Quite a few people are now eating healthy by adopting a raw food diet. This can be a positive step for many people as it leads them to eat more fruit and vegetables, less processed starches, and less meat. However we Chinese Medicine folk have some reservations about the value of eating only raw food. We aren’t fond of extremes, and think that a balanced diet with moderate amounts of all foods is healthy for most people. Chinese Medicine also views digestion as being something like cooking, and cooking as being a form of pre-digestion. We’re big on soups and stocks, seasonal foods, and small quantities of rich, flavoursome meats and sweets.
It may be that more nutrients can be measured in a raw carrot than a cooked one, but measured nutrients are not always available in a form that humans can digest and use. A lot of nutrients can be measured in grass, but they’re not bioavailable to humans. Cows will be healthy eating it but not us. Nor are we ‘designed’ to eat raw foods – humans have been cooking their food for at least 2.1 million years and were quite different to us back then. Technically they weren’t even the same species. The picture is of our earliest cooking forebearers.
Some people do feel better eating more raw foods. Most of them should balance the cool nature of uncooked food by using plenty of warming spices, and drinking chai, black tea or pu-erh instead of green tea. A small amount of warming alcohol now and then would help. Fresh juices are nutrient packed but more healthy with some ginger or cardamon, some sour or bitter flavour with the sweetness. A cup of juice is easier to process than half a litre of juice, which would tend to overwhelm the digestion with its sweetness and damp. The main thing is self-awareness and being in tune with oneself. Someone who eats a lot of raw food and feels cold all the time, or has pains that are improved by warmth, who finds that food tastes bland, or has loose stools, or copious urine, should reconsider a choice that they have made on the basis of outside information, and eat a bit more cooked food.
Could a raw food diet be balanced out by daily hot yoga? Maybe that’s like asking if a speedball is going to be healthier than its components.
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