Why Your Raw Food Diet Might Not Be Working Well
So, you finally did it — you are eating all raw, feeling good about it and thinking that your diet is health-promoting, but… there is something that still bothers you quite a bit, and the fact is, you are not getting the benefits you expected to get or other people are getting. Maybe you still have break outs on your skin, or experience digestive problems, or even cravings for unhealthy foods… Or, you are having trouble with releasing those last ten stubborn pounds. Why might that be? What are you doing wrong?
First of all, I would like to advise you against comparing yourself with other people. Comparing yourself with an earlier version of yourself would be a wiser thing to do. We all are unique beings, and the same things don’t always work the same way for all of us — this is the fact we all know.
Secondly, outer changes sometimes take longer to manifest themselves. This is because when you start being kind to your body and do the right things (like eating a healthy raw food diet), the body takes care of your inner organs and inner health first. This means that your body will begin to clean your blood, tissues, and organs of their toxicity first, and consequent inner health eventually will result in a more vibrant, youthful and healthy appearance.
And still, there are quite a few pitfalls raw foodists are susceptible to fall into. Let’s take a look at some of the common mistakes you might be making too which can prevent you from getting the results you are striving for.
1. You are eating too much fat.
If you feel sluggish, tired and foggy most of the time, your fat intake is probably too high and far from optimal. Other indications of this problem could manifest themselves in the form of compromised digestion, such as poor elimination, bloating, indigestion, etc. Your athletic performance will also suffer from too much fat in the diet. Did you know that the average raw foodist consumes around 60% of total calories from fat? In truth, this is way MORE than on a Standard American Diet.
So, how do you know what exactly your fat intake is, and what can you do to decrease it? Start using Nutridiary or FitDay (if you haven’t done so yet) to determine what percentage of your total calories comes from fat. Strive for 10% of total calories as a maximum, and remember, that fat, whether it’s raw or cooked, can be detrimental to one’s health in large quantities. Read this article if you are not convinced.
Side Note: Some people can handle more dietary fat better than the others, and can move up to 15% with no problem. I personally feel my best when my fat intake is around 7-8%, and to me it means eating overly fatty foods like avocados or nuts only once a week (usually one medium avocado or 2 oz of nuts or few tablespoons of raw tahini in my salad). Even if I go a little higher than that, I start seeing not so pleasant “side effects” (less energy, less optimal digestion, etc.).
So, get yourself on track with monitoring your fat intake, and replace all that extra fat with a healthy carbohydrate source, you guessed it — sweet, fresh, ripe fruit! This can happen quite naturally, because as your fat intake goes down, your carbohydrate intake will go up. And as far as protein is concerned, it is extremely difficult to consume more than 20% of total calories from protein, unless you are following a strict regimen of refined protein powder and egg whites.
It is really that simple — just eat more sweet fruit! Make whole meals out of fruit, include mono fruit meals in your diet (eating one type of fruit at a time until you are fully satisfied), whip up delicious smoothies and create your own bodacious fruit salads. The possibilities are endless, and the sky is the limit!
2. You are not getting in your greens.
If you are experiencing cravings for salty, savory or even cooked foods on your current eating plan, most likely you don’t eat enough greens. Greens are extremely important on a raw vegan diet, since they provide essential minerals like calcium which fruits lack (fruits are rich in vitamins though). I’ve discussed the role of greens in the diet here.
What I would like to add, is that a taste for greens is an acquired taste. It takes time to teach your body to love greens and enjoy them without oily and salty dressings and other condiments. For instance, when I was growing up, I hardly ate any greens at all, except for occasional minced parsley or dill sprinkled on top of vegetable salad. For years, I had no desire to eat greens, and they had not been a part of my diet. However, as I was transitioning to a low-fat raw diet last year, I started to incorporate more and more greens into my daily meals. The result? As of now, after 15 months into this way of eating, I actually DESIRE to eat greens every day. I usually eat greens with my last meal after a whole day of fruit-eating, and if I miss a day occasionally, the next day I literally cannot wait till my dinner time to have some greens in a salad or raw soup. I love eating greens now, and I don’t use any oil, salt or spices for seasoning.
For true health, it is recommended to consume 2 to 6% of your total calories from leafy greens. For instance, for 4% of your total calories to come from leafy green vegetables on a 2000-calorie diet, you would have to eat roughly a pound of greens per day.
So, ‘get your green going’, and find some tasty ways to enjoy your greens daily. Whether it be Green Smoothies, Savory Veggie Stews, or simple salads with lemon juice and tomatoes — it’s your responsibility to get those greens in! It’s also a good idea to rotate your green ‘repertoire’ and use different kinds such as Spinach, young Kale, Swiss Chard, Romaine Lettuce, Arugula, Mâche (lamb’s lettuce), Read Leaf lettuce, Friseé lettuce, etc. These mineral-rich green leaves will provide a lot of nourishment to your body, assuming you won’t smother them in oil and salt.
In my upcoming recipe ebook Flat Tummy Cuisine I will share my favorite way of eating a good amount of greens every day, and it’s not a green smoothie (even though I love green smoothies, and enjoy them quite often). And it’s totally low-fat (no overly fatty foods used) and delicious! So stay tuned!
3. You are neglecting food combining rules.
Even if you are eating a strict diet of raw fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts and seeds, and leaving a lot of rich, difficult-to-digest foods out, food combining rules is still something you have to pay attention to. I would especially like to point out to one important rule here, which is about combining sugar and fat.
Sugar and fat is one of the worst combinations that can give you gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, etc. It is also one of the tastiest combinations that is heavily exploited in raw food restaurants, for instance (oh, those raw desserts and pies!). If you are blending an avocado into your fruit smoothie or using a generous helping of nuts for your raw fruit pie, you might be guilty too!
A far better and healthier way to enjoy your fruits and your nuts would be to eat them at separate meals. If you make fruit smoothies, ideally, they should contain only two ingredients — fruit and water (and some greens if it is a green smoothie). If your are striving for optimal digestion and beautiful skin, make your fruit pies and fruit salads with fruit only, and leave the nuts out. Blend your nuts into a homemade salad dressing, and eat your salad for dinner as the last meal for the day. Don’t eat anything else, especially sweet fruit, after having a salad with a fatty dressing or avocado. It is simple, but effective strategy that will help you to avoid an unwanted health issues in the long run.
4. You are eating too much dried and dehydrated foods.
Dried fruits (like dates and raisins) and dehydrated snacks (like flax or nori crackers) will leave you thirsty, dehydrated and constipated if you overindulge on them. If you are to include these foods into your diet at all, they should be viewed as an occasional treat, and not something you would eat every day on a regular basis. On a sound and healthy raw food diet you should eat plenty of fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables with all the water intact (water is a very important and essential part of any vegetation, and should be treated respectfully).
I believe there is one exception though: High-quality, sun-dried dates can be used in smoothies and fruit pies in small quantities. Once blended with water and re-hydrated, dates will add sweetness to your smoothie and won’t stick to your teeth. I personally use high-quality organic dates in my smoothies to enhance the flavor and make it more calorie dense. I purchase my dates here, and highly recommend ordering fresh dates straight from California farms when they are in season.
A word of warning: Some people cannot keep dates in their house, because they would eat them all and fast! If you are one of those folks, you’d better revise your diet and start eating more fresh, ripe, sweet fruit instead. Your cravings for dried fruit should disappear if you get it right. I personally don’t have a problem with keeping dates in my house, and use only a few at a time in my banana smoothies.
I also believe that salt-free sun-dried tomatoes can be used occasionally in some recipes, once re-hydrated and mixed in with fresh vegetables and greens. They add a nice depth of flavor to raw salad dressings, sauces and dips.
5. You are eating too much salt, spices and condiments.
If you experience body-weight issues, lethargy, headaches, increased mucus production and chronic fatigue on your current raw food diet, most likely you are using too much salt or soy sauce, vinegar, spices and other condiments in your food.
High-salt diet will leave you dehydrated, retard your digestion and deaden your taste buds ability to recognize the natural flavors of fruits and vegetables. I wrote a whole article about the perils of consuming too much salt. You can check it out here.
Vinegar, for example, excessively stimulates the thyroid gland, leading to hyperthyroidism. Herbs and spices like garlic, onion, curry, cumin, ginger, cayenne and chili powder stimulate our taste buds and nerves while delivering toxins to our nervous system. Ideally, their use should be avoided, or at least minimized.
So, if this area of your diet needs work — get to it! Wean yourself from salt, spices and condiments completely, or significantly reduce their consumption and use them only occasionally. In order to flavor your food use lemon juice and fresh herbs like basil or dill, if you feel the need to flavor it at all.
6. You don’t consume enough calories.
If you feel dizzy and weak, if you have strong cravings for cooked carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta, potatoes), and finally, if you have a problem to maintain your desired body weight — your caloric intake is insufficient, which means you are not eating enough food.
In order to address this issue you should start with finding out what your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is. In case you are not familiar with this term, BMR or Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the minimum number of calories your body needs to fuel key organs like the brain, heart, and lungs. You can read more about it here. You can use Nutridiary to calculate your BMR. Also, most people can roughly estimate this number by multiplying their body weight by ten.
In order to have enough energy to live your day and be active you need more energy than what’s required from your BMR. This extra energy typically amounts to about 400 to 600 additional calories per day which is the energy you need to move versus just lying still all day.
You will have to figure out how many calories you need to take in on any given day to stay active and maintain your body weight. And then you will have to learn how to get those calories in consuming sweet fruit. Read more about it in one of my articles. In a nutshell: If you want your raw food diet to be health-promoting and sustainable, you have to get most of your daily calories from sweet, ripe fruit. Period.
7. You are neglecting other key factors of this lifestyle.
The sound raw diet is but one component of healthful living. Adequate rest and sleep, regular, vigorous physical activity, plenty of fresh air, sufficient sunlight exposure, a positive outlook on life and emotional poise, and many other factors are also essential to creating good health.
This is a very important point, and also a subject for another article.
To Your Harmonious Life and Ever-Improving Health,
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