The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
The ancient healing system of Ayurveda is quite forthcoming in its recommendations and it has a definitive stance on food preparation: Food should almost never be eaten raw. This might surprise you, as many health aficionados who swear by raw diets also believe in the tradition of Ayurveda. If you love eating raw but want to follow the teachings of this ancient medicine, here's what you need to know to make an informed decision about whether or not to eat raw.
The Case for Raw Food
First, let's go over the health benefits of eating raw. Proponents of raw diets maintain that uncooked foods contain more active enzymes, as they haven't been deactivated by the process of heat-based cooking. This is actually quite true: Heat does, in fact, destroy enzymes that may still be present in your produce while it is raw. Additionally, cooking can decrease the nutrient value of your foods.
However, these particular justifications for eating raw may be unfounded. According to Livescience, the enzymes you preserve by not cooking your food are likely lost to the digestive process anyway and are probably not that beneficial for good health.
"… plant enzymes, which raw dieters wish to preserve, are largely mashed up with other proteins and rendered useless by acids in the stomach. Not cooking them doesn't save them from this fate. Anyway, the plant enzymes were for the plants. They helped with the plants' growth and they are responsible for the wilting and decomposition of plants after they are harvested. They are not needed for human digestion."
The most beneficial aspect of a raw lifestyle is the fact that the person partaking in this eating style is probably eating a lot less processed food than the average modern human. As a population, we eat far too many processed foods. Raw diets are likely to include far more nutrient-rich veggies and fruits than non-raw diets—and for that reason, they tend to positively impact health.
Background on Ayurveda
Ayurveda has been around for thousands of years and it's a complex system of health and medicine. Here's a little background that will help inform your knowledge about Ayurveda's stance on raw foods.
First of all, Ayurveda is based on the idea that matter is comprised of three influences: soma (cooling, lunar energy), agni (warming, solar energy) and maruta (the element of air), according to Ayurindus. These energies are three qualities of prana or life force.
When discussing food and digestion, we're primarily concerned with agni. This warming force is directly responsible for digestion, which is thought to be a warming, heating force.
What Ayurveda Says About Raw Foods
Ayurveda recommends that all foods be warmed, at least to room temperature, in order to support agni (the heating element) and digestion. Eating raw foods—particularly cold, refrigerated ones—is thought to shock the system and make digestion difficult.
So, the official word in Ayurveda is to cook your food. Here's what Charaka Samhita, an ancient Sanskrit text on Ayurveda, has to say on the subject:
" … vegetables are generally heavy, sweet, drying, obstructive, difficult to digest and cold in potency. Therefore these need to be cooked or steamed prior to intake."
Additionally, it's no secret that digesting raw veggies can be tough. They're fibrous, after all, which can leave us feeling bloated and gassy, even if fiber is good for us. Ayurindus also notes that within Ayurvedic circles, side effects such as infertility, diarrhea, low body temperature, hair loss and insomnia have been observed in practitioners of raw diets.
The Role of Body Types
Of course, when it comes to diet, there's no one-size-fits-all. Some people absolutely love the way they feel on a completely raw diet, while others can't stand it. Even in Ayurveda, there's a very big concentration on different physical compositions. The three body types (or doshas) vata, pitta and kapha call for very different diets. Differences of age, climate and medical history are also taken into account.
For example, as the Chopra Center explains, a senior citizen with a vata body type living in a cold climate might do best on a fully cooked diet, while a younger adult with a pitta type living somewhere warm might actually benefit from the cooling effects of a raw diet.
In short, you have to find what works for you. But just because some health-minded people swear that raw eating is beneficial doesn't mean that it will work for everyone. If you want to maintain a clean, conscious diet but you find that raw foods just don't do it for you, there may be a perfectly valid reason why. Now you can use Ayurveda to back it up.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
- Raw Food Diet: What To Know | US News Best Diets ›
- Raw Food Diet Review: Benefits, What You Eat, & More ›
- Raw foodism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Get ready to toast bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. National Pollinator Week is June 17-23 and it's a perfect time to celebrate the birds, bugs and lizards that are so essential to the crops we grow, the flowers we smell, and the plants that produce the air we breathe.
The U.S Forest Service unveiled a new plan to skirt a major environmental law that requires extensive review for new logging, road building, and mining projects on its nearly 200 million acres of public land. The proposal set off alarm bells for environmental groups, according to Reuters.
By Teju Adisa-Farrar & Raul Garcia
In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, "White man's roads through black men's homes."
Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation's capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.
Michigan prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against government officials involved in the Flint water crisis Thursday, citing concerns about the investigation they had inherited from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) appointed by former Attorney General Bill Schuette, CNN reported.