The word “diet” is nothing new to Americans. This country spends around $60 billion on the weight loss industry every year. Yet, we still have one of the highest obesity rates in the world. Now people are ditching the basic diet rules and moving toward holistic options to improve their health. Raw veganism is becoming an insanely popular option.
As many people, such as Lenny Kravitz, gravitate toward this trend, a new question arises. Is raw veganism really better than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans?
I asked two nutritionists, Howard University professor Chimene Castor and raw foodist Trina Moore, for their insight on each diet. But first, here’s some background information on the two ways of eating.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans was first created in 1980 by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture. It's revised every five years. It was made to give health advice to Americans ages 2 and older. Its most recent revision was in 2015. The guidelines include three eating pattern styles; U.S. style, Mediterranean and vegetarian. Certain rules include making your plate half fruits and vegetables, choosing whole grains more often, and moving to low-fat or fat-free dairy options.
Raw veganism is a diet where foods are unprocessed and cooked at no more than 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The idea is to keep the foods closest to their natural state in order to obtain the greatest amount of nutrition and enzymes they have to offer.
Raw veganism isn’t a new concept. The practice started as far back as the 18th century when monks and nuns ate raw foods as a way to gain physical and spiritual wellness. Around the 20th century, figures such as Paul Braggs, Norman Walker, and Jack Lalane introduced it to the Western culture.
To nutritionist and Howard University professor Chimene Castor, a healthy diet is balanced, calorie-controlled, full of variety, and meets the adequate needs of the individual. She believes that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans reflects her definition. However, it only applies to people who have healthy food access and money to abide by its rules.
Castor realized the disparity of healthy food access when she drove to two different neighborhoods in Washington D.C. When she went to North 16th street, she saw different international restaurants and a whole foods market. However, her trip from North Capitol street to Fort Washington street was quite different.
“I counted 15 fast food restaurants. There were two schools in that 10-mile radius. So guess who’s eating that food?” In her opinion, the Dietary Guideline for Americans serves its purpose as a guide, but fails to give resources for healthy living.
"It’s also access and cost. You have a group of people that I give an F, but like students, you don’t have any books, you don’t have any paper but all you have money for is tuition”
For nutritionist and raw vegan Trina Moore, a healthy diet consists of plenty of fresh water, greens, fruits and other vegetables. In fact, she would flip the guideline upside down and make greens the main part of our diet by seventy percent. As a raw vegan for 40 years, this is the first time she's seen a lot of people gravitating toward her lifestyle.
“There’s a movement, a mass consciousness toward wellness and health. More people are open to becoming vegetarian, vegan and beyond.”
Other than the health benefits, she loves the simplicity and efficiency of eating raw foods. However, she notices that people are making it a complicated lifestyle by trying to assimilate raw foods into popular foods such as a burger. According to her, it makes people eat less of the color spectrum.
Moore also notices that eating raw can be expensive, but blames it on the commercialization of the food industry.
“It has gotten more costly to eat raw, but people are buying things they can easily make themselves, such as nut milks. We have to take measures into our own hands, such as gardening and sprouting.”
Castor agrees with Moore that it is an expensive diet, but she also introduced another con — contamination. She believes that raw veganism can be a great way to temporarily detox the body. But if done long term, it may have a physiological impact if foods aren't cleaned properly.
"Several years ago, spinach was recalled, carrots were recalled due to E.coli and cross-contamination. In order to consider to look at something raw, I think ‘where is it processed?’and ‘Are pesticides being used?’”
Despite the cons, Moore would still recommend raw veganism to people.
“Yes. I thank God that I have the knowledge to know what is right for my body and how to take care of it. I have never had any illnesses or conditions and I believe it’s due to this lifestyle.”
And as for Castor, there is no clear winner.
“It’s a give and take for both diets. Neither is a perfect solution for health. It’s all about balance.”