Do you need to eat 100% raw food for success? How much raw food is best?

Recently the New York Times ran an article in their online blog section entitled “Growing Up on Raw Foods” where the author discussed whether or not it is safe to raise children on a 100% raw food diet. I found this article to be very interesting for a number of reasons and I am so happy that it highlights some important factors to consider when transitioning to a raw food or vegan diet.

How much raw food do you need to eat for success?

Getting Iron and B12 on Vegan or Raw Foods

First, the author points out that children who eat a vegan or raw food diet have higher risk of anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency. As many of you know, I am a huge advocate of eating dark leafy green vegetables, which in my opinion, are the most important food to add to any diet, whether it be a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, Paleo, diabetic, heart healthy or weight loss diet. In fact, I wrote an article called My Boyfriend Followed my Raw Food Diet and Got Anemia to try and get people thinking about eating more leafy greens for a good vegan source of iron. B12 is also a valid concern (and actually meat eaters are often deficient in B12 too due to low absorption); for that I always recommend a high quality B12 supplement. Note: I do not recommend liquid B12 supplements because many people develop gum sensitivity and/or nerve pain in the teeth from B12 in liquid form.

Accepting your % of raw food

But, the highlight of this article for me was to read about how some well-known raw foodists are changing their 100% raw food status and are eating more cooked food in their diet:

“Some longtime raw-food evangelists are rethinking their devotion. Jinjee Talifero, who runs a raw-food education company with her husband, Storm, in Santa Barbara, Calif., was 100 percent raw for most of the last 20 years, until about a year ago, when financial and other considerations made it difficult to continue feeding their five children, ages 6 to 19, that way. “It was always like a borderline thing to keep enough weight on them,” she said, and getting proteins from cashews and almonds was proving too expensive.

Her children also ran up against social problems. “They were socially isolated, ostracized and simply left out,” said Ms. Talifero, who now incorporates cooked food in the family’s diet.

Sergei Boutenko, 29, a filmmaker in Ashland, Ore., ate only raw from 9 to 26, and for years his family preached the virtues of the diet. But, he said, “there was this constant hunger,” and the raw children he met seemed “underdeveloped and stunted.”

He now eats about 80 percent raw, with occasional meat and dairy. “When it takes 15 hours to make a raw food lasagna that wipes out two days of your life, it’s better to just make a vegan or vegetarian lasagna and move on with your day,” he said.”

The Daily Mail UK website had an article on raw food recently where Australian raw food advocate and follower of a fruitarian or 80-10-10 diet Freelee the Banana Girl explained that she remains ‘raw until four’ – meaning she eats no cooked or heated food until 4pm.

These articles make me so happy because finally, the raw food world seems to be letting go of the 100% perfect raw food pedestal. Even Gabriel Cousens (author of Conscious Eating) says that you can get the same results with eating an 80% raw food diet as you can with 100% raw food, but it will just take you a little longer to get there.

A high raw food diet is usually more than 2/3 or 66% raw food, and 80% is excellent

The conclusion: It’s ok to eat a high raw food diet, as long as you focus on quality of food and:

  • Choose organic fruit and veggies wherever possible
  • Prepare your food with loving intention
  • Avoiding processed foods and chemical food additives
  • Eat cooked food without guilt (because you are 100% human!)
  • Cook your food in healthy ways without heated oils, frying or charring the food

Remember, balance is the key to success. As Dr. Bernard Jensen says, “One cup of coffee won’t kill you, but one glass of orange juice won’t cure you either.”

What’s my % of RAW?

I was 100% for 2 years until I started traveling more and then I dropped down to 90% raw to accommodate my schedule, eating plain steamed veggies, an occasional plain baked potato or organic brown rice. After 8 years on the raw food path, I now sit comfortably at a high raw food diet which means I eat 85-100% raw food. My daily diet consists of green smoothies, green juices, huge salads, sprouts, nuts, seeds, fresh wheatgrass shots, homemade sauerkraut, kombucha and occasionally some organic cooked black beans, chickpeas, steamed vegetables, veggie soup with homemade broth, organic brown rice or red quinoa. I mostly follow the Hippocrates Diet or Ann Wigmore style of eating. Technically speaking, I am not a vegan because I do eat raw organic honey and other bee products like royal jelly on occasion. I made some mistakes with my raw food diet nutritionally along the way, and I’m going to reveal all my lessons learned in a new ebook, so stay tuned!

If you’re going to keep your new diet habits as a healthy way of living for life, it has to be a sustainable for life. Many experts agree that you have to eat at least 50% raw food to start seeing and feeling results (more energy, improved skin, better digestion, anti-aging & cellular repair, reversal of disease). Whether you’re eating 60 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent or 100 percent raw food, the most important thing to allow yourself to be is 100% human. As you go through the years of your life, your percentage of raw food may increase or decrease, and that’s okay! No matter what, the percentage of raw food that you are eating should feel right for you.

> Are you trying to transition to a raw food, vegan or vegetarian diet and feeling overwhelmed with all of the different opinions out there?

> Are you struggling emotionally and socially with changing your diet and feeling isolated or confused?

> Are you eating a healthy raw food or vegan diet and still feel tired, have trouble sleeping, or suffer from skin problems, hair loss, brittle nails, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, infertility, or dental problems?

> Do you want to change your diet but simply don’t know where or how to begin?

For more on how to start a raw food diet, how to do a detox at home or what minerals you may specifically be deficient in, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!

To read the New York Times article in its entirety, go here: Growing Up on Raw Foods

To read the Daily Mail UK article in its entirety, go here: ‘I lost 3st eating vast “mono meals”: Controversial diet guru who consumes 5lb of potatoes in one go says single-food feasts are key to weight loss and health

More on Raw Food:

Loni Jane Anthony pregnant and eating 10 bananas a day: She says “80:10:10 diet saved my life”

A pregnant woman eating 10 bananas a day in Australia is making world-wide news and stirring a lot more than raw cacao and acai bowls… Loni Jane Anthony is a 25-year old pregnant blogger and instagram sensation, famously known as “10-bananas-a-day” Loni Jane.

Loni Jane was recently featured on news.com.au in Australia where she discussed her the details of her “extreme diet,” considered even more extreme to many because she is now 26 weeks pregnant.

“It all started about three years ago. I started getting skin infections, acne and putting on weight which was weird because I’d always been so slim. I wanted to sleep all the time and ended up with a whole range of health problems including candida overgrowth, hormone imbalance, irregular periods and hair loss,” she said.

She says that years of a party-hard lifestyle with excessive partying, drinking and alcohol left her sick and desperate for a solution. She turned to the 80-10-10 diet, a diet created by Dr. Doug Graham consisting of low-fat, whole, fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables after her health hit rock bottom.

“It wasn’t for weight loss or for a quick fix. I was internally really sick; I was killing myself slowly. If I’d kept living that lifestyle I would’ve ended up with a disease like cancer or early ageing. So giving up that food was really quite simple for me,” Loni said.

“I came across the 80:10:10 Diet from an extreme fruitarian. She really taught me that you can live and thrive on this lifestyle by just eating higher carbohydrate vegetables, fruits and juices, and keeping your diet low fat. You even keep good fats low to keep your blood sugar stable. It’s been amazing.”

Loni also tried the Paleo Diet and Gerson Therapy before converting to 80-10-10 or “811,” a low-fat, plant-based diet – which is 80% carbs, 10% fat and 10% protein.

Now 26 weeks pregnant with her first child, Loni Jane says The 80:10:10 Diet ‘saved her life.’

“I usually wake up about 4.30am-5am and have up to two litres of warm water with lemon. I let that go down for two or three hours. In summer I like to eat half a watermelon to get hydrated,” she said.

“If I don’t have watermelon I’ll have a big smoothie with at least five bananas, but usually more than five because organic bananas are smaller, and about a litre of filtered water. I also always have oranges in the morning being pregnant. I’m obsessed with eating oranges.

“At lunch I usually like to have a mono meal, meaning one type of fruit, which is really good for digestion and goes straight through you. At the moment it’s mangoes I’m hooked on so my meal for lunch will be at least five or six mangoes. I might then have a salad later depending on how active I am that day.

“Dinner is always a huge salad with a tahini dressing. If I decide to have something cooked I’ll have it on the side like at the moment my crispy no-fat potatoes are divine.”

“I feel like now I can share who I really am and I’m not trying to hide behind alcohol and partying. I don’t need to alter my state and get drunk to feel like myself or to have fun. I didn’t quit alcohol altogether but it’s no longer five days a week, it’s more like once every five months.”

“If you live your passion people will see that. I’m just living it, and living exactly what you see, and that’s what inspires people I think. Because I’m at an age where most people are out getting super-drunk and taking heaps of drugs and having no self-respect, so I like to inspire girls because I was once in that position as well.”

So, the big question… is this ok? Is it safe for a woman to be eating 10 bananas a day while pregnant? First I should say that I’m happy to hear of any story that gets us talking more about fruits and vegetables! Loni Jane is a very pretty girl. It sounds like she’s feeling great during her pregnancy and I hope she’s getting her iron levels tested and regular health check-ups to make sure the baby is ok.

From my own point of view, I personally think Loni Jane is a bit too thin and she looks very thin in her pregnancy photos, but just that’s my opinion. Of course, some woman can be very thin and healthy while pregnant. The most important thing to do while pregnant is have regular doctor visits and make sure the baby is developing at the right rate, that the heart rate is ok and that the mother is not anemic or mineral deficient.

When I see photos like this, I worry more about the implications of what kind of image this puts out to young girls and women. I’ve worked with many women with eating disorders and I’ve seen the obsession with flat-belly “selfie photos” all too often… I’ve also worked with many women who had drug and alcohol addictions, and went straight from that addiction into a strict and regimented 100% raw food diet. Replacing one addiction for another keeps an obsessive-like behavior, it isolates a person from family and friends, and keeps them locked into a “perfection-seeking” lifestyle. Often these women will binge and purge between raw food and junk food, desperately trying to find a stable middle-ground. Underneath that can be a real lack of self-value, self-worth and self-love. Some women will even combine their 100% fruitarian diet with getting breast implants, cheek fillers, lip fillers and botox but then profess their love of raw food and living a “natural life.” When young girls see an image of a size 0 women with size D silicon gravity-defying breasts drinking a green juice or holding a handful of bananas, it just doesn’t give plant-based diets or raw food a good name. How do we find a balance, when it’s clear that sex and beauty sell? In truth, there is no easy solution.

It’s definitely important for pregnant and breast-feeding mothers to get enough fat, protein and calcium in their diet. If a pregnant women is vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian or raw foodist, she should be extra attentive to her nutritional needs. Eating 10 bananas a day while pregnant is perfectly fine. (How many women eat 2 bagels, a bag of cookies, ice cream and cake while pregnant…and no one bats an eye?) However, in the early stages of pregnancy, it’s especially important to avoid too many high Vitamin C foods. High doses of Vitamin C can stop the body from making progesterone, the main pregnancy hormone. It could be dangerous for young pregnant women to follow Loni’s diet if they eat too many mangoes and oranges thinking they are doing the right thing, when in fact the high amounts of Vitamin C could trigger a miscarriage. It’s also not a good idea to go straight from a SAD or meat-eating diet into a 100% raw food diet at the onset of pregnancy and this can stir up a lot of toxins from the natural detox effect and that’s not good for a growing baby.

In Loni’s case, she seems to be doing well at 26 weeks and I wish her all the best. She’s got a creative eye and her photos of raw food are great! I’m happy that she is bringing a lot of attention to eating a more plant-based diet and she sounds like she’s pretty grounded in her approach to dealing with her new-found fame.

What do you think? I look forward to reading your comments below!

Related Article: Is it safe to detox while pregnant or breastfeeding?

Raw Food Diet Articles:

My boyfriend followed my Raw Food Diet and got Anemia!

Before I met my boyfriend, he was a normal meat-eating guy and definitely a sugar and bread addict. Luckily, once we got together, he was open to trying my “rabbit salad” and “strange smoothies” ie. raw food style of eating. To his surprise, he immediately felt better and without any pressure from me, he decided himself to go on a high raw food and vegan diet! It was really great to witness his transformation. In the last 2 years, his energy levels improved, his skin cleared, his digestion improved immensely and he continues to look younger and younger. Because of such positive results, he even joined me on a 10-day and 14-day juice fast. Most recently, he completed a 21-day water fast with me in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

The Results of His Blood Test. It’s easy to become anemic on a Raw Food Diet if you don’t eat GREENS!

Over the last 6 months, however, he was starting to feel exceptionally tired. My schedule was pretty hectic with a lot of travel and we initially thought it was from all the buses, planes and changing hotels which would make anyone tired (including me!). But it just seemed to get worse. So, when we arrived to Israel, he went to the doctor and ordered some standard blood tests. The result: Low Red Blood Cell Count (RBC), Low Hemoglobin, and Low Hematocrit. What does that mean? He has a case of iron-deficiency anemia.

Vegan foods high in IRON: Cherries, Organic Apricots, Molasses and Leafy Greens

What is Anemia?

Anemia can occur for a few reasons, but is most commonly associated with a lack of iron in the blood. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, and low iron levels result in decreased incorporation of hemoglobin into red blood cells. Because hemoglobin normally carries oxygen from the lungs to the capillaries, anemia leads to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in organs. This can make a person feel lethargic, dizzy, weak, generally unwell and even a bit foggy in the brain.

Did the Raw Food Diet fail for him?

The truth is, although my boyfriend followed me on the raw food journey, he never really liked eating dark leafy greens. He didn’t like the taste of spirulina, in fact, he hated it. So, he wasn’t eating enough greens, either powdered or fresh. In the morning, he would make a big batch of fresh fruit smoothie, pour out some for himself, and then add the green superfoods and leafy greens for me. One of my “go-to” snacks is always a handful of dried organic apricots. But he never really liked those either. Being a former refined sugar lover, he would choose organic dates instead. It’s easy to see that he was simply not getting enough high-iron content foods in his daily diet. So, I don’t think the raw food diet failed him and I do not think that a vegan or vegetarian diet is dangerous to his health. He just wasn’t attentive to getting all the minerals his body needs. (And he also wasn’t listening to me saying “You need to eat more greens!”)

As a side note, the last time I was tested for iron, it was just below the threshold of being too high! The doctor actually told me to stop eating red meat! I didn’t say a word but silently laughed to myself, because I haven’t eaten meat in over 21 years!! I knew it was from my daily Green Smoothie. Somehow my body knew how to hold on to just enough iron and not have too much. When we give the body what it needs, it knows what to do…that’s the internal intelligence of our healing system!

What now?

The blood test results were a big wake-up call. The same day that he received the results, my boyfriend immediately started adding spirulina to his smoothies and started taking a liquid iron supplement. After only 2 days, he noticed the difference. His energy levels picked up and he had an easier time waking up in the morning. Now he is also making a conscious effort to eat more greens in his diet as well. He is not eating meat and has no interest to eat meat, but he did decide to try some plain vegan seitan (with no added flavors so no flavor enhancers). He cooks the seitan with some olive oil, organic cumin and cayenne pepper and adds it to a big raw food salad. (Note: Seitan contains wheat and is not a good option for anyone who is a celiac or sensitive to gluten.) He seems to be remembering to take his daily B12 supplement now too because he is just overall more aware of the importance of getting all the nutrients he needs!

Because of what happened, I will also take an iron supplement for 1-2 months to help get my body back on track just in case I am deficient as well. With over 8 months of non-stop traveling to Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, we did not always have the chance to eat as much variety in our diets. For that reason, I could now be low in iron too. Living in one place makes it very easy, and I am now happy to be having 1 green juice, 1 Green Smoothie and 1 fresh wheatgrass shot per day along with my normal salads and fruit.

Vegan Sources of Iron

There are definitely vegan and vegetarian food options that are naturally high in iron, like cherries, dark leafy greens, molasses and/or organic apricots. Green superfoods like spirulina, chlorella, dulse or kelp are also good sources of iron. Having some organic powdered greens in a Daily Green Smoothie is a great way to get a healthy daily dose of iron. Rotating greens helps to get all the nutrients you need, so be sure to switch out your greens between kale, spinach, bok choy, parsley, beet greens, collard greens, Swiss Chard and whatever other edible fresh greens you can find in your local farmer’s market or organic supermarket. If you are new to a vegan or raw food diet, it’s a good idea to get your blood tested in the first 6 months to be sure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs.

Do you Need to Take a Supplement?

Whether you take an iron supplement is really up to you, but I don’t think it’s necessary if you are attentive to eating greens in your daily diet. If you do decide to take an iron supplement, be sure to find one in liquid form because iron tablets (or pills) tend to have a constipating effect. If you become pregnant, you will need more iron and for sure, you should consider taking an iron supplement.

Example of Ferrum Chromotose Iris

In the Science of Iridology, we have a subtype by color called Ferrum Chromotose which shows an inability to store iron. An example of this subtype is shown here. You can see the “tiger striping” or light brown and dark brown stripes in the iris. This is an inherited trait, and if I see this marking during an Iridology Analysis, I will always advise the client to be attentive to getting enough iron in their diet. It should be no surprise that my boyfriend has this marking in his eyes and I do not. If you have this marking, you are more likely to suffer from anemia, especially when there is a lack of high-iron content foods in the diet.

On a daily basis, the only nutritional supplement I take is a B12 complex. I personally think it’s important for everyone to take a daily B vitamin complex, including meat-eaters. Most B12 is lost in the process of cooking and many people (especially meat-eaters) have reduced or limited absorption capabilities.

Need more guidance? I offer personalized nutritional counseling, health coaching and Iridology sessions by Skype and email to help you achieve your best health ever!

Here’s to your health!

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