The raw food movement and the vegan diet are two ways of eating that are often used interchangeably and can easily cause confusion. Today I’ll break down the ins and outs of both of these diet styles, look at how they overlap, and most importantly, help you tackle all the nutritional confusion as to whether raw food and veganism are the same or not.
Nowadays everyone knows that eating healthy is important. Beyond this simple edict, things can get confusing though, and it is no wonder it can get so perplexing. Calorie counts, diet philosophies, nutritional values and more can easily leave your head spinning. Added to all of this, some ways of eating actually have some overlap, making it even harder to distinguish them and understand them. Raw food, vegan diet, vegetarian, paleo, primal, macro nutrients, micronutrients: it is hard to keep everything straight.
What Are the Basics of Vegan and Raw Food Eating?
The first step in shedding light on the vegan raw food diet question is to take a closer look at what each dietary style means and entails.
Adhering to a vegan diet means that you consume no animal products. While someone who follows a vegetarian diet may consume dairy, eggs, or seafood (depending on what variation and guidelines one adheres to), someone on a vegan diet refrains not only from eating meat, but also from all products that are derived from animals. Additionally, many vegans refrain from using things made with animal products including clothing, cosmetics and toiletries, furniture, and more.
People choose to follow a vegan diet for a variety of reasons. For some, it is purely a health-based decision. The plant based diet is linked with reducing the risk of many diseases and promoting a healthy body weight. For others, choosing a vegan lifestyle may be done as a way to help the environment or because of moral reasons concerning the rights of animals.
As the name implies, a raw food diet means consuming foods in their raw state. Heating foods is permitted, but should not be heated above 38 degrees which is about the body temperature. All foods are permissible in a raw food diet, though plant based foods lend themselves particularly well to the no-cook lifestyle.
What Are the Differences Between Vegan and Raw Food Eating?
The first difference to look at when looking at the vegan raw food diet question is the permissibility of animal products. Some people who follow a raw foods diet include raw, unpasteurized milk, raw fish or even raw meat; though added precautions must be taken to assure the safety of consuming such products. Additionally, a raw food diet does not have any recommendations or guidelines concerning the non-dietary use of animal products the way some vegan variations do (typically moral or environmental vegan variations).
Another key difference found between raw food and veganism lies in food preparation guidelines. Veganism makes no restrictions concerning how food and drinks are prepared. Vegans can certainly consume foods in their raw state, but steaming, boiling, grilling, baking, and any other sort of cooking and baking are all fine by the guidelines of a vegan lifestyle.
Unlike vegans, raw food enthusiasts follow a more limited list of manners of food preparation. In addition to eating foods in their most natural forms, those who wish to follow a raw foods diet do have a few options on food prep. Cold pressed juicing is popular ways maximize getting extra fruits and vegetables into a raw food diet as is blending smoothies. Low temperature food dehydrators may also be used to create foods like crackers that still qualify as raw foods. Sprouting nuts, grains, and legumes is also an option to for raw food preparation.
A final difference of note in looking at the raw food vegan diets’ differences is the degree to which people can make exceptions in adherence to the diet. While occasional slip ups or “cheat days” may happen on any diet, the amount of variance from the guidelines of the diet differs between a vegan diet and a raw food diet. Generally speaking, a vegan diet does not include any exceptions to the diet. On the other hand, someone who eats some of his or her foods cooked is still concerned to follow a raw foods diet as long as at least 70% of the diet is raw.
What Are the Similarities Between Vegan and Raw Food Eating?
Both the raw food diet and the vegan diet, an emphasis is placed on consuming a high quality, natural foods and avoiding the unhealthy “junk” in so many products in the standard Western diet (SAD). The bulk of calories consumed in both diets comes from plant based sources with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. These guiding principles creates a significant amount of overlap between the two diets.
Why the Confusion?
Despite differences, the raw food diet and the vegan diet are often used interchangeably. After learning of the differences between the two diets, you may be wondering why this is. The answer lies in the fact that many, many raw food diet followers actually adhere to a vegan diet in addition to their raw food diet, just as some vegans may choose to eat the foods included in a vegan diet in their raw form.
Though animal products are allowed on a raw food diet, many people who follow a raw food diet choose to abstain from animal products either at the beginning of their raw foods diet or they may make the change after following the raw food diet for a time. This abstinence may stem from personal preferences, health reasons, or environmental and/or animal rights reasons. Additionally, practicality can also lead some raw food enthusiasts to eliminate animal products from their diet. Because of food safety concerns as well as ready availability of products such as raw unpasteurized milk, sushi grade fish, and other safe raw animal products, some people following a raw foods diet find it easier to use vegan guidelines in selecting the foods that make up their raw food diet.
Just as a raw foods diet may lead to a vegan diet, a vegan diet may sometimes lead to a raw food diet.
In efforts to keep their vegan diet food selections in their most natural state, a vegan may end up choosing to refrain from cooking their food above 38 degrees C.
Is There Overlap Between Vegan and Raw Food Eating?
Now you have a clearer understanding of both what the raw food movement is as well as what a vegan diet is. The question that remains then is what does it look like when a raw food diet and a vegan diet are merged as is so often the case?
The answer is what is commonly called raw veganism.
If you choose to follow the guidelines of raw veganism, you would eliminate any and all animal products from your diet and eat all foods raw or heated no warmer than 38 degrees C.
What about the Fine Print?
Like with any diet question, it’s important to know all the details—including things to watch out for. Veganism, a raw food diet, and raw veganism can be terrifically healthy ways to eat. The emphasis on plant based diets means that all of these diets are packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and water. However, the somewhat restrictive nature of all of these ways of eating means that anyone following anything on the spectrum of raw food vegan diets must be vigilant to make sure you are getting a balanced diet.
The absence of animal products in a vegan diet can put followers at risk for things like a B12 deficiency because vitamin B12 is found in animal products. Medical professionals often suggest taking a vitamin B12 supplement to address this concern. The filling nature of fruits and vegetables is an advantage in these styles of eating, but it can also make it difficult to get in an adequate daily caloric intake. Including plenty of nuts can help combat this problem. Protein, another key nutrient to monitor for sufficient intake, can be increased by including beans as a dietary staple.
What Is the Answer?
The ultimate answer to the question of “Is a Raw Food Diet the Same as a Vegan Diet?” is not necessarily. Because someone follows a vegan diet does not necessarily mean that he or she does not cook his or her food. Similarly, just because someone chooses to eat foods in a raw state does not mean that he or she has eliminated animal products from your diet. However, the two styles of eating complement each other well. If you are debating between beginning either a vegan diet or a raw food diet, you know now not only the differences between the two diets, but also that you don’t have to choose between the two. The complimentary nature of the vegan/ raw food diets means that while that they are not always the same they can (and are) successfully be merged together.