We’ve all heard it 1000 times – if you want to eat well, loose weight or be healthy you should eat more raw foods and salad. There is no question that leafy greens, whole foods and lots of vegetables are good for you, but what you might want to examine is HOW you eat those nutrient packed pieces of goodness.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on the principle of balance – the idea that if the body is in balance we are healthy, pain free and have ample energy. That applies to internal and personal factors (work stress, exercise, healthy diet, emotional stressors, sleep patterns etc.) but applies to our balance within the environment and within the seasons as well.
So what exactly does that mean? Much of it is intuitive, like bundling up in the winter or staying in the shade and decreasing activity in the hot sun or craving warm drinks in the frigid winter months and cooler ones in the hot summer. Unfortunately we’ve drifted away from this in our culture with things such as offering ice water in restaurants even if it’s minus 20 outside.
Think of your digestive system like a furnace. You need to be continually stoking that digestive fire in order for it to break down the food and send out the nutrients to your body. If you’re continually adding cold foods (in temperature like icy things, or raw uncooked foods) into the mix, you’re making your system work extra hard to try to absorb nutrients from the food. In particular in the fall and winter months when the weather gets colder and your body is trying to keep your body warm you want to be adding warm things not cold things like frozen smoothies or icy drinks. Think of it like leaving the front door wide open in the middle of winter when you’re trying to heat your house – it makes everything work harder and not very efficiently.
This is also something that some people should pay attention to in the summer months as well. If you're someone who gets tired after meals, has chronically loose bowels, feels cold all the time or really uncomfortable in air-conditioning or is chronically congested after you eat, it means your digestive system is having to work too hard to break down food. This can be particularly problematic if you're eating cold food right from the fridge or consuming icy drinks or frozen foods.
By making your diet rich in warm cooked foods in the winter month and leaving fresh raw food the hotter months your body will thank you.
And, if you’re one of those people who seems to get bloated no matter what they eat, you should be avoiding salads, raw and cold foods all together and just focus on warm cooked and easy to digest things like steamed vegetables or soups and stews. And if you're hell-bent on having salad, opt for a hybrid salad - add some grilled vegetables to a room temp salad mix and top with a warm dressing to help give your system a helping hand in digestion.
Even though ‘raw’ foods may have been promoted as having more nutrients in them, if your body is unable to digest and assimilate them, it’s a waste. By lightly cooking and steaming your foods, you’re maintaining nutrients and maximizing absorption…helping you get the most out of the food and feel good doing it.
Wishing you a season full of delicious (and digestible) foods!