Chronically low weight or energy levels, and/or
continual hunger are a common experience among raw-fooders.
Find out why, and what the solutions are.
|The Calorie Paradox of Raw Veganism
by Tom Billings
Copyright © 1999 by Thomas E. Billings. All rights reserved.
Contact author for permission to republish.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Craig Woods Schiemann for introducing
this topic to me, and for reviewing an early draft of this paper. Thanks also to
Lee Hitchcox for reviewing an early draft, and for valuable suggestions.
A detailed TABLE OF CONTENTS linked to all portions of the article can be
found at the bottom of this first page of introduction.
||The Paradox in a Nutshell
The calorie paradox for raw vegan foods can be stated succinctly, as follows:
Compelling insights into raw diets to be gleaned from analyzing the "calorie paradox." After first laying to rest an outdated but still-popular rationale for why some people believe that calories don't matter and are irrelevant, we'll then take a look at the caloric values for each of the classes of food types permissible in a raw vegan diet, and the amounts of each type of food necessary to meet daily caloric requirements. The resulting figures provide compelling insights into the various types of eating patterns seen among raw vegans and demonstrate why these commonly seen patterns inevitably exist. Finally, these same insights and figures also provide hard criteria by which to assess the credibility and truthfulness of individuals claiming to have bypassed the raw vegan calorie paradox.
- The raw vegan diet promoted as the "party line" does not satisfy minimum calorie requirements in its strict form. Active healthy adults (i.e., in Western countries) need, on average, at least 2,000 calories of energy per day from their diet. However, the foods that usually comprise the raw vegan diet, with the exception of avocados, nuts, dried fruit, and sweet fruit juices, are relatively low-calorie-density. That is, they provide only limited calories per pound or kilogram of food. Hence, to acquire the 2,000 calories needed per day, raw vegans who follow the "party line" and limit their consumption of avocados, nuts, and dried fruit need to consume, as we will see: (a) very large amounts, each day, of the lower-calorie-density foods (raw vegetables, fruits, legume sprouts), or (b) ingest significant quantities of sweet fruit juice (which has the side-effect of excess sugar consumption).
It should be noted that actual calorie requirements will vary by individual according to age, gender, size (weight), level of physical activity, special situations (e.g., growing children, pregnancy and lactation, etc.), and other factors. The figure of 2,000 calories is used as a standard in this paper because it is a relatively conservative minimum for adults in most Western countries. Of course, as requirements vary, individuals who wish to have a more precise estimate of their calorie requirements might want to consult Recommended Dietary Allowances (National Research Council, 1989, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.) for details.
- What are the predictable and/or actual problems that happen when individuals do try to follow the "party line" strictly? Two questions arise here which characterize the raw vegan calorie paradox: The first is whether it is possible to attempt option "a" above without losing excessive weight and eventually becoming emaciated on the (relatively) modest quantities of plant foods some advocates claim to get by on (compared to what would actually be required). And the second is whether the amounts of fruit juices necessary under option "b" are advisable or even sustainable in the long run (due to the very high sugar content) without risking serious health problems.
The discussion here of the calorie paradox is inspired by the discussion of the topic in The Natural Hygiene Handbook (1996, American Natural Hygiene Society, pp. 46-47), although they don't use the terminology "paradox." Careful consideration and evaluation of the raw calorie paradox provides valuable insights into raw veganism, and goes a considerable way toward explaining why so very few people succeed or thrive, long term, on 100% raw vegan diets, and also why so many raw vegans are extremely thin/emaciated.
(Calories ARE Relevant: A Critique of Herbert Shelton on Calories)
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