Yesterday for lunch I ate a salad of garden greens, spinach, fresh cabbage, pears, walnuts and blueberries, all dressed in apple cider vinaigrette. It was delicious and healthy, and any raw food enthusiast would have approved.
According to the Raw Food Movement, eating like this every day is ideal, as raw fruits and vegetables contain active enzymes and antioxidants extremely beneficial for one’s health. But for the raw-food-yogis out there, it may be wiser to adopt an Ayurvedic diet.
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Ayurveda, the ancient sister science to yoga, views the human body as made from the very same elements that compose our universe. From the earthy density of muscle to thoughts that vanish like vapor, we are simply a microcosm of the macrocosm. Each human being is made by a unique combination of the elements, or doshas, that can be brought into balance through certain diet and health practices.
To bring the body into balance, we must first understand that “balance” means different things for different people and during different times. Ayurveda suggests to not eat based on one factor (in this example choosing to eat only raw foods). Rather, we’re told to make space in our food routine to eat based on the season, the time of day, the period of life we’re in, and the needs of our unique dosha combination (called prakriti).
In other words, while raw foods are stellar sources of nutrition, they won’t work for everybody all of the time.
The question we should ask ourselves when it comes to choosing any diet is whether its taking us into greater balance or imbalance. Ayurvedic principles would hold that a raw food only diet might take you into imbalance because raw foods are typically high in vata, the element of air and the energy of motion, motivation and change—but lack the fire element, pitta, or calming elements of kapha. Think about the mung bean sprouts topping your favorite raw salad: these fresh sprouts bursting forth with enthusiasm are small examples of vata energy. While foods high in vata are great at the beginning of Spring when we’re still carrying the weight of winter introversion, an excess of vata can lead to anxiety, restlessness and difficult digestion.
The lack of pitta in a raw foods diet would be concerning to Ayurvedic practitioners. Pitta’s fire is responsible for governing digestion (think about gastric acid transforming your food), and Ayurveda relies on the heat from cooking your food for this function. A balanced pitta promotes high intelligence and the ability to process and assimilate the events of our lives. Therefore, heat is essential in the Ayurvedic lifestyle.
If you are currently eating a raw foods diet and aren’t ready to let it go, consider how you can bring some balance into this high-vata, low-pitta diet. Support your pitta by adding ginger, cayenne and other heating herbs to meals, and avoid too many cold foods. Also, try some grounding asana routines to help balance your vata. Practice with awareness at the root chakra or take time in your day to move at a slow, mindful pace.
No matter what your diet preferences are, choose with an understanding that there is no wrong or right way to eat, and the way to gauge whether your diet is working for you is by noticing how you feel. Knowing that the diet is in constant flux based on the many factors of life, try to settle in to the routine that serves you best.
What are your experiences with eating raw foods? Do they improve your life or bring about imbalance?