There is debate about whether raw foods or cooked foods are better for your health. Raw foodists claim that keeping food raw, under 117’F, preserves more of the nutrients in the food. However, in Ayurveda we take into account that it is not only what you eat that is important, but what you can digest, absorb and assimilate. Even though you may be taking in nutrients, if you can’t utilize them then there is no benefit. While the raw food movement is a more recent fad, we are compelled to stand behind Ayurvedic knowledge that has been tested over thousands of years.
However, Ayurveda doesn’t completely rule out eating raw foods. They are okay in moderation as well as certain seasons or climates where outside temperatures are higher. Also, for those with a strong pitta constitution, digestion will naturally be strong so these people can eat and digest more raw foods better than a kapha or vata person would be able to. There are also specific cases when someone may benefit from switching to a more raw diet, yet this may not be for everyone or sustainable for health over the long term.
Raw foods aside, lets get into some reasoning as to why cooked food is easier to digest, absorb and assimilate. Our digestive fire (Agni) is usually not strong enough to consistently be digesting raw foods, as they take more energy to break down. When we cook food it helps to soften and almost pre-digest the food we are about to take in. This way meals are not taxing on our digestion and the focus can be on assimilation and absorption. When digestive fire is low, a whole plethora of issues come along with it, so keeping the digestive fire balanced and strong is important for health. When there is undigested food in the gut, it has the potential to clog channels and create toxins (Ama). We want to be sure that everything we take in can be fully digested and processed through the body.
Cutting down on raw foods doesn’t mean you have to rule out salads and other commonly raw dishes altogether. There are many ways to lightly cook and add spices to make food easier for the digestive system to handle. Below is a recipe we made in our last workshop. This delicious cooked dandelion and kale salad is a great way to enjoy a detoxing salad without taxing your gut.
~Spiced Dandelion & Kale Salad~
2 bunches kale
1 bunch dandelion greens
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
1 t cumin
½ t coriander
1 T coconut oil
2 T water
Melt coconut oil & add spices. Sauté onion until translucent. Add rinsed & chopped greens and water. Cover & cook for 5 minutes.
~ Dressing ~
1 T olive oil
1 t Apple cider vinegar
1 t lemon juice
1 t yellow or Dijon mustard
½ t tarragon
½ t pepper
Whisk ingredients together & pour atop warm greens. Enjoy!