The effects of a raw food diet


It is such a wonderful feeling to walk out to a garden, harvest some vegetables and prepare them for a meal. Or to go to a farmer’s market and meet the people who are growing the food. Eating as close to nature as possible is the ideal way to receive the most prana, or life force, from your food, but the life force and nutrients are only useful to you if your body can actually digest the food. 

The raw food diet has grown in popularity, stimulated by the idea that if food is untouched by cooking it retains a greater number of nutrients, but this popular trend misses a significant point – the ability to digest the nutrients.

In Ayurveda we understand that digestion of food begins in the mouth with chewing so that the food can mix with your saliva to initiate the digestive enzymes. But applying gentle heat in cooking actually wakes up the prana and starts the digestion of the food for us. In fact, the reason human beings started cooking food was to make it digestible. Cooking is an important part of making the nutrients available so that our bodies can use them for maintaining the body and mind. 

People with a very strong agni, digestive fire, may find that they are able to digest raw foods, but for the majority of us, eating raw foods does not result in successful digestion. When our bodies can’t digest the food we eat, it ferments in our intestines creating toxins. This weakens agni, making it difficult to maintain true health. 

When agni is weakened it is difficult to keep the doshas balanced. Eating raw food will aggravate vata dosha. This results in a number of health issues, including mental fogginess, gas, constipation, emaciation, tremors, anxiety and much more. Most people living in modern society are already vata aggravated from excessive travel, screen time and abundant fear, so eating raw foods can make these issues even more pervasive. 

When you cook food, you have the opportunity to create a connection with nature and nurture your body and mind. Warm foods calm vata, and the effects are even greater when you cook with spices that support digestion. Cooking food for a meal also ensures that you can receive the most life force from what your food with much better results than relying on pre-packaged raw foods that were prepared weeks prior with combinations of foods that may not support proper digestion.  

Ayurveda teaches us to look at our bodies as a work of art. Rather than sticking to a label or an external set of rules about eating, pay attention to how the food you eat affects your body and mind. Avoid the fads and stick with what is natural for your body and mind. 

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