The Raw Vegan Diet: How To, Benefits, Risks + Food List

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reviewed by Katelyn Tocci

Almost every health and nutrition expert would agree that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is great for your health.

But, is a raw food diet meal plan actually healthy? What about the difference between a raw vegan meal plan and a regular vegan diet that includes cooked foods?

If you are looking into this diet, you also may be wondering what you eat on a raw vegan diet and if a this diet is good for weight loss and overall health.

In this guide, we will discuss what a raw vegan diet entails, the pros and cons of a raw food diet meal plan that is devoid of animal products, and what you can and cannot eat.

We will look at: 

  • What Is the Raw Vegan Diet?
  • Benefits of the Raw Vegan Diet
  • Risks of the Raw Vegan Diet
  • What Can You Eat On a Raw Vegan Diet?

Let’s get started!

A variety of fruits and vegetables to eat on the raw vegan diet.

What Is the Raw Vegan Diet?

As the name describes, a raw vegan diet involves combining a vegan diet with a raw foods diet.

Therefore, a raw vegan diet means that you do not consume any animal products (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, honey, etc.), and you are eating raw foods.

Note that the definition of “raw food” doesn’t strictly mean that all food needs to be completely uncooked; rather, nutrition experts suggest that the food is considered “raw“ if it has never been heated over 104–118°F (40–48°C) during its preparation. 

The raw foods temperature range exists because different sources cite slightly different temperatures for raw foods, and there isn’t a hard science as to what is considered cooked vs raw food.

Besides eating foods in their completely natural state, the vegan raw food diet also permits that plant-based foods can be prepared through a couple of alternative methods, including dehydrating, juicing, sprouting, soaking, and fermenting.

Soaked lentils.

Benefits of the Raw Vegan Diet

Here are some of the potential health benefits:

#1: A Raw Vegan Diet May Improve Heart Health

One of the main health benefits of this diet is the potential to improve heart health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart disease by improving several of the risk factors.

A healthy, well-balanced raw vegan diet should include many fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

These foods have been shown to reduce blood pressure, decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke, improve blood cholesterol profiles by increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol and, decreasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and decreasing triglycerides.

For example, observational studies have found that people following a vegan diet may have as much as a 75% lower risk of developing hypertension, which is high blood pressure, and a 42% decreased risk of dying from heart disease.

Dried fruit.

Numerous studies have found that transitioning to a vegan diet improves cholesterol, decreases blood pressure, and lowers the risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke.

It is important to know that the quality of your diet matters here. 

You can follow a raw vegan diet and still consume some packaged foods, even though the likelihood of doing so is greatly reduced when you combine the raw foods stipulation on top of a regular vegan diet. 

Still, to maximize the health benefits of a raw vegan diet, you should always try to consume foods in their most natural, unprocessed state and ensure that you are eating as much variety in your plant-based food choices as possible. 

This will help provide a richer pool of nutrients to help prevent nutritional deficiencies and optimize your overall health.

Nuts and seeds.

#2: Raw Vegan Diet May Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes

Between the high intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with eating a lot of fiber on the raw foods vegan diet, it has the potential to decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains can help improve blood sugar regulation, increase sensitivity to insulin, and help control body weight, all of which can help reduce the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, because this diet eliminates many processed foods like refined grains, sweetened cereals, soda, fruit snacks, candy, pastries, baked goods, and fast food, it further protects against frequent and rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin, which can lead to metabolic problems including type 2 diabetes over time.

Studies that have looked at the effects of following a vegetarian or vegan diet have found that even a vegetarian diet that includes eggs and dairy decreases the relative risk of developing type two diabetes by about 12%, with an even greater risk reduction seen in those who follow a fully vegan diet. 

Although the specific benefits of the raw vegan diet were not examined in this body of research, it is certainly reasonable to conclude that similar, if not better, effects would be seen with improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing the risk of type two diabetes with the raw vegan meal plan.

This is due to its further emphasis on whole, natural, unprocessed plant-based foods and the avoidance of all refined and processed “junk food“ vegan food.

Jars of fermented food.

#3: A Raw Vegan Diet May Improve Digestion

Almost every food on a raw vegan diet food list contains at least some soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, if not both.

High-fiber diets help promote digestion and support healthy gut bacteria.

Risks of the Raw Vegan Diet

Although there are many potential health benefits, there are also some potential risks and drawbacks of following such a restrictive eating plan.

Here are some of the potential risks:

#1: A Raw Vegan Diet May Cause Nutritional Deficiencies

The most common risk of the raw vegan diet meal plan is the potential to develop nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.

These risks are heightened with the raw vegan diet, particularly if you are following a raw vegan diet meal plan for weight loss and cutting out higher-calorie foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. 

Some proponents of the raw vegan diet meal plan also believe that the diet itself contains everything you need for health, so supplements can be discouraged. 

However, in many cases, taking supplements is essential if you want to ensure that you are getting all of your nutritional needs met.

Nutritional yeast.

#2: A Raw Vegan Diet May Promote Tooth Decay

It’s probably surprising that following a raw vegan meal plan may promote tooth decay, given the fact that soda, fruit juice, candy, and other simple sugars are not allowed on the raw vegan diet food list, and these are the foods typically associated with increasing the risk of cavities.

However, studies have indeed found that the raw vegan diet is associated with an increased risk of tooth decay.

This is likely attributable to the acidic nature of citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, and other common choices found on a raw vegan diet food list, which can cause erosion on enamel.

#3: A Raw Vegan Meal Plan May Reduce Fertility

Because the raw vegan diet is so low in calories and healthy fats, there is a high risk of amenorrhea, which is the abnormal cessation of the menstrual cycle, as well as an increased risk of infertility in general.

Some studies have found that following a raw vegan diet meal plan increases the likelihood of amenorrhea by seven times relative to women following a typical diet and that about 70% of women following a raw vegan meal plan experience menstrual irregularities.

Although these studies have looked at women, testosterone and male fertility can also be affected by low-calorie, low-fat diets like the vegan raw foods meal plan.

Fresh herbs.

#4: A Raw Vegan Diet May Weaken Muscles and Bones

Another risk of following the raw vegan diet menu plan is that it can potentially lead to weaker muscles and lower bone density.

Although it’s possible to get enough protein on a vegan diet, some studies have found that the raw vegan diet, in particular, is quite low in protein, with proteins sometimes only constituting about 10% of the total caloric intake on the diet. 

Studies have also found that vegans tend to have lower bone density. 

What Can You Eat On a Raw Vegan Diet?

Here are some common raw vegan diet foods found on a raw vegan diet meal plan:

  • Raw, dried, and juiced fruits and vegetables
  • Raw nuts, seeds, raw nut butters, raw seed butters, nut milks 
  • Soaked and sprouted legumes and grains 
  • Raw cacao
  • Cold-pressed oils 
  • Fresh herbs and dried spices
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso paste, and pickled vegetables
  • Kelp, nori, and other seaweed
  • Himalayan salt or Celtic sea salt (but not table salt)
  • Vinegar, apple cider vinegar, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, Nama shoyu (raw soy sauce)
Himalayan salt.

Working with a nutritionist to develop a well-balanced raw vegan diet meal plan that will support your muscles and bones is essential if you intend to follow this dietary pattern as a long-term lifestyle. 

Additionally, if you are an athlete, it is highly recommended that you work with a sports nutritionist versed in raw vegan diet menu planning so that you can support your exercise performance and recovery with raw vegan diet foods without compromising your short-term athletic performance and long-term health.

If you are shopping around to find the best diet for you, you may be interested in our guide to a vegan keto diet.

A fruit salad.
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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