Many things are taken into account first including – the state of an individual’s digestive fire, their time of life, the climate they live in, their individual constitution and their current state of imbalance to name but a few. All of these things will inform what sort of diet is recommended, and for how long. So please read and make up your mind.
benefit #1: More Energy
What you consume has an enormous effect on your body and vibration. That being said, each individual holds a unique vibration. You are accustomed to choosing foods for their taste, nutritional value, aesthetic appeal, and amount of calories. Are you missing anything? What about energy? The foods you eat are energy. The drinks you drink are energy. You are energy! We (humans) are clusters of energy waves, moving faster and faster all the time. As a human you have agreed to see yourself as solid forms in this reality. Everything you do and think, everything you eat and drink, everything you put into and around your body effects the overall vibration of your entire being. This affects the whole universe.
There are only two types of real foods: food originated from organisms nourished by the sun and food originated from organisms nourished by the earth. This does not include foods that come in a box, a can, a package, or frozen. These food sources cannot give life force energy because they are not from life (when I say food sources I am not referring to nutrition, I am only speaking of vibration). Foods that come from sources nourished by the earth would all be animals including byproducts such as dairy. These foods have the effect of lowering and grounding your vibration. Meat especially dulls your senses and lowers your vibration. It takes more vital life force to digest meat. Eating meat helps to ground the mind energy (the energy of the upper chakras: crown, third eye, throat) and brings it down into the lower chakras (root, sacral, solar plexus). Your body is so busy processing the meat that it reduces your psychic abilities and intuitive sensitivities. When you eat meat, it brings a lot of blood down to the digestive system and away from the areas associated with the upper chakras and intuition, like the brain, and some senses like hearing and sight. Eliminating or limiting meat consumption, especially red meat, will improve vibration.
On the other hand raw food uses more energy to digest but also provides the body with less energy following digestion (this will be discussed later on)
Raw food has the qualities of DRY, ROUGH, COLD and LIGHT. In Ayurveda, there is a rule of nature called ‘Like Increases Like’ whereby if you expose your body to certain qualities, those same qualities increase in your body. For example, if you stand around naked on a cold day, you will increase the cold quality in your body!
Ayurveda teaches us that raw food increases VATA or the Air/Ether element in the body (because Vata also has the qualities of dry, rough, cold and light). And increased Vata has a catabolic effect on the body, that is, it actually breaks down cells. When a cell breaks down, it is like a star exploding – it releases A LOT of energy!!
Increased Vata or air/ether in the body leads to an imbalanced digestive fire, like a candle blowing in the wind. Even if people start out with strong digestion on a raw food diet, it is likely that over time they will begin to suffer from burping, flatulence, bloating, pain and increased sensitivity to foods - all symptoms of Vata indigestion.
Increased Vata also has a strong effect on the mind. Initially you may feel excited, enthusiastic, creative and a little hyperactive. But excessive Vata in the mind quickly turns to feelings of anxiety, stress, worry and insecurity. Lets just say a Vata-aggravated mind is not the calm, stable, peaceful mind you might be looking for.
Same for chakra centres: The solar plexus chakra is all about fire and heat. It is with the element of fire that alchemy takes place. Metals can become soft and pliable in the presence of fire. Cooking food changes its structure, which then changes its digest-ability. Fire purifies and cleanses. The act of eating is transformative in a way that is cleansing to the body It renews and invigorates the body. When we eat raw food, it requires our solar plexus chakra to work harder to tear down the strong natural bonds present in plant food. When we cook food, the structure changes so that it is often easier to digest and absorb. In traditional Chinese medicine, raw food are often contraindicated for people who over think (spleen chi deficiency). From a chakra perspective, this idea makes good sense. If you are on over thinker, you may be depleting your solar plexus chakra by putting out to much “thought” energy Earing raw food will only cause you to have to expend more solar plexus chakra energy. Therefore, cooked foods may be better suited in this condition.
The Yogis might argue that raw food also contains more PRANA than cooked food, and they’d be right! Prana is the subtle element of Air in the body, which can also be thought of as our lifeforce and is the healing energy within the body. However, it should be pointed out that if Prana is not digested properly, by a balanced digestive fire, it will quickly turn into Vata in the body. And Prana is only part of our lifeforce….
benefit #2: More Enzymes
Cooking does destroy enzymes in foods and that can make a difference in nutritional potency. The cruciferous vegetables brussels sprouts and broccoli, for example, contain enzymes that activate certain antioxidants in the vegetables. Cooking destroys these catalysts and thus reduces the power of the protective nutrients we ingest.
First of all what are enzymes? They are proteins in the body, released by every single cell, that help to catalyse chemical reactions. They are like the keys that, when fit into the right lock, enable (or at least speed up) chemical reactions to take place in all physiological systems of the body – in digestion, respiration, immune responses etc. Without them, there are no reactions and there is no life.
Where do these enzymes come from? Well, the human body produces them itself from the building block chemicals we ingest from our food. Food has to be ingested, broken down, absorbed, broken down further and then reconstructed to produce the enzymes we need in our bodies. Plant enzymes aren’t magically ‘released’ from our food into our tummies to contribute to human digestion, as some might assume.
Do nutrition scientists have a complete understanding of food enzymes and the role of the phytonutrients they contain? Nutrition science is actually a very young science. It has only been around for 170 years so is about as advanced as surgery was in the 1650’s. So… we don’t actually understand every aspect of digestion from a scientific perspective.
Are all of the enzymes that exist in a sweet potato or a lettuce actually beneficial to a human body? Enzymes exist in these plants to carry out specific roles in these plants. Isn’t it a little arrogant to assume they have been put there by the universe to be of benefit to our digestive systems? Some of the harmful effects of food enzymes are well known and there are specific cooking processes to remove them. For example, when cooking chickpeas you should always skim the froth off once the water is boiling rapidly to remove the enzymes that make them so gaseous. So perhaps breaking down the enzymes in food is a good thing, not a bad thing?
Will food enzymes survive the raw food preparation and digestion process any better than if just cooked? Enzymes are denatured at about 116 degrees Farenheight or between 40-49 degrees Celsius. They can also be destroyed by processes such as blending and crushing, depending on the enzyme. So when we make raw smoothies with hard core juicers and blenders, when we chew our food and when our food hits the hydrochloric acid in our stomach, will there be any more living food enzymes coming out the other end than if we just ate cooked food?
People may be particularly attracted to the ‘living enzyme’ idea if they believe their own digestive enzyme secretion is compromised. But if our digestive enzymes aren’t functioning very well, will eating raw food help if we can’t digest it very well? Not a lot of science has been done on how difficult it is to digest raw food vs cooked food. But what has been done shows raw food takes much, much more energy to digest and releases much, much less energy to the body following digestion (1). Basically, it is far more difficult for the human body to digest than cooked food (in fact, it has been argued that the human body has evolved specifically to eat cooked food – 1)
To my knowledge so far Bromelain from Pineaple and papain from Pawpaw can help with some protein and carbohydrates digestion and body inflammation so if you are considering natural vegetable enzymes, these two are the way to go.
benefit #3: More Nutrients
Certain cooking processes destroy nutrients while others actually enhance nutrients.
Within the health community, there is still some speculation about the claims that cooking food destroys its nutrients. It is true that there are foods whose nutrient content is erased or decreased when heat is applied, such as with Vitamin C and some B vitamins. Overcooking food is definitely a problem. Of course, boiling veggies too much will decrease their nutrient content. Raw dieters are correct in that food can be heated too much. Eating raw minimizes the risk of eating overcooked, nutrient-stripped food.
However, cooking some vegetables helps release nutrients when we eat them, and it can reduce certain chemicals that inhibit the absorption of minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium. A 2008 study in The British Journal of Nutrition found that a group of 198 people who followed a strict raw food diet had low levels of the antioxidant lycopene. Some foods grow in nutritional content when heat is applied. When tomatoes are cooked, their lycopene content actually increases. The same is true for carrots; cooking them makes their beta-carotene content more available for the body to absorb.
benefit #4: Being raw means eating as many raw desserts as you want
Cakes, pies, cups, bars – the raw, vegan dessert list is long and impressive. They’re delicious and much healthier than store-bought cakes or boxed brownies.
However, that doesn’t mean you should eat as much as you want or think too much of a good thing wont hurt you. Though raw desserts are not packed with table sugar and artificial sweeteners, they do include sugary ingredients like honey and dates, which in part makes these desserts so delicious. The culprit is not just sugar; nuts are often used in raw desserts. If you eat daily raw desserts that are packed with whole nuts, nut milk or nut paste, you could be taking in more healthy fat to the point where it causes weight gain. Keep in mind that just ¼ cup of cashew nuts, for example contain 240 calories and 30 percent of your recommended daily value of fat.
benefit #5: More Alkaline
First of all, why is alkaline food considered better for you? It is taught that almost all foods that we eat, after being digested, absorbed, and metabolized, release either an acid or an alkaline base (bicarbonate) into the blood. Our blood is slightly alkaline, with a normal pH level of between 7.35 and 7.45. The theory behind the ‘alkaline approach’ to eating is that our diet should reflect this pH level and be slightly alkaline.
When we eat acid-forming foods, our body brings our blood pH back into balance by releasing alkaline-rich minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium into our bloodstream. If we are eating enough alkaline-forming foods each day, then our body has easy access to these minerals from our diet.
If we are not eating enough alkaline-forming foods, then our body has to pull these important minerals from our bones, teeth and organs. This can compromise our immune system, cause fatigue and make us vulnerable to viruses and disease.
What you need to know is that some cooking processes make food more acidic but not all of them. Cooking is an epic study of chemistry that I didn’t have time to go into… but from what I’ve gathered, the main forms of cooking that make food more acidic are deep frying and char-grilling. So, if you only deep-fry and char-grill your food you probably will be better off on a raw food diet. Slow-cooking, sautéing, steaming and more gentle forms of cooking, however, don’t make food more acidic.
And… rather than worrying about home cooking making food more acidic, you’d be better off worrying about processing making food more acidic. Most of the ‘extremely acidic’ foods on the food charts are refined flour products, refined sugar products or refined salt products. Meat and alcohol are also pretty acidic. While most raw unprocessed fresh vegetable is alkaline, naturally people who are vegan and consume raw food will have more alkaline bodies.
Reported benefit #6: Reduced Risk of Disease
People on raw food diets no longer eat processed food or a regular western ‘convenience/fast food’ type diet… which is widely recognized as the main cause of the top four chronic diseases in Western Society. Also, people on raw food diets naturally consume a more alkaline and low GI diet because they no longer eat processed food, eat more fruit and veggies and eat less meat. This also helps to prevent or cure many chronic diseases.
But.. you don’t have to eat raw food to enjoy these benefits. You just have to stop eating processed food, eat less meat and eat more fruit and veggies!
People on raw food diets tend to be the type of people who care about their health. Also, when they walk down the Raw Food road, they tend to meet and spend time with other people who also care about their health. So, they tend to make other health-related changes in their lives. They might drink and smoke less. They might exercise more. They might watch less telly and spend more time in nature. They might grow their own veggies. They might try meditation, yoga, pilates, qi jong or tai chi…
But… you don’t have to eat only raw food to enjoy these benefits. You just have to start drinking and smoking less, exercise more, spending more time in nature, try planting a veggie garden and give meditation, yoga, pilates, qi jong or tai chi a go!
Raw food diets have a very cleansing effect on the channels – they are the equivalent of a ‘fast’ so the body becomes very clean initially as undigested food wastes and accumulated toxins are removed from the channels.
You’ve probably gathered by now that from an Ayurvedic perspective, long-term Raw Food Diets are not advised. There are some situations where they are recommended but only to certain individuals. For example, it may be appropriate for a fiery person with a strong constitution and strong digestive fire who lives in a hot climate, is overweight and has diabetes to eat just raw food. But even then, the diet would have a timeline and the practitioner would keep a close eye on the state of their health and symptoms.
Finally, when considering any long-term radical diet, like a Raw Food diet, it is a good idea to get some specific advice from a Practitioner you trust. You should choose someone who walks the talk and looks radiantly healthy. But they shouldn’t just be physically healthy, they should also be mentally healthy – peaceful, kind and joyful.
Thank you for reading
(1) “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human”, Prof Richard Wrangham
(4) Chakra Foods for Optimum Health By Deanna M. Minich