Raw Food Diet


The “mother of living foods”, Ann Wigmore, was an American self-taught nutritionist, whole foods advocate, and health educator who has been accredited with popularizing the raw food diet in the 1950s.  However, it was not until the 1990s when celebrities such as Demi Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting started advocating the benefits of an unprocessed and uncooked plant-based diet that it truly caught the attention of mainstream America.  

Today, the diet approach remains popular throughout several European countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as Australia and the western U.S.  Numerous books and cookbooks have been published on the topic, and in larger cities, more than a few restaurants have jumped onto the raw food bandwagon.


Significant weight loss is possible by eating a diet that is comprised mostly of living or raw foods.  


The raw food approach is based on eating whole, living, nutritionally dense organic, uncooked, unprocessed foods – approximately 75 percent or more of your diet to be exact.  By eating such a diet, you reap the rewards of eliminating toxins, energizing your body, and ultimately losing weight.

Program Overview

Raw food proponents insist that cooking food destroys important enzymes needed in the digestion and absorption of foods.  Cooking food is believed to diminish its nutritional value, as well as its life force.  Instead, a diet of mostly living or raw foods is advocated.

Participants of a raw food diet focus on eating unprocessed and uncooked plant foods.  Typically, at least 75 percent should come from living or raw sources.  Primary foods ingested on this diet include lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains, beans, dried fruit, legumes, and seaweed.  Vegetable and fruit juices are also encouraged, as they are considered an effective way of absorbing nutrients into the body.  

Most followers of this approach tend to be vegetarian and do not eat animal-based products such as meat or dairy.  However, some followers do include raw, organic animal products such as free-range organic chicken, sashimi (raw fish), meat (carpaccio), and organic eggs and yogurt.  Foods and drinks that are considered taboo include almost all other meat, fish and dairy products, as well as distilled liquors, caffeine, and refined sugars.  

While the primary tenant behind the raw food diet is that food should not be heated above 116- 118 degrees Fahrenheit, some other forms of “cooking” techniques are permitted.  Juicing, blending, soaking, and dehydrating foods to make foods more palpable is allowed.  

Plan Strengths

Compared to the typical Western diet, the raw food diet contains fewer trans and saturated fats.  It is also lower in sodium and higher in potassium, magnesium, folate, and fiber.  One study in the Journal of Nutrition also found that the consumption of a raw foods diet assisted in lowering total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations.

Advocates of raw food diets believe the health benefits of this approach are numerous.  For those proponents, the diet has brought increased energy, improved skin appearance, and digestion, reduced risk of heart disease, the elimination of unwanted toxins, and weight loss.  

Additional one comprehensive study, which reviewed over 50 existing medical studies of raw versus cooked food diets found that eating a diet loaded with raw vegetables was instrumental in reducing the risk of oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophageal, and gastric cancers.  

Plan Weaknesses

This is not an easy program for many people to follow.  It does take a lot of time, energy and commitment in terms of having to prepare many of the foods.  Depending on where participants live, some allowed ingredients might be difficult to find and the seasonality of fresh produce may also impact diet variety.  Cost may also be prohibitive for some participants as organic and fresh foods tend to be more expensive.

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) has also challenged the program’s assertion that cooking foods above 116-118 degrees Fahrenheit kills enzymes.  The organization insists that the body, not what goes into it, is what produces the enzymes necessary for digestion.  Furthermore, by not cooking food above the 118 degrees Fahrenheit mark, participants may potentially open themselves up to harmful, food-borne bacteria found in some foods.

Mild headaches, digestive problems, dizziness, nausea, and food cravings often occur and sometimes last for several days if not weeks.  Additionally, for individuals coming off a richer diet, a detox reaction when first starting the program may prove severe.  The raw food diet is not appropriate for all people.  Children, pregnant and nursing women, people with anemia, and people at risk for osteoporosis are also discouraged from undertaking the plan. 

Certain nutritional deficiencies are likely to occur on a diet that is predominately comprised of raw, unprocessed foods.  Participants often struggle with calcium, iron, vitamin B12 and D, and protein deficiencies when staying on the diet for an extended period.   

One Washington University study also found that participants following a raw food diet were prone to lower bone mass.  However, a more positive finding that overall bone quality was good was promising.  


The verdict is mixed on whether the raw diet is truly a healthy long-term approach to a healthier lifestyle. It truly depends on whom you talk to! Advocates are passionate and committed to the approach, while some experts advise caution in staying on such a program long-term.

While there is strong evidence to suggest it has some very significant and notable health benefits, the practicality and feasibility of being able to sustain such a diet are questionable.  No doubt, a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits will prove beneficial, but given the deficiency in protein and other essential vitamins and nutrients associated with this approach, it may not provide participants with the best-balanced approach to weight loss.   

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here. Before starting a new exercise regime or weight loss plan, talk with your doctor.

Additional Resources

The Best of Raw Food, www.thebestofrawfood.com 

Raw Food Life, www.rawfoodlife.com

Raw guru, www.rawguru.comRaw Food Diet Review, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/raw-food-diet