What is a raw vegan diet and why the heck would anyone follow it? I’ve been doing so for over 12 years now and can’t imagine eating any other way. 

A raw vegan diet includes fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds not heated over 115 degrees. There is an elegant simplicity to eating raw vegan. Meal preparation can be as quick as peeling a banana or as complex as making raw vegan gourmet recipes. 

There are basically two types of raw vegan diets:

  1. High Fat, Low Carb (HFLC): fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut) comprise the majority of calories in this group along with large quantities of vegetables and very little fruit.
  2. High Carb, Low Fat (HCLF): carbs (mostly from fruit) comprise the majority of calories in this group along with large quantities of vegetables and very little fat.

My raw vegan journey began in January 2007. I started off consuming a high fat, low carb diet and felt great for the first 6 months. But then I began to feel fatigued, my skin broke out and I started to gain weight. Later that same year I discovered “The 80-10-10 Diet” by Dr. Douglas Graham. By January 2008, I was eating a 100 percent high carb, low fat raw vegan diet and felt amazing. My energy returned, my skin cleared up and my weight dropped. HCLF has worked best for me and I continue on it today.

Following the “80-10-10” nutritional guidelines, approximately 80 percent of daily calories come from carbs, 10 percent from protein and 10 percent from fat. Most days I eat a lot of fruit, about a pound of vegetables and a small amount of avocado, nuts and seeds. I often use the Cronometer app to track my calories and nutrient ratios to make sure I’m getting enough calories. I also take a B12 sublingual supplement (1000 mcg) every day. 

The benefits I’ve experienced from following a HCLF raw vegan diet include:

  • Low blood pressure (average 90s/60s)
  • Low body fat (18-20%)
  • Low cholesterol (162mg/dL)
  • Low A1C (5.1)
  • Clear skin
  • Reduced joint pain (knees, wrists, neck)
  • Reduced menopause symptoms (no more hot flashes or night sweats)

So how do you eat raw vegan in the Coachella Valley? It’s so easy! Start by stocking your kitchen with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. The best seasonal fruit to buy in November and December are avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, oranges, dates, grapefruit, kiwi, apples, pears, pomegranates and persimmons. The best vegetables include lettuce, spinach, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, broccoli, beets and pumpkin. (Tomatoes and cucumbers are botanically non-sweet fruit, but often thought of as vegetables.)

For a decadent treat, the organic soft Medjool dates at Shields Date Garden are out of this world – fantastic alone or paired with a bit of raw cashew butter. Shields’ organic pecan date rolls are also pretty phenomenal. 

When dining out, I ask the server to make me a large fruit plate for breakfast or lunch, or a large salad for dinner. For the salad, I ask them to include iceberg, romaine, lots of fresh fruit and avocado or nuts and seeds. At most restaurants, it’s easiest to top your salad with fresh salsa, guacamole or a simple vegan vinaigrette. (Although most vegan vinaigrettes are not 100 percent raw, this small concession makes dining out much easier and will make your salad more enjoyable). 

The most accommodating restaurants I’ve found in the valley for a raw vegan lifestyle may surprise you: Stuft Pizza, Cheesecake Factory and Wilma & Frieda’s Café. If you’re on the road and need a quick snack, most Starbucks have ripe bananas and cold-pressed (raw) juices. 

A wonderful local raw food restaurant I highly recommend is Raw Remedy Organic Juice & Raw Food Bar in Palm Springs. The staff is great and the food is fantastic! Their raw guacamole veggie burger with cashew cheddar “cheese” and raw wrap is my favorite. Their raw vegan carrot cake is also crazy great! 

Stacey Bendfelt is a certified raw food nutritional specialist, certified raw lifestyle coach and certified raw food chef. She promotes a high fruit, low fat lifestyle for optimal health and athletic performance. For more information visit www.staceybendfelt.com

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