Should You Go Raw?


When my husband and I transitioned to a plant-based diet, we had fun trying the vegan eateries in our area. One of the first ones we went to was 118 Degrees in Costa Mesa. On our drive to the restaurant, I asked my husband, “Why 118 Degrees?”

In a superior tone, he said, “Because its longitude is 118 Degrees west.”

“What? That doesn’t make sense. Why would a restaurant choose a name like that when only an annoying brainiac like you would know that?”

At the restaurant, I scanned the menu and noticed a text box that read Why 118 Degrees? It read:

Why 118 Degrees?

“118 degrees is the commonly accepted temperature at which the natural enzyme value and nutritional contents of raw plant foods begin to break down and become useless for the body. One benefit of eating raw food is the energy derived from the enzymes and phyto nutrients available in foods that are still living!” – from 118 Degree’s menu

I reveled in informing my husband that he was wrong. Unperturbed by this, he only asked, “So this is a raw restaurant?”

We were still new to the vegan scene, so eating raw vegan food was a stretch for us that night. We found the food unusual, especially the flat, crunchy bread, but it was also tasty. And the place had a nice atmosphere with a romantic vibe, so it was a good find.

Should I go raw?

On our drive home, I couldn’t stop wondering if cooked food was really bad for your health. Obsessed, I searched for answers online. I found arguments for and against eating only raw foods, which only confused me.

I decided to ask Katherine Nilbrink, my plant-based nutritionist friend, her thoughts on raw food. She told me that it’s extremely beneficial, but she stressed that it’s not necessary to eat only raw food to gain these benefits.

“Raw foodists,” she said, “talk about the negative catalization that happens when you eat cooked foods. Studies show that if you eat 51% or more raw food, these negative processes are negated. Plus, some nutrients are more bio-available when they are lightly cooked. Besides, most plant-based eaters eat between 50-80% raw, and that’s a great ratio.”

I trust Katherine’s opinion about nutrition, so 51% raw is what I strive for in my diet. What are your thoughts on raw food?

Photo courtesy of Marin at


About celestedimilla

Hey there. I’m Celeste, California girl, writer, psychotherapist and burgeoning plant-based foodie.
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66 Responses to Should You Go Raw?

  1. I eat a lot of raw food — because I’m kinda lazy and very simple. I’d much rather peel a tangerine than cook just about anything!

    • Hehe – I don’t like to cook either. Most people think that because I post a lot of recipes on my blog that I love cooking. I don’t!!!! Unfortunately, when I reach for foods I don’t have to cook they’re rarely as healthy as a tangerine, but good for you chica! Celeste 🙂

  2. Ani says:

    I know very little about this topic (I should do more research), but I know that a lot of produce has more nutrients in its raw form. Except tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes makes its nutrients much stronger!

  3. Hmnn… a couple of times I had raw foods at events and was deathly ill the next day. I think it depends on who is doing the cooking and how sanitary the environment is in which the food is being prepared. I mostly do salads–so I guess thats’ raw right? Rice has to be cooked and pasta–can’t imagine eating that raw.

    • That’s horrible Ivonne! I’ve eaten at raw food restaurants on numerous occasions and have never been sick. Like you say, however; how sanitary an environment is can make a big difference. As for preparing raw foods at home, I mostly do salads too. I have two raw cookbooks, but most of the recipes require a dehydrator (something I don’t have). So it’s old school raw for us, and that’s perfectly fine!

  4. junefit says:

    Briefly, your friend is correct regarding some foods need to be cooked to get dome of the bnefits. One example is the tomato and lycopene. Lycopene becomes usuable to our body when the tomato us cooked. Of course overcooking will destroy some vitamin and cooking methods such as lightly steaming help. Lastly, we humans cannot breakdown certain plant cell walls so cooking is desireable. Raw foods do offer high water content. Minerals are never destroyed, by the way. So, enjoy cooked and raw. One other great thing is grilling fruits and veggies do not form cancer causing compounds unlike animal flesh.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment! You shared a lot of stuff I didn’t know, like that humans can’t break down certain plant cell walls. I’ve still got so much to learn about nutrition! I’ve never grilled fruits and veggies, but that sounds like a great thing to do in the summer when it finally gets here. Hope you’re having a lovely week chica! Celeste 🙂

      • junefit says:

        You are so welcome. I am a nutritionist and I still have things to learn and relearn. Besides science is always pointing to new discoveries.

  5. junefit says:

    Ps lycopene is not a nutrient it is a phytochemical.

  6. How appropriate! I just posted raw crust mango tarts! I tell you what, they taste so good you don’t even care if you’re eating raw food! 🙂

  7. Interesting! I’ll have do to more research on this!

  8. Hi Celeste,
    What a coincidence. As I was eating my supper, I was thinking that I should have something raw on my plate. Then I saw your post.I believe in balance in all things-so my goal is 60/40-raw to cooked. A bigger problem for me is sugar!
    Thoughtful post. Thanks. Anne

    • Hey Anne! 60/40-raw to cooked is a fab guideline. I actually struggle with eating 51% raw in the winter, but thankfully spring is coming soon. It’s no secret that sugar is a “biggie” for me too. I’m thinking of doing a 30-day sugar fast. I was gonna do it in March, but my hubby and I are going on vacation for the first week, so I’ll probably do it in April. If I actually do this, I’ll post about it on my blog and you’re welcome to do it with me. It’s always nice to have support for stuff like that. Anyway, hope you’re having a great week! Celeste 🙂

    • Oh cool! We’ll see if I actually go through with it then!! Celeste 🙂

  9. Interesting topic! I’ve never really strived to eat a certain portion of raw food – I think a lot of what I eat in a day is raw, but purely by chance (fruit, spinach and other raw veggies, nuts, seeds, etc). I like Katherine’s approach to it, I’m not sure eating only raw is the best thing for you. But again, I don’t know enough about a raw diet.
    So, you’ve got me curious now, Celeste! 🙂

    • Hey Sophia! I’m guessing that because of the healthy way you eat that you’re naturally eating at least 51% raw. Like Katherine says, most people who eat mostly plant-based eat 50-80% raw without being conscious of it. During the summer this is probably true for me, but in the winter I eat a lot of soup so I have to be more aware of what I’m eating.

      And I have to tell you, I was SO thankful that Katherine told me I didn’t have to eat only raw foods. I love warm comfort foods too much and I don’t think I’d manage well on a raw diet. Celeste 🙂

  10. ahardrain says:

    Can’t say I eat healthy all the time (pizza is my downfall) but I love my fruits. I don’t think I could ever do raw there is something comforting about eating warm food 🙂

    • I’m with you!!! I love my soups and believe it or not, I still eat pizza (I make a mean cheeseless pizza that my husband raves about!). I do the 51% raw and that’s enough for me. Thanks so much for your comment – I appreciate it! Celeste 🙂

  11. Celeste's Hubby says:

    I wasn’t totally off base about the name. Costa Mesa, California, where the restaurant 118 Degrees is located, is at 118 degrees west longitude. Coincidence? Probably, but you can easily see why I thought it had something to do with the restaurant’s name.

    • You’re too funny sweetie! Yes, it was a great guess and you did know an obscure fact that I didn’t have a clue about. I think it’s cool that you know stuff like that (when you’re not making me feel stupid about it anyway). But you have to admit that it had nothing to do with the name of the restaurant. Loves you! XXOO

      • carmen says:

        Hi guys!

        It’s a coincidence that the restaurant is on 118 degrees west longitude. However, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that that they named it 118 Degrees; someone as clever as your hubby knew it had a double meaning, no matter what the menu says. Perhaps only the person who named the restaurant knows.

        Sometimes both people can be right!
        ♥ carmen

  12. Marfigs says:

    This is an interesting topic! I naturally get in at least 51% raw a day, especially now that I’ve discovered smoothies for breakfast and afternoon snacks (though not as fruit-dense as some bloggers!). I prefer snacking on raw food like carrots because then I know I’m not consuming excess carbs just for the heck of it, for example.

    I do prefer having a majority raw because I find the water content doesn’t make my body feel wonky, but sometimes I love to indulge in a bowl of pasta or a dumpling stew – one can’t deny yourself the luxuries of life after all! 😀 My husband isn’t crazy about all raw either since he’s omni, and is always so grateful for cooked/baked goods, even if they’re “weird” (like baked cabbage wraps!).

  13. BloomLisa says:

    Thank you Celeste! This post is a good reminder to keep the balance of raw to cooked in consideration. We are experimenting presently with sauces for rice bowls and using shredded veggies like beets, zucchini, carrots, cabbage,etc. And with salad season and garden fresh veggies are only a few months away now, eating raw will only get easier and more delicious. Take care sunshine!

  14. diahannreyes says:

    My friend went raw for awhile and loved the energy it gave her- and then her body started to need something else so she went vegetarian.

  15. I think it’s interesting, there is definitely information to back up a raw diet. All I would say it, to make it a truly interesting diet, it seems to me that there can be a lot of work involved in creating great raw dishes…I may be completely wrong, of course, but the raw recipes I’ve read do seem to include a lot of work. Not that that should put you off if you want to go for it! I would say though, that you’ve made a huge change already to your lifestyle, maybe just include some raw days for now and see how it goes? You may well eat more raw food than you realise already?

    • I don’t think I could ever go completely raw – I love warm comfort foods too much! I do think it’s important to include a lot of raw fruits and veggies in your diet, however. I tend to serve a lot of cooked meals, especially in the winter, so I like to continually remind myself to include more raw foods in my diet. Thanks for your thoughts chica! Celeste 🙂

  16. PS I love my roasted veg too much to go raw myself!!!

  17. I wouldn’t think of going raw, but do use a lot of raw veg anyway. Cold food all the time would be really boring. I do like grated carrot and grated beetroot in salads. But how do you eat raw artichokes for example? Like everything, it’s a question of balance. I have a super book but it’s vegetarian not vegan, that gives the best minerals and vitamins etc for diets. Parsley come out really high, so I try and chuck that in or on everything. I’ll try and write something about it. If I remember 😀

    • The raw restaurants I’ve been to have actually made raw food taste pretty darn good. Still, I don’t think I could go completely raw because I love warm comfort foods too much. During the winter I eat soup almost every day and that’s not something I want to give up. I’ve hear that parsley is super healthy too, so I occasionally add it to smoothies. Thanks so much for your thoughts! Celeste 🙂

  18. I like raw food and there is a variety of food to be prepared. In warmer months I can go weeks on raw food, veggies and fruits, nuts… But in winter I couldn’t image myself eating all raw, because I think I would feel cold all the time. Maybe it is just a misconception, but there is nothing like a warm meal on a cold wintery day 🙂

    • I’m guessing that you have a dehydrator. I have two raw cookbooks, but I haven’t made many recipes from them because most of them require a dehydrator. I’m considering getting one, we’ll see. And I’m with you on warm foods in the winter. I couldn’t imagine eating raw when it’s cold outside. Celeste 🙂

  19. You are so good and so self-disciplined! Great article and well done! Blessings,

  20. Laura says:

    I’ve seriously always wanted to go there!

  21. Love to hear that, will try to get the goal! Thanks! 🙂

  22. stacilys says:

    Hey Celeste, I had heard stuff about the raw diet before. The guy that plays the lead male role of our most recent film thinks that the raw diet is the healthiest. He does photography/film for one of the leading doctors in brazil on the subject whenever he hold a seminar or workshop for people interested in following a raw food diet and on food preparation. Now, if I could just get into these workshops for free too that would be great.
    Bless ya =)

    • Many people are sold on a raw diet. I know that a lot of people in Hollywood follow it (Woody Harrelson comes to mind). I’m big into balance, and 51% raw is enough for me. I’d miss soup and warm comfort food too much if I went completely raw. Anywho, I hope you figure out how to get into those workshops for free – that would be cool!! Celeste 🙂

      • stacilys says:

        I agree with you. It’s all about balance. Human beings tend to take things to the extreme sometimes I think.
        Have a great weekend Celeste.

  23. Ralph says:

    Hi Celeste 😀 Your husband is also right. LA & Long Beach are all 118W. You owe him a carrot as a reward 😉 Ralph xox 😀

    • Are you a brainiac too Ralph? Hmmmm… I don’t know if I can handle two husbands like that – one is plenty to deal with. You’re gonna have to dumb-it-down a bit for me if you really want to be my third guy. hehe 😉

      • Ralph says:

        I am always mesmerised by your comments chica. In three sentences you went from two husbands to one, finishing off with a third guy. You must have an exxxciting life in California !! Is this the result of being a vegan ? 😉 😆

  24. whollyfreak says:

    Great article, Celeste! I have been on a ‘raw to 4’ – my breakfast and lunch are raw and dinner is a nice cooked meal, so it’s reassuring to know that 51% raw is enough!

    Although I love the idea of raw foods, I am not quite into the concept of gourmet raw. Many gourmet raw recipes I have come across use an obscene amount of coconut oil and nuts! Not to mention the waiting time to dehydrate the food (raw pizzas, crackers, etc)! I would very much rather stick to fresh fruits and veg – simple, delicious and fast! 🙂

    • I love your ‘raw to 4’ plan – I just might adopt that myself! And I hear you about the gourmet raw foods. I’ve been to several raw restaurants and I can really taste the oil in the food (especially since I don’t do oil at all at home). The raw cookbooks I have use lots of oil too. I’ve heard that it’s harder to maintain weight when you eat raw, so maybe that’s one of the reasons they add all that oil. That doesn’t sound healthy or appetizing to me, however. Raw food at home for me is just old school salads or veggies with hummus. I’m good with that!

  25. carmen says:

    I naturally eat a lot of raw food: fruit, avocados, cucumbers, spinach, tomatoes. I will munch on raw carrots, but I also cook them, same with broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes. I always cook potatoes and yams. And I love brown rice and cooked beans of every kind, although, there was a time I got into a habit of sprouting.

    Thanks for sharing!
    ♥ carmen

    • You’re a health role model for me Carmen! Eating healthfully seems to come naturally to you. I’ve had a long history of food issues and I have to really work at it to eat healthfully. I’m much better than I used to be, but I still struggle with it at times. Have a beautiful weekend chica! Celeste 🙂

  26. May says:

    I think I read somewhere that the nutritional value of carrots is much less accessible to humans if they’re raw – we just can’t break them down properly. I dislike carrots in any form to be honest, so I just avoid them! I have just been thinking about it and realised that I eat a fair amount of raw food without even realising it; breakfast involves handfuls of raw spinach, oats and a banana, lunch often includes salad, and I munch on fruit as a snack quite often. I couldn’t see myself going fully raw though, there are too many things I’d miss and it seems like a lot more effort to make things taste good.

    By the way, maybe they put the restaurant there BECAUSE it matched the name?

    • I hadn’t heard about carrots being more accessible if they’re cooked, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Unfortunately, that’s one of the foods that I much prefer raw. That’s wonderful that you naturally eat a lot of raw food. I’ve really got to start making more salads. I got out of the habit when the weather got cold, but it’s time to get back to it.

      And who knows, you might be right that they put the restaurant there because it matched the name. My hubby is a super smart guy and he gets things right most of the time (that’s why I give him a hard time when he gets something wrong, but it’s all in fun). Anyway, have a great weekend! Celeste 🙂

  27. uberdish says:

    Love the name of this restaurant! We love raw foods, but naturally more so during the warmer months. I’m sure I could eat 99% raw foods if I lived somewhere tropical. During the winter, we eat a mixed green salad and green smoothie daily, lots of fruit, and I make all my crackers and some bread raw (done in my Excalibur). Our kids eat this too. I just love how your body feels (and looks – oh, the glow!) when eating mostly raw foods! Thinking of raw food cleanses here (I’ve done 3 28-day ones), what a super diet when trying to get your not-so-healthy eating habits back on track. Btw, whollyfreak’s ‘raw to 4’ plan is a super idea! I’ll have to remember that. 🙂

  28. Hi Celeste! Great post. It just makes sense that food in its natural state would be best! I have found though that people who have been eating really unhealthy for a long time should start slow. Someone with digestive problems (pain, bloating, gas) can actually feel worse eating raw foods. In these cases when the digestive system is already impaired, the extra work of breaking down uncooked food can lead to more bloating, gas and even diarrhea (sorry to go there:-)). I frequently work with people who are trying to improve the way they eat by suddenly switching to all or mostly raw foods, and then can’t figure out why they feel so awful when they should be feeling great! For some, the best way is to transition gradually, and if you live in a colder climate, to start in the spring or summer. Eat healthy cooked foods and start incorporating raw a little at a time. Listen to your body and only do what you can tolerate. Eventually you will be able to add more and more of the healthy uncooked foods into your diet.

  29. I can’t eat raw 100%, but I don’t mind eating raw few times a month as a cleanse. I love raw cheeses and juicing, they are so yummy!

  30. Ramona P says:

    I don’t know that I wold convert to completely raw but I think it is great to incorporate more in my diet, especially when the weather is warm. I have a friend who is raw and removed the stove from her kitchen. She said she used the extra counter space to chop and prepare her food. That takes real commitment! She is one of the healthiest people I know.

  31. Shannon says:

    Raw is great, and we do it when we can. Unless I grow food on my entire 1.5 acres, I wouldn’t have the time — or the storage — for all that fresh! As it is, we are probably closer to 30-40% raw. We strive to eat a raw salad or piece of fruit with every meal; sometimes our fridge is down to the dregs, so warmed leftovers (veggies) is on the menu instead.

    So many great reasons to eat as nature provides. Homo sapiens are fortunate to be so food flexible — we can subsist (though not optimally) on just about anything methinks. Mud cakes, anyone?

    • I don’t do as much raw as I’d like, but I don’t stress about it. I figure that my grandfather lived into his 90’s despite eating ice cream and cookies every night, so hopefully I’m lucky enough to have his genes (time will tell!).

      And you and your mud – hahaha!!! 🙂

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