This is not an anti-raw food rant – just to clarify! I simply want to look at the big picture when it comes to raw vs. cooked food. The way I see it is that many of us grew up eating mostly cooked food and I know I will probably continue to eat cooked for the rest of my life, not because raw is ‘just a craze’ but because it feels natural for me.
The raw food movement has been and still is wonderfully creative and inspiring, providing so much choice in terms of cleansing and healing the body through whole, natural foods. I love experimenting with juices and smoothies loaded with superfoods and goodness. Yoga and raw food also seem to go hand in hand with retreats popping up all over the place.
Eating raw food can definitely be extremely beneficial for cleansing certain body types and many people feel fantastic after a raw cleanse, but as a daily way of eating probably not sustainable for most people. It seems even some of the biggest raw food advocates are promoting eating some cooked food now and that a broader perspective is coming to play within raw food circles.
From an Ayurvedic and Macrobiotic perspective it would never make sense to eat only raw food. Both highlight the need to eat right for the seasons. It’s completely natural to want to eat more raw salads and fruits during hot summers, but in cold, wet winters, eating cold uncooked food is simply not healthy for the body. It needs nourishment and warmth from food during these months.
Even for me living in tropical Thailand where there is no traditional winter I just do better with some cooked food in my diet. Yes, I eat loads of salads but there’s a reason curries and delicious cooked cuisine forms a key part of traditional Asian diets. Raw is actually harder for our systems to digest. The idea that raw contains more nutrients that are otherwise lost in cooking may be somewhat true but cooking food can also ensure better nutrient absorption as it increases your internal fire or ‘agni’.
Raw can of course be very healthy and energising but it can also be very unhealthy if, for example, someone needs more grounding and warmth for their body. In the same way cooked food can be unhealthy if deep-fried, microwaved, barbequed or healthy if cooked well in good quality oil or steamed, for example.
Raw is perfect for hotter climates or during the summer, for those with more heat in their body, to support weight loss, during a detox, for cleaning up your diet in general, and for healing certain diseases – as a temporary diet. But in my mind it simply does not make sense to eat raw 100% of the time nor is it sustainable especially in colder climates or seasons, for anyone who has low body fat, those with colder constitutions, anyone who is ungrounded or very active.
So personally I say flirt with raw, yes, and enjoy occasional ‘flings’ when it feels right, definitely add in more raw to your diet to cleanse the body, but long term, consider committing to some healthy cooked food as well. Extremes are never the answer anyway! It doesn’t have to be raw vs. cooked – you CAN have your (raw key lime cheesecake OR baked chocolate) cake and eat it!