vegansaurus!

11/23/2010

Guest post: Why are there so many ex-raw vegans?  »

Friends, strangers, vegans at large, please welcome back our official raw food writer—and our favorite eater of raw food in general—Sarah E. Brown!

For more than six months, I’ve served as the Vegansaurus raw vegan correspondent, and I’ve been delighted to report about Bay Area raw food awesomeness in a light-hearted fashion.

But this is a serious post. A very, very serious one. It’s about the very real, growing epidemic of ex-raw vegans. First, I should say that this is not a post aimed at typical vegans who sometimes cook food and sometimes don’t. Please understand, I’m not out to lord raw veganism over anyone trying to live compassionately (and deliciously) as a plain old awesome vegan. This post is directed towards ex-raw vegans, many of whom (though certainly not all)  came into the vegan movement for health reasons, then left it for health reasons that are downright avoidable.

Many find they feel better for a while when they incorporate more raw, plant-source-only food in their diets, and eliminating the dense animal proteins, processed sugars and refined carbohydrates that are endemic to the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Yet it is commonly observed that many raw food vegans eventually start feeling “less-than-optimal,” and begin reintegrating animal products into their diets. So why do many mostly live, plant-source-only eaters switch to animal products? It could be that the typical, raw-cacao-filled, high-glycemic, raw vegan diet is the culprit of this lifestyle conversion. How could plants, especially plants in their raw state, be high-glycemic? Of course fruit sugar is better than processed sugar, but it still affects our bodies. In addition, many of our essential minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids (including the all-important mood and health-boosting Omega-3s) come from lower-glycemic, raw vegan foods. What does this mean? It means the “fun,” dried fruit-filled, agave-filled, high-sugary-fruit-filled raw diets, which initially draw people into the lifestyle and can help them initially get healthier—because they are still taking in less harmful stuff than on the SAD diet—cause them to burn out. Cacao can also fatigue the adrenals when it is not eaten in moderation.

The problem with formerly raw vegans who eat this way is that they often believe their imbalanced diets to be due to the fact that there are no animal products, when many health experts, including Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D., have shown that this is not the case. Instead of eschewing their ethical diets in favor of animal products, raw vegans can feel better by changing the nature of their raw vegan diets. Perhaps that might mean incorporating some more grounding cooked vegan dishes like quinoa or lightly cooked soups and vegetables. It might also mean cutting down on high-glycemic, raw vegan foods and desserts in favor of a more balanced diet.

The secret to sticking with a vegan diet long-term is to focus on longevity. If being a vegan for the long haul means you’ll need to kick ass and take names at every vegan bake sale, then honey substitute, DO IT! But if you’re a raw vegan in it for health, that means eating more mineral and essential nutrient-dense, lower-glycemic, raw vegan foods and supplements. Dr. Cousens has recently published an article that explains how both meat eaters and vegans—raw and predominantly non-raw—need to supplement their diets with essential nutrients such as B-12 and essential fatty acids like DHAs. So we can all keep living this way, it’s good to pop a pill every once in a while and eat some greens. OK? That’s all I’m saying. Here’s to ex-raw vegans realizing you can be healthy and avoid killing and exploiting things, because that means less overall suffering.

This is the latest in Sarah E. Brown’s raw vegan series for Vegansaurus. Thanks, Sarah!

[top photo by joana hard; bottom photo by Urban Mixer]

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