I went 80% Raw Vegan on the 1st of July 2017 and so far, it has without a doubt been the best decision of my life. I was vegetarian for many years beforehand, and to be honest I always figured I was living ‘healthy and ethical enough’. Like many people I was disconnected to the food I purchased and consumed. I assumed that the food that was sold to us would not be harmful to my health if I ate it in moderation. I also thought cows that produced milk and chickens that laid eggs had a good life roaming the green fields of the farm. I had no idea of the health risks and cruelty that was the everyday norm within our everyday foods.
Initially, I gave myself a 30 day juice challenge, and thought to myself if I can do that, then I will continue a plant-based lifestyle. I actually found the 4 weeks of just consuming fresh organic juices very easy. I could feel and see it detoxing my body – the healing and rebooting that took place over those 30 days was truly life-changing.
To keep myself motivated whilst on the juice fast I watched documentaries and read books about a plant-based diet. What I learned from watching these documentaries absolutely shocked me.
It’s been a gradual and natural evolution. Switching to a meat and dairy-free diet, with no refined sugar, alcohol, and no processed foods of any kind has really done wonders for my health and general well-being.
It took an entire year to switch comfortably from a modern western diet to a high raw diet. I did three juice fasts in that year, and with every fast I completed I found myself evolving more into the raw lifestyle.
I went from someone who loved their wine and cheese, and who was always sick with colds and flus, unexplained fatigue, dull skin, headaches, brain fog and all the rest of the so-called “normal” ailments & physical problems that our western society puts up with, to somebody who experienced thriving health for the very first time.
Over the years I gradually learned that what we eat is important and I’d experienced the benefits first hand. But what I’m realizing now is that nutrition can affect us well beyond our physical health and well being, it is arguably one of the most powerful self-transformational tools available to us. Throughout my high raw vegan journey I have grown a deep connection to both myself and mother nature. The mind, body + spirit transformation I have experienced is truly mind-blowing – I am a completely different person.
The journey has self-empowered me by teaching me to take control of my own health, encouraging me to become more authentic and live in alignment with my own code of ethics along with giving me a deep sense of inner-peace knowing that my everyday choices are based on choosing products and ways of being that don’t have a negative impact on my health, animals or our planet.
I’m really passionate about eating a plant-based diet and believe it is the answer to so many problems in the world. I feel good eating this way which is why I knew I had to write this blog post to share with you what I have learnt along the way.
If you are wanting to gain back control of your health then I gently urge you to open your mind up to experimenting with more raw foods. I understand that this way of life is not for everyone, however I do know for a fact that anyone who chooses to introduce more plants into their diet will experience a positive and life-changing health shift.
Up until the last year or two, veganism was thought of as a phase. It was thought of as a short-term lifestyle that you would eventually grow out. In fact, a complete vegan diet was thought of as being unhealthy, incomplete and low in nutritional value. Thankfully, the tides are shifting, as now there’s scientific data proving that veganism may potentially be the most healthiest lifestyle option.
Read on to learn about how a high raw vegan diet can drastically improve your overall health and well-being.
The nutrient profile of a high raw vegan diet
Believe it or not a high raw vegan diet will supply you with more nutrients than a meat eating diet does. Take a moment to consider what the average meat eater eats in a day. For breakfast they may have toast, cereal, a little fruit or maybe some eggs and bacon. For lunch it is probably a meat + cheese sandwich, hamburger or sweet and sour chicken on rice. Then for dinner it may be some lean protein with either vegetables or salad, or more than likely its butter chicken, lasagne or spaghetti Bolognese. Its quite clear to see that this meal plan contains high carbs, high animal fats, moderate refined sugar found in sauces and cereals and very little fruits, nuts and vegetables.
Whereas the typical high raw vegan diet would go a little something like this. For breakfast the common options are a chia pudding with fruit, seed crackers with avocado, a raw muesli made with nuts and fresh fruit or a green smoothie. Lunch is usually a nourish bowl [salad with hummus, pickled vegetables, raw vegetables, beans and so forth], vegetarian sushi, seed crackers with hummus and avocado or lettuce leaf bean tacos. For dinner it may be miso eggplant steaks, poke bowls, big bowl of vegetables or a chick pea satay with brown rice. The vegan diet has zero animal fat but high in good fats, contains no refined carbs, little to none refined sugars and loads of vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole-grains.
Believe it or not plants give us every nutrient requirement we need, making the well-planned vegan diet nutrient rich. Vegan diets are rich in antioxidants, potassium, folic acid, magnesium, and vitamins A, C and E. Whole-food vegan diets also have sufficient amounts of iron, zinc and essential fatty acids. The two big questions I want to address are the two most common questions I ever get:
How do vegans get protein? Lets start with the biggest issue first – the belief that we need to eat animal products in order to get protein. Firstly we don’t need as much protein as people make out we do – infact too much protein is linked to inflammation and disease in the body. All protein originates from plants which means when we consume protein from eating animals we are really only eating the animals store of protein which they originally got from eating plants. Protein is a crucial building block for our body so it only makes sense to consume it in its most pure form by eating it direct from the source – plants.
Many will argue that animal protein is a complete protein therefore superior over plant protein. The reason for this is because animal proteins also provide all the essential amino acids that the body needs, most plant protein will be missing one or two of the essential amino acids. However, some plant-based foods, such as quinoa and buckwheat, are complete sources of protein.
This is why it is important for vegans to mix their protein sources and ensure that they are getting all of the essential amino acids.
Excess animal protein is linked with kidney disease, osteoporosis, cancers, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Plant proteins can do a better job of meeting your protein needs than animal products, both because they are less concentrated sources of protein (making it less likely that you’ll get too much) and because they are more likely to be present with other nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and healthy fats. Read the facts and research here.
Seeds are one of the easiest to digest sources of plant protein, but vegetables are also a great source, not to mention leafy greens, beans, legumes, and even whole grains. Some common forms of plant protein include hemp seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, oats, almonds, leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, lentils, black beans, chickpeas, green peas, and of course, organic tofu and tempeh are also great choices if you tolerate soy.
For more science based facts on vegan and protein head over to Dr Gregor’s NutritionFacts
How do vegans get calcium? The dairy industry has created big advertising campaigns to convince us that we need dairy for strong bones. The truth is that dairy has very little calcium in it and you get much more calcium from plants such as sesame seeds (including tahini), dark leafy greens (like kale), bok choy, white beans, black-eyed peas and other pulses, seaweed (think sushi), fortified non dairy milks, broccoli, organic tofu and molasses. Extensive research has been done on the consumption of dairy and time over time it shows that the higher consumption of dairy leads to more broken bones and fractures [learn more here].
It’s all about planning and incorporating the right foods in your diet. Vitamin B12 may, however, be inadequate in plant-based diets due to the poor soil quality we now have, therefore adding vitamin B12 supplements to your diet may be a good idea. However, I have also read extensive studies on vitamin B12 and animal products where it says that the B12 get from eating animal products isn’t recognised by our bodies – therefore there are many doctors who advise that everyone should be taking B12 supplements.
Raw plants give you the glow
One thing many of the raw foodies and fresh pressed juice advocates have in common is a healthy and dewy glow. Eating an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables feeds the skin with all the vitamins it needs. So what’s the difference between an average diet and one that is high in raw fruits and vegetables? Lots of things – primarily with high raw plant-based diets you are getting a more dense nutrient profile including an abundance of vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, and vitamin E – all the things your skin needs to stay healthy.
Unlike grains and meats that contain little water, raw fruits and vegetables are high in water and do a wonderful job of flushing out toxins, hydrating and plumping out skin cells and cleanse the body of inflammation.
Inflammation in the body is the root cause of almost every disease and skin problem, including acne. Inflammation is often caused when the body can’t process all the compounds that enter it – when it can’t break them down quick enough toxicity rises in the body causing inflammation. Meat and dairy has been proven to increase inflammation in the body as the body must work hard at breaking down all the complex compounds, however plants have the same composition as our bodies, therefore our bodies recognise the compounds immediately and have no trouble breaking them down.
In a nutshell, when our body doesn’t have to work hard at breaking down food, nutrients flood easier through our body feeding all our vital organs. Also when our body doesn’t have to work so hard to break down food it then has time to start repairing disease and conditions in the body – and one of the first places it starts is in the skin cells. Eating raw fruits and veggies has a similar effect to juice fasting, with the exception the body needs to digest a little harder. For a more detailed look at how raw plants are good for you – read the benefits of juice fasting, for the most part, the benefits are very similar.
Here are a few foods to consider:
Turmeric: Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory, turmeric is great in soups and dips. I love to make a warm turmeric milk with my homemade almond milk, a little maple syrup, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and turmeric.
Chia/Flaxseeds: High in omega-3 fatty acids to help promote healthy cells. Actually one tablespoon of chia seeds gives you over 300% of your daily omega-3 fatty acid requirement.
Berries: Blueberries and the like are high in antioxidants to help repair damaged cells.
Pineapple: Also papayas and kiwis, are high in an enzyme called bromelain that helps to reduce inflammation.
Healthy oils: Introduce healthy fats into your diet with cold-pressed oils, such as avocado, macadamia, and coconut oils that are full of polyphenols to soothe the skin. Making a lot of plant-based cheeses, milks, sour creams, sauces and deserts include activated nuts which are wonderful for feeding your skin and brain with healthy fats.
Herbal tea: Sub out coffee (and sugar and milk) with a herbal tea and make it easier to get your daily water intake.
How does eating vegan affect physical health?
A plant based diet comes with an array of health benefits and there is growing scientific research that shows that animal products are not only unnecessary for human health, they are also detrimental to human health . The China Study is the longest nutritional study to be ever completed and it has proven that animal products turn on cancer cells while also being the main contributor to heart disease, diabetes, auto immune diseases, depression and dementia.
A high raw vegan diet is the full package. Not only is it nutrient-rich but it is also proven to improve physical health by leaps and bounds. A lower incidence of heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer have all been found to have a correlation with going vegan. The positive impact of choosing greens over meat is briefly discussed down below.
Helps You Lose Excess Weight
It’s common knowledge that vegan diets can help to lower your weight and reduce the risk of obesity. The main reasoning behind this is because refined salts, sugars, fats and carbs are replaced with an abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans. Science is now showing that when we eat refined carbs and sugars we raise the bodies insulin, when this happens our bodies can not burn fat. We are now learning that calories are not equal and that losing weight or maintaining weigh is not about calorie control. For example if you ate 1400 calories of bread, crackers, cookies a day you would not lose weight. However if you ate 1400 calories per day of vegetables, nuts and fruits you would drop the weight quite quick.
Recently, 12 different studies published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine reported that people on a vegetarian diet weighed four pounds less than their non-vegetarian counterparts. Another similar study done on women who ate fruits and vegetables analyzed that these women had a 28 percent lower risk of gaining weight as compared to women who did not have ample amount of fruit and vegetables in their diets.
Controls Blood Sugar Level
Animal fat has been linked to an increased incidence of diabetes and reduced insulin sensitivity. Countless studies have shown that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type II diabetes by maintaining the blood sugar levels and improving the response of our cells to insulin. In fact, studies have shown that a vegan diet may be more useful in controlling the blood sugar levels than the diet recommended by the American Diet Association.
The mechanics of a vegan diet bringing blood sugar levels to the normal range is understandable. Unlike animal meat, plant-based foods tend to contain fewer amounts of cholesterol and negligible quantities of saturated fats. These green diets are also found to have larger amounts of complex carbs and fiber which together help to stabilize the blood sugar level and increase insulin sensitivity.
Improves Heart Health
Going vegan helps you lower your BMI and a low BMI is associated with a lower incidence of heart disease. People with low BMIs tend to have a more controlled blood pressure and fewer amounts of LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) in their bodies. Vegan diets also supply little to none saturated fats which are directly linked to heart diseases.
One observational study states that the risk of people getting hospitalized due to heart disease is around 32% less in vegetarians.
Improves Bone Health
We’ve all heard that in order to get your recommended daily intake of calcium, you need to drink milk. Or maybe binge on cheese to build stronger bones.
Hold on – vegan diets can do all that as well. Kale, spinach, turnips, peas all are rich sources of calcium while soy milk, almond milk and certain fruits deliver adequate quantities of vitamin D for your body.
A well-executed vegan diet can help you meet your daily calcium and vitamin D requirement and even be more beneficial to your bone health than non-vegan diets. It has been found that a plant-based diet more efficiently absorbs calcium from the gut and speeds up bone formation and calcification.
Improves Joint Health
Arthritis is one of the biggest joint pain culprits in the world but it has shown to be less frequent in vegans. Similarly, gout (formerly known as the ‘rich man’s disease’) presents in people who have high animal protein intake and produces joint paint, inflammation and swelling.
One observational study noted that those patients with arthritis who shifted to a plant-based vegan diet for 6 weeks resulted in a significant improvement in joint function and mobility than those who continued with their omnivorous diets.
Improves Intestinal Health
A diet rich in fibre is a popular natural solution for constipation. Going vegan will supply your body with just the right amount of fibre to get your bowels churning. This will make passing stool a smoother, more painless process.
Researchers have also discovered a shift in the gut microbiome when a plant-based diet is adopted. Our gut is full of bacteria that are needed for digestion and supplying essential vitamins like vitamin K The microbiome can also relate to your health and the risk of developing an intestinal disease.
In people who devour animal meat and protein, greater quantities of B.Wadsworthia are found in the gut. This bacterium is the causative agent of inflammatory bowel disease. Furthermore, the gut of an omnivore is likely to have more bile acids that can cause infections in the intestines. A vegan diet, on the other hand, has a healthier bacterial environment in the gut that does not predispose to such diseases.
Improves Eye Health
Cataracts are one of the most common complaints met in an eye OPD. Not surprisingly, this debilitating disease has a connection with an animal-based diet as well. The Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine conducted a research that found that meat eaters had a much higher risk of developing cataracts than vegans.
Reduces Cancer Risk
Although the exact cause of most types of cancer is still under scrutiny, there is an established relationship between high animal protein intake and an increased risk of cancer. The World Health Organization announced back in 2015 that processed meats such as bacon or ham are as potent risk factors for cancer as is asbestos, tobacco smoking and arsenic.
A vegan diet, on the other hand, has high quantities of legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables that offer protection against cancerous changes in the body. These foods contain phytochemicals and fibre which can benefit against the development of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, breast and the ovaries.
Certain types of animal products have also shown to increase the risk of prostate and colorectal cancer. In fact, a vegetarian diet that includes dairy is also linked to higher incidences of prostate cancer. A vegan diet that is free from any sort of animal product including dairy eliminates this risk.
Prevents the Development of Stroke
Stroke is caused by reduced perfusion of the brain which is usually attributed by a blocked or a clogged artery. These clogged arteries can come about as a result of a diet that is rich in cholesterol and fats – a diet that is based on animal products.
Not only can a vegan diet lower the risk of an incidence of stroke but it is also shown to reverse the damaging effects of atherosclerosis in the arteries.
Reduces the Incidence of Chronic Diseases
Along with diabetes, a vegan diet can also help against chronic diseases. The average Western diet is loaded with animal products and meat, and hence suffers from a greater percentage of chronic diseases and disorders. A plant-based diet, with its anti-inflammatory actions can help combat this and bring down the incidence of chronic diseases amongst the population.
Rich in anti-oxidants, a vegan diet can reduce inflammation in the cells and by protecting them against free radical damage. Free radical cell damage is one of the leading biological causes of chronic diseases apart from genetic factors.
Similarly, a vegan diet may also relieve the skin irritation and redness that is seen in people with psoriasis. According to a research conducted by the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Brazil, a plant-based diet can positively impact a case of psoriasis and provide symptomatic relief.
What’s more, research has shown that a diet comprised of only plant products can also control the genes that link to cardiovascular disease and tumor growth.
How does going vegan affect your mental health?
Going vegan can significantly improve mood long-term. And there’s an entire science behind it. Studies have found high quantities of arachidonic acid in animal-based products. This particular substance is directly linked to mood disturbances, greater stress, anxiety and an overall poorer mental health.
Plant sources, on the other hand, do not contain arachidonic acid and can help keep your mental health in check. One survey conducted by Croatia’s Institute of Medical Research and Occupational Health found a lower incidence of neuroticism in vegetarians than in omnivores.
The Road to Going Vegan
Change is never easy. And when it involves your entire eating lifestyle, sacrificing KFC’s chicken, and even your favorite brand of milk, then some serious motivation is required.
But think of it like this: not only are you doing the animals a favour by not killing them but you’re also doing a huge favour to your body.
High Raw vegan diets have been proven time and again that they benefit not only in bringing down your weight but also in improving your heart, bone, bowel, joint, and even mental health. So much so, going vegan can help combat the progress or development of cancer.
The road to going vegan is not an easy one and it will take time to adjust. Taking baby steps is the key. Once you embark fully on the road, you’ll notice how fresh and young your body feels and you’ll only have your plant-based diet to thank for it.