Supporters of the raw food diet believe eating raw foods has benefits, including for weight loss and overall health. But there may also be drawbacks, such as not getting enough calories.

The raw food diet, often called raw foodism or raw veganism, is an eating plan composed of mostly or entirely raw and unprocessed foods.

A food is considered raw if it has never been:

  • heated over 104–118°F (40–48°C)
  • refined
  • pasteurized
  • treated with pesticides
  • otherwise processed in any way

Instead, the diet allows several alternative preparation methods, including:

While most raw food diets are entirely plant-based, some may also consume raw eggs and dairy. Less commonly, raw fish and meat may also be included.

Proponents of the diet typically discourage supplement use while on the diet. They often claim the diet provides all the necessary nutrients.

Supporters also believe that cooking foods harms human health because it destroys the natural enzymes in foods, reduces their nutrient content, and reduces the “life force” they believe exists in all raw or “living” foods.

People follow the raw food diet for the benefits they believe it has, including:

  • weight loss
  • improved vitality
  • increased energy
  • improvement to chronic diseases
  • improved overall health
  • a reduced impact on the environment

The raw food diet is made up mostly of foods that have not been processed or heated over a certain temperature.

How to follow the raw food diet

To follow the raw food diet, ensure at least 75% of your food is raw.

Most raw food diets are made primarily of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Grains and legumes are often permitted but usually need to be soaked or sprouted before eating.

Foods to eat

Foods to avoid

  • cooked fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains
  • baked items
  • roasted nuts and seeds
  • refined oils
  • table salt
  • refined sugars and flour
  • pasteurized juices and dairy
  • coffee and tea
  • alcohol
  • pasta
  • pastries
  • chips
  • other processed foods and snacks

The raw food diet is made up of foods that have never been cooked. Processed and refined foods are discouraged.

Is raw food healthier than cooked food?

Raw food diet supporters believe that eating mostly or all raw food is ideal for human health.

However, like many core beliefs behind the raw food diet, this idea is not backed by science.

Research shows that both cooked and raw foods have health benefits.

The raw food diet discourages cooking because of the belief that cooking destroys the natural enzymes in foods. The diet’s advocates believe that these enzymes are vital to human health and digestion.

High heat does cause most enzymes to unravel or change shape. But many enzymes denature in the acidic environment of the stomach anyway. The body already produces its own enzymes to facilitate chemical processes, including digestion and energy production (1).

Another core belief behind the raw food diet is that cooking destroys the nutrient content of foods.

Cooking can decrease certain nutrients in food, especially water-soluble ones like vitamin C and B vitamins (2).

However, cooking increases the availability of other nutrients and antioxidants, such as lycopene and beta-carotene, though this can vary by the cooking method (3).

Cooking also helps inactivate or destroy some antinutrients in food. For example, cooking grains and legumes reduces lectins and phytic acid. In large quantities, these can block your body from absorbing minerals (4).

Additionally, cooking also destroys harmful bacteria (5).

For these reasons, it’s important to eat a variety of both raw and cooked foods.


Raw food is not any healthier than cooked food. Cooking decreases some nutrients, yet increases others. It also destroys certain harmful compounds and bacteria.

A raw food diet may have some positive points. These can include (6):

  • high in fresh fruits and vegetables
  • high in nutrients and fiber
  • limited highly processed foods and added sugar
  • weight loss, if needed
  • lowered blood triglyceride levels
  • reduced body fat

The cons can include (6, 7, 8, 9):

  • reduced calorie intake that may make it hard to meet your daily calorie needs
  • reduced digestibility of food, which makes it harder for the body to get calories and nutrients
  • decreased amount of certain nutrients and antioxidants
  • unbalanced, typically high in either fats or fruits to meet calorie needs
  • potentially deficient in some vitamins, minerals, and protein, such as vitamin B-12
  • increased risk of tooth erosion in people who follow a plant-based diet
  • menstrual irregularities
  • lower bone mass

Raw food diets are made up of healthy foods and are likely to cause weight loss, but they are often too low in calories and some nutrients.

Sample menu

A raw food diet can vary based on the foods that are allowed and the dieter’s food preferences.

If you decide to try a raw food diet, here is an example of what one week on a 100% raw food vegan diet might look like.

Day one

  • Breakfast: Green smoothie
  • Snack: Carrots and raw hummus
  • Lunch: Raw squash noodle pasta with pesto
  • Snack: Strawberries and almonds
  • Dinner: Raw vegetable pizza

Day two

  • Breakfast: Chia seed pudding with fruit
  • Lunch: Apple and walnut salad
  • Snack: Freshly squeezed juice and nuts
  • Dinner: Raw zucchini noodle pasta with tomato sauce and basil

Day three

  • Breakfast: Overnight oatmeal with chopped fruit and nuts
  • Snack: Broccoli and raw hummus
  • Snack: Raw sweet potato chips and fruit
  • Dinner: Stuffed portobello mushrooms

Day four

  • Breakfast: Fruit bowl
  • Lunch: Salad with figs and nuts
  • Snack: Banana and raw nut butter
  • Dinner: Raw lasagna

Day five

  • Breakfast: Green smoothie
  • Lunch: Sprouted quinoa Buddha bowl
  • Snack: Apple and berries
  • Dinner: Raw tomato soup with marinated veggies

Day six

  • Breakfast: Soaked oats with berries
  • Lunch: Salad with avocado and fruit
  • Snack: Sliced bell pepper and sunflower seeds
  • Dinner: Raw veggie sushi and chopped veggies

Day seven

  • Breakfast: Raw banana pancakes and fruit
  • Lunch: Raw squash soup
  • Snack: Orange slices and nuts
  • Dinner: Kale and mushroom salad

Is the raw food diet safe and sustainable?

In the short term, the raw food diet will not likely pose major health concerns.

However, you may have some issues if you follow the diet long-term. These can include:

  • deficiency in calorie and protein intake
  • nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin B12 and vitamin D
  • increased risk of foodborne illness, especially if you eat raw dairy, eggs, or meat

A raw food diet can be challenging to keep up for several reasons. These may include:

  • limited food choices
  • difficulty going out to eat
  • difficulty eating with friends
  • limited food preparation methods
  • expensive to buy fresh, organic produce
  • time-consuming to plan and prepare

The raw food diet is probably not harmful in the short term, but you may experience negative effects if you follow it in the long term.

What do you eat on a raw food diet?

On a raw food diet, you can eat uncooked and unprocessed foods, such as produce, nuts, legumes, and sprouted grains. Some people may also consume raw dairy, eggs, meat, or fish.

Is a raw diet actually good for you?

While a raw diet may have some benefits that come from eating more plant-based foods, it is hard to get an adequate intake of certain nutrients, like protein and some vitamins. Eating raw foods can also increase your risk of foodborne illness (5).

Is a raw meat diet healthy for humans?

Eating raw meat may increase a person’s risk of foodborne illness (5).

Is the raw food diet expensive for people?

A raw food diet can be expensive, as people may need to purchase large quantities of fresh, organic produce.

The bottom line

Fresh, raw foods are a valuable part of a balanced diet. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Cooking is important to make certain foods and nutrients more digestible.

An entirely or even mostly raw diet is likely to cause weight loss but also makes it difficult to meet your nutritional needs.

Eating a combination of cooked and raw foods is ideal for your health.