I feel as though I still haven't touched on some points in your section “What does it mean to be fully raw?”. There are some answers and misleading information that I would like to address.
In the fourth question, “Can I survive on raw foods?” you wrote the following:
There is no essential nutrient in meat, grains, legumes, or dairy that is not also available in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and in a form that is easier to digest. Indeed, there are many essential nutrients that can only be gained from plants...Fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens not only contain sustainable amounts of carbohydrates, protein and fat, they have them in the percentages, ratios, and quality that are optimum for human health. When people integrate a proper raw diet with other healthful living practices, they rarely, if ever, develop weight control problems, chronic or even short-term illnesses.
I would like to discuss the first part of this answer. There are actually many differences in nutrients specifically between animal products and fruits and vegetables consumed on a raw vegan diet, and many animal products actually do provide nutrients that are better absorbed. Animal foods contain B-12, a water-soluble vitamin that is very important for protein metabolism, formation of red blood cells, and maintenance of the central nervous system. It is also a cofactor for hundreds of cellular processes in the body! Consuming animal foods is the only way to get adequate amounts of vitamin B-12. Although vitamin B-12 is found in fortified cereals and some plant foods such as nutritional yeast, kombucha, and seaweed, it is much better absorbed from the animal forms. In fact, in one study looking at both cross-sectional comparisons of raw food eaters and omnivores, B-12 serum concentrations were much lower, even among raw food dieters who consumed products such as seaweed which contain some B-12. Additionally, B-12 serum concentrations decreased in the vegans over a 2 year observational period, but did not change in the omnivorous group, showing that raw vegan diets are not sustainable for having sufficient levels of B-12 in our body.
The second nutrient that I’d like to discuss is iron. There are two types of iron, heme which is found in animal foods and non-heme which is found in plant foods. Heme iron is much more bioavailable than the non-heme iron from plant foods. For example, although spinach has high levels of iron, the presence of oxalic acid decreases its absorption. This can be improved by cooking the food, which breaks down the protective barriers of the vegetables and makes it easier to gain the nutrients. But on a raw vegan diet, one isn’t cooking the food! Since cooked spinach is high in iron, I tried looking for other sources of raw fruits or vegetables that may be high in iron. The only significant food item that comes up is raisins, and consuming ¼ cup of raisins only provides 6% of the daily value of iron needed! Not consuming enough iron puts individuals at risk for iron-deficiency anemia, especially menstruating or pregnant females. This can cause health problems in the individual and also in the fetus if the woman is pregnant. If the woman is pregnant and has iron-deficient anemia, it puts the fetus at risk for having low birth weight, preterm birth, and a host of long-term consequences later in life from cardiovascular disease to obesity. For these reasons, it’s paramount that a woman receives adequate amounts of iron, especially during pregnancy, and consuming a raw vegan diet is not an optimal way to ensure a women has enough iron.
Overall, there are essential nutrients such as B-12 which can only be found in adequate amounts in animal foods and nutrients like iron which are better absorbed in animal products. For these reasons, Kristina’s statement is incorrect, and the evidence I provided above is just a snapshot of why animal products and cooked foods should be included in our diet for optimum nutrition.
Unfortunately, I feel as though there is still more that can be addressed about eating animal products in our diet, so I think I will have to continue this trend and write a third letter to Kristina, contesting some points on her website! Stay tuned for the next post and have a great week!