Unhealthy Raw Vegan?

by Susan on May 4, 2011

The verdict is in. A plant based diet is your best (natural) weapon against heart disease, cancer and diabetes. With many wonderful books and cookbooks currently on the best seller list that promote a health inspired, vegan diet, Oprah doing an entire show on veganism, “Meatless Mondays” becoming a theme everywhere you look, people are finally waking up to the importance of plant based foods in your diet.

Here is my gripe and my warning. Yes, you are going to be a lot further ahead if you get rid of those steaks, eggs, dairy, etc. And there are healthy, plant based substitutions that we can use. Nuts make wonderful flours, milks and cheeses. Coconut oil covers butter. And trust me, as you slowly eliminate meat, pork, chicken and fish from your diet, you get to a point where you don’t miss it at all. But just because we have eliminated animal products, are we necessarily eating a healthy diet?

I often hear people who are new to raw foods, exclaim in excitement, “Wow! I can eat a ‘cheesecake’ for breakfast!” Well, guess what. Even though that raw ‘cheesecake’ is healthier than traditional cheesecake, it is not a good choice for breakfast. Lets take a look at an interesting little comparison. For this comparison, I used a recipe form The Cheesecake Factory, Rawmazing’s Cranberry Apple Cheesecake and my typical breakfast, a green drink.

Traditional Cheesecake

Ingredients:                    Calories per serving: 977

  • Pecans                  No fiber, high in Fat, chlosterol and sugar
  • Almonds              Very low in vitamins, nutrient.
  • Walnuts
  • Vanilla Wafer
  • Butter
  • Cream Cheese
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Flour
  • Sour Cream
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Lemon Juice

Raw Cheesecake

Ingredients:                  *Calories per serving: 496

  • Apples                 Full of fiber, high in fat, no cholesterol
  • Cranberries        Vitamins, minerals, nutrients and
  • Almonds              phytonutrients.
  • Dates
  • Cinnamon
  • Coconut Butter
  • Cashews
  • Agave Nectar
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg

*Serving size is much smaller as it is a lot more filling than the traditional recipe.

Green Smoothie

Ingredients:                    Calories per serving: 158

  • Spinach
  • Grapes                  Very low in fat (-1gm), very high in manganese,
  • Blueberries          vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A, phytonutrients


You can look at the comparison. Raw cheesecake is certainly healthier than traditional. It has fiber, nutrients and no cholesterol. But it is still high in calories and fats and missing the large quantities of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that you get from starting the day with a green drink. The raw cheesecake is a great alternative to cheesecake as a dessert, consumed occasionally. Not everyday, not consuming a whole raw cheesecake in one sitting and certainly not for breakfast.

There are also many processed vegan products on the shelves these days. Many contain “frankensoy”, an industrial form of highly processed soy found in many meat replacement products that is not healthy. The key word for me is processed. If it comes in a box, you could be taking a nutritional risk eating it. Check the label, always.

What I would like you to take with you today. Just because it is classified as raw, or vegan, it doesn’t mean it is a green light for an eating-free-for-all. You still need to evaluate what you are eating. Greens, veggies, fruit, some nuts and seeds should be the majority of your diet. Raw treats are wonderful but should be thought as such, treats. Be careful when you buy anything boxed or processed. And make the level of nutrients that the food contains be your main focus.






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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Maridel Bowes May 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Thanks for this refreshing reminder about the pitfalls of even the most highly recommened eating options. I just started eating raw a month ago and like having my awareness raised about what is a treat and what is a staple. So far, my green smoothies have been the only breakfast I’ve had and love knowing I am starting my day with the best ingredients the earth has to offer.


Stacy L May 4, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Thank you! I am always amazed when I read other books or visit websites and forums where people constantly say you can eat ANYthing you want, so long as it’s raw and you will 1) be more healthy; and 2) lose weight. Come on! Calories are calories. If you take in more than you burn, you will not lose weight, you will gain. Raw food is like the secret hiding in plain sight for me, but it’s not a magic pill. Health and weight loss are not hard to understand – move your body more and eat less calories.



Julia May 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Oh yeah! Veganism could be potato chips and french fries and soy ice cream. You have to make and keep your own rules about it to keep it healthy, not just “it doesn’t come from an animal.” Thanks for the post!!


bitt May 5, 2011 at 1:17 pm

There are a few raw chefs that keep saying you can eat raw desserts for breakfast, I like Ani Phyo has said this. She means probably that it’s better than a donut, if that would be your other option.

Some of us wouldn’t be able to last very long on a green drink that light. For me, I need a little more protein and fat in the morning.


Tara Burner May 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm

love it! Glad someone’s acknowledging this since I know many vegetarians and vegans both who eat so many unhealthy ‘veg’ options that it’s mind-boggling and they justify it by saying it’s ‘veg’
and yet it’s not anywhere near healthy..(ie: processed stuff, foods w/no real nutritional content)


Saskia May 5, 2011 at 5:17 pm

So right on. Terrific post! I am always amazed at how many vegetarians and vegans eat a diet low in nutrients by choosing so many “plastic foods” (my father’s term) that create inflammation in the body and lead to poor health. I find it ironic that there is an emphasis on “respecting animals” yet not respecting your own body! Cookies, donuts, vegan twinkies, processed soy foods, etc are just humorous to me–just Standard American Diet junk food marketed to a vegan/veg population.


Nicola May 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Awesome thanks Susan. I do agree though that a green smoothie that light would not sustain me! My morning drink of fruit and greens is now 700-900 calories, following a mostly low fat raw vegan diet. I don’t necessarily agree that ‘a calorie is a calorie’ – there is a whole LFRV community consuming 3000-6000 calories a day of fruit and greens, and they are definitely not putting on weight!!


Susan May 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm

3,000 to 6,000 calories a day eating fruit and veggies? You would have to eat the equivalent of 40-80 apples, 4-8,00 cups of spinach or 130 to 260 tomatoes. I am confused your statement. And I agree. A calorie is not a calorie. You can have a completely nutritionally empty calorie and one that is nutrient dense.


Nicola May 9, 2011 at 6:43 pm

lots of bananas and dates actually! Tthe most I have managed is 2700 calories in a day, and that included 17 bananas. Check out the 30 bananas a day website if you are interested x


Eco Mama May 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Beautiful photo Susan, those carrots are so crisp and clear it almost looks like I could grab one right of my screen.
Eco Mama


Kerry Butler May 10, 2011 at 8:10 am

Very well put. I just wish the word could get out more on this. You do a great job and the recipes are awesome. You’re website found me first when I started this amazing health journey and is the first one I give out to friends and family.
Recently on a trip to the twin cities I was doing my usual people watching, this time in Trader Joe’s and was amazed at the amount of people that thought they were giving the green light to put as much “CRAP” in their cart just because it was organic.

Keep up the great work, if you are ever in the Bemidiji area we sould love some educational -cooking classes in this area. Kerry


Mary Turtle May 10, 2011 at 9:41 am

How could anyone possibly eat 17 bananas a day? I have a problem eating one and I LIKE bananas. Eeeeew!


Em May 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

I get that your breakfast smoothies is filled with nutrients, but 150 calories isn’t going to sustain a healthy person until lunch. If you need approximately 2000 calories per day to meet your energy requirements you would clearly be needing about 500 calories per meal, three times a day, plus snacks, right? So I’m assuming an active healthy person is eating more then the spinach smoothies mentioned here.


Susan May 17, 2011 at 9:20 am

The breakfast smoothie was just supposed to be an example of how you can get tons more nutrients for way less calories. I usually start my day with that. If I need something around 10:00am, I eat. I am not saying that you should just have that, only that and not eat again until noon. It was just an example. :-)


Ken Dorr February 19, 2012 at 3:03 am

I agree that a plant based diet is the healthiest way to detoxify and maintain a balanced alkaline PH. Morning smoothies are an amazing way to awaken from the fast of night and begin the day. Love my smoothies!


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