The Japanese sashimi is a raw dish, usually consisting of fresh raw fish.
A raw vegan simulation of Thanksgiving Turkey.

Raw foodism, also known as rawism or a raw food diet, is the dietary practice of eating only or mostly food that is uncooked and unprocessed. Depending on the philosophy, or type of lifestyle and results desired, raw food diets may include a selection of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, meat, and dairy products. The diet may also include simply processed foods, such as various types of sprouted seeds, cheese, and fermented foods such as yogurts, kefir, kombucha, or sauerkraut, but generally not foods that have been pasteurized, homogenized, or produced with the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, solvents, and food additives.

The British Dietetic Association has described raw foodism as a fad diet.[1][2] Raw food diets, specifically raw veganism, may diminish intake of essential minerals and nutrients, such as vitamin B12.[1][3][4] Claims made by raw food proponents are pseudoscientific.[5]: 44 


Raw food diets are diets composed entirely or mostly of food that is uncooked or that is cooked at low temperatures.[3][4][6]

Raw animal food diets

Steak tartare with raw egg, capers and onions

Raw animal food diets include any animal that can be eaten raw, such as uncooked, unprocessed raw muscle-meats/organ-meats/eggs, raw dairy, and aged, raw animal foods such as century eggs, fermented meat/fish/shellfish/kefir, as well as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and sprouts, but in general not raw grains, raw beans, and raw soy. Raw foods included on such diets have not been heated above 40 °C (104 °F).[4][7] "Raw Animal Foodists" believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost much of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body. Smoked meats are frowned upon by many Raw-Omnivores.[8] Some make a distinction between hot-smoked and cold-smoked.

Diet examples

The founder of the Primal Diet is Aajonus Vonderplanitz, a resident of Malibu, California. It has been estimated by Aajonus Vonderplanitz that there are 20,000 followers of his raw-meat-heavy Primal Diet in North America, alone.[14]

Raw veganism

Raw vegan apple pie

Raw veganism has rarely been practised in history,[22] but it became a fad in the 21st century.[23] A raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed, raw plant foods that have not been heated above 40–49 °C (104–120 °F). Typical foods included in raw food diets are fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains and legumes.

Among raw vegans are subgroups, such as "fruitarians", "juicearians", or "sproutarians". Fruitarians eat primarily or exclusively fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts. Juicearians process their raw plant foods into juice.[24]

The British Dietetic Association named the raw vegan diet one of the "top 5 worst celeb diets to avoid in 2018", raising a concern that it could compromise long-term health.[2]


Eugene Christian
George J. Drews
Eugene Christian and George J. Drews, founders of the American raw food movement

Early documentation of raw food dieting has been associated with hermits and monks practising asceticism. For example, John of Egypt, a hermit from the Nitrian Desert, lived on a diet of dried fruit and vegetables for fifty years; he never ate anything cooked.[25] Documented evidence of a commitment to raw food was by the Ethiopian monk Qozmos, who in the late 1300s CE committed to the ascetic discipline of eating only uncooked food.[26][27] This posed a problem for his Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church monastery because he refused to eat the bread of the Eucharist, which is cooked. As a result, he fled the church and went to live with the Jewish community of the Beta Israel.[26][27]

Contemporary raw food diets were first developed in Switzerland by Maximilian Bircher-Benner (1867–1939), who was influenced as a young man by the German Lebensreform movement, which saw civilization as corrupt and sought to go "back to nature"; it embraced holistic medicine, nudism, free love, regular exercise and other outdoors activity, and foods that it judged were more "natural".[5]: 41–43  Bircher-Benner eventually adopted a vegetarian diet, but took that further and decided that raw food was what humans were really meant to eat; he was influenced by Charles Darwin's ideas that humans were just another kind of animal and Bircher-Benner noted that other animals do not cook their food.[5]: 41–43  In 1904 he opened a sanatorium in the mountains outside of Zurich called "Lebendinge Kraft" or "Vital Force", a technical term in the Lebensreform movement that referred especially to sunlight; he and others believed that this energy was more "concentrated" in plants than in meat, and was diminished by cooking.[5]: 41–43  Patients in the clinic were fed raw foods, including muesli, which was created there.[5]: 41–43  These ideas were influential to Ann Wigmore, a notable raw food advocate, but were dismissed by scientists and the medical profession as quackery.[5]: 41–43 

One of the earliest books to advocate raw foodism was Eugene Christian's Uncooked Foods and How to Use Them, 1904.[28] Other proponents from the early part of the twentieth century include Californian fruit grower Otto Carque (author of The Foundation of All Reform, 1904), George Julius Drews (author of Unfired Food and Trophotherapy, 1912), Bernarr Macfadden and Herbert Shelton. Drews influenced John and Vera Richter to open America's first raw food restaurant "The Eutropheon" in 1917.[28]

Shelton was arrested, jailed, and fined numerous times for practising medicine without a license during his career as an advocate of rawism and other alternative health and diet philosophies. Shelton's legacy, as popularized by books like Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, has been deemed "pseudonutrition" by the National Council Against Health Fraud.[29]

In the 1970s, Norman W. Walker (inventor of the Norwalk Juicing Press) popularized raw food dieting.[30] Leslie Kenton's book Raw Energy – Eat Your Way to Radiant Health, published in 1984, added popularity to foods such as sprouts, seeds, and fresh vegetable juices.[31] The book advocates a diet of 75% raw food, which it claims will prevent degenerative diseases, slow the effects of aging, provide enhanced energy, and boost emotional balance; it cites examples such as the sprouted-seed-enriched diets of the long-lived Hunza people and Gerson therapy, an unhealthy, dangerous and potentially very harmful[32][33] raw juice-based diet and detoxification regime claimed to treat cancer.[32]

In the 21st century, raw food diets (particularly those focused on raw milk, raw eggs and raw meat) have been popularized and politicized as part of a broader "right-wing bodybuilder" movement centered around hypermasculinity, physical fitness, fascination with ancient civilizations and opposition to feminism and mainstream modern culture.[34]


See also: Cooking § Food safety

Claims held by raw food proponents include:

Health effects

A close-up of a raw food dish

A raw food diet is likely to impair the development of children and infants.[41] Care is required in planning a raw vegan diet, especially for children,[42] as there may not be enough vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calories for a growing child on a totally raw vegan diet.[43]

Food poisoning is a health risk for all people eating raw foods, and increased demand for raw foods is associated with greater incidence of foodborne illness,[44] especially for raw meat, fish, and shellfish.[45][46] Outbreaks of gastroenteritis among consumers of raw and undercooked animal products (including smoked, pickled or dried animal products[45]) are well-documented, and include raw meat,[45][47][48] raw organ meat,[47] raw fish (whether ocean-going or freshwater),[45][46][48] shellfish,[49] raw milk and products made from raw milk,[50][51][52] and raw eggs.[53]

One review stated that "Many raw foods are toxic and only become safe after they have been cooked. Some raw foods contain substances that destroy vitamins, interfere with digestive enzymes or damage the walls of the intestine. Raw meat can be contaminated with bacteria which would be destroyed by cooking; raw fish can contain substances that interfere with vitamin B1 (anti-thiaminases)"[54]

See also

icon Food portal


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