Pregnant Woman on Raw-Food Diet Causes Controversy: Is She Bananas?

Can a pregnant woman be healthy on a raw vegan diet? It’s a question being beaten to a pulp following a recent interview with Australian designer Loni Jane Anthony, 25, an expectant mother, who discusses her adherence to such a diet — including her tendency to consume 10 bananas for breakfast and 6 mangoes for lunch. The strict eating regimen has made Anthony, also a photographer with more than 103,000 Instagram fans, the subject of public scorn, with some deriding her for endangering both herself and her baby.

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“You kind of realize who your friends are,” she tells in the Tuesday interview, referring to the frequent eye rolls she gets over the fact that she follows the “80/10/10,” a raw fruit and veggie diet providing 80 percent carbs, 10 percent fat and 10 percent protein. “I've had a lot of judgment from people thinking I'm nuts and saying ‘Why is Loni eating 10 bananas for breakfast? Is she crazy?’ People tend to shut you out because you're not in the social circle of alcohol or drinking coffee ...They're in their comfort zones of eating junk and they don't want to be around someone who makes them feel guilty."

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A typical daily menu for Anthony, she says, might include a few “mono meals,” meaning one type of fruit, like oranges or bananas or watermelon; a smoothie; and for dinner, a large salad with tahini dressing—plus plenty of warm water with lemon.

She says she switched to the diet, created by longtime athlete and trainer Douglas Graham, after a lifestyle of heavy drinking and lots of junk food that led to a battery of health problems. “I started getting skin infections, acne, and putting on weight, which was weird because I'd always been so slim,” she says. “I wanted to sleep all the time and ended up with a whole range of health problems including candida overgrowth, hormone imbalance, irregular periods, and hair loss. I also got really sick on a trip (read: fully-blown bender) to Thailand and picked up parasites and dengue fever.”

After a series of antibiotics made her sicker, Anthony says she came across Graham’s diet book, "The 80/10/10 Diet," which taught her that “you can live and thrive on this lifestyle by just eating higher carbohydrate vegetables, fruits, and juices, and keeping your diet low fat. You even keep good fats low to keep your blood sugar stable. It's been amazing.”

Graham tells Yahoo Shine in an email that there is no reason to worry about Anthony's diet. "Eating fruits and vegetables, universally acclaimed as health foods, is not dangerous. A pregnant woman needs extra calories, but neither she nor her unborn baby benefit when she eats foods that lead to illness," he says. "Some folks see 80/10/10 as a threat, thinking that if they eat healthy foods it will mean they can never eat their unhealthy foods ever again. This is not so. People can and do eat what they want."

According to information on Graham's website, “There is no essential nutrient in meat, grains, legumes, or dairy that is not also available in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and in a form that is easier to digest.” Cooking food, he adds, destroys nutrients. He also notes that most people have been misinformed about how much protein the body needs, and that “most people suffer from an overdose of protein each day, and this accounts for a great deal of ill health, such as constipation, leading to toxemia and eventually, cancer.”

Naysayers, though, have been vocal and numerous. A slew of criticisms in the story’s comments section include “narcissist in the extreme,” “too much sugar,” “self-absorbed moron,” “irresponsible,” “bad advice,” “hope she’s taking supplements,” “needs more protein,” and “I can’t see much there to help your baby grow.”

The concern of various bloggers has also been piqued. “I feel uncomfortable with Loni’s ‘transformation’ because it doesn’t sound safe for her baby,” writes Ami Angelowicz in the Frisky. “I’m not a doctor, of course, but common sense and the little knowledge I have about nutrition tells me that you have to consume more than bananas and mangoes each day when you’re eating for two.”

Prenatal nutritionists seem to agree. “Nothing can replace a balanced diet for a healthy pregnancy,” Bridget Swinney, author of “Eating Expectantly: A Practical and Tasty Guide to Prenatal Nutrition,” tells Yahoo Shine. Swinney finds the details of Anthony’s diet “concerning.”

She adds, “Any kind of extreme diet during pregnancy raises a lot of red flags for me. First, you really need protein to build a baby, and it should be around 20 percent of your diet.” Further, women eating for two need to consume zinc for brain development, omega-3 fats from fish for brain and eye development, and calcium (which can be obtained from vegetables, she notes), "to flush lead and other dangerous toxins that tend to get stored in bones," Swinney explains.

She adds, “Not to say this diet isn’t possible — there are plenty of women who are vegan through pregnancy — but she takes it to an extreme that’s kind of scary.” She also worries about women who are prone to gestational diabetes, for which low servings of carbohydrates are recommended, mimicking Anthony’s eating habits.

Prenatal nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Melinda Johnson adds that "research has demonstrated that restrictive eating plans tend to lead to disordered eating, poor body image, poor self esteem, and even to full-blown eating disorders."

Still, others defend Anthony.

“The hate is mostly due to the fact that she’s pregnant while trying to stay healthy,” notes blogger Every Joe. “According to other jealous women, she’s putting her unborn child at risk by not eating a more well-rounded diet. That, ladies and gentlemen, is terrible logic. …If my seed is implanted in a uterus, I’d much rather the host chick feed the parasite with a fruit diet than one that consists of McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell.”

And plenty of supporters also speak up in the interview’s comments section. “This is an extremely healthy diet. I have been doing this for just under 12 months and love it!” wrote one woman. Others have told “haters” to back off, noting the lifestyle “obviously works for her” and declaring “good on her” and “excellent work, Loni.”

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