Are you craving the energy and vitality of fresh plant-based foods, but don't want to lose the warmth? Great news — you don't have to compromise one for the other. You can have your pie and eat it too.
When consumed carefully and mindfully, raw and living foods enable the body to efficiently absorb nutrients and eliminate waste products. These foods contain fully functional enzymes and gut-friendly nutrients to help us digest our food, cleanse our blood and repair our damaged cells.
When we crave warm, cooked comfort foods, particularly around this time of the year, it's important to remind ourselves that it takes a significant amount of digestive energy to break down that food and get the most of it. When we use up that energy without replenishing it, it only makes sense that it may manifest physically. We may feel like we need a nap. That’s simply your body’s plea for nutrients, love, and attention!
Here are some of the ways I suggest fueling up and preventing that post-meal plunge, while still satisfying your desire for warm or hot food. (As a living foodist, this is what I do too, in case you're wondering. We all need a bit of warmth!)
1. Have your cooked meal with a raw side salad and START your meal with the salad.
Give your body a dose of alkalinity, enzymes and nutrient density to help you digest your cooked meal. This is particularly important if you're having something cooked at work for lunch and want to avoid the post-meal dip in energy (and maybe enjoy a few gas and bloat-free hours at your desk). Munch on a handful of greens first: romaine, spinach, parsley. Whatever you choose, munch it first, chew it and don't forget to breathe.
2. Go 50/50.
This is my preferred dinner approach, especially during the winter season. Your body's craving something cooked, but do ALL of your recipes really need to be cooked? How about making a raw, enzyme and nutrient-rich dipping sauce, pasta sauce, ketchup, peanut sauce, or pesto from scratch using fresh, live foods and spices to counterbalance your cooked meal and of course, simultaneously make it more digestible? The best part is this sauce will probably take you less than half of the time it would if you were to cook it. It can't compete with store-bought processed condiments of course, but do you really want to go there? I don't.
3. Eat fermented (non-pasteurized) veggies.
Do you like kimchi? How about sauerkraut? Fermented veggies provide your body with a high dose of good bacteria, among other vital nutrients. We all need good bacteria in high amounts to ensure we maintain a balanced state of health. These good bacteria help you absorb nutrients back into your body and help break down undigested food particles. They keep the bad guys at bay, too.
The good news is we can keep our shelves stocked easily through our diet. Cultured veggies and fermented drinks like kombucha and kefir are great, so long as they're not heated through processing. They're very easy to make at home too. Don’t have time? No worries. Probiotic pills and powders are also a great way to replenish your supply, but be sure to search for the best brands, free of toxic fillers and additives. Have a few tablespoons of these veggies (or pop a probie) right before you eat and you’ll enjoy an energizing, bloat- and gas-free remainder of day.
4. Keep digestive enzymes handy.
This is my last resort option; I use it when I'm out with friends, at a restaurant, party, or event and don't have access to a handful of fresh, alkalizing greens or fermented veggies. I keep these in my purse. They travel with me wherever I go, and I pop one or two right before eating a cooked meal. Now, I may not get the high dose of nutrients a green salad or raw meal delivers, but at the very least I'm keeping my digestive system in check. These enzymes help break down food into smaller building blocks to facilitate the absorption of nutrients and the elimination of waste products.
Our digestive enzyme capacity decreases with age, especially if we've spent the majority of our lives eating a cooked food-heavy diet (which most of us have). When we eat food that's deficient in these enzymes, our body must do what it can to find these enzymes. As mentioned, we can help by supplying enzymes and nutrients through a living foods diet (see 1, 2, and 3). However, when this is not an option, your body compensates by finding (stealing) enzymes in other places: glands, muscles, nerves, blood. This happens until those areas are also deficient in enzyme content. There are several documented links between enzyme deficiency and chronic disease. I'll leave it at that.
There's nothing wrong with eating a balanced diet of raw and cooked foods, as long as you do so carefully and mindfully. Try and opt for fresh, living foods when you can, but when you can't or choose not to, do your body a favor and follow these simple steps.
My final thought: Think of gas, indigestion, bloating, and abdominal discomfort as just a whiny (and often stinky) cry from your body, asking you to pay more attention to what you eat, when you eat it, and in what order. Your body’s on your side! Listen to it, hear it, and love it. It’s quite wise and has all the tools needed for self-healing. It just needs approval from its master. And that’s you.