Raw food from the perspective of ayurveda
In the recent years raw food has become very popular.
We can often read recommendations that we should eat only raw food. This is understandable since fresh fruits and vegetables contain a lot of life energy (Prana), vitamins, minerals and enzymes that our body needs to function well. On the other hand, according to ayurveda and ancient texts we should eat mainly cooked food. Namely, cooking increases the element of fire that is the basis for good digestion: food processing and absorption of nutrients in the body.
So, how to balance these two opposing poles? Is one wrong and the other correct? What type of diet to follow in order to maintain health? In light of the fact that ayurveda survived for many thousand years and it is a science about life, we can use its principles and philosophy also with raw food and in this way increase its effect and create balance.
There are many amongst us that have personally experienced the positive effects of raw food diet: increase of life energy, clarity of thoughts, enthusiasm, shiny complexion, good memory, quick regeneration, healing autoimmune diseases, accelerated renovation of the body … to name just a few. Many have lost surplus weight by eating raw food and become more careful about what they consume. While I was in the process of healing cancer, I was eating only raw food and I won. That is why we cannot deny the positive effects of raw food.
However, the researches show that raw food also has less desirable effects. I have experienced them as bloating, I was cold many times and could not warm up, I often had winds and I was all the time hungry … Research also shows bad digestion, insomnia, quick tiredness, loss of menstruation, low libido, infertility, deterioration of teeth health, problems with hair and nails, stress, emotional imbalance … Some naturopathinc doctors state that they have noticed excessive weigh loss, neurological disorders, worse functioning of liver and pancreas with the clients who have long been eating only raw food.
That is why I used the wisdom of ayurveda when choosing my diet. Ayurveda recognises differences among individuals. Ayurveda does not prescribe only one way that would be ideal for all. To determine the optimal diet one needs to recognise more factors: constitution, life style, profession, influence of seasons and climate on an individual …
Dr Mark Vinick states a few examples: a healthy person (Pitta Dosha), 25 years old, living in a tropical climate and working as a yoga teacher or a healthy (Vata Dosha) person, 60 years old, living in Norway, where the climate is cold and working as a builder outdoors. Without knowing ayurveda it is obvious that these two people need different types of food for maintaining homeostasis, balance and optimal health.
In general people with Pitta or Pitta/Kapha constitution without the strong influence of Vata can eat raw food especially in spring and summer. Most of the advocates of raw food are having a Pitta constitution. The element of fire in their (Pitta) constitution allows them to eat cold food. However, if someone has serious imbalance in Vata Dosha (worries, fears, overload, not being grounded, winds, dry skin, bloating, constipation) he/she needs to consume warm food that is easily digestible in the healing process.
One of the main reasons for consuming raw food is Prana (life energy, vital energy) that is abundant in natural raw food. Prana is intangible substance that fills everything that exists in the universe. Prana exists in the body and outside it. Inside the body it has 5 forms (Dr Mark Vinick): prana, udana, samana, viana and apana. Outside the body prana can be found in three qualities: Soma (cold moon energy), Agni (warm sun energy) and Marut (subtile vibration of space and air). These three qualities exist in food as well. We should think from this perspective about the truth of the belief that cooking destroys Prana (life energy) and/or makes food dead, since Agni (fire) is one of the qualities of Prana. Prana, life energy, is reinforced by cooking.
Overcooking food truly reduces its Prana because Agni reduces Soma. Preparing food in the microwave becomes dangerous for health since molecules start to move fast and violently, rub against each other, this friction creates heat and bumping creates free radicals. Slow cooking on fire (recommended on dry woods) is the ayurvedic way that contributes to easy digestion and absorption of nutrients. In this way, nutrients can support the building of healthy tissues and regeneration of the body.
What about raw juices?
Raw food is truly full of nutrients, fibres, minerals, vitamins, essential amino acids, carbohydrates and several others undiscovered substances that nature offers. The biggest challenge is metabolism and absorption of these nutrients so that they could serve us best: to regenerate and build healthy tissues and bones in the body. The outer layer of fruit and vegetables consists mostly of celluloid. In order for our body to break up this celluloid layer it needs a big number of enzymes or such food needs to be cooked, squeezed into juice, chewed very well or made into a smoothie. Raw juices: fruit and vegetable juices are the best we can get from raw food.
Without cooking the element of fire reduces and cold, dry, light or heavy raw food can worsen the imbalance of elements. How do we reduce these effects and increase our ability to create optimal health?
Ayurvedic principles and wisdom can bring about more balance (Dr Mark Vinick):
1.) Avoid cold food or cold drinks. When you take food or drink out of the fridge leave it to warm up to room temperature before you consume it.
2.) Drink warm water during meals and during two meals. This brings warmth. If you add ginger to water, it will increase Agni that will improve digestion and absorption of food.
3.) Use blender to mix food so that it looses drying properties.
4.) Adding lemon juice to food also increases Agni.
5.) Use more olive oil that will reduce the cold vata energy on salads. With oils you will also get the necessary fatty acids.
6.) Pay attention that every meal contains 6 tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, astringent and spicy. In this way the body will absorb the nutrients more easily what is the precondition for feeling good, contentment and balance that consequently brings about health.
7.) After a meal take rest for at least 10 minutes and don’t hurry with work.
8.) Everyday have a massage with sesame oil. In this way you prevent the excessive imbalance of Vata Dosha.