My lunch at Petit Brot yesterday was delicious: all organic, vegan, and raw.
I blogged about why I’m not a raw vegan and why I don’t label myself as such previously, even though my diet is primarily raw fruit. I prefer to describe myself as a high carb low fat vegan, or fruit vegan for short. I prefer these labels over ‘raw vegan’ because I want to be extra clear about the foods I eat.
Raw vegans only eat raw vegan foods. No surprise there! Cooking foods above a certain temperature (around 48C or 118F) damages nutrients so raw vegans avoid cooked foods at all costs. With this definition of raw veganism, any food or food product is fair game as long as it hasn’t been heated above a certain temperature.
Veganism itself is broad; not all vegans eat the same diet. Some eat mainly fruit, others may eat mainly processed foods, and of course we find plenty of vegans somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Similarly, not all raw vegans eat the same foods.
Are raw foods healthy?
People would be healthier (and I’d argue, happier) eating at a local raw vegan place over a chain restaurant. However, this doesn’t mean all raw foods are healthy.
Raw foods can be healthy but fat remains an issue. Most raw foodists eat diets heavy in fats, like avocado, nuts, and seeds. Raw desserts, ‘cheese’ sauces and creams are exceptionally high in fat because most are nut-based. Nuts and oil, even raw ones, aren’t healthy options because of all the fat they contain.
Sure, the little pot of raw carrot cake I enjoyed yesterday is healthier than its non-vegan processed alternative (and absolutely delectable), but was still is high in fat and should be eaten sparingly. Raw desserts are not health foods!
The raw foods found in restaurants are typically high in fat and salt. This is why I only eat them occasionally. The soup yesterday, while tasty and refreshing, contained avocado, hemp seed, and oil. The burgers were topped with a bit of cashew cream and the salad was drizzled with oil. This is too much fat to be eaten on a daily basis.
Here’s some insight from Dr. Graham, author of The 80/10/10 Diet, about why we should avoid fats in large quantities:
Why shouldn’t I eat all the avocados, nuts, and seeds I want?
Avocados, nuts and seeds are extremely high in fat content. When it comes to fat, it doesn’t matter so much its origin; fat is fat. Fat goes from the lymph system directly into the blood. Too much fat will thicken the blood, causing the red blood cells to clump together so they cannot deliver oxygen to the cells. Excess fat also blocks the action of insulin in bringing sugars to the cells, which leads to diabetes. It is better to eat small amounts of avocados, nuts and seeds, and not to eat them daily. There is more than adequate fat for the body from fruits, vegetables and leafy greens.
If you want to be healthy or lose weight, focusing on raw would be a mistake if the bulk of your calories come from fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and oil. You need to go further. Instead, focus on minimising your fat intake and eat more carbohydrates. Avoid all overt fats (even raw ones!) and eat plenty of fruit.
Are raw foods expensive?
Raw restaurants like Petit Brot are great if you want to eat a meal at a restaurant like a normal person for once (fruit vegan problems!) but keep in mind raw foods prepared in a restaurant are not cheap.
Raw restaurants charge more for the food they serve because more labor is needed to make all the crackers, creams, cakes, and the like. Raw foods don’t have a long shelf-life, so everything needs to be prepped daily or every few days (depending on the food).
The downside to raw restaurants is that people might assume they can’t afford to eat or live healthily because of the high cost of eating out. In reality, eating raw doesn’t have to be expensive. Raw foods like fruit are MUCH cheaper than eating out a raw food restaurant. You’ll always get more food for your buck buying food in a shop, especially if you focus on whole fruits and veggies. For instance, the other day I purchased half a watermelon (close to 3 kilos) for €1.24! That’s a hefty meal and super cheap! (A meal of 3 kilos of watermelon equals around 900 calories, 18 grams of protein, and scores of vitamins and minerals.)
Are raw foods simple?
Typical gourmet raw foods found in restaurants, like the raw vegan versions of pizza, pasta, burgers, etc., are quite complex because they contain many ingredients and seasonings in unnatural combinations when compared to the simplicity of whole fruits and veggies. Not to mention these foods are processed (albeit gently) by dehydration.
As a result, these meals are more difficult to digest than a simple meal of fruit. Watermelon is easier to digest than raw vegan nachos because it’s one whole fruit, unadulterated with minimal fat as opposed to a meal comprised of several ingredients and components, with one or more being fatty.
Fat is difficult to digest! If you don’t believe me, eat completely clean for a week (no fats at all) and then eat something fried like chips, a couple handfuls of nuts, or anything with an oily, fatty sauce (like vegan mac and cheese). I guarantee that you will have uncomfortable digestion issues, if not painful ones!
Also, complex raw meals require lots of prep time in the kitchen. Eating raw meals like those found in restaurants require just as much time in the kitchen as non-raw vegan food, and the same amount of clean-up (if not more). Raw crackers, crusts, and ‘bread’ also require a dehydrator, and other dishes may require blenders, food processors, and other non-standard kitchen tools.
Making complex raw meals can be daunting to a novice in the kitchen. And maybe it’s the minimalist in me, but I can’t be bothered spending any extra time in the kitchen. I need my food simple. Fruit is as simple as it gets!
A raw food lifestyle can be healthy, affordable, and simple if you eat the right foods. Limit your fat intake, complex meals, and eating out. Instead, focus on whole fruits and veggies. (Gently cooking veggies by steaming is okay too.) Fruit is widely available and only requires minimal prep and clean-up (if any at all). And most importantly, fruit is delicious!
Do you like raw foods?
What’s your favourite gourmet raw meal?