Going on a Raw Vegan Diet Is Not All It's Cooked Up to Be
I've walked away from this week with two important lessons: Sometimes when you feel hungry and desire a 12oz steak and potatoes, a plum and some water will probably suffice. The second: Don't believe everything you read, or at the very least don't commit to three weeks of raw dieting before fully researching.
My regular, non-raw vegan diet consists primarily of carbs, meat and beer. It's not something that I'm proud of, and I actually didn't realize it until I broke it down meal by meal. I like to think of myself as a healthy person because I one time I got a salad instead of french fries as my side. But then all of a sudden, it's been weeks since a piece of fruit has entered my system.
On that diet, I would get the munchies a lot. I would eat to the point that I was full and then feel hungry long before I should. After two weeks of eating just fruits, vegetables, and nuts, I don't experience this anymore (I do want to sink my teeth into regular-people food, sure, but it isn't the same as munchies). For example, if I eat big salad for lunch and my friend eats a carne asada burrito, we'll both be full. But within 35 minutes my friend is usually lethargic, and then in the next hour, ready to chew on something else. Meanwhile, I've maintained a consistent energy level and feel no inherent need to eat.
I realized this week that before, I was like a little rat, rummaging through all the french fries and fried fish tacos looking for nutrients.
Tasty and filling
At dinner one night, I made a butter lettuce salad with yellow and red tomatoes from the vine and red and white onions. I made my own raw lime avocado dressing that I picked up from Raw Vegan Power. While my parents waited for their food to finish cooking, they ate a bowl of my salad. Then another bowl. My dad commented on the flavorful yellow tomato. When dinner was finally ready, my dad, a steak and potatoes kind of guy, was too full to eat dinner.
A salad made my dad full. Amazing.
Then one morning, I made my usual kale, raw almond milk and banana smoothie. I like to use the almond milk from The Growl at the Orange Circle because it's slightly sweetened and made with cinnamon and other things that compliment kale well. I asked my mom if she would like me to make her a glass for breakfast, and she really enjoyed it. She sent me a text around lunch time: "That smoothie was good and kept me full until lunch. I should try to have one every morning. Kale has a lot of protein, I looked it up. Maybe I'll have a smoothie for dinner."
Bye eggs and bacon. Kale wins this round.
But not everything was smooth sailing. At work, I had prepared food for a six-hour shift. But when a six-hour shift turns into a 10- to 12-hour shift due to staffing shortages, I need a carne asada burrito from the food truck for solace. It was the first time in two weeks that I had to overcome the desire to indulge in food as a means of consolation. At lunch, I sat with people eating Italian subs with Doritos and grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with raw peppers and onion coupled with french fries. They looked delicious next to my green apple and salted edamame. I became grumpy because I was unable to eat what I wanted in that moment. I'm not going to raw sugar coat this, that lunch break was nothing short of agonizing.
Then a friend asked me, "How many nutrients do you lose when you cook vegetables, anyway?"
I had never thought to look that up. It was just this idea of losing nutrients that seemed so horrifying. So I looked it up.
Sometimes half. Sometimes none at all. But here's the kicker: Sometimes cooking vegetables is healthier.
According to Scientific American, when cooked, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers and tomatoes provide higher levels of the antioxidant lycopene, which helps lower the risk of cancer. Citing a study from 2002 published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Scientific American explains, "the heat breaks down the plants' thick cell walls and aids the body's uptake of some nutrients that are bound to those cell walls."
I am happy at the difference that focusing my diet on fruits and veggies has made in the way that I think about food, and by extension those close to me. But I have become a little resentful at the fact that I committed to a diet that is exponentially harder than eating a plant-based vegan diet, and in the end, it is not significantly better and in some cases not even the best way to eat vegetables and fruit.
The moral of the story: don't take your grilled veggies for granted, because somewhere, someone is eating a raw broccoli head because she thinks it's healthier.
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