Trendy raw vegan diet loved by Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore might do more harm than good, warns dietary expert
- Going vegetarian or vegan has become incredibly popular in recent years
- Some are taking it to the extreme and only eating raw plant foods
- There are claims that ingredients can lose nutrients during the cooking process
- Dr Laura Brown, a lecturer in nutrition at Teesside University, warned against it
The raw vegan diet loved by Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore can do more harm than good in the long run, an expert has warned.
While going vegetarian or vegan has become popular recently, some are taking it to the extreme and only eating raw plant foods that can be consumed without cooking.
There are claims that ingredients can lose important nutrients and enzymes in the cooking process – and having raw plant food will improve energy levels, prevent disease and boost overall health.
But Dr Laura Brown, a senior lecturer in nutrition at Teesside University, warned the diet could cause more harm than good if followed for a long time.
The raw vegan diet loved by Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore can do more harm than good in the long run, an expert has warned. While going vegetarian or vegan has become popular in recent years, some are taking it to the extreme and only eating raw plant foods that can be consumed without any cooking
On The Conversation website, she said some vegetables actually provide a greater nutrient content when cooked, as the process helps break down cell walls and allows nutrients to be released.
For example, when spinach is cooked it becomes easier for the body to absorb the calcium it contains.
Asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, kale and cauliflower are also more nutrient-dense when cooked, she wrote.
Dr Brown said people who stick to raw vegan diets also lack important vitamins and minerals that come from animals.
These play an important role in the structure, development and production of brain and nerve cells and supporting a healthy immune system.
A previous study found 38 per cent of people who followed strict raw vegan diets were deficient in vitamin B12.
There are claims that ingredients can lose some of their important nutrients and enzymes during the cooking process – and consuming raw plant food will improve energy levels, prevent disease and boost overall health (stock image)
The diet can also lead to unintentional weight loss and even cause some women to stop menstruating, separate studies have found.
Dr Brown said: ‘While following a plant-based diet can have many benefits for health, the raw vegan diet may potentially be taking things a bit too far and may come with even greater risks if not followed carefully.
‘If you are planning to do a raw vegan diet, it’s important to plan carefully to ensure you are consuming all the nutrients you need for optimal health.
‘I also wouldn’t recommend following it for a long period of time because of the many risks it may have.’
Her warning echoes those made by genetic expert Professor Steve Jones, who claimed a long-term raw food diet could have deadly effects.
At the Hay Festival several years ago, he said: ‘We are the only animal who has ever lived that would starve to death if we ate raw food alone.
‘We’ve lost the enzymes and the absorption mechanism to digest raw food.’
Registered dietician Clare Thornton-Wood, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, said: ‘I would not recommend a raw vegan diet as it could potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies.
‘Potentially there could be a lack of a number of nutrients including protein, calcium, iron and B12. There is also likely to be inadequate calories.
‘Whilst eating raw food does retain many nutrients such as Vitamin C, cooking foods make nutrients such as beta carotene easier to absorb and destroys toxins such as leptin which are present in foods such as pulses.’
Aside from Miss Paltrow and Miss Moore, the likes of Megan Fox and Sting have also previously followed the raw vegan food diet.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide