In 2011 I set about on a journey to regain my health – a series of dietary experiments. You can read the backstory here. Prior to beginning these trials, I had used an elimination diet to clear up a systemic Candida infection. I was also healing my gut/digestion through the intensive application of probiotics via fermented foods and beverages, and it worked, because cultured food is magical!
In June, I stayed RAW, and I also eliminated added oils.
“Fat” is one of the most contentious topics in the health world. There are experts coming from every angle, each brandishing their own set of studies. MDs, specialists, naturopaths, nutritionists, RDs, gurus, shamans and the wonderful Wizard of Oz – they all have an opinion on FAT. Some advocate using food-based fats (think nuts and avocados) while avoiding extracted or isolated oils. Some advise eliminating fat entirely, like the high-carb vegetarians using low-fat processed foods, or the raw vegan “80-10-10″ fruitarians. On the opposite end of the spectrum you’ll find the high-fat proponents. To them, saturated fat is a essential nutrient and cholesterol is only a problem when it drops too low. These are the Atkins/paleo/Weston Price-types.
I’d been eating a relatively high fat diet (I’d call it moderate, but I suppose it’s high compared to most vegans – about 35% of my calories from fat) for the past few years. When I first increased my whole-foods fat intake (from avocados, nuts, and coconuts), I experienced better digestion (it helped relieve constipation, I might as well be blunt) and much healthier hair and skin (less dry, more supple). My body just seemed to benefit from more fat! But I had been eating that way for years, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was “too much of a good thing”. What would happen if I greatly reduced my fat intake?
I was happy remaining all-raw, so my goal for June was to eliminate all added oils (like olive oil and coconut oil) while minimizing high-fat whole foods (like avocados and nuts).
Interesting. Very interesting.
The month started off so strong, on that raw food high from May which propelled me forward filled with energy. I was still working nonstop on Rawesomely Vegan and I was having a blast testing recipes and [un]cooking up wild creations in my kitchen. Eating “light” took a little getting used to, I’ll be honest, but I was surprised at how quickly I figured out substitutions.
As the month wore on I just grew weary of low-fat life. I definitely lost some weight (I didn’t have much to lose – I dropped that last few pounds which brought me back to my pre-pregnancy weight) which was nice, but other than that, it wasn’t doing me any favors. My skin lost a bit of its luster and I felt like my energy suffered some. Mostly, my enthusiasm for all-raw eating was slipping away. By the end of the month I was ready to throw in the towel.
I’m really glad that I did this trial, because it confirmed that I’m someone who thrives on a moderate- to higher-fat diet. On the one hand, I probably don’t need as much oil as I have used at times in the past, and it was great to practice incorporating alternatives. But on the other hand, my body undeniably runs better when it’s well-oiled (ha!), and gosh I’d be willing to bet that a lot of other people (especially women) are the same. We live in a lipo-phobic culture, but I think that many folks would do well adding a few more healthy fat sources (but that’s another discussion for another time). Overall, I learned that fat is my friend and that low-fat-raw-veganism is NOT a sustainable option for me.