Star ratings reflect scores of 1 to 5 assigned to the raw food diet in seven categories by nutritionists, specialists in diabetes and heart disease, and other diet experts on a ratings panel assembled by U.S. News. (See our Best Diets methodology.) When we combined the ratings, the raw food diet was one of the lowest-scoring among all ranked diets. Though experts were impressed with its ability to deliver weight loss, they judged it extremely difficult to follow and gave it only about 2 out of 5 possible points for nutritional completeness and safety. The raw food diet is “arguably the most difficult diet to adhere to,” albeit “very effective for weight control,” according to one expert, who added that it’s “very eco-friendly, though not very user-friendly.” Below, ratings in all categories and how the experts’ opinions broke down.
Short-Term Weight Loss
Raw food dieters will likely lose a significant amount of weight during the first year—the diet received nearly 4 out of 5 stars for short-term weight loss. Research shows that those who follow the approach typically eat fewer calories and weigh less than other dieters. “One will lose weight—because it is a very restrictive diet,” according to one expert.
Long-Term Weight Loss
Experts handed out a respectable 3-plus points out of 5, indicating raw food dieters may succeed in keeping weight off for two years or more. Still, the diet is so restrictive that it may be unsustainable over the long haul. One expert described sticking with the approach as “unrealistic.”
Easy to Follow
“No baked bread, ever again. No cooked pasta or grains,” one expert said, adding that raw foodists will “never again eat a hard-boiled egg,” and that “most packaged cereals are out of bounds.” Because the approach is so restrictive and requires such tedious meal preparation, it received nearly the lowest possible score, finishing last among all ranked diets.
The raw food diet received roughly 2 out of 5 stars for nutritional completeness. Conforming to the federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines is doable on this diet, but it takes work. Plus, dieters may not get enough calories or sufficient amounts of all the important nutrients, like calcium, vitamin B-12, and vitamin D.
The plan received roughly 2 out of 5 stars, and was beaten on this measure by every other ranked diet. It's “not practical or safe for the average American,” one expert said. Experts were particularly worried about the risk of food poisoning that could stem from eating raw or undercooked ingredients.
Experts weren’t impressed with the raw food diet’s ability to prevent or control diabetes. No good evidence suggests the approach accomplishes either, but by promoting weight loss, it could help.
For Heart Health
The raw food diet registered moderately well as a way to achieve cardiovascular health, earning nearly 3 stars out of 5, but was well down in the pack. Still, in one study, people who followed a raw food diet had low triglyceride and cholesterol levels—positive findings since both substances, at high levels, are risks factors for heart disease.
Last updated by Angela Haupt | December 12, 2013