To Be Raw, or Not to Be Raw?

Over the last few years the raw food market has widened in popularity. We may call it another fad and I’m prepared to stick my neck on the line here, maybe even create a little controversy, stir up the wind in the sails of all you raw food lovers, but no matter how hard the raw food gurus try to convince us, this type of living really isn’t for everyone.

Have you ever considered the constitution of your body compared to a friends? Or even a family member? Although we are human, our make-up is extremely different in more ways than one. If I am to talk from personal experience, a raw food diet sends me into a place of deep despair. I suffer bloating, fatigue, abdominal cramping; in fact, the list is endless.

Many years ago in my youth, I went on the ultimate apple fast. Sounds crazy right? I consumed copious amounts of apples because Cosmo magazine told me it would be good for my health and inner being, so I listened. I spent nine days in horrific pain thinking that this was something I had to suffer so I could come out of the other side feeling cleansed and eternally happy. Believe me, I persevered and I know this was extreme. I was young at the time but throughout the years I tried a variety of raw diets, each one providing me with the same results. You guessed it: a body filled with pain. I couldn’t understand it. 

For many years, I have taught yoga and during this time, yoga and raw foods seemed to be what society would call the marriage made in heaven.  If you weren’t a yoga teacher eating raw, then you weren’t a yoga teacher at all. Maybe this is still the case but if it is I chose to ignore it. Me being me and finally trusting my own body and eventually (and I stress the word eventually because it took time) loving the fact I was different, I took my research further and finally stopped, feeling like a freak of nature. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Although raw foods are usually considered beneficial, eating too many raw fruit and vegetables can cause an imbalance in the body. That was a relief for me to hear because that is exactly how I felt: imbalanced. Different foods are thought to have different energies, from cold to neutral to hot. Raw fruits and vegetables possess cold energy, which may be beneficial when living in a tropical climate. However according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, overconsumption can result in symptoms such as chilliness, mucus congestion, fatigue, depletion, feeling cold, abdominal pain, poor appetite and bloating, especially after meals. These symptoms begin to improve when the diet is changed, which includes reducing raw fruits and vegetables and the consumption of cold water and cold dairy products.

Something to Keep in Mind:

Animal protein is very warming to the body so those who eat meat on a regular basis usually find it easier to handle more raw foods. Vegetarians are thought to be able to eat less raw foods simply because they don’t consume animal protein.

How to Warm Up Your Diet Without Meat:
  • Cook vegetables, especially when the weather’s cold.
  • Drink fluids that are room temperature and avoid cold drinks.
  • Eat adequate protein.
  • Eat foods with a warming energy.
Warming Foods:
  • Black and white pepper
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne
  • Walnuts
  • Green Onions
  • Chilli Peppers
  • Nutmeg
  • Squash
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Chestnuts
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cloves
  • Dates
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Coriander
  • Chives
  • Rice Wine or Vinegar
  • Cinnamon
  • Caraway
  • Mustard Greens
  • Pine nuts
  • Rice Milk
  • Parsley
  • Turmeric
The Ayurvedic View:

When we look at the Ayurvedic view on diet, it clearly indicates that the reason for cooking foods is to increase the element of fire (agni) which is essential in the assimilation of nutrients. The Ayurvedic tradition and Traditional Chinese Medicine touch a number of similarities and for those keen to learn more on the subject, below is a great article by Dr Mark L Vinick, DC,CAS called ‘Raw Food Diet : An Ayurvedic Perspective’.

To Conclude:

We must accept that we are all different, that the way our bodies process not only food but external information and emotions is also different. What may suit one individual may not suit another and, like anything, it’s about finding the balance for you and enjoying your food while nurturing the body as a whole system. 

‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one hasn’t dined well.’ - Virginia Woolf

Photograph by Nicola Radford-Naylor


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