A Raw vegan weight loss diet might seem like a recent trend but actually, raw veganism diets have been around for decades, having been documented all the way back to the nineteenth century.
Those who partake in raw vegan diets are motivated by varying health, ethical, or environmental concerns. Although somewhat restrictive, with 80 to 85% of the meals uncooked, it boasts a number of health benefits. This includes weight loss, improved heart health, increased energy, and a lower risk of diabetes.
With that said, raw vegan diets don’t come without their risks, especially if improperly planned. This article discusses everything you need to know about raw vegan weight-loss diets, including their advantages, disadvantages, risks, and example meal plans you can follow.
Let’s get started!
In a nutshell, a raw vegan diet combines the principles of raw foodism and veganism.
Meat, animal products, and processed foods are replaced with vegan-certified foods. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains. Usually, meals are prepared in the form of salads, cold soups, smoothies, and platters.
Despite popular belief, a raw vegan diet doesn’t always have to be 100% raw. In fact, very few people follow a 100% raw diet. You’re allowed to lightly heat your food as long as 75 to 85% of the meal is uncooked.
The concept of a raw vegan diet is a relatively simple one. It’s motivated by the idea that heating or cooking food destroys some of its most important nutrients and natural enzymes. Therefore, to optimize nutritional intake, a large majority of the food should be served raw or heated at temperatures below 104–118°F (40–48°C).
Raw veganism first emerged in the late nineteenth century. During this period, dietary reformer and Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham promoted raw veganism as a way to avoid illness. He was the same man who started the American Vegetarian Society, a nonprofit organization that advocates for compassionate, ecological, and healthy eating.
Sylvester Graham’s raw food theory was further solidified when doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner discovered that eating raw apples and mostly raw foods cured his own jaundice. Thus began a series of experiments testing the benefits and effects of raw food on human health.
The raw food movement began to take shape in the 20th century. Most of today’s accepted practices came from The Status of Food Enzymes in Digestion and Metabolism, a book written in 1938 by Chicago medical doctor Edward Howell.
In the book, Dr. Howell presents the consequences of enzyme-deficient diets and how they can be avoided.
His contribution to the understanding of enzymes and raw food diets is one of the most monumental discoveries of the time. Researchers describe his work as a “giant leap forward in the science of nutrition.”
Yes, absolutely! Many of those who partake in a raw vegan diet do it for its weight loss benefits. In fact, multiple studies suggest that raw food diets and raw veganism can greatly reduce body fat content in just several weeks.
Since it’s low in calories and high in fiber, you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose weight on a raw food diet. Moreover, it doesn’t require you to count calories or restrict your portion sizes.
To prove its effectiveness, a three-year study was conducted wherein various participants followed a raw vegan diet within a given period of time.
Most participants lost around 22–26 pounds (10–12 kg) three years after the study was conducted. It also showed that those with the highest percentage of raw foods in their diet also had the lowest BMIs (body mass indexes).
In another study, researchers compared 18 people on a strict raw vegan diet and 18 people on a typical American diet. Individuals who partook in a raw vegan diet reportedly had a lower BMI and midsection fat than those on the regular diet.
The BMI rates between the two groups were quite considerable: 20 7/20 for men and 20 1/10 for women in the raw food diet spectrum, while 25 1/2 for men and 25 2/25 in the other group.
Although both studies showed weight loss after a considerable number of years, individuals who follow a strict raw vegan diet may lose up to two to three pounds a week.
Ashley Chong, who was reportedly pre-diabetic and extremely overweight, lost over 125 lbs in the eight years she started her raw vegan diet. Not only did she reverse her symptoms of prediabetes, but she also overcame obesity and lethargy.
Apart from weight loss, the raw vegan diet is praised for its many health benefits. This includes the following:
Raw vegan diets primarily focus on fruits and vegetables, both of which improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Sprouted whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds likewise improve blood cholesterol levels, further lowering the risk of heart-related issues.
According to California State University professors Lap Tai Le and Dr. Joan Sabaté, vegans reportedly have up to 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure. Moreover, raw vegan diets seem to offer additional protection against hypertension and cardiovascular mortality.
Other studies suggest that raw vegan diets greatly reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. This, therefore, decreases the risk of coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, and heart attack.
Regular consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. Adherence to raw vegan diets may also lower blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity, primarily because of their high fiber content.
By consuming plant foods that contain high amounts of soluble and insoluble fibers, a raw vegan diet contributes to healthy and comfortable digestion.
Soluble fiber helps feed the good bacteria found in the intestines, while insoluble fibers assist the movement of food in the gut. It also adds bulk to stools, therefore reducing the chance of constipation and other gastrointestinal issues. This includes IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
Like most diets, raw vegan diets also come with several risks if poorly executed.
Raw vegan diets tend to be low in vitamin D and calcium, minerals that assist in bone development. It also provides little protein, sometimes less than 10% of the required daily calorie recommendation.
Although theoretically sufficient for basic biological needs, evidence suggests that individuals must consume 0.36 grams of protein per pound to produce strong bones.
Protein is likewise crucial for muscle mass preservation, particularly during periods of low-calorie intake that can be expected on the raw vegan diet.
Since raw vegan diets include a lot of berries and citrus fruits, they may potentially promote tooth decay. After all, these fruits are more likely to cause the erosion of tooth enamel.
In 2012, a study in Germany showed that individuals who consumed at least 95% raw foods experience tooth erosion to some degree, 60% of which showed at least one severely eroded tooth.
Moreover, giving up traditional sources of nutrients—protein from meat, calcium from milk, vitamin D from fish, etc.—may increase the risk of gum disease.
One of the biggest concerns of raw vegan diets is the fact that they may reduce fertility, especially in women. Concerningly, one study shows that up to 70% of women partaking in the raw vegan diet experience irregularities in their menstrual cycles, with up to third developing amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation).
Through this study, researchers observed that women who only eat raw food were seven times more likely to experience irregularity. Although amenorrhea isn’t harmful to a woman’s health, it does increase the risk of fertility issues.
Bloating and gas can occur when someone eats more than 70 grams of fiber a day.
High-fiber diets increase certain populations of fiber-digesting gut bacteria.
Although this is generally a good thing, high-fiber diets also produce byproduct gas. Individuals on a raw food diet may relieve these uncomfortable side effects by increasing their fluid intake and exercising.
As previously established, raw vegan diets are low in vitamin D, calcium, and protein. But that’s not all. You’re also missing out on iron, vitamin B12, and other nutrients usually found in animal-based diets.
To make up for the lack of nutrients, individuals on a raw food diet usually consume fortified foods or supplements.
However, the use of supplements is often discouraged by raw foodists due to the belief that participants can actually get all the nutrients required through raw foods alone. Research has yet to prove that this statement is true.
Vitamin B12 is one of the major nutrients missing on raw vegan diets. Those who lack vitamin B12 may experience a plethora of health issues. Some of the biggest issues include anemia, infertility, heart disease, nervous system damage, and poor bone health.
According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, 100% of raw vegan dietarians consumed less than the daily recommended dose of vitamin B12 per day. Furthermore, a third of the participants were actually vitamin B12 deficient.
Here’s the thing: humans have been cooking their food for millions of years. It’s practically ingrained in our genetics. Adopting a raw food diet is extremely restricting. Eating raw, cold food every day isn’t very appealing, to say the least.
You can, of course, control your food intake while you’re at home, but problems arise when you’re out eating with your friends or having lunch with your coworkers. You’ll probably have to bring packed lunch every time you go to work or hang out with your friends, which can be quite inconvenient if you don’t have much time to prepare food every day.
Some foods are toxic when consumed raw, like parsnips, kidney beans, buckwheat, and alfalfa sprouts. Cooking food kills off harmful bacteria and keeps food safe. Unfortunately, cooking food is frowned upon in the raw vegan diet community.
To ensure you’re eating safely, buy your products from reputable sources and thoroughly rinse your fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc., before consumption. Also, research is key! If you’re not sure whether the food you’re eating is safe raw or not, either consult your dietician or the internet.
It depends on the foods you’re eating! Superfoods like goji berries, raw cacao, green powders, etc. can be expensive, but many people don’t find them necessary in their daily raw diet. Exotic foods are costly, too, especially if they’re imported and organic.
However, living the raw vegan lifestyle is generally affordable and, dare I say, cheaper than non-raw diets. In fact, research suggests that vegans spend 40% less on food than non-vegans. Since you won’t be eating out at restaurants very often or buying sweet treats and snacks, you’ll likely cut your food expenses in half.
The best way to reduce food costs while on the raw vegan diet is to shop at a local Farmer’s Market or green market. If you can, buy nuts, seeds, grains, and other storable foods in bulk. Purchase tons of cheap staples like bananas, oranges, apples, potatoes, and the like. Also, avoid overpriced stores like Whole Foods.
If you have the time, it’s worth growing your own food. Even a small garden will do. Sprouting seeds and growing your own herbs is inexpensive and easy.
Foods to Eat On a Raw Vegan Diet
Raw vegan diets are quite similar to regular vegan diets, except raw or cooked at temperatures below 118°F. Raw vegan foods include the following:
- Citrus fruits
- Dark leafy greens (arugula, bok choy, spinach, kale, watercress, etc.)
- Brussels sprouts
- Peas (snap peas and sugar peas)
- Sprouted chickpeas
- Raw vegan yogurt
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Cold-pressed avocado oil
- Raw coconut oil
- Unpasteurized raw soy sauce
- Onion salt
- Raw vegan bread
- Raw quinoa (soaked and sprouted)
- Raw oats (soaked)
- Dates syrup
- Maple syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Brown rice syrup
- No-bake cakes and cookies
- Peanut butter or fruit ice cream made with almond milk
- Raw nut butter
- Almond milk made with raw almonds
Foods to Avoid On a Raw Vegan Diet
Raw vegan diets are among the most restrictive weight-loss diets in the world. Sometimes, it can take months to fully transition from a traditional vegan diet to a raw diet. Here are some foods to avoid on a raw vegan diet:
- Baked goods (oven-baked bread, traditionally baked cakes, tarts, etc.)
- Roasted nuts and seeds
- Refined salt, sugars, and flours
- Refined oils
- Coffee, tea, and other warm beverages
- Cooked fruits and vegetables
- Cooked grains and legumes
- Pasteurized juices
- Processed foods and snacks
- Dairy products, including yogurt and milk
- Poultry, fish, and meat
Raw Vegan Diet Tips
If you want to effectively lose and maintain weight, raw vegan diets are the way to go. According to US News, raw food diets and raw veganism rank 6th place in the Best Weight-Loss Diets category.
There are numerous variations of the raw vegan weight loss diet. As with traditional vegan diets, animal products should be avoided. This includes fish, eggs, cheese, butter, and even honey. Fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts are generously served in their place.
Grains and legumes are often included, too, but must be soaked or sprouted before eaten.
As with most diets, you have the power to shape your own variation. To get started, follow the tips below:
- Gradually incorporate raw foods into your daily diet
- Fill your pantry with fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as various seeds, nuts, and sprouts
- Use raw vegan-free condiments like avocado-cucumber sauce, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, raw coconut butter, and raw virgin coconut oil
- Regularly indulge in freshly squeezed vegetable juice, smoothies, and cold herbal tea
- Buy organic legumes such as adzuki beans, mung beans, lentils, and chickpeas from a reputable grocery store
- Consider investing in a dehydrator to create deliciously crunchy potato chips
- Get yourself a spiralizer to make yummy zucchini noodles, or zoodles, for dinner
- Use fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut to add a bit of flavor to your meal
- Store up on green food powder like dried wheatgrass or algae
- Purchase several kinds of raw nut butter like peanut butter and almond butter
- Connect with other raw foodists online and in real life
- Search for restaurants that serve a variety of raw vegan foods
- Grab some cookbooks and guides
Raw veganism is known for its benefits in weight loss. In fact, weight loss is its main selling point!
It’s important to note that weight loss doesn’t happen overnight or even in a few weeks. Sometimes, it can take months to see noticeable results.
That said, some people lose up to three to seven pounds a week on a raw diet. If you’re not losing weight, here are several reasons why:
Are You Exercising at All?
Diets should always be paired with exercise for long-term weight loss. Without exercise, your metabolism will slow down, thus reducing the effectiveness of the diet.
You probably already know of the advantages of exercise. You don’t have to force yourself to do 100 push-ups a day or run several miles. Exercise at your own pace. Simply walking up the stairs rather than using the elevator works wonders. You can also cycle, swim, dance, or partake in a sport.
Spend at least 10 minutes a day working out. You can do this while listening to music or watching TV.
Here are some other tips to consider:
- Exercise with a friend
- Motivate yourself to be active
- Track your progress by weighing yourself every day
- Sign up for a class
- Combine cardiovascular exercise with sedentary activity
- Set short-term goals and reward yourself for accomplishing them
- Keep yourself hydrated
- Get enough sleep
It’s easy to eat too much fat on a raw vegan diet, especially if you’re fond of sweets.
Now, this isn’t to say that you should refrain from eating sweet foods entirely. It’s absolutely okay to indulge in desserts once in a while—after all, who can ever resist the temptation of raw vegan cheesecakes, decadent ice creams, and soft vegan cookies?
However, as with most desserts, moderation is key. Eating too much fat can certainly slow down your weight loss.
To achieve healthy weight loss, 10% of your daily calories should come from fat. You can get this from the mentioned desserts (no more than a plate!) or other healthy fat-rich foods like nuts, seeds, and avocado.
Green vegetables like spinach, kale, cucumbers, and zucchini are high in nutrients and low in calories. They’re filling and contain lots of fiber, making them perfect for a weight loss diet. If you’re not losing weight, consider increasing your green vegetable intake.
Most restaurants, even raw vegan-certified restaurants, use all sorts of oil, sugar, and salt in their meals. Even “healthy” salads and dinners have more calories and fat than if you cook it at home.
If you eat out a lot, consider cutting back or at least reduce it to once a week. If you’re going out for lunch with friends or coworkers, bring your own packed lunch to prevent ordering from restaurants.
Raw Vegan Diet For Weight Loss Sample Menu
Want to start a raw vegan diet but don’t quite know what to eat? Here are some meal inspirations to follow:
Breakfast: Blueberry and Kale Smoothie
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 2 frozen bananas
- Handful kale
- 1/3 cup coconut milk (optional)
- 1 1/4 cup cold water
- Blend all the ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth and creamy.
- Pour in a tall glass and enjoy!
Lunch: Raw Tacos
- 1 cup walnuts (unsalted)
- 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 4 to 6 romaine leaves
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 green onions, sliced
- Sea salt, pepper, tamari, onion powder, cumin, and coriander to taste
- Using a food processor, process the walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and seasonings until sticky and crumbly.
- Fill each romaine leaves with a scoop of walnut “meat” filling. Then, add the chopped tomatoes, red bell pepper, and onions.
- Garnish with cilantro or your herb of choice.
Dinner: Tomato Avocado Mushroom Corn Soup
- 5 white mushrooms
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup sweet corn
- 2-3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon miso paste
- 1 garlic clove
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Blend three white mushrooms, two tomatoes, a cup of sweet corn, a single garlic clove, a tablespoon of miso paste, and two cups of water until smooth. Add more water as required. Then, add in half an avocado.
- Slice two raw mushrooms and dice the other half of the avocado. Toss everything into your soup bowl.
- Add a dash of sea salt and pepper to taste.
Breakfast: Raw Oatmeal
- Raw oatmeal, soaked overnight
- 3 small strawberries
- 3 small dates
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Crushed nuts (optional)
- Slice the strawberries and dates into small pieces.
- Add them to the softened oat and add maple syrup and cinnamon to taste.
- Mix lightly and top with crushed nuts if desired.
Lunch: Raw Curried Cabbage Salad
- 1/2 head green cabbage, chopped
- 1/4 cup nama shoyu
- 3 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup raw flaked coconut, shredded
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/3 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon curry
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Sprinkle of cold-pressed olive oil
- Toss all the ingredients in a large bowl, including the seasonings.
- Chill for at least an hour if possible before serving.
Dinner: Burrito Lettuce Wraps
- 6 to 8 large lettuce leaves
- 2 overly ripe avocados
- 3 tomatoes, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, diced (optional)
- 2 tablespoons diced yellow onion
- 3/4 cup corn kernels
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- Handful chopped fresh cilantro
- Mash the avocado in a medium-sized bowl with a fork or masher.
- Add the garlic, jalapeño, tomatoes, corn, cilantro, and lime into the mashed avocado. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
- Spread about two to three tablespoons of the mixture onto lettuce leaves and wrap.
Breakfast: Crunchy Raw Muesli
- 3/4 cup raw nuts
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, optional
- 10 medium dates, pitted and soaked
- 1 cup of your favorite fresh fruit
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh raw coconut, (optional)
- Almond milk, to taste (optional)
- Finely process the nuts, dates, and coconut oil together using a food processor.
- Combine in a bowl with grated coconut and sliced fruit like berries, mangos, and bananas.
- Top with almond milk if desired for that extra creamy taste.
Lunch: Creamy Beet Soup
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 medium beet, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup of water or coconut water
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Blend all the ingredients in a high-speed blender until a smooth and creamy consistency is reached.
- Pour in a deep bowl and enjoy.
Dinner: Raw Fettuccine Alfredo
- 5 zucchinis
- 1 cup soaked cashews
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup water
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Crushed nuts (optional)
- Slice 4 zucchinis using a spiralizer. Set aside.
- For the sauce, blend the zucchini, nutritional yeast, cashews, garlic, lemon juice, and seasoning together. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Pour the creamy mixture on the zucchini noodles. Serve with crushed nuts if desired.
Breakfast: Raw Vegan Yogurt With Berries
- 1 cup peanuts or cashews, soaked overnight
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Handful of berries
- Blend the nuts with half a cup of water for 20 minutes before adding the rest. Blend until creamy and smooth.
- Transfer the blended mixture to a tall glass and top with several berries.
- If possible, let chill for about an hour before serving.
Lunch: Detox Spinach Soup
- 2 cups spinach
- 1 avocado, pitted and sliced.
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon ginger root
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup dairy-free milk
- Dash cumin and sea salt
- Using a high-speed blender, blend all the ingredients until a smooth and creamy consistency is reached.
- Transfer into a bowl and serve cold.
Dinner: Raw Vegan Pad Thai Salad
- 1 cup bean sprout
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
- 4 green onions, diced
- 2 zucchinis, peeled into thin strips
- 1 lime
- 1 cup spinach, chopped
- 2/3 cup nuts of your choice, chopped and crushed
- 1 tablespoon of cold-pressed olive oil
- Sea salt to taste
- Combine the bean sprouts, sliced bell peppers, diced onions, and zucchini strips into a large bowl.
- Drizzle with fresh lime juice and cold-pressed olive oil.
- Toss gently.
- Sprinkle the dish with sea salt and top with fresh herbs and crushed nuts.
If properly executed, a raw vegan diet is an excellent way to lose weight, improve heart health, and reduce and control the risk of diabetes. It keeps the body fueled with plenty of vitamins and minerals, all of which increase your energy throughout the day.
The initial transition from a traditional vegan diet to a raw vegan diet can be difficult at first. But with enough motivation and the right meal plan, you’ll benefit from the power of raw foods in no time.
That being said, the restrictions a raw vegan diet requires are not necessary to obtain great weight results as a vegan. If you are looking for an alternative to lose weight while eating foods you enjoy, make sure to check out this vegan diet.