"The Two Sides of the Raw Food Movement"

Where Do You Stand?

by Frederic Patenaude

The newcomer to the world of natural health is often confused by the myriad of different diet philosophies out there that all seem to contradict each other. Every year we hear about a new diet to add to the endless list of those already in existence; Mediterranean, South Beach, Atkins, Blood Type, Macrobiotics and all of the others that have been long since forgotten.

When a person is interested in the raw-food diet, it seems that the confusion is even bigger! In this tiny niche market of the natural health world, the promoters of the raw-food diet haven't even agreed with each other on what really constitutes the raw food diet.

For example, there's the Hippocrates program, which proposes a diet consisting mainly of sprouts, vegetables and very little fruit.

There's the Rainbow Green Diet, which eliminates fruit for a while and focuses on vegetables, seaweeds, spirulina and other “green” foods.

Then there are those who promote a diet that includes lots of “super-foods” such as coconut oil, cacao beans, maca powder, and other such exotic ingredients.

We also have the instinctive eating movement that recommends eating raw foods in their natural state (no juicing, blending, mixing, etc.), but also often include raw meat and fish in the fare.

Some raw-foodists eat raw dairy, insisting that we need some animal foods in our diet in order to thrive.

Then there are those who recommend a fruit-based diet, and a rarer few who recommend an all-fruit diet.

There's natural hygiene, which insists on eating foods in their natural state and avoiding strong irritants such as garlic, hot peppers, spices and salt.

Then, of course, there are those who take no position at all and just recommend that people find out “what works for them.”

So the newcomer, who is faced with all of these different diet philosophies, has no choice but to wonder who's right and who's wrong. It seems like choosing the 'right' diet is such an insurmountable task, that perhaps the best thing to do is just try a little bit of each of these different approaches and come up with a workable program.

In my experience, this approach leads to a lot of frustration, if not sheer failure. That's what I was doing for many years, trying a little bit of each raw-food or diet approach in the hope of eventually coming up with my own program. That's until I realized that there are not actually that many options. The different philosophies give themselves different names when in fact they are basically promoting the same thing.

Before examining diets in the raw world, let's take a look at the other more popular diets out there. One has to wonder: with so many possibilities, who's right?


For almost 150 years, the medical model for dieting has been recommending a high-fat, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. It started becoming popular in 1860 when Londoner William Banting lost 50 pounds on a high-protein diet that consisted of dry roasted lean meat, soft-boiled eggs and vegetables. He wrote a book in 1864 called “Letters on Corpulence” that became an instant bestseller.

By 1880, “Banting” is America's foremost weight-loss program. A little later, another doctor by the name of James Salisbury started promoting a diet consisting mainly of hot water and minced meat patties (the famous Salisbury steak) for health and weight loss.

When Dr. Atkins wrote his “Diet Revolution” in 1972, he didn't invent anything new. He just kept on promoting the medical model for weight loss, which has always consisted of calorie-reduction in the context of a high-fat, high-protein diet.

Since then, most diets are just a variation on the same theme, with a different degree of restrictions and a new gimmick. The Zone Diet, the South Beach Diet, and even the Blood Type diet are just variations on the medical model for dieting.

Challengers to the medical model for diet and weight loss have always recommended a low-fat diet. Generally, their books are not as in vogue as the other diet fads I mentioned, but their program is based on more solid science.

Proponents of the low-fat diet include Dr. Dean Ornish. Dr. Ornish was the first to prove through extensive research that coronary heart disease can be reversed, by making comprehensive changes in diet and lifestyle, including a low-fat vegetarian diet.

Other proponents of the low-fat diet include Dr. McDougall, who has recommended a low-fat diet for decades and whose results are well documented (http://www.drmcdougall.com/).

Also, in the low-fat camp we find T. Colin Campbell who conducted The China Study : the most comprehensive nutrition study ever conducted. We also have most of the vegan and vegetarian doctors who wrote books and did their own research, such as Dr. Klaper, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and many others.

When we look at it like that, and if we go past the small differences regarding details, we can roughly see the following picture:

We have the medical model that's promoted through most “research” we hear about in newspapers, popular magazines and fitness centers. This model usually recommends a high-fat, high-protein diet and calorie reduction, or a variation on that theme.

Then we have the “alternative” model, which is promoted by various doctors and serious researchers and is backed up by an extensive amount of data. This model recommends a plant-based, low-fat vegetarian diet.


In the raw-food movement, it may seem from the outside that there are many different options available, and this all seems very confusing to the newcomer.

A closer look at the different raw-food diets promoted, however, reveals that there are basically 2 different options presented, with others that find themselves in-between.

1- *The high-fat, raw diet*. This approach generally promotes eating a vegetable based diet. Although the promoters of this diet do not like to say it, it is also a very high-fat diet.

2- *The fruit-based, low-fat diet*. This approach recognizes the problems of eating large quantities of fat, even though this fat may come from natural sources such as avocados, nuts, seeds, etc. Instead of making fat the main source of calories, this approach recommends fruit as being the main source of calories.

In a raw-food diet the foods that provide calories are basically limited to two options: fruit or fat.

Why is that?

The fact is, that fruit is the only real source of carbohydrates in the raw diet. Complex sugars such as bread, pasta, potatoes, etc., are generally avoided. Although some vegetables contain carbohydrates, they cannot be considered to be a significant source of them. They are so low in calories that it would be impossible to eat enough of them to meet our caloric needs. To get 2000 calories, you would need to eat about 50 heads of lettuce, or over 75 raw carrots. It simply isn't gonna happen.

The alternative is to eat fatty foods such as avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds. When a raw-food person says that he doesn't recommend eating a lot of fruit, then by default, it means that he recommends a high-fat diet. There is simply no other way around it!


Once you understand that all these endless dietary approaches can really be filtered down into just two, you have to decide where you stand.

Which raw diet are you going to follow? The high-fat diet, or the high-fruit diet?

In my experience, trying to find middle-ground has been a frustrating endeavor. The reasons why are a little scientific. Let me explain:

On a high-fat diet, insulin sensitivity is greatly reduced, meaning that simple sugars do not arrive to their destination (the cells) as rapidly. When a person on a high-fat diet eats a lot of fruit (sugar), they often get symptoms of hypoglycemia, candida, concentration problems and more.

The equation is: high-fat diet + fruit = disaster.

On a low-fat diet, however, we find that all those symptoms disappear, even though a lot of fruit is consumed. Insulin works efficiently to transport simple sugars to the cells. Concentration increases and blood sugar is stable.

Those results are perfectly congruent with all of the research done by the various doctors mentioned earlier, who promote a low-fat diet. Trying to mix different approaches together will end up being disastrous.

Why not choose one and really stick with it?


If you want to eat a raw-food diet, you have the choice between a high-fruit, low-fat diet, or a high-fat diet. The choice is yours, but don't take your decision lightly.

Personally, the answer is obvious. The low-fat diet makes the most sense, is the easiest to practice, the most rewarding in terms of health results and energy levels, and the one that is most congruent with the most progressive scientific research.

To me, the high-fat raw diet is just a variation on the medical model of diet and weight loss. It doesn't make sense and isn't giving the kind of results we would expect from a successful program.

So decide, where do you stand?

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