Throughout my life, I’ve tried countless diets including, but not limited to, paleo, carnivore, keto, Whole30, bodybuilding, master cleanse, vegetarian, and vegan. But one of the greatest journeys was going raw vegan for an entire year.
I initially heard about going raw and its powerful effects on detoxification in the body. By “going raw,” I mean eating nothing but uncooked fruits and vegetables. At the time, I wanted to detox my body from birth control pills and acne medication, so I figured it was worth a shot. My goal was to utilize this diet for three days.
Day one was easy, and my energy levels were sky-high. Day two was even better. By day three, I felt like total crap. However, I got what I asked for as the detox symptoms became real. I felt nauseous and exhausted, my hair started falling out, and I started developing a rash on my forearm.
Luckily, I lived in Houston at the time and connected with one of the world’s most renowned raw food experts, Fully Raw Kristina! At the time, she owned and operated a fully raw organic co-op called Rawfully Organic.
I explained what I was doing and how I felt, and I showed her my rash. She told me my body was starting to detox and encouraged me to embrace it and keep going. I decided to take her advice and stick with the program.
A few days later, I was on top of the world — buzzing with energy to the vibration of raw foods! My body loved the fresh foods, nutrients and high amounts of carbohydrates! My skin and mind were clear, and I felt light and clean. My goal of three days extended to a week, which grew to a month, then spread to a year.
Throughout my year of eating raw, I also took a trip to what raw vegans refer to as “Banana Island.” Banana Island is not a place but a period where you eat nothing but bananas for an extended duration. In one week, I ate 172 bananas, averaging about 25 daily!
After several months of being on a fully raw diet, I felt amazing — I was hitting personal records in the gym, and it was the most shredded I’ve ever been. I also changed some other habits along the way. I was able to cut caffeine entirely because I had all the energy I needed from food. I thought I would eat this way forever, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I also had days when I had a ton of digestive distress from all the raw foods, particularly huge volumes of greens.
At the beginning of my journey, I used a raw vegan protein powder to supplement all the bodybuilding I was doing. I decided to quit using the protein powder because I figured I could get all of my protein from greens, as many raw enthusiasts suggested. But cutting the supplement is where I feel I went wrong. My precious muscle mass started disappearing — I started to look too skinny, and my strength began to suffer.
Eventually, I stopped eating only raw foods and started eating cooked vegan foods. I began to travel more and realized how challenging it was to maintain my diet. My journey took a 180 when I went to Australia and had my first bacon and egg roll. Since then, I’ve been eating animal protein consistently.
So, why go raw vegan? Raw vegans eat this way for purity and because raw food contains live enzymes. Some nutrients and vitamins destroy quickly with cooking, such as vitamin C; therefore, eating some foods raw benefits you more than eating them cooked.
Cooked food is important, though, because heat breaks down the wall of plant cells, which can unlock more nutrition! Heat also allows some antioxidants to increase in certain foods.
So which is better — cooked or raw? Eating both cooked and uncooked vegetables can be beneficial; sometimes, you can cook your carrots or eat them rinsed right out of the dirt.
If you notice your body cannot digest raw foods well, it’ll be evident in how it leaves your body (if you know what I mean). If this happens to you, you can use a digestive enzyme supplement to help. Ultimately, when deciding to cook or not, let your body and digestion make the call for you. Always listen first to your digestion when thinking of food!
Overall, I think the raw vegan diet is an excellent detoxification tool that can be used short term. But I recommend following a habit-based approach to nutrition for most people, focusing on behavior modifications rather than a diet!
About the Author
Krista Large is a nutritionist, habit coach and online fitness trainer. Her passion in life is teaching others to dream big and live large, which starts with health. Large is an Ole Miss Rebel and runs her own brand and business based here in Austin. You can learn more about her at livinglargewellness.com.