September 18, 2010


I've noticed in recent months a dialogue has opened up about whether or not a strict 100% raw vegan diet is healthy long-term.  I'm happy to see more people sharing their experience and keeping an honest, open-minded approach to healthy living.  If something isn't working, we have to be willing to let go of any attachment we may hold to a particular philosophy, and focus on what's optimal for our health.

For myself, I never felt a strong desire or calling to jump in 100% into the raw food lifestyle. I suppose I never really felt the need for it (although you may already know this, and know I'm not a vegan from previous posts). But I did go 100% raw for 31 days in January of 2008, right after I completed my certification on raw food nutrition with Drs. Rick and Karin Dina, D.C.  I was so happy to finally immerse myself into a vegan lifestyle, I even bought and read Becoming Vegan to get a better understanding of how to effectively transition.  But I have to say, my experience was somewhat disappointing.

About a week in I started to experience intense cravings for meat, which was completely unusual for having already been vegetarian for over two years with no cravings whatsoever.  And by the end of my 31 days on a strict vegan diet, I intuitively felt my body was lacking something.  But what concerned me the most, was that I started to experience hair-loss (literally clumps of hair falling out in the shower), not to mention my iron and vitamin D levels dropped. Just to be clear, I maintained a clean diet with nothing gourmet or dehydrated.  I focused on alkaline foods including a ton of dark leafy greens.  

Was it just detox?  About six months prior I had experienced symptoms of so-called detox (dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, body aches and cramps, etc).  But hair-loss and a drop in nutrient levels? Clearly there was more going on! The term "detox" is often thrown around loosely without much of an understanding of what that really means. At what point is something no longer just a symptom of detox, but a sign of deficiency? It seems there is no clear definition, so a little common sense goes a long way!

I honestly think that my hair-loss was largely due to a lack of sufficient protein.  Once I incorporated some cooked foods and animal products back into my diet (lentils, quinoa, an occasional soft-boiled egg, raw goat and sheep yogurt, wild-caught salmon), my hair-loss improved and the cravings all but vanished. 

I know we often say that Americans eat way too much protein, and yes we eat way too much of the wrong protein.  But good quality protein (amino acids) are essential.  They are the building blocks of life after all. Getting adequate amounts of high quality protein is something that I feel many raw foodists overlook.  Some of them swear by the all-or-nothing approach, but I often wonder how many routinely check their B-12, iron and vitamin D levels.

To be fair, I do think it is possible to succeed on a 100% raw vegan diet, when following a careful regiment that includes plenty of sprouts, wheatgrass, sea vegetables, algae, dark leafy greens, omega-rich nuts and seeds, a vitamin B-12 supplement, adequate amounts of calories, fats and protein... along with a routine blood test to monitor nutrient levels.  But you can't just wing it!

Of course we should all be incorporating these foods anyway, but it's not to say that we can't achieve optimal health on a high-raw diet with some cooked foods or animal products.  Quality is what's going to make or break it.  Organic, whole natural foods (preferably local) is a must.

As for me, I'm not attached to the label "raw foodist".  These days I'm far more flexible than when I was first introduced to this lifestyle.  I often enjoy cooking in the evenings using lots of fresh veggies from a local, organic farm (CSA).  And I always make sure to include a big RAW green salad with a cooked meal.  If you're curious about what I typical eat during a given week,  you can see My Way!

I am very sincere when I say this the more we can open up and speak honestly about what's working and what's not, rather than keeping secrets and judging one another, the more we can help each other and help others on this journey of health and well-being ♥

With love, 


  1. YEAH Mila! I love this! I seem to remember a certain sneaking of some salmon on a we like it raw post about you???
    hee hee
    Let's all just enjoy this crazy world and stop worrying about what we want to eat!

  2. If you are eating cooked food it is much easier to be vegan without any health issues. The title of this post should be "I am not a raw vegan" since your experience with veganism was in combination with eating only raw foods. Your experiences may have been different if you were eating cooked vegan foods, so you cannot technically say that following a vegan diet did not work for you. Most people who transition to vegan diets do not only raw foods.

  3. Thanks Debbie! Yep that was me on We Like It Raw.. I couldn't agree more about enjoying this crazy world ;-)

  4. Thanks Jessica, I really appreciate your thoughts! I don't particularly resonate with a vegan approach that focuses on soy products, for example... I don't think processed soy is healthy.

    But I do agree, I think it's possible to be healthy as a vegan or raw vegan... I admire them both. For me, it just feels natural and I feel much better when I incorporate some animal and cooked foods ;-)

  5. That's interesting. What about Victoria Boutenko saying that greens are a complete food and have protein in them? Just curious. I'm still eating cooked and not limiting the type of cooked but I do about 75% raw living foods and green smoothies. For me, I believe the smoothies are making a difference. After 61 years of suffering (a long story) I'm seeing enough improvement (however slow it may be) to stick with it. Thanks for sharing. I do believe we are all individual and what works for one may not work for another. Carol

  6. All foods in nature contain protein, they literally are the building blocks of life ;-) In my experience I felt I wasn't getting enough protein even when eating large amounts of leafy greens.

    I have a hard time digesting nuts and beans, so I can't always rely on these foods to provide extra protein. For this reason, I feel it's important to listen and honor our bodies ;-)

  7. Great post...and I wish more folks in the public eye such as yourself would write something similar if it is true for them. I also think the whole blood type argument has a lot more credibility than most will concede. If you're a type O blood type, it could very well be dangerous to become a strict vegan without really knowing what you are doing. Blood type A's fare the best, but I agree with you and with the previous poster that you really just need to observe your own body and treat it the way it responds the best. -David

  8. Thanks so much David. I will say that I have mixed feelings about the blood type diet, but I agree that we all respond differently.. it's very individual. There's no one size fits all when it comes to diet.

  9. I once read something about your hair not reacting until 6-12 months after your do a change. Especially with eating disordered people this is clear: You eat healthy, hair fails out. You start eating bad, hair has finally started to get healthy, doesn't fall out.

    I don't know where I read it, you just have to search around I guess. I believe in it and I wasn't even eating that little when I was sick, but my hair changed liked that all the time.

  10. Interesting, thank you! I have to say, I'm not sure if I agree with this view. It seems to imply that hair loss is somehow a natural and "healthy" reaction to a healthy diet(?) I don't see the connection, how is hair loss an indication of good health... especially if it's been linked and observed in relation to eating disorders? If anything, it seems to suggest that it's probably NOT a good sign.

    Let me know if you find the source, hoping it's credible ;-)

  11. Great post. I think we all have to figure out what is right for ourselves on every level, nutritionally, morally, ecologically...and everyone is different! It is good to respect others and the decisions they make.

  12. I agree Susan, it's a very personal decision... on many levels ;-)

  13. Hi Mila!

    Great post. I definitely believe in bio-individuality and we have to listen to our own bodies for sure--everyone is different.

    However, I did notice that you seemed to imply that being a vegan involved eating soy protein products? I'm not sure if you meant it to come across that way or not.

    I wanted to add in that I have been a vegan for 5 years, my girlfriend has been a vegan for 11 years. We both do not consume processed soy products. I actually stay away from them as much as possible as I find soy milk and soy fake meats to be highly processed and acidic in the body. However I am still vegan, don't eat soy at all and had my bloodwork done a few weeks ago and things came back amazing as they always do for me.

    I just wanted to clarify that there are many vegans out there that don't do soy at all, and view soy as unhealthy, and still get plenty of protein in their diets and are healthy. There are unhealthy vegans who eat badly just as there are healthy vegans who eat lots of whole, unprocessed foods.

    For me it works and I never even really have to worry about my protein intake--I eat a lot of quinoa and other high protein foods as well. No soy needed! :-) Plus raw veggies have protein in them as well (by the way the whole idea that we have to combine certain foods to be "complete" proteins is actually a myth that was disproven a while ago).

    But I totally hear you that it may not have worked for your body to be vegan and I agree that it's important to honor our own bodies and what works for them. I just wanted to make sure that people didn't think that being a vegan is all about eating processed soy products. I never touch em and am vegan :-) Thanks for the post, loved it!

  14. I couldn't agree more, an unprocessed vegan approach is the way to go! I love hearing success stories on vegan and/or raw vegan diets.. I only wish it worked for me! I really wanted to believe veganism was the optimal diet for humans :(

  15. Thank you for this post! I will follow you even more closely now. I appreciate the fact that you feel listening to our bodies is the most important thing, as I feel the same way. Through trial and error, not an ideological viewpoint, I have found the foods that are best for me. High raw is wonderful for the warmer months here in Minnesota, but in winter I aim for about 50% raw--and I'm no vegetarian after suffering nutritionally from trying that years ago. We are all different, and I wish more people would recognize that. Thank you so much.

  16. Hi Mila, I agree with your post - I've had the most success with Natalia Rose's raw diet. I eat raw goat cheese as my main protein, and I really like her (and your) non-dogamatic approach to healthy eating. Thanks for the post!

  17. Hi Lisa, I love it.. sounds like you found a balanced diet that works for you! I agree, more people need to focus on what their bodies tell them, not what others tell them ;-)

  18. Thanks Ingrid, I'm so glad you resonate! Oh I love Natalia Rose ;-)

  19. i am so happy to read this mila !! thank you :))

  20. I am not vegan either, but I do live a high raw lifestyle. I allow myself to be flexible depending on what situation I'm in. For example, if I am with family and someone offers me something to eat, then I will eat what has been offered. I've long foregone the days of looking a gift horse in the mouth and offending friends and family members. Whenever I eat with family, I watch my portions and avoid processed condiments. I am also a stay at home mom of two toddlers (and my husband eats meat), so we could never have a full-time vegan household. Tuna and salmon are the only meat I eat. I adjust my meal plan to allow for flexibility, because that is what works for me. I run across too many people who try to make me feel bad for the way I eat - it sounds like a set up for an eating disorder, doesn't it? Yet, I follow what I think is best for me and my family, and that's all there is to it!

  21. beautiful, sounds like you found the right balance to meet the needs of your family.. love it!

  22. Hi Mila,

    I'm curious what your blood type is? I've talked to type 0s, and they have a hard time without eating any meat. However, I do agree that the whole placing a personality on one's blood type isn't accurate.


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin