Reader Questions and Answers on Raw Foods and My Raw Food Trial

Here are several questions and comments that came in from readers over the course of my raw foods trial. [See the full archive of posts on my raw foods trial.]
How much extra did it cost to eat raw?
Not that much extra. I spent about $5.00 on grains (which will last me 2-3 weeks at least at my current level of consumption), and then I spent a total of $44.58 on the various fruits, veggies and legumes that I ate over the course of the week (I also had some extra food left over at the end of the trial, so the $49.58 total exaggerates the cost somewhat). To put this in context, our weekly grocery food budget (for the two of us) generally runs anywhere from $30 to $75, depending on what we cook in a given week. It's definitely not cheaper to go raw, but it's not crushingly expensive either.

I've read that people experience strong emotions when they are on a raw diet, but you didn't really talk about it that much.
Interestingly, I've felt like my emotions were more stable than typical during my raw trial. However, I've also been reading the Sedona Method, which has helped me a lot in that area of my life, so it's probably impossible to tease out the two factors. But in general, my emotional state this week has been good to the extent that there isn't really that much to say about it.

I will say, however, that during some of the days of this trial my mental clarity was exceptional. I got a ton of writing done, especially on Days 4, 5 and 6, and I was able to focus on my work for hours at a time without distraction. It's unclear how much of this is due to kicking my caffeine habit, how much is due to the raw foods, how much is due to the combination of the two, or how much might be due simply to placebo effect (e.g., I'm on a raw diet, so I'm supposed to feel mentally sharper than normal).

Aren't you worried that you'll miss a lot of nutrients on this diet?
This was one of my primary concerns going into the trial. But as I learned more and more about going raw, my fears subsided. There's an elegant logic to the diet: the more you cook, process or refine your foods, the less nutrient-rich they become. Further, there's the argument that you get far more nutrients in your diet when you go raw because you have to shift a large percentage of your food intake towards nutrient-rich leafy greens, fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains.

Here's the other thing: this trial is only for seven days. I could eat apples all day every day and I'd be fine.

What about alcohol? Is wine "raw?"
Most raw foodists consider alcohol a toxin and avoid it. Technically, wine can be raw, but it is generally assumed that you'll avoid all alcohol during a raw foods trial. (This will obviously be a huge deal killer for some of my readers.)

Would you do this for 30 days, or would you ever go permanently raw?
Great question, and as enthusiastic as I am about this diet, I don't think so. I'm actually losing quite a bit of weight on this diet, despite the fact that I'm already thin to begin with and it's only been a few days! I suspect my body needs more energy-dense foods than I can get on a 100% raw diet. Furthermore, I'm just not ready to say goodbye to cooked foods for that long a period, regardless of the potential benefits.

However, we are likely to make a permanent change here at CK by incorporating a higher percentage of raw foods into our daily diets.

Did you use any sweeteners in your smoothies?
None. Obviously processed sweeteners, like sugar, molasses, brown sugar, etc., are off-limits on a raw foods diet. Opinions on sweeteners like raw honey or stevia are mixed: some raw foodists use them, some do not. In my case, because I didn't know whether our honey was raw or not I opted out of using it (it was buckwheat honey sourced from the Ithaca, NY area, but it didn't specifically say "not pasteurized"). Instead, I used raspberries or blackberries for sweetness, or I simply enjoyed my food unsweetened.

Will you buy a Vitamix blender?
I'm seriously considering it. My regular blender worked fairly well for most smoothies, but it really struggled when I tried to use it to process heavy leafy greens. The key advantage of a Vitamix is it has a far more powerful motor and the blades spin far more quickly. This extra cutting speed ruptures the cells of even the toughest cruciferous greens. Thus, in theory at least, a smoothie made with a Vitamix is healthier for you because your body can much more easily extract nutrients from the food. There's a cost tradeoff too, obviously. A standard blender will run you $25-$50, but a Vitamix can run you $450 or more.

Some raw foodists swear by their Vitamix (Victoria Boutenko strongly recommends them and considers hers a prized possession), but I've met others who just use a regular blender.

How badly did you crave cooked food?
Not that badly, surprisingly. I probably faced some degree of cravings each day, and the cravings peaked on Days 5-6 of the trial. And as weird as this sounds, I was grateful for the cravings, because they gave me some really interesting insights into my mind and my relationship to food. I hope to expand on these thoughts in a future post.

Isn't it a pain in the ass to cut up all those veggies to make smoothies?
Actually no. My first couple of smoothies took a few extra minutes to make, but once I got the hang of it, it was quite easy to cursorily chop up a few things, chuck 'em in the blender and go. Sure it's not as easy as pouring a bowl of cereal, but you'll have a much healthier meal that fuels you for a lot longer.

What did Laura do during your raw week?
In terms of eating, Laura didn't go raw. She sampled a few of my smoothies and shared in some of my veggie platters and salads, but her food was primarily cooked. Otherwise, she handed out encouragement and/or sympathy when I needed it and gamely tolerated me and my antics. In other words, it was just like any other week for her.

I'd love to try going raw, but there's no way I'm going to bother with sprouting all those grains.
Admittedly, I was a bit stymied at first by the grains. But it turned out that learning how to sprout wheatberries, buckwheat and lentils was the easiest and most interesting part of the entire process. Don't let this stop you.

Get ready for the colon blow!
Sorry to disappoint, but nobody's colon blew. We already eat a ton of veggies here at Casual Kitchen, and nearly half our meals are vegetarian, so perhaps this might be more of a digestive adjustment for someone on a more meat-centered diet. But my digestive tract ran, uh, like clockwork.

Readers, if you have questions you'd like to ask regarding my raw trial, send me an email!

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Diane said...

I have up coffee two weeks ago, for some gastric reasons, and after five days of hellish headaches, I have felt clear, wildly focused and productive, and am getting about 3x as much done now as in my coffee days. I really do think it makes a huge difference to give it up. Since I have experienced this without raw foods, I might suggest it's nixing the caffeine that is doing it for you.

Diane said...

whoops - I meant to say, I "gave up coffee." But obviously it hasn't helped my typing.

Daniel said...

Diane, I'm so happy for your and your quantum leap in productivity! That's wonderful. And yes, you may very well be right, cutting out caffeine may be what's behind my increased focus too. Whatever it is, I'll take it.


Becca said...

Hey Daniel,
I have a Vitamix that we bought "refurbished" from the factory for significantly cheaper. It runs great. I love it. I grind my own flour in it and make smoothies on occasion. So it doesn't have to be as expensive as the brand new models.
I am way interested in raw experiments like this, but I'm just not sure I would have the guts to do it. Congrats.

Daniel said...

Hi Becca: I would just say, don't underestimate yourself. And it's the experience that's the point, not whether you complete the trial "with a passing grade." Have a look at my conclusions post, which is just up, and you'll see what I mean.

Thank you for the suggestion on a refurbed vitamix! Great idea.


Jim Hohl said...

Hey Dan, I really enjoyed reading all your posts on Raw Foods. I'm planning to try this the week after Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing all the tips. I'll try to avoid some of the pitfalls you ran, though I'm a bit apprehensive still since I know you prepared alot and I'm planning to just dive in... :-)

Daniel said...

Good for you Jim! If you're going to do just a one week trial like I did, don't worry it too much. There's no real dietary risk for such a short time period. See how it develops and see what foods you like and embrace the learning experience of it all. You can use it as a test run for a longer raw foods trial in the future if it resonates with you. Good luck!