How to Successfully Follow a Raw Vegan Diet

So, this is a topic that I am very passionate about.

I hear it time and time again:

“I tried the raw vegan diet, but it just wasn’t for me.”

While the raw diet may seem wildly restrictive, to me it actually makes eating healthy a whole lot easier.

As long as it falls under the “raw vegan” category, I can probably eat it without worrying about feeling sick!

Even with cooked vegan food, there is a wide array of foods that I intentionally avoid due to sensitivities or preferences, whether it’s wheat, soy, canola oil or legumes.

With raw food, seldom do I pick up a drink, snack or even pre-made meal, read the ingredients and find somethin’ sketchy.

As someone with a very sensitive digestive system and body in general, the raw food diet makes enjoying and not worrying about food a dream.

While I’ve never believed that there is one diet for everyone, I do think that many people follow the raw food diet incorrectly, resulting in a negative experience.

The first thing I notice about those who follow raw food diets and end up switching back to eating meat and dairy is their limited, obsessive food restriction.

To be a bit more specific, I’m talking about those who hop on the “fruitarian”, “bazillion bananas a day”, “mango mono-meal” bandwagon.

The only exception to my observations on this are those who live in warm, tropical climates where fresh fruit grows in abundance.

I’ve always believed that we should try to eat according to our location, climate and time of year (for the most part).

So if you’re living in, say, Colorado or Northern California, maybe the high-fruit diet isn’t exactly the best plan of action.

But, if you’re living in Hawaii or Costa Rica, plucking fresh mangoes off a tree makes perfect sense.

Not only does this have a lot to do with the quality and freshness of the produce you’re consuming, but also with how our minds and bodies react to different climates, temperatures and weather patterns.

For example, when it’s sunny and warm out, I automatically eat less, crave fresher foods like salads and juices, and enjoy fruit more often.

But, when it’s cold and rainy, I crave warm soups, hot drinks and heavier comfort foods.

When eating a raw diet that consists primarily (or strictly) of fruit, there is an alarming nutrient deficit that occurs over time, particularly those found in healthy fats.

An article published in the National Institute of General Medical Sciences states that:

“Triglycerides, cholesterol and other essential fatty acids—the scientific term for fats the body can’t make on its own—store energy, insulate us and protect our vital organs. They act as messengers, helping proteins do their jobs. They also start chemical reactions that help control growth, immune function, reproduction and other aspects of basic metabolism. The cycle of making, breaking, storing and mobilizing fats is at the core of how humans and all animals regulate their energy.”

While fruits do contain a wide variety of nutrients and fiber, they simply do not contain everything we need to thrive on a raw vegan diet – and fat is one of those things!

This brings me to my number one recommendation to those wanting to try the raw vegan diet:

Consume plenty of healthy fats!

There are tons of amazing raw sources of healthy fats including coconut oil and coconut meat, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

The human brain is made up of nearly 60% fat. It needs fat to function properly!

Enjoy healthy fats with every meal, and make sure to keep them varied.

An article published in the Harvard School of Public Health States that:

“The human body can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials. That isn’t the case for omega-3 fatty acids (also called omega-3 fats and n-3 fats). These are essential fats—the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from food. Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.”

So add the second half of that avocado to your meal!

Add an extra dollop of cashew cheese to your raw vegan pizza!

Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on that salad!

In my opinion, healthy fats play an essential role in maintaining any diet.

While healthy fats are a great addition to the raw vegan lifestyle, there are some foods that will hinder your success.

This brings me to my next tip:

Beware of sugars!

It’s so easy to consume large quantities of sugar when following a raw diet.

When it comes to raw food, some of the easiest things to find are these amazing, beautiful raw desserts… some of which are far more tasty than their cooked, non-vegan counterparts I may add!

When I first committed to a fully raw diet, I binged on desserts.

Whether I was making them myself or found them at health food stores and restaurants, I was consuming way too much sugar.

“It’s raw, so it’s fine!” I thought to myself.

While this is partially true, and raw desserts are generally way healthier than traditional desserts, they’re best eaten in moderation.

Sugar, no matter where it’s coming from, is still sugar.

It feeds candida, perpetuates sugar addiction, and can cause all sorts of health issues from brain fog to obesity when over-consumed.

When following a raw diet, try to stick to whole fruits when sugar cravings creep up…. And even then, it’s best to ask yourself if you really need it, or if it’s possible you’re craving something else.

Start off slow.

When I made the switch to raw foods, I had already been vegan for years.

In my opinion, drastic, cold-turkey changes can often be stressful and/or traumatic to the mind and body.

If I’ve been eating hamburgers and ice cream my whole life, changing them out for salads and green juices could mean more than just a new diet.

While we often don’t like to admit it, we have deep-rooted emotional attachments to the foods we eat – and generally, they’re the same foods we loved growing up.

Food is comforting… certain foods even trigger chemicals in our brain that make us feel happy, sleepy or calm.

While raw food can be totally delicious and satisfy these cravings, it’s still a huge leap from traditional, cooked comfort food.

If you’re considering the raw vegan diet and are not yet vegan or vegetarian, I would strongly recommend making a transition to veganism first.

If you’re already plant-based and/or eating clean foods, maybe start by preparing one raw meal a day.

Then, increase it to two.

This will help to keep stress levels under control, and give you plenty of freedom to experiment with recipes and plan meals.

Switching to the raw diet overnight can be a little intimidating, especially when you haven’t found your go-to meal recipes yet, but you have to feed your body enough nutrients for an entire day.

Letting yourself not have to worry about preparing at least one meal a day can give you plenty of time to research, test and find which recipes you truly love.

Then, when you do make the switch to 100% raw foods, you’ll be well prepared with tons of recipes to get you through the week.

Making and eating raw food can be super fun, especially if you like to experiment in the kitchen. Trying to make raw vegan recipes that look and taste identical to traditional cooked favorites is a blast!

Get your nutrients down!

There is an intimidating list of nutrients that we need to function properly as human beings.

When you first start your raw vegan diet, it’s imperative to make sure you’re reaching your nutrient goals.

It’s generally pretty easy to reach macronutrient goals on a raw diet (these are the “umbrella” nutrients such as fat and protein), but micronutrients require a bit more attention.

The good news is, raw plant foods are loaded with bio-available nutrients, as well as the enzymes and fiber necessary for our body to properly absorb them.

When food is cooked, many of those enzymes and nutrients are killed or lost in the heating process.

The not-so-good news is that it can be a little bit of a pain in the butt to track your intake of these nutrients.

My favorite way to do this is with an app called Cronometer.

While I’m not affiliated with or sponsored by this app at all, it’s extremely useful – especially when first starting any new diet.

It’s easy to use (you just log the foods you eat into the app) and they have a vast database of foods already available.

You will learn very quickly whether or not you’re getting the nutrients you need, and things get pretty simple from there.

For example, by using Cronometer for just four days I learned that I rarely hit my daily recommended intake of selenium.

Luckily, this was such an easy fix!

I added brazil nuts into my diet, and… bam! the problem was solved.

Even just one missing nutrient can cause a diet to be unsuccessful… even if there’s an easy way to get it!

My top nutrient deficiencies to look out for on a raw diet are:

Vitamin B-12: Vegan B-12 spray such as this one

Iron: Leafy greens, beets, tomatoes, blackstrap molasses

Selenium: Brazil nuts

Choline: Collard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, sunflower seeds

Protein (complete amino acid profile): Spirulina, leafy greens, hemp seeds, flax seeds

Warm is good… especially during the winter!

I have a lot more difficulties with following a raw diet when it’s cold outside.

Generally, it’s easy for me to eat 100% raw during the spring and summer, but come fall I start to want to incorporate some cooked foods.

Root vegetables, veggie broths, cooked carbs like quinoa and plentiful hot almond milk matcha lattes are hard for me to stay away from.

While I do sometimes enjoy adding cooked veggies to the mix when the rain rolls around, there are periods of time when I still want to eat fully raw, whether it’s for a winter detox or just because.

This is when the dehydrator becomes my best friend.

When the rain is pouring down and all I want to do is curl up with a big bowl of pasta, warm zucchini noodles and raw “neatballs” straight out of the dehydrator works wonders!

Hot teas, miso broth and warm blended raw soups are all winter favorites of mine as well.

Another great winter addition to any raw diet is spice!

Spicy foods can help increase fire in the body, keeping you warm and helping to maintain digestive efficiency.

Adding lots of healthy fats to your diet is also a great way to stay satisfied all winter long!

Overall, it is possible to eat… and stay…. raw vegan!

By following the rules above, I have had zero problems maintaining a raw vegan diet.

I have more energy, my digestion works better and my skin clears up within weeks of transitioning to only raw foods!

I’ll write a separate post soon on the science of raw food soon, and why it can be a great tool for those who are trying to heal themselves.

Are you raw vegan?

Have you tried the raw vegan diet?

Let me know!!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

My Experience on the Vegan Keto Diet

In the past two years or so, there has been one diet planting its flag on the planet of fitness and weight loss:

The Ketogenic diet.

What is the “keto” diet?

It’s basically a diet that heavily restricts carbohydrate consumption, and replaces them with fat, plus moderate amounts of protein.

No fruits, no grains, no high-carb plant foods (such as potatoes).

This “trains” the body’s metabolism to burn fat instead of carbs.

This metabolic state is called “ketosis“.

While I am by no means a huge fan of “fad diets”, this one caught my interest, especially since my partner in crime owns a sugar-free chocolate company. (I’ll link his website here for anyone who’s interested)

The idea of a low-carbohydrate, zero-sugar diet sounded like a great idea for anyone (me) struggling with a sugar addiction, Candida, brain fog, digestive issues or some other sugar-related problem. 

I was already aware of the issues that sugar can cause on the human body, but there had never been a label for a diet free of this addictive, drug-like edible substance until now.

It was the first fad diet I’d heard of that didn’t sound like it was complete hogwash invented by some “nutrition guru” who was being channeled by demons of incorrect food restriction. 

Until I started scrolling through some of the “keto” hashtags on Instagram.

I soon found out that most of the people who were following this ketogenic diet were eating primarily, if not entirely, animal products… and I don’t mean grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic meat from their local butcher.

I’m talking big name meat and dairy companies – factory farmed, antibiotic-filled, hormone-laden, GMO grain-fed animal products that, in my opinion, shouldn’t ever be on the table of any health conscious individual, even in small quantities.

Some of these people were actually eating entire sticks of butter.

Let that one sink in.

I could cite dozens of articles on why eating these types of animal products this frequently can cause all types of health issues from arthritis to heart disease, but it only takes a quick google search to see for yourself. 

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re either already well versed in the plant-based diet, or – at the very least – have heard it buzzing around the mouths of hipsters for the past few years. (No shade to hipsters. Love y’all.)

I’m not saying everyone who’s following the ketogenic diet is doing it wrong, but I became increasingly weary the further I scrolled.

While many of these folks did seem to be successfully losing extra weight, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthy way to eat – if you catch my drift. 

When I see plate after plate full of pink, brown & varied shades of beige, I become a tad alarmed.

(In case you’re wondering, it is totally possible – often encouraged – to follow a ketogenic diet without a totally carnivore-based eating style. Even popular keto diet gurus like Thomas DeLauer have talked about this.)

Now of course, I do have a small bias:

I’m an ethical “bee-gan” (I do indulge in the occasional teaspoon of raw organic honey) and have been for years.

That being said, I do believe that for some, animal products such as eggs or raw dairy can be tremendously healing – when eaten under the right circumstances, from the right sources, and in the right quantities. 

Bias disclaimer aside, let’s get to the part where I decide to try keto on a vegan diet!

To give you a bit of backstory on why I wanted to give this a shot, I’ve been struggling with a little bit (lol) of a sugar addiction, as well as Candida Albicans overgrowth for the past two years or so. 

I figured that the ketogenic diet was the perfect experiment for my situation. 

Day one was easy peasy. I felt pretty normal. I’ve always steered clear of most grains and processed sugars, so it felt like a relatively normal day of eating.

After only two days of cutting out all sugars and severely cutting my carbs, I felt pretty great. 

Around day three, my sugar cravings were in full effect. I was desperate for sugar – any kind of sugar.

I was using loads of stevia and eating a ton of sugar-free desserts to satisfy the “sweet flavor” side of my addiction. 

But alas, the stubborn bacteria in my tummy knew the difference between stevia and maple syrup, and I had a hard time feeling satisfied from my keto treats – though they were delicious

I would desperately try to make up any excuse for why I should have that vegan, gluten-free cookie at the grocery store, or why having just a teaspoon of honey in my tea was perfectly acceptable.

Speaking of tea, here’s some “tea” that might peak your interest:

According to NIH (National Institutes of Health) microorganisms actually outnumber your human cells 10:1

Yep.

“Ok Mackenna, that’s kind of creepy, but what does that have to do with the ketogenic diet?”

Well, if you’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat”, you already know!

The microorganisms and bacteria living in your body get hungry too.

And if you’ve been feeding them sugar and carbohydrates for any length of time, that’s what they want.

To get a little sci-fi on you, they actually tell you what you want. If you’re harboring bacteria that crave processed foods and sugars, that’s what they’re going to communicate to your brain.

I’ll link a study for you on this here.

So, around day five was when I stopped seriously craving sugar. 

Did it still sound good? 

Yes.

But it was surprisingly easy to avoid.

Around week two – yes, it took me that long – I didn’t even think about sugar. A nightly cup of unsweetened herbal tea with almond milk did the trick for me, and I felt comforted and satiated from it.

Week two was also when I started noticing serious changes in my skin. 

When I was eating a higher carbohydrate diet, I would break out in bi-weekly rashes all over my face and mouth, and had acne frequently.

After cutting out sugar and carbs for two weeks, my skin was much more even-toned, and my acne decreased significantly.

My digestion was better than it had been in months, I had more energy and I felt like I could eat only savory foods for the rest of my life and be totally stoked about it.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. (Not really, but I tell myself that to feel better about my lack of self-control in certain situations.)

I broke my keto vegan diet on week five when the holidays rolled around…. 

And it wasn’t even that satisfying.

But of course, the carb cravings immediately returned with a vengeance after my holiday indulgences.

I have since regained my strength and willpower and am excited to say that I’m currently back on my favorite diet of all time: The Raw Food diet. 

I’ll write about why I love raw food so much another time, and my experience eating only uncooked plants.

But I digress.

If someone were to ask if I recommend the vegan keto diet, I would say absolutely. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to new recipes, help cleanse the body, kickstart your body into healing from sugar-related illnesses, re-set your metabolism to burn fat, and kick cravings right in the butt.

It really helped me re-gain control over my body, gave me glowing skin, more energy and better sleep.

Here’s what I did to help keep me on track and make the vegan keto diet a little easier:

  • I ate loads of fat. I mean LOADS. I was pouring cold-pressed olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, coconut and MCT oil on all my meals, chowing down on raw nuts and seeds, and having as much avocado and high-fat, raw, sugar-free vegan cheesecake as I wanted. Hehe.
  • I made keto vegan desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth throughout the week. There are tons of recipes online for delicious keto vegan desserts, and I have some awesome ones as well. (Of course they’re awesome, I made them. *wink*)
  • I made sure to eat a wide array of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich vegetables – particularly hearty greens like kale. 
  • I ate larger meals, and tried not to snack throughout the day. I usually opted to fast through breakfast with an MCT oil drink of some kind (usually a matcha latte).
  • I drank several large almond milk matcha lattes per day. (I wouldn’t recommend this much caffeine, but I am a serious matcha addict. If hot drinks comfort you as well, I would recommend opting for a keto hot cocoa or hot herbal tea later in the day).

So there you have it!

My final thoughts on the keto vegan diet?

Totally doable, but if you aren’t already vegan or keto, I would say try one or the other for a month or two first, to dip a metaphorical toe in the water of diet theories.

As far as sustainability goes, I would give this diet a 7/10.

I love that it’s zero sugar, and that it’s a multi-use tool for more than just weight loss.

I do think, especially for vegans, that eating complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, buckwheat, quinoa, and certain fruits now and then can help to keep things varied, balanced and interesting.

I want to end this off by saying that I don’t necessarily think any ONE diet is going to work for everyone

But if you want to give the vegan keto diet a shot, I would encourage you to do so!*

And if it doesn’t work for you, it definitely isn’t the only road to feeling amazing in the magical home you call your body.

Peace & healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

*As always, speak to your healthcare professional before embarking on any rather restrictive diet journey.