Recently Matt Monarch, a well-know raw foodist, posted an interesting video on “what aged him the most on the raw food diet.” He claims that after a few years of eating raw, the habits that were the most damaging to his body were going back and forth between simple raw foods and complicated raw food recipes.
Having a consistent plan was essential to his success, but the shock to the system of going from “pure” eating to heavier foods took a toll on his body, Matt says.
I haven’t been a 100% raw foodist for many years, like Matt is.
But I’ve had my own experience with a raw food diet, and especially with a high-raw diet. In fact, I’ve had experience with all kinds of diets that are a variation around a theme. For example: low-fat vegan raw, low fat vegan cooked (McDougall, Esselstyn, etc.), and a more “flexitarian” approach that combines both raw and cooked foods, and is not so low in fat while not being high-fat either.
Here are the raw food and other nutrition habits that I found the most damaging on my body:
Going back and forth
Like Matt, I think that one of the most damaging things you can do to your body is to eat a 100% raw food diet, with periods of binging on heavy raw food recipes or cooked foods. On 100% raw diets, especially the kinds that are a little too pure, the body becomes extremely sensitive and loses its ability to digest more complex foods. Going back and forth between two extremes will take a toll on your body. Instead, if you find that you can’t do 100% raw without eventually breaking the streak with a large cooked meal that makes you sick, try to settle for an 80% or even 60 or 70% raw diet. That way, your body will get used to the foods you are eating and your overall nutrition will be more balanced.
Extended water fasting
I once fasted 23 days on water. It was a great experience, but it took a toll on my body. It was very depleting and took me many months to recover. I do think, however, that the main problems was that I fasted when I was already a very skinny raw foodist. Fasting makes more sense when you have a specific health goal in mind, and some extra weight to release. No one should fast unsupervised (I attended a fasting retreat), but nonetheless, I don’t think I would fast that long again.
This is not a raw food habit but something that is heavily recommended in the raw food world. Most raw foodists I have known are fervent sun worshippers. They go out for a run under the scorching sun, exposing their entire body to direct, powerful sunshine in the hottest part of the day. They work all afternoon in their gardens, or spend all day at the beach eating fruit. And of course, they don’t wear sunscreen because it’s toxic, but they rarely properly cover their body to avoid excess sun exposure. I know, because I used to be one of them.
No matter how you look at it, exposure to the sun, will age your skin over the years. Raw foodists have all kinds of theories for that, including that the antioxidants in raw foods protect them against DNA damage from sun exposure. But ultimately, when you look at those raw foodists after decades of a raw lifestyle, the ones that got the most sun have the most visibly aged skin. Maybe they won’t get skin cancer, but their skin took a beating.
I don’t live in a particularly sunny place (Montreal, Canada), but I do travel a lot. So now I am extra careful to avoid getting too much sun. Sun screens are controversial in health fields, but I personally have decided that using some in sensitive areas was the lesser of two evils. I put sunscreen on my nose, around the eyes, on my cheeks, and on my forehead. Other than that, I try to be smart about sun exposure.
I don’t try to get vitamin D from sunshine anymore. I prefer to get it from a supplement, and instead remain extra careful about too much sun exposure. I’ve damaged my skin a little by my previous exposure to the sun, but I believe my current habits are going to keep me younger-looking for longer than those raw foodists who carelessly bake in the sun all day.
Fruit is great, and I do eat a lot of fruit. That’s one habit that has never changed over the years. However, going on mono-fruit diets for long periods of time is stressful to the body. I’m talking about eating only watermelon, or papaya, or coconut water, or some other sweet fruit for days or weeks at a time. It’s great for detox, but doing too much of that can be depleting.
I have a weakness for caffeine, so I occasionally consume some drinks that contain caffeine because I like the stimulation it gives. But if I go for more than a few days with caffeine, I feel the negative effects from being extremely sensitive to the stuff. The main symptom that I experience is a sort of irritation over my skin, irritability, and slight depression. I avoid the stuff most of the time, but do fall for it on and off.
Fruit and Fat
Combining large amounts of fruit (sugar) and fat (in nuts, avocados, or oil) is extremely damaging to the body on a raw food diet. Eating a lot of fruit without the fat works, and eating a decent amount of fat without so much fruit also works for many people. But combine the two, and you have a recipe for disaster. It can lead to generalized fatigue, blood sugar imbalances, candida, and a host of other problems.
Lots of Nuts
Eating about one ounce of nuts every day is great for health. Occasionally, eating 2 or 3 ounces in a recipe is okay. But if you consistently eat several ounces of nuts a day, it can lead to a few problems, including: weight gain, excessive intestinal gas, and more.
Traveling as a raw vegan
As a 100% raw vegan, traveling abroad can be a stressful experience. I found it extremely difficult to not only follow the diet while traveling, but also enjoy my trip at the same time. Now, I don’t try to eat raw when I travel. I try some local food, walk over 10,000 steps a day to burn it off, and have a good time. I feel great on those trips, as long as I don’t consume caffeine!
In my next article, I will cover the raw food habits I found the most useful and beneficial! Stay tuned…