet to see if it gives me more energy. I expect, however, that it will make me very hungry, and perhaps even weak if I’m not able to get all of the nutrients I need. To prepare, I research some good recipes to eat a variety of food and look at what staples to eat to get all of the nutrients I need to stay healthy. From what I can tell, I can get most of the nutrients, including protein etc, I need, just by eating a large number and variety of good healthy greens and other vegetables. I’m excited to try the diet. I love fruit and vegetables anyway and don’t mind raw food. I just hope I’m not hungry all the time! Here it goes…
Seven days of a raw vegan diet
Day one – Surprisingly, I’m not as hungry as I thought I would be. I’ve enjoyed making and eating the food. Basically, I shove every raw vegetable I like into a bowl, sprinkle it with nuts and seeds, a little bit of apple cider vinegar and oil, and created a raw rainbow salad. The daytime and breakfast meals feel surprisingly normal. I don’t crave cooked food at all. For dinner, I have a smoothie, which is satisfying but feels weird drinking this as I sit next to my boyfriend who eats warm noodles and stir-fry. I go to bed still full and satisfied with my meals.
Day two – Again, I’m surprisingly not that hungry. For breakfast, I have oats which have been soaked overnight, and for lunch, I have courgette and onions. I am missing my morning cup of tea so I eat some dates and banana to get a bit of a sugar lift. Tonight, I have the challenge of meeting a friend for a drink, so I’m worried I might be tempted to slip up and have a glass of wine. Luckily, I stay strong and drink just water. In terms of my usual social habits, I think I would find it quite hard to sustain this long term. I go to bed at 1 am and am pretty hungry by that point, but it is later then I would usually head to bed.
Day three – Today, I need caffeine and chocolate! I know it’s because I’m so tired, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to turn to the sugar and coffee to help me get through the day. I manage to stay strong by drinking a lukewarm fresh mind and lemon tea. I eat a green smoothie with lots of spinach and a bowl of overnight oats. I snack on an orange and banana. I’m trying to feed myself with natural sugars and slow release energy foods. I am very tired today, because of my late night last night, but once I’ve eaten I don’t need caffeine as much as I thought. Another surprisingly easy day to follow the diet, and it helps me to realise that my need for caffeine is based more on the habit that my body’s needs.
Day four – It’s very cold today and I’m craving cooked food. Today is the hardest day for wanting to break the diet. I want rice! I want pasta! I miss the act of cooking! I usually feel the cold badly, but I think this diet is making me feel it even more. I just can’t seem to get warm. I feel especially cold after I’ve eaten and my extremities are constantly cold no matter what I do. Perhaps trying this diet in the winter wasn’t the best idea. I’m still not unusually hungry, but I’m dreaming about warm things to fill my belly with. I manage to resist. Blankets and slippers it is!
Day five – Today is a difficult day as I’m going to see family. The raw vegan diet is definitely not a social diet. My step-mum already panics with what to cook for me as a vegan guest. In fact, I haven’t fully told her I’m vegan yet. She thinks I’m a vegetarian who’s allergic to milk (which I am), but we haven’t had the full blown vegan conversation yet. I’m a polite eater, so I usually eat what’s put in front of me if someone has gone to the effort to cook for me. My philosophy is that it’s better to not eat animal products 99% of the time and eat it when it’s more of inconvenient to others not to than to eat it all the time.
My diet is broken for the night as I eat cooked food with my family. I expect it to feel like a huge relief after a few days of not eating cooked food, but it’s not as satisfying as I thought. In fact, I think my body finds it harder to digest. It doesn’t seem to warm me up as much as I thought it would. I must just be feeling the cold in general (it is snowing now!).
I have been feeling a bit more balanced in terms of energy, although not necessarily full of energy, I think that’s mainly down to cutting caffeine out of my diet. I do feel like my digestive system has been better though, not that I had problems before, but it just feels, easier to digest things.
Day six – I wake up feeling a little groggy. It feels as though my body is still digesting last nights dinner. I have a raw breakfast of fruit and manage to get back on the diet for the rest of the day. It is hard habitually, as I like my slow cooked Sunday dinners.
Day seven – I’m looking forward to my warm cup of tea tomorrow the morning and a nice hot soup or rice dish. I am enjoying eating the raw food, and I’m not hungry all the time like I thought I would be, but I do miss eating and cooking warm food. I’m surprised that the diet hasn’t had a bigger effect on me, I expected to fill full of energy and super strong. Instead, I feel a little more balanced in terms of energy.
Is a raw vegan diet the one for me?
Going raw vegan for a week didn’t have the dramatic effect on my body that I expected. I certainly felt more balanced in terms of my energy levels, but that could be a result of cutting caffeine. I’m surprised at how easy it is to feel full up on just raw vegetables, nuts and good fats. My digestive system feels cleaner. But I didn’t have any dramatic weight loss (not that I was looking for, or needed this) or any dramatic increase in energy levels. However, I do feel more aware of how my body reacts to different foods and am more sensitive to caffeine and sugar than I realised.
I would try it again, but perhaps in the summer time when I don’t have to worry about being so cold all the time. I think the raw till 4 diet – where you eat fully raw until 4 pm and then eat a cooked meal in the evening – makes sense. It feels as though my body doesn’t need warm food for every meal and I can’t see any harm in filling up on raw fruit and vegetables for two meals a day. In fact, I actually enjoyed my raw rainbow salads and am still craving them!
The raw vegan diet is something I would like to introduce into my eating habits a few meals or days a week, rather than for 100% of my meals. I say if you want to give it ago, go for it! But, make sure you monitor the different foods you’re eating to get a good balance of all of the necessary nutrients. And, if you’re a social person who eats out or at friends/family house often, you may find it hard to keep up with the diet!