Quantcast

Is Eating a Raw Diet Healthy?

Health + Wellness

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.

Pixabay

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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Genevieve Belmaker

Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.

Read More Show Less
Jessica Kourkounis / Stringer

The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."

The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

Sponsored
Pixabay

By Manuella Libardi

Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.

Read More Show Less
XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY / THE OCEAN AGENCY

Hope may be on the horizon for the world's depleted coral reefs thanks to scientists who successfully reproduced endangered corals in a laboratory setting for the first time, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less

Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
PhotoAlto / Frederic Cirou / Getty Images

Drinking water treated with fluoride during pregnancy may lead to lower IQs in children, a controversial new study has found.

Read More Show Less
National Institude of Allergy and Infectious Disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Thursday of a drug-resistant strain of salmonella newport linked to the overuse of antibiotics in cattle farming.

Read More Show Less
A Greenpeace rally calls for a presidential campaign climate debate on June 12 in Washington, DC. Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted down a resolution calling for an official, party-sanctioned debate on the climate crisis, ABC News reported Thursday.

Read More Show Less