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The Real Reasons to Eat a Raw Food Diet

My last article on the “Bad Arguments to Eat Raw” upset some people, who thought that I suddenly became against the raw food diet. I’ve received many positive comments, but unfortunately, too many negative ones. Someone even said that people like me should be “dead” for even writing this article. I hope that wasn’t a death threat from the raw food police…

What I tried to do is to show the non-sense that is used to promote raw food diets and what gives this diet a bad rap in the real world. This is why the raw food diet is NOT being taken seriously, because too many people use bad science to promote it. The reaction that many raw foodists had to this article just actually proves my point.

Let’s clarify something once and for all:

I DO think the raw food diet is powerful and can be very healthy, if done correctly. If it makes you feel great, then do it! 

I personally have found it unnecessary to stick to 100% raw food and I have included some form of cooked food in my mostly raw diet for almost 10 years, except for some episodes of a few months at a time when I ate 100% raw. This is not news! I talked about the false idealism of raw foodism in my book Raw Secrets, published in 2002!

I eat an 80/10/10 diet (although not an 100% raw one). My diet contains almost no animal products (except occasional honey). Other raw foodists should see that I’m on their side.

In my last article, I did bash some bad arguments for eating raw, but the implication was not that the raw food diet is a bad thing. I was against the arguments being used, not necessarily their conclusions.

A 100% raw food diet is appropriate for some people, but not for everybody. Yet, some fanatical raw foodists, lacking serious arguments to promote their view, are still trying to promote the idea that you’re a complete failure unless you eat 100% raw food — that it has to be all or nothing.

It’s easy to spot bad science because people promoting it are very aggressive and are always asking you to prove a negative.

Ayn Rand always said “you are never called upon to prove a negative.”

If I want to prove that there is life on other planets, I must have some hypothesis to do so. Yet, my proof cannot be, “well, until YOU prove to me that there is NO life on other planets, I am right.” That’s completely ludicrous. The burden on proof lies upon the person making the hypothesis, not the other way around.

When I say, for example, that the “life-force” argument is not a good one to promote raw foods, many people get angry because they are asking me to prove the contrary. “Fred, until you prove to me that there is no life force in raw foods, I’m right and you’re wrong.”

I personally don’t think there is any life force in food besides the raw materials necessary for human nutrition, simply because there is absolutely no credible proof to that effect. When I look at all the evidence that tries to prove that there is indeed life-force in raw foods, like Kirlian photography, it turns out that all of this evidence does not stand up to closer scrutiny.

However, you may disagree with me and still think that there is indeed life force in food because that’s what you think “must be right” or because of some personal beliefs. But those beliefs would be more on the level of faith, which is believing something without any proof at all.

That’s okay.

I have certain beliefs that are not completely rational.

For example, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. That kind of belief is based on my personal experience, and it also works for me. But I know it’s not necessarily “rational.”

Okay, now let’s jump into the top best reasons to eat raw.

Top Best Reasons to Eat Raw

Nutrient Density

I recently wrote this in my Raw Vegan Mentor Club Newsletter:

“Fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and most of these foods are better eaten raw than cooked.

When we say that a food is “nutrient-dense,” we mean that it has the most nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals), per calorie. Starchy foods are calorie-dense, but not as nutrient-dense as fruits and vegetables.

In other words, 500 calories of rice or potatoes will contain fewer vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals than 500 calories of kale, or 500 calories of apple.

By eating a diet composed mainly of fruits and vegetables, we take in more nutrients than if we were to eat mostly cooked foods.

There are some exceptions, however. Cooked greens tend to be more nutrient-dense than raw greens, simply because we can eat more of them.

For example, you probably remember taking a huge amount of spinach and cooking it down in a matter of seconds to almost nothing. Well that small cup of cooked spinach is now jam-packed with minerals, and will only take you a few minutes to eat. On the other hand, the same amount of raw spinach takes much longer to chew. Therefore, cooked spinach is more nutrient-dense than raw spinach because we can eat more of it easily.

Raw foodists can get around this by blending greens. Thank heaven for the VitaMix! We can make a huge green smoothie that will contain a good amount of spinach or kale and drink it down in no time. It goes without saying that having some form of processed greens in the diet, whether they are steamed or blended, is essential for getting a good balance of nutrients.

Certain cooked foods are as nutrient dense as raw foods, but usually they are  still fruits and vegetables. For example, cooked sweet potato is very nutrient dense, but the same cannot be said of cooked white pasta.

By getting enough calories from raw fruits and vegetables, we automatically take it more than enough vitamins, minerals and other essential and preventative nutrients. This is one of the main reasons why the raw food diet is so effective.”

Caloric Density 

The following is from the October issue of my Mentor Club Newsletter, on the topic of optimal weight loss:

“One of the most important concepts to understand in human nutrition is that of caloric density. Caloric density is an estimation of a food’s energy content by weight. 

For example, an entire head of lettuce weighing over one pound contains less than 100 calories. That means that the caloric density of lettuce is less than 100 calories per pound.

On the other hand,  one single tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories. So you have more calories in 1 tablespoon of oil than in a pound of lettuce. But guess which one is going to fill you up more?

The principle of caloric density is about filling up on foods that have a lot of volume but few calories by weight. Eating those foods, you’ll feel satisfied and full, and be able to eat as much as you want, and lose weight in the process.

Studies have confirmed that if you feed people foods of low caloric density, they will eat as much as they want, not be hungry and lose weight, without having to count calories.

Because those foods have so few calories, it’s almost impossible to eat too many of them.

Let’s take a look at the average caloric density of certain foods. Keep in mind that this is an average across a category. For example, we know that bananas contain more calories per weight than apples, but overall, fruits have a similar caloric density.

Food Caloric Density Per Pound
Fresh raw or cooked veggies 100
Fresh raw fruit 250-300
Cooked Starchy Vegetables, Intact Whole Grains 450-500
Legumes and Beans 550-600
Meat Products 900-1000
Dried Fruit 1200
Processed grains and Flours (even if made from whole grains) 1200-1500
Cheese 1800
Nuts and Seeds 2800
Cheese 1800
Oil 4000


Looking at this table, you’d be tempted to only eat vegetables, as they contain only 100 calories per pound. It’s important to note that nobody can live on just vegetables, and that you’d get so hungry on a diet of just vegetables that you’d eventually break down and eat something else!

However, you want your diet to contain plenty of raw vegetables by weight.

The concept of caloric density is to look at the overall caloric density of your meals each day.”

Experiments have shown that people will lose weight, no matter how much they eat and even if they don’t exercise, if the caloric density of their food is less than 400 calories per pound.

The reason why the raw food diet is so effective for weight loss is because of its low caloric density. Athletes can get around that by blending fruits, which increases their caloric density by breaking down the fiber. So if you want to cram the calories in and stop losing weight, start blending everything.

Low Toxic Load

When cooking carbohydrates (such as potatoes) at high temperatures (baking, frying, etc.), a compound called acrylamide is created. In animal studies, high doses of acrylamide cause cancer.

More acrylamide is created when foods are cooked at a higher temperature or for longer periods of time.

We also know that other molecules called “Maillard Molecules” are formed when foods brown and caramelize during cooking. Some people speculate that these new compounds, created in the cooking process, may affect health negatively.

While certain forms of cooking appear to be relatively harmless (steaming, for example), the surest way to reduce the amount of toxins in your diet to the lowest level is to eat foods in their raw state.

Note that sometimes cooking destroys toxins that are naturally present in the plants. So it’s important to avoid certain foods that should never be eaten raw, like raw or sprouted legumes. For more foods that should never be eaten raw, please consult my book Raw Food Controversies.

You Eliminate Everything Else That’s Bad for You

One of the main reasons why people get sick is that they eat so many “dead”, pre-packaged foods.

These foods are not only heavily processed, but they contain a long list of suspicious ingredients, including MSG, preservatives, artificial coloring, and more.

Eating a raw food diet automatically eliminates all of this junk, which means that your diet will be 1000% more clean and pure. It will be “wholesome” in the true sense of the world (not in the adulterated, misused sense of the word everywhere in food advertising).

When I started the raw food diet, there were no pre-packaged raw snacks available. All that I bought were actual foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Eventually I got into olive oil, but that was a pretty simple product. The “worst” thing that raw foodists bought was jars of olives that could possibly have been marinated in salt water.

Nowadays, a variety of raw food snacks — from kale chips to chocolate brownies — are available. But because raw foodists are generally passionate about what they do, I’ve never seen any of these products contain artificial chemicals or preservatives. That is probably going to stay like that until the raw food diet goes mainstream.

There are obvious advantages to avoiding all pre-packaged foods, and that is one of the reasons why the raw food diet can be so effective.

The raw food diet also generally avoids grains, a category of food many people have allergic reactions too (especially the ones containing gluten).

I do not recommend eating sprouted grains for health either. They are very hard to digest with all the raw starch they contain.


Raw fruits and vegetables, as well as raw nuts and seeds are packed with phytochemicals.

“Phyto” means “plant,” so the term phytochemical designates different compounds in foods that protect against illness. Some phytochemicals can prevent DNA damage caused by free radicals.

You’ve probably heard of antioxidants with cancer-preventing benefits found in many fruits and vegetables and dark leafy greens. Antioxidants are a class of phytochemicals.

If you want to learn more on the topic of phytochemicals and how they affect our health positively, prevent illness and increase our immunity, I recommend the new book by Joel Fuhrman, Super Immunity.

Some of the most potent phytochemicals are found in raw foods, and many of them are heat-sensitive. Therefore, eating a raw food diet or a mostly raw diet will give you an abundance of phytochemicals — and this could prove to be one of the main benefits of this diet.

Some notable phytochemicals are to be found in:

1) The Cruciferous Family — including cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc. These vegetables contain a class of phytochemicals (called sulphoraphane and indole-3-carbinol) that are converted into cancer-fighting enzymes by the liver.

2) Berries — This includes pomegranate, cherries, blueberries, grapes etc. They contain many phytochemicals that increase immunity.

3) Citrus fruits — Those fruits contain many phytochemicals (close to the skin), in addition to lots of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant.

Pretty much every raw fruit and vegetable contains health-enhancing phytochemicals. Cooking food sometimes enhance the bio-availability of certain phytochemicals, like lycopene in tomatoes, but in general we get more benefits from eating foods in their raw state.

It makes you feel great 

The best reason to eat a raw food diet is because it makes you feel great. Many people report a feeling of increased vitality and energy that they only experience eating this way.

If the raw food diet makes you feel great, you don’t necessarily need “proof” to keep doing it!

We may never be able to prove certain things, like what humans ate exactly 100,000 years ago, or the “life force” factor in food, but what ultimately matters are results.

I always tell people to compare themselves to themselves, not other people. You can compare how you feel from one period of your life — eating a certain diet – to another with different lifestyle choices, and come to your own conclusions.


When we use bad arguments to promote a certain philosophy, it often leads us to make mistakes. Sometimes people oversimplify a health philosophy and refuse to look at new information.

When I was in my 20’s, I was convinced that the raw food diet was ideal simply because I got convinced by these weak arguments, like the “life-force” in food or the idea that all cooked food is “poison.” This led me to become so fanatical about the raw food diet that I elevated the “raw” principle above all other health factors, and ultimately made a lot of decisions that hurt my health.

There are so many GOOD reasons to eat more raw foods, that we don’t need to undermine the credibility of the raw food movement with arguments that have no scientific basis.

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets.