July 15

What Aged Him the Most on the Raw Food Diet

Filed under Raw Food & Health by Frederic Patenaude

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:

Unedited picture, taken 2 days ago. 37 years old... most of my little wrinkles were from previous years on raw food diet with heavy sun exposure.

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.

Sun bathing

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 diets

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…

15 Responses to “What Aged Him the Most on the Raw Food Diet”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for sharing honestly from your personal experience! I have the same kind of experience with caffeine, in addition to which, it exacerbates a tendency to migraine! I have lost track of the times I have indulged, only to regret it deeply later! Knowing the areas in which one can flex and bend, and the relative ‘price’ to be paid for specific choices, is vital as we try to optimize our diets and lifestyles, while living and sharing in the larger world!

  2. Amanda says:

    Awesome post with a great summary of your experiences. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  3. Polly Harker-Smith says:

    Very interesting…. I love your posts/books, etc. I have followed your work since the “Just Eat An Apple” days (I think that’s the name of your earlier publication). Many thanks!

  4. sans says:

    Good advice. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I’ve followed your great work for years too. Life is such a journey/experiment to see what works, isn’t it? I’ve had dermatologists who have looked at my over-cooked Florida skin who’ve said diagnosing a Vitamin D deficiency, “You’re never getting skin cancer, now get out there!”

    As a trained cooking instructor for PCRM for 6 years, vegan/veg for most of 32 years, I learned that we don’t always know how to extract the magic supplement, or know what 10,000 properties in a carrot will help prevent cancer. Seeking sunlight is a drive most animals have. We often joke about our dog basking in the sun for his “Daily D’s.”

    That said, talk with a doc, look at the FDA’s website on sunlight exposure for your skin type and latitude, and see what’s best for you. Within weeks of getting “appropriate” sunlight, which, for my dark complexion, was 40 minutes a day between 11-2 (when the least cancer-causing rays exist)…just until typically unexposed skin started to turn pink…the D deficiency vanished. No supplements.

    Also, I think we need to get over our cultural shame of wrinkles and age. I’m proud of every wisdom-induced wrinkle. 😉 At 60, on a balanced, healthful, vegan diet, I’m 3rd in State in my age group in the 200, 400 & 1500 meters, 4th in the 100 meters…getting ready to compete in the National Senior Games next week. I just placed in my 54th 5K race since ’06, did my 1st marathon in ’10 and was the 5th oldest female to finish (Palm Beaches Marathon). I still get pegged for 40…even with my early child-hood FL frequent sunburns.

    I’ll take the minor skin damage, getting checked by a dermatologist every year to guessing with supplements that may or may not work. Not to say the supplements don’t work. But I’m all about listening to our bodies, figuring out what mother nature intends, and analyzing what our ancestors did. How did they ever get along without supplements? 😉

    I say this not to brag, but to show you can do well on “just” on plants. At so many races, as I’m wearing my vegan shirt, runners come up to me and say you can’t. As I’m holding a medal for placing in my age group. 😉

    I’m fond of saying, blood tests never lie. Personally, after watching mom, aunt & both sisters get breast cancer, and way more, I believe a balanced, raw and cooked vegan diet along with a big dose of exercise, is magical. It can be easy and yes, buying foods at big box stores if you have to, it can also very cheap.

  6. Charlotte says:

    I have a question about overt fats frequency
    Some 80/10/10 raw people eat very,very less fat. There is one girl who says she eats overt fats around once in a month (she looks way too skinny IMMAO), or Freelee says you should eat max one avocado or a handfull of nuts in a week and I´m a bit confused…I find she looks great and healthy, but even Dr Graham (in the 80/10/10 diet book, week daily plan) says we can eat every three days overt fats…And still confusing me, because given the amount, it is more like 90/5/5 than 80/10/10…I know we shouldn´t eat too much fat, but why not a little every day? What are your thoughts on that matter?

  7. Abakash says:

    Dear Fred

    A while back you made a fairly controversial comment regarding coconuts. You said that drinking the pasteurized product was safer than the fresh coconuts. I wrote begging for an answer, but was told you would deal with it in you column at some point. I have not seen it ? Did I miss it?
    Please explain.


  8. Wambui says:

    What a friendly open and informative post. Reading this, has me rethinking some of my eating habits. I am one who used to swing back and forth between raw and not so raw. I am also saving this post because it is an example of how I would like to express myself to my readers. Open, friendly, personal experience and great info. Thanks.

  9. Carla Gregor says:

    Thank you so much for your personal views and experience. This article in particular has helped me a lot to understand things. Thank you so much!

  10. lynn says:

    I had to go raw vegan for health reasons. I was eating a vegetarian diet with at least 70% raw but now I am very confused about what is the right thing to do??? I too am 60 but not as lucky as Ellen, would love to hear more about her diet. Not sure what the article means about going back and forth between cooked and raw, is it better to be all raw??????

  11. Angela says:

    Hi Frederic, You are the first Raw Foodist that I began to follow online around Sept. 2012. I continue to buy and read your products, and participate in your group events. You are a terrific Raw Food Leader who is all about educating people for superior health; I am thankful that I stumbled onto your website and took a chance buying your resources. I also just joined your Raw Vegan Mentor Club. I trust your opinions and experience because you’re forthright, bottom-line, and honest style works for me. I saw Matt Monarch’s video last month and it as well as your input here have caught me at just the right time in my transitioning to a Raw Diet. I was getting confused regarding whose Raw Philosophy to follow–there are so many effective Raw Foodist with great advice and diets. It’s easy to get lost and give up. But, because I stuck with your consistent sound warnings and have chosen to learn from your mistakes–I’ve been Raw (about 80%) since April 2013 after my first fast ever with your (group) Fruit Fast. I purchased your Green-for-Life Program with Victoria Boutenko, consumed Green Smoothies for 10 days and WALLAH! My teeth and gums strengthened 100%, overnight. AND, just from completing the April Fruit Fast for 8 days, my hot flashes ceased to exist. I’m still amazed!!! My one vulnerability has been a few bingeing episodes with cooked food (it does not help that I make a mean homemade lasagna:). That’s why your words in this email about the dangers of going Back-and-Forth are so relevant. The part about Sunscreen usage is also what I needed to know. Last thing: One of the best things about following your style and raw food philosophy is your ability to connect with other reputable Raw Food leaders, e.g. Dr. Graham, Victoria B., mentioning Matt’s video, etc. You are great at taking the best of what these individuals have to offer, sharing it with us, and remaining true to your core raw food beliefs. Stay on your path. You are truly a gift! Angela

  12. Selina says:

    Awesome post!

    I did not have the patience to watch Matt Monarch’s video, he did speak on and on about it but it took so loooong for him to get to the point 😀

    Glad you did summarize it, and you made some really good points.

    I would like to add that there are safe ways to use sunscreen, there are environmental friendly sunscreens out there that have no-nano zink particles that protect against the sun mechanically.

  13. Michelle says:

    Thank you, I am enjoying your posts ; )

  14. Carol says:

    Hi Frederic,
    In the article you said, “Combining large amounts of fruit (sugar) and fat (in nuts, avocados, or oil) is extremely damaging to the body on a raw food diet.” Are you talking about in the same meal or in general? Is it damaging to routinely eat a fairly large amount of fruit for breakfast, then have a salad with avocado, nuts, and a homemade, oil-based salad dressing for lunch?

  15. Angela says:

    Hi Frederic, Regarding the question by commenter “Abakash” on July 18, I really would like for you to comment on the issue of pasteurized Coconut vs fresh Coconut. I am about to start incorporating Fresh Coconut into my raw routine and if you feel “fresh” is not healthy, I’d like to know. Thanks!

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