NUTRITION: Is food best eaten raw?
As I sat down to write this article, I remembered an episode of Sex and the City where the girls rushed to sample a new raw food restaurant (and a particularly handsome waiter).
You see, raw food is in vogue and insofar as weight loss is concerned, we are bombarded with messages that we should switch to salads. But does that always hold true? Are foods better consumed when raw?
Well, in both Ayurveda (Indian medicine) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the temperature of the food you eat plays a pretty important role in determining how useful it is in the body. I used to tell clients that they can eat any kind of vegetables that they want, the more colourful the better, since the deep reds, yellows, greens and purples contain beneficial phytonutrients.
That meant that salads, stir-fries, stews, curries and soups were all viable. However, of late, I’ve found myself revising my original advice. Since the majority of the people who come to see me are vertically ill – mildly unwell, day in, day out, but still going about their schedules, as opposed to horizontally ill – very ill, very often, their digestion is compromised and they simply can’t get the goodness out of raw or lightly-cooked foods.
For this reason, I regularly recommend slow-cooked stews of meat, vegetables and/or legumes.
Let me explain. Imagine that your stomach is like a saucepan on the stove. It contains water and in order to cook the food that comes in, the temperature of the water needs to be high enough. In TCM, the spleen is believed to be the fire under the pan. If you put cold ingredients in the pan, you would need to turn up the heat and this is believed to take a tremendous amount of energy away from the spleen.
This can eventually lead to something called spleen chi deficiency and excess “damp” (when the digestive fire is insufficient and the ingredients in the pan are not fully cooked).
I regularly see both these conditions at the clinic. The former usually manifests as chronic fatigue syndrome (when you’re tired all the time, no matter what you eat or how much you sleep), while the latter normally translates into leaky gut and candida overgrowth (brain fog, food intolerances, fatigue, nausea, problem skin), all because of raw food.
By SONA PARMAR