14 Raw Food Pitfalls and How to Tell the Real Experts from the Rest

Friday Jan 11 | BY |
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Confused Woman

Today, we’re exposed to more and more information about the raw food diet. Some of it is helpful, but some of it is misleading or even harmful. Here’s how to tell the difference…

1. Be aware of what I call “three week wonders.”

Definition of a three week wonder: someone who has taken a three week class in raw food (or anything) and is now dispensing information, classes, selling a book, etc. based on those three weeks, and not much more.

So much misinformation is being passed around by well-meaning but inexperienced people who pass themselves off as experts with limited knowledge and little if any real life experience.

For example, one time I heard an explanation of why we soak nuts and seeds. It seems according to this “teacher” that the part you soak off is what keeps animals from eating them.

The real reason: when you soak, you wash off the growth inhibitors that in quantity, are toxic to us. These growth inhibitors keep the nut or seed from sprouting out of season if a few drops of rain fall on it. Soaking and sprouting also change the nut or seed to a more digestible food as the fats are broken down into fatty acids, and the proteins into amino acids.

Another less amusing example is a three week wonder becoming enthusiastic about the wonderful results achieved from going raw. (This may have been a bit more than three weeks, but the “expert” has limited experience and a lot of enthusiasm.) The expert creates educational materials and programs that many people purchase only to—after a few years—totally reverse his or her stand on raw food, now claiming that raw food is harmful.

What is wrong with this picture? First of all, the three-week wonder went into “business” with just a tiny amount of experience. They did not expand the variety of foods they ate, but ate the same things day after day, and when they began to feel ill from lack of variety, perhaps developing deficiencies, rather than take a good look at what they were eating, they blamed “raw food.”

No one type of food can make you healthy. Not carrot juice. Not green juice. Not wheat grass. Not algae. What contributes to your good health is giving your body the chance to cleanse and heal itself.

Raw Food can no sooner “make you sick” than fresh air can. One needs to exercise some common sense. You always need a large variety of foods to be healthy. Think of the rainbow and eat foods of each color. Don’t forget protein, don’t forget fat. Don’t forget carbohydrates. Don’t listen to any one person about anything, including me.

Whenever you hear a story (being widely passed around on the internet) about sick vegan babies, sick infants of vegan moms, deficiencies on a raw diet, etc., ask yourself: What exactly were they eating? That part of the story never gets told.

There are many people who have been all-raw or high-raw for well over twenty years, including myself, Dr. Brian Clement, Dr. Anna Maria Gahns Clement, Dr. Doug Graham, Viktoras Kulvinskas, Reverend George Malkmus and Cherie Soria.

There are other “three week wonders” who have propelled themselves into the thriving raw food related businesses and, while they do a lot of good, in their limited knowledge and experience, they also perpetuate misinformation that could turn out to be harmful.

For example, one raw food proponent indicates that daily enemas are part of their ongoing daily routine. Enemas are useful, perhaps even lifesaving, while on the cleanse phase of a raw food program and for serious long-term programs such as the Gerson Therapy, which is closely monitored. But it is never a good idea to use enemas as part of a daily routine once the cleanse phase is over.

Lack of education and experience manifests itself all over the raw food movement. The very leaders you may be looking up to perhaps belong in this category. Know where you information is coming from and don’t put all your faith in just one source.

My last example of a “three week wonder” (I am being selective—there are many more examples of misinformation coming from supposed “experts” in the field) is a self-published food preparation book that tells the reader to dehydrate at 98 degrees. This is erroneous and potentially harmful advice.

Dehydrating at too low a temperature leaves the food open to developing mold. If you use common sense, you will realize that food does not become the temperature at which the oven is set. Roasting a turkey (this is an example to illustrate my meaning only) at 350 degrees never results in the turkey being 350 degrees. Likewise, with the dehydrator. You want to dehydrate at the highest temperature possible while keeping the food itself below 115 or 110 degrees. When I dehydrate flax seed crackers, which are cold and very wet at first, I start the machine at 120 or 125, or if I will be home to monitor it, at 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

As the crackers become dryer and I can feel that they are getting warm to the touch (don’t forget how hot a 103 degree Jacuzzi feels), I turn it down. Dehydrators work differently in different climates. You can expect your food to be done sooner in dry hot Arizona than you can in cool damp England. Please do not make the mistake of creating moldy food just because some “expert” who wrote a book tells you to set your dehydrator at 98 degrees. Three week wonder.

2. Be Aware of useless “certifications.”

On a related theme, I am noticing every Tom, Dick and Harry of raw food information (and misinformation) is now getting into the concept of offering “certification.” Well, who is certifying you? What are their credentials? One such “certification” is adding up to man, many thousands of dollars.

For that kind of money, you can take the 9-week program at Hippocrates Health Institute, which has been around for a long time and has a good history and track record. There are several well-established raw food culinary schools. Certification from someone who has a recognizable name and has been around for some time; with something that gives them credibility about their area of expertise, such as a published book, or someone who has been teaching for a long time might be worth your while, but don’t waste your time and money on a “three week wonder.”

3. Be aware of people who tell you what to do.

There is no one pill, no one herb, or collections of pills, supplements, herbs, or foods that are right for all people. When you are being told take this for that problem, eat this, drink that, and the person doesn’t know your personal history, how would they know what you need?

If there were one right way for us all life would be so simple, wouldn’t it?

If there were one right way to eat, then I would be a very rich lady indeed. Do not ask your neighbor or me what they eat, hoping to emulate and be just like them. What works for your neighbor or me may not work for you.

4. Be aware that you need to do your own research.

Sorry, I know it’s easier to seek out an expert and take their advice, but you are a unique person. You have strengths and weaknesses, and they are different than your neighbor, your sister, your cousin or your raw food guru. I am talking about physically here, but it is true about all aspects of YOU.

There is really no expert that can tell you about you. Wouldn’t it be so easy to just follow one way that you hear about from one person? If that worked, there would be far fewer “gurus” out there. You need to understand what it takes to keep you the healthy vibrant person you want to be.

Of course, generalities like exercise, clean air, clean food, right livelihood, and strong relationships all factor into what makes you, you. But the fact is, you need to experiment, research, read, learn and try until you find the right specific combination that works for you.

For example, this week a friend made a smoothie out of nut milk, nuts, bananas, plus three other kinds of fruit. That would be digestive and caloric disaster for me. My smoothies are made out of water, lots of greens and 1-2 low glycemic fruits.

We are very different from one another and what works for one does not work for the next person.

Stop looking for “the answer” from outside of yourself—it is a futile quest. Stop thinking that this one person, or book (or pill) is the one right answer for you. Do not be lazy about looking after your own health. No one can care as much about you, or know as much about you, as you do!

5. Be aware of something called bio-individuality.

This fits in with #4. It means we are each different and unique. There is no one right way to eat raw food or anything else for that matter. Not only are you so unique that you have to figure out for yourself what works best for you, but once you do have it figured out and have the mechanics and emotional aspects of eating working well for you, you are still going to notice that each year that can change. Most certainly over the decades, you will find you will probably need to be eating very differently than you used to. At age 70, and 25 years all or high raw, I can guarantee that this is my truth and most probably yours as well.

6. Be aware that some people treat raw foodism as a religion.

Avoid them. I hope that you understand this without a big long explanation.

7. Be aware that there is more to life than the food you eat.

I hope you understand this without another big long explanation.

8. Be aware of extremism.

All or nothing at all isn’t necessarily a healthy or logical approach. If someone tells you that eating 95% of your food raw isn’t good enough, or that you are literally poisoning yourself if you eat some cooked food, those are rather extreme attitudes.

My opinion is that those who take these philosophies to heart often feel like failures if they can’t be “perfect” and so slide back completely to a SAD diet.

I personally would rather see a person consume 50% raw food for the rest of their life than be 100% raw for three weeks. Don’t allow extreme attitudes—the all-or-nothing-approach—to make you feel like you can’t cut it, that you are a failure or less-than in your raw food attempts.

Any amount of raw food that you eat daily is better than none at all. Perhaps you could shoot for never any less than 50% daily. Don’t allow yourself to feel a sense of failure if you do not follow some ideology perfectly. The greatest cause of depression is striving for perfection and feeling bad when it is not attained.

Please do not think that what I am saying is that it is OK (healthy) to eat a lot of cooked food and or junk. What I am saying is striving for perfection can create a lot of unhappiness and feelings of failure which almost always results in giving up on the goal so that you don’t have to feel those bad feelings.

When someone is telling you that 95% isn’t good enough, they are telling you that unless you are absolutely perfect you are not doing it right. This message boomerangs and results in many people giving up on raw food entirely.

Do your best! Choose happiness! Do not judge yourself (or others).

If you maintain your happy outlook, treat your food as just that—your food, not your religion—you will find that sticking to your goals is much easier. If you can’t be all raw all the time, you can still be high raw most of the time, all raw some of the time, and happy with it all of the time.

9. Be aware of some strangers.

Be aware of people you don’t know who want you to pay them large sums of money to teach you how to set up a raw food restaurant, home or health retreat. Contact three or four well-known people, such as myself, to be sure that this unknown person has a good reputation.

The raw food community is growing quickly but it’s still a small one. Unfortunately, I have become aware of some people with talent who have turned out to be very angry menacing people. Check the credentials and most of all the reputation and history of anyone you are thinking of working with, or of allowing to live in your home, that you don’t know well. Ask for references. Demand them.

10. Be aware that variety is the spice of life, literally.

You cannot be healthy if you eat the same foods every day, the same greens (very important to switch them out), the same proteins, the same morning smoothie, etc. You are inviting deficiencies eating a limited amount of foods over and over. Develop at least a three week sequence of change if that’s what you need to do.

11. Be aware of People who are expert in one arena, trying to be expert in an unrelated arena.

Just because a person or group has expertise in one area does not necessarily mean they are expert in other areas. If you become involved with a person/group/website/author/teacher/guru who has taught you a lot about raw food and or has helpful information about raw food, that does not necessarily mean that they are capable in other areas.

Be aware of entering into any type of business/adventure/course/lifestyle/real estate deal with someone you know from another category.

If a person/entity/business/website/author/teacher/guru has proven expertise in one aspect of life, it does not necessarily follow that they also have proven expertise in any other aspect of life.

Unfortunately, there have been instances of over-enthusiastic, but under-educated people transferring the trust people have in them about one category into another, with catastrophic results.

Just because I can teach you all you ever need to know about raw food does not mean that I can teach you how to manage your finances (I can’t), or show you how to build a sail boat (I can’t).

Be aware that you do not transfer the love, affection, faith in their knowledge that you have for any entity over to another topic/area of life/situation without vetting them all over again.

12. Be aware that there are people with eating disorders.

Be aware that there are people with eating disorders (anorexia and bulemia) using raw foodism to mask their problems. Being a raw fooder is not going to cure an eating disorder. Anorexics and bulemics have serious psychological and physical health issues that need to be addressed by trained personnel.

13. Be aware that in everyday life, preaching to others is unwelcome and an ineffective way to introduce the concept of raw foodism to anyone.

Wait to be asked. Create ways that invite people to ask.

The best way to ‘convert’ those you care about to a healthier diet is to be such a beacon of vitality, health and good cheer that they will notice it and want to have some of that health, happiness and energy so that they can follow their dreams, too.

14. Be aware that it’s probably simpler than you think it is.

Really, it isn’t difficult at all to be a raw fooder. You do need to have the food in your house. You do not need to make recipes. Eat fruit and veggies just the way they are. You can shred, cut, grate, puree, liquefy, julienne, mash, juice, pulverize, combine and blend for different tastes and textures, but you don’t have to.

Fat is good for you. It must be raw. Cooked fat is bad for you. You get plenty of protein from nuts, seeds, nut butters and lots of greens. If you are afraid, and want to eat more protein, then make sunflower pate, nut loaves, nut milks, eat nut butters, and tons of greens in smoothies and soups.

If you are afraid, for whatever reason, whether because you think Dr. Atkins was a nutritional genius, or are afraid from all the “raw food is bad for you” hype, that doesn’t mean that you should stop eating a high proportion of raw food! No one thinks that!

Everyone agrees that lots of fresh fruits and veggies are good for you! If you feel that you must have a bit of wild caught salmon or an egg or some clean-sourced other type of flesh, you will still greatly benefit from a diet very high in raw food. It’s not all or nothing. If you are afraid because there are people out there saying you will get e-coli unless you cook everything (the most ridiculous notion I have ever encountered), always wash your food well. A strong immune system does not get sick from the various germs that are out there. A diet without enzymes cannot contribute to a strong immune system.

As individual as you are, that is how unique your diet will be too. If you are not thriving, then something needs to change. Use your noggin. It’s all about common sense. Don’t be a “three-week wonder”. Educate yourself.

If you want to even more raw food tips: My flagship support program, Raw Food for the Real World begins on January 15th. I would love to be there for you.

A Note from Kev: After I read this article, I immediately contacted Nomi to see if I could publish it here at Renegade Health. It’s an awesome one and I hope you enjoyed. I also wanted to share that I highly recommend Nomi’s Raw Food for the Real World program. She’s a great teacher and will help you get where you need to go — if you’re interested in raw food, already a pro, or just want to learn how to eat a little healthier.

Nomi Shannon

Nomi Shannon

Nomi Shannon is an award winning author and world renowned coach. Her best selling book, The Raw Gourmet, has sold over 200,000 copies. Her second book, Raw Food Celebrations (with S.Duruz), is flying off the shelves at bookstores worldwide. Since 2008, Nomi has received numerous Best of Raw Awards for: Best Raw Educator, Favorite Raw Chef and Favorite Raw Book (for The Raw Gourmet, Raw Food Celebrations, and best in Media for What Do Raw Fooders Eat) as well as best Blog, best Online Store and her personal favorite, Funniest Raw Woman.

She’s not only a certified Hippocrates Health Educator; she actually ran The Hippocrates Health Institute’s Certification Course back in the early 1990’s. Raw since 1987, Nomi has been featured in Alive magazine, Get Fresh, San Diego North County Times, and Galveston News, as well as numerous radio shows and other media.

Nomi is known for teaching people proven steps to keeping — or regaining — vibrant health. Her website offers breakthrough information, product reviews, delicious recipes, an ezine and an online course — all free of charge. She also offers online coaching courses, her books, raw kitchen equipment, DVDs, phone consultations and live classes. Since there’s conflicting information about what the “best” raw food diet is, many raw fooders wonder what to eat. Nomi shows people a simple path to thriving on raw food and leaving the confusion behind. Just as important, she empowers people to whip up delicious meals quickly and easily, turning newbies into thriving home chefs practically overnight.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. NOMI says:

    Hey Kev
    I am glad you like my article I rec’d tons of postive feed back on it (and oen person wrote to say it’s useless why didn’t I name names…LOL)

    Just wanted to let you know that enrollment for my Raw Food For the Real World has been extended until Jan 25th. We had some technical issues as well as quite a few people emailed to ask if they could sign up this coming week.

    This will probably be the last time I have a private page for the raw food for the real world group. The couse may be offered again but all digital next time.

    PS. I’ve been putting out a Be Aware article for about 10 years now, it changes a bit with the times. I think we must have reached critical mass now with awareness of the pitfalls because I heard from so many people who really appreciated and that one person who dissed me.

  2. Mark says:

    My only comment regarding raw food pitfalls is that the biggest mistake is assuming that there are good and bad fats. A raw food diet with greater than 10% of calories as fat of any origin and quality is detrimental to blood glucose balance. Excess fat in the diet leads to insulin resistance which is type II diabetes.

    The pitfall is in assuming that one can consume unlimited quantities of nuts, seeds, avocado and oils and enjoy
    a high level of wellbeing. A diet balanced towards 80-10-10 or even 90-5-5 appears to be optimal and the diet
    that will provide the highest level of consistent and sustained energy, wellbeing, longevity, emotional balance,
    mental clarity and highest vibration.

  3. JO says:

    Thank you for that informative thought process, as it helped clear up a few things for me.

  4. Ken says:

    Good article for the most part and thanks, but my question is why is Nomi so overweight? Menopause? I know that all is NOT diet related…

    • NOMI says:

      Re: the the 4th comment re: Nomi being overweight
      It’s good you know that ALL is not diet related.

      At age 70 I think I am finally starting to crack the code
      as to why I carry extra weight.
      It most definitely is NOT from over eating…or
      eating the wrong kind of foods.

      I was never heavy at all until I was in my early 50’s
      it is hormone/adrenal/ and other issues related…
      Including Celiac Disease without knowing it for most
      of my life = unhealed gut issues…and all that goes
      along with it.

      Feeling great for many many years on all or high raw has
      in an odd way ‘masked’ the issues that have created this

      I hope this satisfies your curiosity. I have some all raw friends
      who are very very heavy and their response is usually ‘you should
      have seen me before I went raw’ but that is not my situation -When
      I ate the SAD diet I was never overweight.

  5. Thanks Nomi for your insight.I agree 100%.Good luck to
    you.Sincerely,David C. Eschan.

  6. Adam says:


    Well said and very well done!

    I have been studying nutrition on my own for 10 years. It all started when I wanted to stop relying on drugs and other medication to help solve my health problems. I have since discovered how to use food and thoughts to live abundantly happy and healthy.

    When I first started my company Power of Food in 2003, I was calling myself an expert. This title of expert never felt quite right with me, although I was helping hundres of people. Over the years working in nutrition, I have discovered my true purpose in life, to share with others a very powerful exchange in energy. You do not need to be an expert in order to live your life’s purpose. All you need is love, care, and respect for yourself and an open heart to being in service of others.

    TodayI call myself a “Living Food Champion”. Without any restrictions to ones diet, eating more living foods has changed my life and thousands of others. It’s all about what you add in, NOT what you eliminate. Adding in the good empowers the ability to remove the bad. We all have the ability to heal within, one source of light at a time. Food has been the brightest source of light in my own personal healing journey and aligns me with purpose.

    Even though we may have heard this many times before, it will stand true until the end of time…….”Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food”.

    Thanks again for your amazing article.


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