In a nutshell

Weight loss : Yes

Food Choices :  Restricted

In practice : Difficult to follow in the medium and long term

Attention :  Possible deficiency in vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D and zinc. Highly probable weight loss In children, adolescents and pregnant women and women who wish to procreate: not evaluated and therefore not recommended.

Raw food diet

The origins

New fashion, living food? Not quite. A translation of the Essenes' Gospel of Peace at the beginning of the 20th century revealed that it was practiced more than 2,000 years ago by this ancient Jewish sect, whose members, it is said, could live up to 120 years. In the twentieth century, Ann Wigmore and Viktoras Kulvinkas, founders of the Hippocratic Health Institute, were responsible for the important promotion of this regime.

Living food is a way of life that is part of a larger movement, crudivorism, which includes several subgroups: granivores (eating mostly seeds), frugivores (eating mostly fruit), instinctos (eating food, including animal products, without mixing them), liquidarians (eating almost only juices), and followers of "food ecology" (eating raw, but eating everything, including meats and insects). What all these diets have in common is that most or all food is eaten raw.

The main principles

The objectives of the project

  • Promote the elimination of waste accumulated in the body.
  • Prevent certain diseases, cure them or alleviate their symptoms: cancers, arthritis, digestive disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc.
  • To live longer in good health.

The main lines

In live food, only raw food is used, preferably organic and alkanizing, which has not undergone any processing, except for germination and fermentation. Cooking at a temperature higher than 40°C (104°F) is prohibited. Although this diet is usually vegan, i.e. does not include any foods from the animal kingdom, some variations of this diet include raw meat and fish.

In this practice, the principle of "food combinations" is most often adopted, which consists of not mixing certain groups of nutrients, for example protein with starchy foods, or sweet fruits with acidic fruits.

More about alkaline feeding, fermentation and germination...

Alkaline foods

After being absorbed, the food is oxidized and residues are formed. If minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium are found in greater quantities in these residues, they are referred to as "alkalizing foods". These foods have the property of neutralizing the so-called "acidifying foods". Acidifying foods produce uric, sulfuric, acetic, lactic and phosphoric acid.

The promoters of these diets argue that alkalizing foods, such as fruits, vegetables and sprouts, contribute to a good acid-base balance in the body.


Fermentation is a phenomenon that transforms the sugar in a food into lactic acid, alcohol or acetic acid (vinegar). This transformation is done by microorganisms naturally present in the food, or added. Fermentation is a traditional means of food preservation. It is the only one that improves their nutritional value, taste and digestibility. The lactic fermentation or lactofermentation is the most interesting from a nutritional point of view.

Examples of fermented foods are: yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, tamari, olives, kefir, cheese, umeboshis plums, vinegar, wine, beer, etc.


Germination is the process by which a seed produces its embryo and gives birth to a new plant. It takes place in a humid and dark environment and involves a multitude of chemical reactions. The most important one is the synthesis of enzymes that predigests the carbohydrates, lipids and proteins of the seed; then comes the impressive multiplication of certain vitamins and, finally, the production of chlorophyll that begins when a small stem sees the light. In short, germination is a plant for predigestion and nutrient production.

Food Permitted

  • Raw or dried fruit
  • Unpasteurized honey
  • Raw or lactofermented vegetables
  • Germinated legumes
  • Germinated cereals
  • Sprouted bread
  • Nut milk
  • Raw or germinated nuts and seeds
  • First cold pressure oils
  • Germination juice
  • Cold dehydrated vegetable food
  • Algae
  • Mechanisms of action
  • Alleged

The key element of this diet is the preservation of enzymes, naturally present in fruits, vegetables and sprouts, which are destroyed by cooking when the temperature exceeds 47.8°C (118°F). In the absence of these enzymes, it is hypothesized that the organs of the digestive system and the pancreas would have to supplement by producing the enzymes needed to digest food. This would require extra work for the body and greater energy expenditure - which, in the long term, would weaken the internal organs, predisposing the individual to allergies and several diseases (from colic to cancer to acne and nearsightedness). This concept is based on the studies of Dr. Edward Howell, who stated that every living being has a limited number of enzymes.

In addition, according to the promoters of this diet, living food would avoid a phenomenon called "digestive leukocytosis", where the body reacts to cooked food that it considers "foreign". The immune system would then send its white blood cells (leukocytes) to fight these foods, diverting its attention from the real invaders (bacteria, viruses) and predisposing the body to infections.


It is true that cooking destroys some of the vitamins and minerals in food (the more the food is cooked, the greater the loss). In some cases, however, cooking also improves the bioavailability of nutrients; the amount of lycopene (an antioxidant) in tomatoes, for example, doubles after 30 minutes of cooking. Cooking also softens the dietary fibre in some foods and makes them less irritating to the gut. Cooking also has the great advantage of destroying pathogenic microorganisms and protecting us from toxic infections and can also destroy allergens in certain foods.

It is also true that cooking can reduce the anticarcinogenic potential of foods, as is the case for cruciferous isothiocynates (see our Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Turnip, etc. fact sheets). However, this disadvantage is partly compensated for because we generally eat more vegetables if they are cooked than if they are raw. On the other hand, raw vegetables have been shown to have significantly higher levels of antioxidants in the blood than omnivores1.

It is not true, however, that raw foods contain all the enzymes necessary for digestion. In fact, raw foods contain certain enzymes that allow the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to begin in the stomach. However, when the acidity in the stomach becomes too high, they are destroyed, but they will still have reduced the body's enzyme requirements since they will have already done some of the work of digestion. The question of whether the body can do without the enzymes in raw food remains unanswered.

Digestive leukocytosis caused by cooked food is taken to the extreme. Cooked foods that are well digested do not cause such a reaction. On the other hand, eating foods that are over-roasted, charred or fried could lead to other health problems, but these are not precisely known.

Typical day's menu

Morning meal

Wheatgrass juice

Fresh fruit

Sprouted wheat bread

Almond milk with figs


Lactofermented vegetables

Lentil sprout salad with mahogany nut and avocado

Green Tea

Afternoon snack: fresh fruit and sunflower seeds

Evening meal

Raw Carrot Soup

Quinoa sprouted with Aramaic algae and olive oil

Herbal tea

Advantages and Disadvantages

Satiety and well-being

This diet includes a wide variety of foods rich in dietary fibre and protein that contribute to satiety. And since there are no restrictions on quantities, there is little to be hungry about. However, eating only foods from the plant kingdom and always raw can be relatively monotonous.

In practice

Difficult to follow outside the home, especially when you live in the suburbs or in the regions because restaurants specializing in raw food are currently only found in large metropolises. This diet can cause isolation. Moreover, only vegetarian restaurants can (partially) meet the requirements. As for meals with friends or family, they can be greatly complicated, unless the followers bring their own food.

Weight Loss

Due in part to the lower calorie intake and the satiety promoted by the long chewing time of raw foods, most people who adopt this diet lose weight. Indeed, in German research on the impact of the raw food diet on adults, the researchers observed an average weight loss of 9.9 kg in men and 12 kg in women after adopting this diet. Another non-negligible fact is that 30% of these women suffered from partial or complete amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation)2.


As with vegans, consuming a completely raw, vegan diet can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency and raise blood homocysteine levels, a predisposing factor for cardiovascular disease1. Moreover, in a large study published in 2005, 46% of subjects following a raw diet had too low levels of good cholesterol (HDL)3. This type of diet has also been associated with low bone density,4 suggesting that it may not be complete on the calcium and vitamin D side. The loss of menstruation observed in 30% of women on this diet may also explain the lower bone density2.

This diet, by the fact that it induces weight loss and in some women amenorrhea could possibly hinder fertility in both men and women. Also, zinc, an important mineral for hormonal functions, may be lacking in this type of diet since it excludes most of the time foods of animal origin.

If its principles are applied correctly, live food should not lead to dietary deficiencies, except for vitamin B12. People who choose this mode of diet should consider taking supplements of vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D and zinc or rely on high plant sources of these nutrients. However, this diet cannot be recommended for growing children and adolescents or for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant because total daily energy intake is often lower than a person's energy requirements, which may compromise the growth of children, adolescents and the fetus and may make it difficult to conceive a child.

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