Pros and Cons of the Raw Food Diet

A raw food diet mainly involves eating organic and unprocessed, plant-based foods. The proponents of this eating plan believe that three-quarters of your meals should be raw food. The raw food diet is largely based on the principle that eating unprocessed and uncooked food helps prevent chronic diseases and improve overall health.[i]

Proponents of this diet say that cooking breaks down enzymes in “live food” or uncooked food, which helps the digestion and the absorption of valuable nutrients, but there is no sufficient evidence to support such claims. The body creates its own enzymes to help in the digestion of food, whether cooked or raw.[ii]

The origins of the raw food diet can be traced back to the late 1800s after Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss physician who treated himself off jaundice by consuming raw apples.[iii] In the last few decades, the raw food diet has evolved to include many raw foods.

Some consumers of this diet may have started as a vegan or vegetarian before switching to focus on raw foods. Although most people following this diet are vegans, some might consume raw meat, raw fish, or raw milk. The raw food diet is ranked #32 by the U.S.News and World Report and has been given a score of 2.2 out of 5.[iv]

What You Can Eat

Foods such as vegetables and fruits are often identified as raw and other popular ingredients like cocoa, soy sauce, olive oil, almond milk, agave, and nut butter. You can eat vegetables in soups, blended dressings, smoothies, and salads. Also, it’s possible to pickle the vegetables or make the veggies into noodles. Veggies that have been boiled or blanched before being frozen aren’t considered raw. Also, you can look for sea veggies such as unroasted nori sheets, wakame, kelp, dulse, and arame.

Fruits can be consumed dehydrated, dried, whole, or utilized in smoothies or juices. The frozen fruits are usually considered raw. In essence, superfoods like goji berries, carob powder, cacao nibs, and cacao powder are allowed on the raw foods diet.

Search for raw, especially organic seeds and nuts. There are easier additions to ice cream, gravy cream, cheeses, non-dairy milk, butter, pesto, and smoothies. Also, you can use the dehydrator to easily make flaxseed crackers or raw chia.

You might have to read labels and take your time to find brands that adhere to the raw food diet. Any food with the word baked, cooked, toasted, dry-roasted, or roasted on the packaging label isn’t raw. Also, canned foods are not raw. Legumes and whole grains are usually considered raw when they are sprouted rather than cooked. Following are some of the foods you should include in your diet when you start following the raw food diet.

Legumes And Beans

Raw beans such as lentils, mung beans, adzuki beans, and chickpeas may be consumed after they’ve been sprouted and soaked. Other beans like fava, soy, and kidney beans are unsafe and shouldn’t be eaten raw.


Some whole grains like wild rice, spelt, wheat germ, oats, quinoa, Kamut, buckwheat groats, and millet are allowed on a raw food diet but should be sprouted or germinated.


Sources of raw fat include raw hemp seed oil, raw flaxseed oil, chia oil, extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed butter, and avocados.

Fermented Foods

All foods produced through fermentation are allowed on this diet. These might include sauerkraut, miso paste, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir.

Condiments, Spices, And Herbs

Although table salt isn’t allowed on this diet, the Celtic Sea and the Himalayan salt are allowed, alongside other seasonings such as:

  • Vinegar
  • Vanilla beans – raw
  • Parsley
  • Nama shoyu
  • Ginger root
  • Dill
  • Curries
  • Cumin, seeds, or ground
  • Cinnamon, ground
  • Raw chocolate
  • Chives
  • Cayenne
  • Braggs liquid aminos
  • Basil
  • Apple cider vinegar

What Not To Eat

As with other diets, there are some foods you cannot eat while following the raw food diet. Some of the foods you aren’t allowed to eat include:

  • Caffeine
  • Foods heated over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pasteurized, processed or refined foods
  • Sweeteners
  • Although many sweeteners are processed and not completely raw, the following are some of the allowed sweeteners.
  • Yacon syrup
  • Stevia powder
  • Raw honey
  • Raw agave nectar
  • Mesquite powder
  • Date sugar
  • Coconut nectar

Does The Raw Food Diet Aid In Weight Loss?

It’s highly likely you’ll lose weight if you choose to follow the raw food diet. Studies show that raw food consumers eat fewer calories and, on average, weigh less than people following other diets.

A study involving 32 people following the raw food diet got about 62% of the daily recommended allowance for calories from raw food. This is very standard since many raw food eaters go 75% – 80%. After almost seven months, the people following the raw food diet lost 8 pounds.

And in the 3-month research published in the European Journal of clinical nutrition, 43 raw foodists lost 9 percent of their body weight. For overweight and obese people losing 5% – 10% of your weight can help reduce the risks of certain diseases.[v]

In another study that involved over 500 people following the raw food diet for almost four years, the researchers found that the average body weight reduced with an increased percentage of calories from raw food. By the end of the study, the BMI was under the normal range for 14.7% and 25% of the male and female participants. The study showed that about 30% of women below 45 years developed amenorrhea. This means the women’s menstrual period because of insufficient calories.[vi]

What Are The Rules Of The Raw Food Diet?

There are many variants of the raw food diet. As a result, you have the power to determine what you want to eat. Some of the rules you should follow as a raw foodist include:

  • Eat uncooked raw grains and dried organic legumes (mung beans, adzuki, chickpeas, lentils) eaten raw.
  • Consider eating lots of veggies and fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, and sprouts, including raw almond butter, sunflower seeds, and cashews.
  • Search for foods marked raw and sold at the grocery stores.
  • Add flavor via condiments such as raw coconut butter, raw virgin coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Drink freshly prepared herbal juice and vegetable juice
  • Buy a dehydrator to make sweet potato chips from sliced and peeled sweet potatoes.
  • Buy a blender and food processor to get more creative with raw chocolate chips and juices.
  • You should avoid chips, pastries, pasta, alcohol, tea and coffee, pasteurized dairy and juices, refined flour and sugars, table salt, refined oils, roasted seeds and nuts, baked items, cooked grains, meats, vegetables, or fruits.

Possible Health Benefits

Like many other fad diets, the raw food diet has several health benefits. Studies have found the raw food diet might have a positive effect on health. Following are some of the health benefits you’ll get if you choose to follow this diet.

Low In Sodium And Saturated Fats

The raw food diet is lower in saturated fat and sodium than other standard diet mainly because processed; foods, meats, and table salt are excluded.[vii]

Diabetes Prevention Or Control

Although no good evidence shows that raw food diet helps control or prevent diabetes, the diet helps lose weight and ultimately helps prevent diabetes. Dieticians emphasize that gaining weight from excess calorie intake regardless of the source of calories increases your risks of insulin resistance, a precursor of type II diabetes where the body doesn’t respond to insulin as it should. Shedding extra pounds and successfully keeping them off will without a doubt decrease your risks of chronic diseases.

Promotes Heart Health

It isn’t clear whether the raw food diet boosts heart health, but there are enough reasons to believe this. A diet plans heavy on vegetables and fruits, but light on-table salt and saturated fat is considered one of the best ways to control blood pressure and cholesterol and ultimately reduced risks of cardiovascular disease.

Shopping List

The raw food diet emphasizes raw foods including, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and plant-based proteins. Consumers can also try out raw animal products such as eggs, milk, and meat. The shopping list below provides suggestions for getting started with this lifestyle.

Keep in mind that this is not an exclusive list for getting started on the raw food diet. This is because you might find other foods that fit your budget, tastes, and preferences. However, some of the foods you should consider adding to your diet include:

  • Fruits – avocados, apples, bananas, berries, oranges, grapefruit
  • Vegetables – carrots, eggplant, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli
  • Dark leafy greens – arugula, bok Choy, Swiss chard, kale, spinach
  • Seeds and nuts – flax seeds, chia seeds, cashews, almonds, walnuts
  • Raw vegetable pizza, almonds, raw hummus, green smoothie, stuffed Portobello mushrooms, oatmeal, lasagna, bananas, tomato, oats, squash
  • Raw meat and fish
  • Seaweed
  • Raw nut butter
  • Nut milk
  • Sweeteners – yacon syrup, stevia powder, raw honey, raw agave nectar, mesquite powder, date sugar, coconut nectar
  • Condiments, spices & herbs – vinegar, vanilla beans, parsley, Nama shoyu, ginger root, dill, curries, cumin, ground cinnamon, raw chocolate, chives, cayenne, Braggs liquid aminos, basil, and apple cider vinegar

Sample Meal Plan

If you’re used to cooked and processed meals, it might be difficult to imagine eating food without cooking. Luckily, there are many creative and delicious raw food diet recipes you should consider trying. The following 5-day eating plan provides suggestions to get started with the raw food diet.

Keep in mind that this meal plan isn’t exclusive, and there might be other foods that are more ideal for your preferences, tastes, and budget. Note that raw food diet might vary based on the meals that are permitted and your preferences. If you choose to try this diet, the following is an example of a 7-day plan on a 100% raw food diet:

1st day

  • Breakfast – drink a green smoothie
  • Snack – raw hummus and carrots
  • Lunch – squash noddle pasta (raw) with pesto
  • Snack – almonds and strawberries

2nd day

  • Breakfast – eat chia seed pudding topped with a fruit
  • Lunch – walnut salad and apple, one small banana, pinch sea salt
  • Snack – nuts and freshly prepared juice
  • Dinner – eat raw zucchini noddle pasta and basil with tomato sauce

3rd day

  • Breakfast – overnight oats with nuts and chopped fruit
  • Snack – raw hummus and broccoli and raw almond butter
  • Snack – eat raw sweet potato chips with fruits
  • Dinner – eat stuffed Portobello mushrooms

4th day

  • Breakfast – a bowl of fruits, homemade cashew milk, hemp seeds
  • Lunch – nuts and salad with figs
  • Snack – raw nut butter and banana
  • Dinner – eat raw lasagna

5th day

  • Breakfast – drink a green smoothie
  • Lunch – eat sprouted quinoa
  • Snack – berries and apple
  • Dinner – marinated vegetables with raw tomato soup

6th day

  • Breakfast – berries with soaked oats
  • Lunch – fruit, avocado, and salad
  • Snack – sunflower seeds and sliced bell pepper
  • Dinner – chopped vegetables and raw veggie sushi

7th day

  • Breakfast – fruit and raw banana pancakes
  • Lunch – eat raw squash soup, pinch sea salt, lemon juice, pinch ground black pepper
  • Snack – nuts and orange slices
  • Dinner – mushroom salad and kale

Pros And Cons Of The Raw Food Diet

Essentially, the raw food diet has very few calories. Keep in mind that some of the foods are less nutritious when uncooked. Moreover, some of the foods become more digestible after they’re cooked since the fibrous part is broken down. For example, cooking tomatoes increases their lycopene content than raw tomatoes—furthermore, the levels of sulforaphane, a substance found in broccoli, increase when broccoli is cooked. Read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of the raw food diet.


Less Restrictive
Weight Loss
Improved health
Health Benefits
High In Nutrients


Possible Lack Of Many Nutrients


Less Restrictive

Research shows that raw food is effective when it comes to losing weight, even without necessarily restricting calories, engaging in exercises, or measuring portions.

Weight Loss

Following the raw food diet may help lose weight. In a 2015 study involving 18 people, the researchers compared eating raw foods with a normal American diet. The body mass index of the participants was measured after four years. It was found that the midsection fat was less among people following the raw food diet than those eating the typical American diet.

For instance, the BMI was 20.7 and 20.1 among men and women on the raw food diet, as opposed to 25.5 and 25.4 in people following the American diet – the difference between “overweight “and “average weight. The body fat among those following the raw food diet was 13.9% and 24.1% for men and women, respectively, compared with 20.8% and 33.5% among people following the American diet.

Improved health

Most raw foodists report fewer pains and aches and more energy, and a great sense of health.

Health Benefits

A raw food diet focusing on organic and unprocessed foods provides numerous health benefits, including reduced risks of obesity, cancer, and diabetes and improved heart health. Processed and prepackaged foods tend to be high in salt, unhealthy saturated fats, and added sugars. They result in cardiovascular disease and blood vessels. Eliminating and reducing processed foods might, therefore, have substantial health benefits.

High In Nutrients

The raw food diet is high in legumes, nuts, vegetables, and fruits, all of which are essential aspects of a healthier diet. Eating a wide range of such foods will provide plenty of protein, healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins.



For the numerous benefits of the raw food diet, there are a few drawbacks. Avoiding processed and cooked foods need more meal preparation and planning than processed foods. Furthermore, not many people will be able to eat raw meat. Lack of meat could be tricky because it makes it difficult to get enough nutrients such as vitamin B12. With careful attention and planning, most dieticians believe you can get many valuable nutrients from raw food diet.

It may seem easier to eat nothing but uncooked meals, but it takes a great deal of effort and time to prepare foods to ensure they are safely eaten raw. Also, it can be costly to buy only organic and whole foods. Furthermore, such restrictive diets can create a very unhealthy association with unhealthy and result in disordered eating.[viii]

The raw food diet is deficient in calories and will undoubtedly aid in weight loss. Nevertheless, it’s usually too effective, and users might end up being underweight.

Possible Lack Of Many Nutrients

The biggest challenge for people following the raw food diet is ensuring they get sufficient nutrients. People on the raw food diet should pay more attention to make sure they get enough vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and protein.[ix]

Is The Raw Food Diet A Healthy Option For You?

The United States department of agriculture dietary guidelines for 2020 – 2025 for Americans suggests a wide variety of dairy products, protein, grains, vegetables, and vegetables for a balanced diet. With regards to macronutrient proportions (quantities of fat, protein, and carbohydrates), raw food complies with the USDA guidelines.[x] However, the diet plan eliminates animal products and dairy, although some people following the raw fat diet eat eggs, seafood, meat, and raw milk.

It’s also important to note that the low end of the suggested protein consumption with approximately 13% of the calories coming from protein sources. The USDA recommendations also propose that 10% – 35% of an individual’s calories come from fat. People on the raw diet will consume more seeds and nuts that can be higher in calories and fat.

Also, the diet includes vegetables and low-calorie fruits, which make it harder to eat sufficient calories, about 2000 per day for weight maintenance. People looking to lose weight should consider prioritizing this diet. The raw food diet doesn’t comply with USDA federal guidelines for a healthy diet and isn’t considered balanced by experts.

The USDA dietary guidelines include tips and recommendations for a healthy diet.[xi] Following are some nutrient-dense foods that are proposed for a more nutritious diet.

  • Oils – avocado oil, olive oil
  • Dairy – yogurt, reduced-fat milk
  • Seeds and nuts – sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts
  • Legumes and beans – peas, lentils, all beans
  • Grains – oats, quinoa
  • Fruits – melon, berries, apples
  • Dark leafy greens and vegetables – green beans, Swiss chard, broccoli, spinach, and kale

What Does The Raw Food Diet Cost?

Raw food can be expensive. The organic and unprocessed ingredients cost more than other types of food, especially prepackaged foods. Also, not every grocery store stocks a wide variety of organic and raw products. Furthermore, you will need appliances such as a blender and dehydrator to make some of the ingredients from home. A good blender costs between $300 and $600. On the other hand, food processors capable of shredding, grating, and slicing can cost up to $700. A good dehydrator costs between $100 and $200, although you might find other basic options.


What is the Main Benefit of a Raw Food Diet?

The raw food diet is high in fiber, low in calories, and mainly based on healthy whole plant and animal products, so eating raw foods could eventually result in weight loss.

What Foods are Ideal for Many Raw Food Diets?

Some of the foods you can take when following the raw food diet include:
1. Raw vegetables and raw fruits
2. Dried vegetables and fruits
3. Freshly vegetable and fruit juices
4. Sprouted and soaked beans, other grains, and legumes
5. Raw seeds and nuts
6. Raw nut butter like almond butter and peanut butter
7. Nut milk such as almond milk

Are Bananas Raw Fruits?

Raw bananas are part of the genus Musa that includes plantains and bananas. Raw banana is the name used to refer to unripe fruit of different varieties, including Cavendish bananas and apple bananas.

Can I Eat Sushi on the Raw Food Diet?

The raw food diet is strictly vegetarian, though proponents of the raw foods allow unpasteurized dairy products, sushi, raw eggs, and raw meat. 

Is Eating Raw Vegetables Bad for You?

Cooked veggies retain some vitamin C content. However, research shows that some vegetables, including broccoli, are healthier than cooked food. 

What Happens to the Body if You Eat Raw Food?

Poultry and raw meat are likely to lead to food poisoning. These can have different types of bacteria from salmonella and E.coli, which could make you sick. 



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  10. [x] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ninth Edition. December 2020.
  11. [xi] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ninth Edition. December 2020.