Sometimes when transitioning to a raw food diet, my clients express they are experiencing a lack of energy. Others clearly say increased energy is the first sign of the raw vegan lifestyle benefits. If low energy is short-term, this is usually a detoxification symptom during the beginning of a raw food diet. Lack of energy can be attributed to the body working hard to expel toxins which have accumulated over the years of eating processed and refined foods, animal flesh and products, and other highly proteinaceous and chemical-laden substances.
The following are some questions you can ask yourself to make sure you are getting energy from your food sources, or if some of your food sources are depleting your energy:
Are you eating enough calories from fruit?
We need to be getting enough calories from fruit to get the glucose we need for our energy needs. Low fruit diets often mean that we are getting our energy from high fat sources such as nuts, seeds, and avocados. As much as we require some of these overt fats, we want to make sure not to overeat them as their complicated digestion can rob us of our energy.
Are you limiting your intake of nuts, seeds, avocados, and other fatty foods?
To better understand the overt fats we need in our daily lifestyle, I refer you to chapter 6 on All about Fats in the Raw Vegan Diet in my book Creating Healthy Children. The detailed explanation covers the amount of fat appropriate for different individuals, both adult and children. Children, however, should not be on a low fat raw vegan diet as they experience growth spurts and are often more physically active, requiring them to listen to their own needs for fat sources in their diets. Adults do well with a low fat raw vegan diet, getting their energy needs met by the simple carbohydrates in ripe raw fruit.
Are you getting in your greens?
Leafy green vegetables, abundant in protein, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are excellent to balance the sugars in fruit. I recommend a high-green diet to keep us highly mineralized.
Are you limiting your intake of dried fruits, nuts, and other low water raw foods?
Our blood and cellular tissues are 72% water. Dried fruits are extremely concentrated in sugars and have had the water content removed. Nuts and other low water content raw foods are difficult to digest and are acid-forming, other than almonds. We need a small amount of these foods but most people coming to the raw food diet tend to overeat these complex fats, which often result in decreased energy.
Are you paying attention to other health factors, like exercise, sleep, stress level and sunshine?
A healthy water-rich raw vegan diet is only one factor among many for increasing energy in your life. Other health factors equally important are getting sufficient daily exercise, sleep, a low stress lifestyle, and sunshine to give us adequate levels of vitamin D. Further information on these topics and how to improve your life and gain the desired energy levels you want are discussed in detail for adults and children in chapters 7, 15, 26 and 34 of Creating Healthy Children.
It’s best to ease into the raw food diet one step at a time. Start with 50 percent raw and go from there. If you are already eating a lot of raw food then you can move to a higher place from where you are. You can focus on a high raw or 100 percent raw diet as the eventual goal, but putting on that kind of immediate pressure when beginning can end up backfiring. Instead, find the balance that works best with your lifestyle and consider it an evolving process.
Most important is to get the animal flesh and products and processed and refined packaged foods out of the diet first. These are not meant to be our food sources and have no place at all in our diets. To understand more about why animals are not meant to be our food, please read The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle. Keeping even small amounts of animal food or processed food in a primarily raw food diet will still lead to intense cravings and bingings as well as rob us of our energy.
Try to find simple well-combined recipes with few ingredients and make meal plans, especially as you begin. There are food-combining charts in both Creating Healthy Children and Raw Vegan Recipe Fun for Families. Don’t allow yourself to go many hours without eating. Make sure to eat a variety of fresh ripe fruit, leafy greens, sprouts, other vegetables, and smaller amounts of nuts, seeds and avocado.
Some raw foods that increase energy are:
1. Fruit – As discussed, fruit is energy food. Ripe fruit is easily digested, moving quickly from the stomach to the intestines and then distributed efficiently into the bloodstream and cells for quick energy. What isn’t utilized can be easily eliminated. So many fruits are loaded with antioxidants necessary for our energy and our survival.
For example, blueberries have more antioxidants than any other fruit, quite a bit of heart healthy fiber and are a natural brain food. Blueberries are easy to add to your diet, especially if you pick up some from the farmers market or local grocery. Please make sure all berries are organic. In the wintertime, frozen organic blueberries can be used in green smoothies to boost nutrition. They’re versatile, ready to eat and you can never have too many!
2. Coconuts – are one of the most naturally hydrating foods, especially the young varieties. The natural electrolyte composition of coconut water is better at re-hydrating the body than any other sport/nutrition drink and is the best match to what your body already produces. Coconuts are also packed with healthy fats that help lower cholesterol, fuel your brain and heart function, and have natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
3. Seeds – are high in fiber, vitamin E, and healthy unsaturated fats that can help keep your brain and heart healthy. Raw seeds are also a good source of protein, zinc, which is excellent for your immune system, and have been linked to lower levels of the bad LDL cholesterol. Again, because this is a fat source, we are talking here about small amounts to get the benefits.
Chia Seeds – they have more omega 3s and antioxidants than flax and have been used for centuries as a life sustaining food. In addition, Chia seeds are an easily digested food, provide easy access nutrients to the body and are one of the most complete plant-based sources of protein available.
4. Leafy Greens – it’s almost impossible to get enough greens. If given the chance, you could ingest greens for every meal and see only benefits from it. Leafy greens like kale, chard, beet greens, collards and spinach, are high in chlorophyll, a powerful antioxidant, vitamins C and E, fiber, enzymes and amino acids.
5. Seaweeds – such as kelp and dulse, have an estimated 10-20 times the average nutrients in land plants and are one of the richest sources of chlorophyll available. Seaweeds are extremely high in minerals and are said to be one of the most easily assimilated sources of minerals for the human bloodstream. They are also a good plant based source of iron, calcium and iodine.
6. Sprouts – the dormant energy of any seed is the source of life and growth potential that it contains. As the growth process begins during sprouting, food enzymes are activated, nutrient levels increase and new vitamins and minerals are taken on. In fact, per calorie, sprouts are said to provide more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins than any other food. Sprouts are also high in phytonutrients and chlorophyll, which play an antioxidant role in your body. I love sunflower greens, and we grow them here year round in our home.
Ranzi, Karen. Creating Healthy Children: Through Attachment Parenting and Raw Foods. Ramsey, NJ: SHC Publishing, 2010.
By Karen Ranzi, M.A. with Intern Nicole Ramirez