Being in Asia, I’m surrounded by so many exotic and delectable fruits—and that got me thinking this would be the perfect time to do a blog addressing the questions and thoughts I had about the “80-10-10 diet.”
In this detailed post, I’m going to cover the basics of what it is, the pros and cons of it, and talk a little bit about my experience eating this way, and then give you my final thoughts on it.
What is the 80-10-10 Diet?
You may have heard of the 80-10-10 diet, which was first popularized by a raw foodist named Dr. Douglass Graham. Perhaps you’ve seen some of the advocates post about it on Instagram and wondered what it was. I’ve seen quite a few of you mention it in the comments section of the blog, on Facebook, and in the community.
What’s the 80? What are the 10’s? Does this work or is it dangerous? A lot of people seem to have questions about it, and I can understand why.
Basically, it’s a raw vegan diet divided up into three food categories (macronutrients). Here’s a summary:
A minimum of 80 percent of your calories are from carbohydrates. These calories come mostly from fruits and vegetables, relying heavily on the sweet fruits so it’s easier to reach this goal percentage. About 90 to 95 percent of the calories in this category come from sweet fruits. Then about two to six percent of your calories are from greens. There are no grains of course, since everything is raw.
A maximum of 10 percent of your calories are from healthy fats.
A maximum of 10 percent of your calories are from plant-based protein sources, but they’re naturally built into the rest of the diet.
It’s very heavy on the fresh, whole produce and low in fat, which are both good things! But there’s a “but.”
You’re probably thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of fruit!” You’re exactly right. It is. It is too much, I think, especially if you’re worried about candida or you’re just beginning to clean up your diet after years of surviving on the standard American diet. I personally love to eat a lot of fruit, and I get a decent amount of calories from fruit each day, but certainly not 80%.
Note: This isn’t exactly the fruitarian lifestyle it’s often confused with (which is what Steve Jobs reportedly followed, and the same diet that put Ashton Kutcher in the hospital after he followed it to get into character for Jobs). In the diet’s defense, it does absolutely recommend greens and veggies like celery every single day.
Though I don’t like to count calories, it’s a good idea to keep the foods you know are high-calorie and the ones that take longer to digest (nuts, seeds, plant-based fats, for example) to a minimum—compared to the fruits and vegetables that you can eat a lot of without worrying too much about gaining weight or clogging your system. That’s kind of built right into this way of eating. That’s one positive.
There are some concerning aspects to this diet as well, like the heavy emphasis on sweet fruit and the fact that everything is raw.
In my opinion, you need more leafy greens than this diet prescribes, and there’s no need to go 100 percent raw; in fact, there could be adverse effects (I had them after being raw for a few years myself). This diet has you eating mostly fruit, especially early in the day. You should have more salads—and especially more greens, which your daily GGS makes easy—during the first part of the day, too. This is important for nutrition and detox.
The 100 Percent Raw Diet
A completely raw diet promotes what traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) calls “dampness.” That dampness can lead to a clogged digestive system, blocked energy movement in the body, excess mucus, swelling, allergies, and a number of other health concerns. One way to avoid it is by keeping seasonal, cooked vegetables and warming spices in your diet for balance.
The Pros and Cons of 80-10-10
- You eat tons of fresh produce.
- It’s easy to eat light-to-heavy with this diet, which coincides with the Beauty Detox principles, too. Just keep the denser, heavier, higher calorie fats and proteins (avocados, nuts, beans, lentils, and grains, for example, which are beauty foods but not part of 80-10-10) toward the last part of the day.
- It’s low-fat, which is important for several reasons—weight gain, digestion, and it even affects candida growth (I’ll talk more about that in a minute).
- It’s an improvement if you’re on the standard American diet because you’re eating whole foods and no refined sugar.
- Cooked foods, like other veggies (squash in particular) and grains like quinoa have benefits of their own beyond their vast vitamin and mineral offerings. They’re very grounding, comforting, and perfect when it’s cold outside. The 80-10-10 diet doesn’t include any of these. Cooked veggies and grains (the best ones are quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and millet, as well as brown and black rice) also help fill you up because of their fiber content and density, plus they can help you make it through (or avoid) your cravings for refined carbs—something no one needs to be eating!
- Staying in tune with the seasons and what your body is craving is important, and cooked soups and stews have an important place in a winter diet.
- Going too “vata” (according to Ayurveda principles) can make you feel anxious or scatterbrained. You need to balance that out with grounding, warm vegetables and gluten-free grains that are earthy and “kapha.”
- The potential for the internal dampness mentioned above, from eating too many raw fruits and vegetables and not enough cooked foods.
What About the Fruit?
Fruit is totally natural to eat—you should eat it! It’s a great source of energy and I love it and eat multiple servings of it each day. Let me repeat- I am a huge fruit fat! However, if you’re still struggling from candida or you’re in the Blossoming Beauty phase, you should be careful about the types of fruits you’re eating. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Nearly 80 Percent Calories from Fruit
Sometimes people will decide to follow the 80-10-10 diet and dive into that 80 percent part by eating a ton of fruit, almost to the point of filling that category with only fruit. That’s actually not a good idea for a couple of reasons, even though the plan does recommend getting almost all of your carbohydrates from fruit.
I’ve actually tried to eat all fruit, to experiment in my own body, but after two weeks I felt a little too “vata,” which may be great in a hot environment, but not so much in a cold one.
What does “vata” mean?
By vata, I’m referring to the Ayurvedic idea that there are three principles. Vata is one; the others are pitta and kapha. All of them have a purpose in the body, certain things they control, and they need to work in harmony for you to feel your best.
Vata has to do with the movement in your body and it spans several systems—nervous, circulatory, excretory, and respiratory. Feeling too vata is often characterized by feeling colder than you should, maybe a little restless or anxious, craving warm foods for grounding, and you may have trouble sleeping or staying focused.
Overall, I feel that eating 80 percent fruit may be too imbalancing. Anyway, there are so many delicious mineral-rich vegetables (as well as gluten-free grains that you cook) that are nourishing to the body out there—it makes sense to include them into your diet. Enjoy your fruit each day, but be sure to get plenty of variety of beauty foods and nutrients.
The stews and soups I eat at home and abundance and here in Asia feel almost medicinal to me, and eating such cooked foods are a big part of the diets recommended by traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. In these ancient practices, and all raw diet is not recommended (more on this below).
Candida and Fruit
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re in the Blossoming Beauty phase or you’re trying to remove candida, sweeter fruits aren’t right for you—yet—because the sugars will feed the candida that’s already living in your body. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fruits that are lower in sugar, though you may wish to cut all fruits out for a little while (not permanently).
According to Dr. Douglas Graham, creator of the 80-10-10 diet, the problem with sweet fruit as it relates to candida has to do with fat intake, which is too high in most people’s diets (even some raw vegans get way too much fat, and the Standard American Diet is loaded with them, of course, and not the healthy kinds).
In other words, the fat’s slowing down digestion and “keeping” the sugar in the blood for far too long. That causes problems. I totally agree.
When the sugar in fruit is eaten alone, and there’s not a lot of excess fat slowing things down, the sugar doesn’t stay in the blood for long and it’s utilized for immediate energy. When it’s eaten in a diet–or too soon after–food that’s high in fat, the fat slows down digestion, the sugar stays in the blood longer, and candida grows to eat the sugar.
If there’s already candida in the body, you should restrict or minimize your sweet fruit intake until it’s gone or reduced significantly; otherwise you’ll just be feeding the candida.
Just remember that fruit itself is not the problem. It’s the combination—fruit in the context of a diet filled with dense, slow-digesting fats and/or proteins—is what slows down the digestion of the fruit and leads to the weight gain and bloating that people often mistakenly attribute to the fruit itself. Again, it’s not the fruit; it’s the combination of the fruit with other things. Once you know you’re free of candida, you can enjoy lots of sweet fruits and move up to the Radiant Beauty phase—just enjoy those fruits on their own.
How Do Cooked Foods Fit In?
Well, in the 80-10-10 diet, they don’t! But I believe they do have a place in a nourishing, healthy diet. Cooked foods are some of man’s staples from traditional and ancient cultures all around the world.
Think of all the healing medicinal teas and stews used for wellness and enjoyed throughout the centuries. Think of how you feel in the winter when you sit down to a delicious meal with warm squash, a serving of quinoa, or a soup. Much better than coming in from the snow and having only a pile of fruit salad, right?
Trust your body and follow the seasons and you’ll find that these cooked foods are some of the most nourishing you can eat. Food’s not always just about the calorie count.
Would we be where we are today if man hadn’t discovered fire, one of the five elements (along with metal, earth, wood, and water) the Tao scholars and mystics later observed to be great expressions of the transformations that occur in the world? (To read more about the five elements and traditional Chinese medicine, visit the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation.)
None of the oldest eating systems in the world promote fruit as the total source of our nutrition. Can you think of a tribe or a civilization that has survived without cooking at least some of their food? One could argue that the introduction of fire changed the human diet and eating habits, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I read an article in the Harvard Gazette that points out just how much cooking makes us, well, human.
The Benefits of Cooking Vegetables (and Why You Shouldn’t Overcook Them)
Cooking food not only (sometimes) releases more of certain nutrients, but it can speed up the eating process (it takes less time to chew your food up, for example), freeing up time and energy to do other things.
Cooking opened us up to agriculture and a greater sense of community as a species, which ultimately contributed to our survival. Humans have evolved to eat cooked food; it shouldn’t be off-limits. You should just be careful about when you eat it (later in the day) and balance it with enzyme-rich raw veggies and fruit that deliver some of the vitamins and minerals that may be cooked out of certain foods (it’s all about balance!).
I’m not denying that cooking destroys some of the nutrients in your veggies. Overcooking non-starchy vegetables isn’t good; certainly burnt food of any kind is unnatural and bad for you. But you gently can steam or lightly sauté your veggies and nourish your body with warmth while also retaining some of the nutrients. Starchy vegetables can be baked/roasted and should always be well-cooked before you eat them. Think squash and sweet potatoes.
Listen to Your Body and Share Your Experiences
So there you have it. That’s my take on the 80-10-10 diet. Overall, I mostly agree with the macronutrient breakdown of calories and think most people consume too much fat, or worry about too much protein. However, I think there are ways to reach this without over consuming fruit—in particular, using cooked vegetables, some gluten free grains, soups and other items we’ve covered here.
Of course, I am and will always be a big fan of including a high amount of living foods in your diet. I recommend you drink your GGS each day, and that always have some raw veggies before or as a meal. Just know that if your body’s telling you it needs warmth as nourishment, there’s no reason not to whip up a vegetable soup or throw some steamed or baked veggies on top of your salad.
And if you want fruit—even sweet fruit—eat it, but eat it alone and be aware of the beauty phase so you choose the fruit that won’t contribute to weight gain or bloating for you.
As I mentioned, after being raw for a few years I went back to introducing some cooked squash, sweet potatoes and other foods into my diet and have never felt better. MUCH better in fact. That was the experience I had with my body.
Have you ever tried the 80-10-10 diet or been a raw vegan of any kind? Do you feel like the ability to cook our food has helped or hindered our health overall?
Remember to listen to your body and let it tell you what feels best.
Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions below—please feel free to share!
I’ll be posting more from my trip soon, including some amazing new pictures, videos and recipes I’m gathering as I adventure across the world. I’m about to make a jump to another country.
I’m so honored that I get to share this amazing journey with you
In health and love,