Last year, I started dating my boyfriend Anthony, one of those very fit, health-conscious types who’s always trying new health crazes. Because of our shared living situation and limited budget, my body has become a testing ground for his experimental cooking creations. Some of them are awesome, like the time Anthony decided we’d follow the raw food diet, and suddenly my cooking responsibilities dropped by 100 percent (and there were fewer dishes to wash too!) Of course, there was also that time we tried to cut the sugar completely, and nearly broke up because apparently I’m a complete sugar addict.
But the last diet we went on was pretty out-there: the raw meat diet, which I was skeptical about at first, but committed to trying for 30 days.
My mom is from Tokyo, and I spent half my life in Japan, where rare horse meat is a delicacy, so I didn't think it was completely insane that raw meat could be a healthy lifestyle choice, but still… only raw meat? How good could this diet really make me feel?
So I did a little research and decided to try it out.
Raw foodism—the best Google term I found when trying to learn more about this stuff—pops up as a popular celeb diet every few seasons. Articles in mainstream media will trend from time to time with names like "People’s Primal Potluck" or catchy headlines like "The Raw Food Revolution."
Raw meat enthusiasts tend to be pretty vocal about what they see as the best diet ever. Many insist you’ll experience increased energy, sex drive, and endurance (not directly related to sex drive, but definitely, you know, somewhat related). Some even believe this diet can cure them of rare stomach diseases. While I was skeptical of all these claims, I decided to give the diet a shot.
To prepare, I read a few articles about starting a raw meat diet and looked up the health risks and health benefits of eating raw meat. I found a number of suggestions and recipes for avoiding illness (fresh lemon and lime with absolutely everything is key!) and felt confident trying it out. A month into the diet, here’s what I’ve discovered:
It’s not as bloody an affair as you’d think.
Before you start imagining us purchasing T-bone steaks at Costco and devouring them like zombies from The Walking Dead, know that we did try to do this, um, as elegantly as possible. Fortunately for me, Anthony is a career cook, so he applied his culinary skills to this diet, often creating delicious—and Instagram-worthy—dishes:
And you don’t really eat meat every day on the diet. In fact, you actually avoid too much meat consumption, as meat in general is tough on the digestive system. Humans are omnivores, not carnivores, and we don’t need that much meat to survive. In reality, the raw meat diet is basically the raw food diet, but with an emphasis on including raw meat too.
On a normal day, for instance, you could start your morning off with a raw lemon squeezed into a cup of warm water, followed by a raw fruit and vegetable smoothie for breakfast. Snacks might be a handful of raw nuts, fruit salad, and some veggies and hummus, scattered throughout the day. For lunch, you could have a raw cauliflower salad topped with avocado and grilled scallions, and for dinner, steak tartare, a classic French dish traditionally composed of hand-chopped beef, capers, parsley, shallot, and raw egg yolk. (Scroll to my video below to see exactly how to make it.) I know that it might sound weird, but it’s considered a delicacy, and is even totally trending right now.
For us, the diet didn’t end up being that different than most health conscious couple’s... except that we had stopped cooking our meat. Which meant we had to find ways to eat it raw.
probably definitely stretch your boundaries.
So fish is a meat, and raw fish is raw meat... so if you enjoy sushi, you’ve already got the first step of the raw meat diet down. While I’m used to sushi, I did have to get adventurous with some other dishes. After steak tartare, I tried yukhoe, a Korean dish that’s pretty similar: Beef is julienned in very thin slices and mixed with seasoning like garlic, scallion, sesame oil, soy sauce, pine nuts, and sesame seeds—and yup, it gets a raw egg yolk dropped on top too.
Not all our dishes were so refined, however. Anthony is a huge Bruce Lee fan and an amateur MMA fighter with CAMO, and he often prepares for fights with a raw bison/raw egg concoction—consumed far enough ahead of time so that he wouldn't hurl his bloody smoothie all over his competition in some sort of bizarre intimidation technique.
I still haven’t tried Anthony’s Bruce Lee smoothie—it looks really heavy to me—but I did find that adding food restrictions to your diet makes for some creative recipes; I even wrapped a raw bison meat patty with lettuce for the ultimate protein burger.
Your poop becomes… kind of amazing.
So this might be TMI, but on the raw meat diet, I really feel like I’ve been pooping better and more consistently. I’ll wake up, go to the bathroom, and poop, or at least do so within a few hours of waking up. I’ve had GI issues in the past and I’m in my early 30s, an age at which constipation can become a constant battle. On the diet, I’ve become so happy about my poops that I’ll high-five Anthony just about every morning and announce my pooping with the same amount of pride as a freshly potty-trained three-year-old.
You’ll have to get over your fear of raw eggs.
While I haven’t tried Anthony’s bison-and-raw egg shake, I have been adding a raw egg to my breakfast smoothie—I’ve been going Rocky-lite, using two eggs instead of his five. In the United States, there’s a lot of fear surrounding raw eggs, but a common breakfast dish in Japan is a raw egg over rice with soy sauce, and sometimes natto or chives. As a kid, my mother served me this dish with Japanese-style pickles and miso soup just about every morning before school, and I never had a single incident of salmonella poisoning. I’m also a fan of raw cookie dough (I mean, who isn’t), and I’ve never gotten sick from that, either.
Your energy levels will skyrocket (and your sex drive can get a boost too).
By week three, my energy levels were up, up, up! Looking back through my day planner, I added many more exclamation points than usual, and found myself able to accomplish more out of my weekly to-do lists than before.
And yes, I totally ended up agreeing with the folks on the internet who said that this increased energy would lead to a higher sex drive. At the risk of being way too TMI about everything, Anthony and I went from having sex a couple times a week to sex a couple times a day, multiple times a week. We had sex more spontaneously than usual too. I even found I’d have my first orgasm sooner, and the ones following would be like a series of fireworks. We’re in our 30s, but everything felt as urgent as a younger couple trying to get it in between classes on a college campus.
... I also started looking forward to steak tartare night like it was ice cream for the winning team after a Little League baseball game.
You might go off cooked meat.
I travel often for work, and as you might expect, finding a restaurant that serves raw meat is not exactly an option during a trip to the middle of nowhere. A couple weeks ago, I traveled 100 miles southeast of San Francisco for a story about panning for gold. I’d had a long day in the mountains and I wanted protein, so I ordered a burger "as raw as your kitchen feels comfortable making it."
Covered in dirt, dust, and gold flakes, I took an enormous first bite out of the thick patty on gluten-free bread with extra onions, no tomatoes, and fresh lettuce. It tasted... odd. I took a second bite and felt disappointed, because it seemed to have just no taste whatsoever. I pulled the burger apart and tried just the patty, which had no taste, just a lot of oil. I ended up abandoning the burger altogether.
But it also turns out that raw meat is everywhere.
Once you start looking, raw meat dishes are popular around the world—at this point, I have a whole raw foodie wish list I want to renew my passport to try. In Ethiopia, kitfo is a traditional dish made of raw minced beef, marinated in spices and butter. In Italy, carpaccio is a method of simply slicing meat very thin, then serving with lemon, salt, pepper, and oil, and it can be made using veal, venison, tuna… you name it. A clove-spiced raw ox sausage, called ossenworst, is an old-school dish in the Netherlands, and in Inuit cuisine, raw seal is a classic—and is supposed to taste delicious and rich, kind of like duck. In Japan, I mentioned that raw horse meat is a delicacy, but so is chicken sashimi—I know, the idea of eating raw chicken is anathema to most Americans, but seriously, it’s a total thing... and frankly, looks really good.
Once you’ve gone raw…
While I’ve been enjoying the raw meat diet, I don’t think I’m going to stick to it. Living in the U.S., which does not have a raw meat food culture, makes me kind of nervous about consuming raw meats in general. I won’t even buy my sashimi anywhere other than the Japanese market in Little Tokyo. Steak tartare is a delicacy, but that also means that it comes with a whopping daily price tag: Organic, grass-fed filet mignon makes it tough for a raw meat diet to be financially sustainable (without sacrificing a LOT of calories).
But even if I could afford it, I’m not sure I could give up my favorite foods, like tonkatsu ramen, my mom’s lasagna, and cooked chicken liver, forever. For now, I think I’ll stick to making steak tartare on special occasions only.
Video by Mariko Lockridge
Mariko Lochridge is a freelance multimedia journalist who splits her time between Los Angeles, California and Tokyo, Japan. When she’s not reporting on wildfires and earthquakes, she’s working on short docs about awesome entrepreneurs or the latest innovations in robotics and renewable energy sources. Recently she’s begun working on a YouTube series with her boyfriend Anthony called Netflix & Chips. You can follow Mariko’s day-to-day adventures on Twitter and Instagram @MarikoLochridge.