Raw Till 4 is a “lifestyle” plan that was designed by Adelaide born Youtuber and blogger, Freelee the Banana Girl. As you can probably guess from the name, on this diet you eat “only raw fruits and greens till 4pm then follow with a high carb, low-fat cooked vegan dinner”.
The idea is based on the theory that the food we eat contains natural enzymes that help us digest food, and when we cook the food we destroy these natural enzymes and therefore our bodies cannot access to nutrients contained within.
But is this really the case?
4 Problems With “Raw Till 4”
Where is the Balance?!
The diet works under the guise of using seemingly healthy foods like fruit and vegetables (which we do as a population need to eat more of) but also excludes whole food groups, which is never a good idea. The lack of meat or meat alternatives (e.g. legumes, tofu, nuts & seeds etc), dairy products (or fortified alternatives) and whole grains like bread and cereals can lead to micronutrients deficiencies in iron, folate, zinc, calcium and protein which may promote loss of muscle tissue.
There are also risks with excess nutrients consumption. According to the Raw Til 4 FAQs, this diet promotes a 90/5/5 approach to calories intake: this 90% of your calories should be from carbohydrates, and 5% each from fats and proteins. This is waaaaaay out of proportion! While it is important to have carbohydrates in your diet, these have to be balanced with your other nutrient intakes.
As an example of what you could expect from this diet, here is the breakfast smoothie that is recommended on Day One of the program:
Raw Till 4 milkshake: 7 bananas, 750ml of water, 250ml of coconut water, 1tbsp of coconut sugar, vanilla essence
Now as we all know, the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) recommend that we eat 2 serves of fruit a day, this is equal to about 2 medium fruits e.g. an apple and a banana…and here we have 7 bananas in a single sitting! Now I don’t want it to seem like I’m contradicting my previous post, “Fruit has too much Sugar”, because it’s neither the sugar in fruit that’s a problem, nor is it eating fruit that’s a problem. RATHER, eating anything in excess can be damaging. In this case, eating that many bananas can lead to sharp rises in blood sugar levels that then come “crashing” down, leaving you with very little energy.
Cooking ≠ Death of Nutrients
Cooking does not inevitably lead to a depletion of nutrients in your food! It all depends on the method of cooking. Boiling your fruit and vegetables, for example, will cause you to lose some water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C. However, if you are eating the recommended amount of vegetables, than any nutrients lost in the cooking process will be negligible.
ALSO cooking can actually assist with the release of vital nutrients as we eat them and reduce the chemicals that inhibit the absorption of minerals like zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium. Additionally, in order for our bodies to be able to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, we need to ingest fat! So cooking your veggies with a touch of Olive Oil will actually improve your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients.
Eating that much raw fruit and vegetables, I would imagine, cause diarrhoea and gastrointestinal disturbances due to the fibre over load! Although fibre plays an important role in most healthy diets, eating too much of it will increase activity in your bowels, which can lead you to feel constipated or dealing with diarrhoea symptoms, such as abdominal pains.
But many Raw Till 4 converts argue that this is just a sign of the body readjusting, or riding itself of toxins. Here is a little excerpt taken from a RawTill4 Blog:
“Many people fail when they try the Raw Till 4 Diet because they simply don’t have the drive and determination that you do. They complain about being full or constipated because they are ingesting way more calories per day, but they fail to keep pushing through…”
The problem with this mentality is that it relies on people ignoring their bodies warning signals. The symptoms that some people experience when going on the Raw till 4 diet include loss of period, head spins and headaches, exhaustion and mood swings. What many Raw Til 4 advocates claim are ‘signs of the body readjusting’ are actually signs of nutrient deficiencies.
4. Disordered Eating Habits
While Freelee promotes this plan as being “un-restrictive” she is referring to the fact there are no “calorie restrictions” which is problematic in itself. In a single sitting, followers are expected to eat a ridiculous amount of fruit in order to reach their recommended calorie intake (for women it’s 2500 and for men it’s 3000 – both above the ADG’s recommendations). The problem is that fruit, being packed full of fibre, is incredibly filling and yet on this plan people are expected to ignore their bodies satiety cues and keep eating – strikingly similar to Binge Eating Disorder.
There are threads on a “proana” website (a site that promotes eating disorders) where users detail their own experiences with the Raw Till 4 diet, with one user expressing concerns over the “bingeing” aspect:
“I TRIED this last year, and even though it was healthy. I did not lose any weight because she made me think it was okay to binge on fruit all day. SO that is what I did and I was not happy at all. She is triggering for my old [Binge Eating Disorder] problems because all she talked about was eating a crap load of food, she wanted you to stuff yourself every time you ate.”
While I am not suggesting that everyone who follows this diet has an eating disorder, it can definitely trigger those who are most susceptible!
She also frequently makes videos criticising someones health and weight (mostly aimed at women) and suggests that her vegan lifestyle is the only way to be healthy. She has also, on many occasions, called out celebrities who she believes are suffering from eating disorders and are therefore bad role models . While she may be attempting to help, the way she delivers her message is incredibly harmful. We need to try to reframe the debate away from only looking at size as an indicator of health. We must look at the whole picture!
If you are recovering from an eating disorder, or even if you are looking to lose weight, I suggest avoiding this diet all together! In the long-term, anything that is this restrictive will be unhelpful and potentially damaging. REMEMBER: IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE AND MODERATION!!!
If you do however chose to go vegan or raw for ethical and moral reasons, than you must consult an ACCREDITED PRACTISING DIETITIAN FIRST!! This way you can make sure that all your nutrient requirements are being met.