With so much conflicting information about various diets and ways of eating, it can become overwhelming. Some people rely on raw food which they claim is the only way to get the maximum amount of nutrients from their food. Others completely disagree. Maybe you are one of those people who has tried to eat rawer but ended up feeling worse or had more digestive discomfort and is confused because you have been told that raw foods are best for you.
How do you know what is correct in food?
One thing is for sure: no two people are the same. There is no diet, food, exercise, or lifestyle that suits all people equally. We are all unique - in our genetics, personalities, geographic locations, age, personal biology, and current health status. Therefore, not just what we eat, but how we eat will vary from person to person.
TCM practitioners have spent thousands of years observing people, their bodies, and the effects of food and lifestyle on their health.
By reducing some very specific, but easy to identify signs and symptoms, you can quite easily see what is out of balance and then by adjusting your diet, lifestyle or eating styles, you bring balance and health back to the body.
Everything from hangnails to headaches and gut patterns gives us clear information about what's going on inside. Much of this medicine is intuitive and makes sense when we break it down: when it's hot, cool down, when it's cold, warm up.
Surprisingly, most of the time, the way people naturally want to eat or live is often in line with what is best for them. But unfortunately, people often don't follow you because of something they read, heard, or that your friend has tried successfully and thinks might be the best for them.
When we think there is an answer for everyone, it can be confusing and frustrating. But when we recognize that our body is talking all the time and when we take the time to listen to it, we can see that it is giving us very clear messages about what we need.
When the diet is not correct, medicine is useless. When the diet is correct, medicine is not necessary. Good health often comes down not only to the quality of the food we eat, but also how we eat it. And the preparation method we use is actually one of the main ways you can heal and balance your body.
Eating raw or cooked food, that's the question
The way TCM views the digestion process looks not so much in terms of gross income (raw nutrients) but much more in terms of net gain (the amount of Qi or Energy and Blood that is produced in the end).
Think of the digestive system as a pot and a fire or a stove. Your stomach is the pot and your digestive system is the fire or heat provided by the stove. If you are trying to heat something and cook it, you need that fire to be strong. Too weak, it will take a long time to have any impact on the food (think candle heat vs. fire heat)
When there's not enough heat, it's like adding frozen vegetables to a soup you're trying to cook - the more you add, the more heat is required to break down that food.
Optimal digestion actually occurs at a temperature slightly higher than body temperature. That means everything you put into your stomach needs to reach this temperature in order to break down into liquid form and be properly absorbed.
So that means that the way you put food in your stomach (frozen / cooked / raw / hot / solid / liquid) actually has a big influence on how much work or energy it takes for your stomach to break down food. and digest them.
Raw or cold things take longer to process because your system has to work much harder to heat and essentially cook them. Hot or pureed foods use very little energy.
So how do you know what is right for you?
Cold vs hot
The degree to which we can break down food efficiently directly affects our ability to absorb nutrients. Raw foods can provide more nutrients on your plate, but if you can't break them down, you can't absorb those nutrients.
Loose intestines, fog, fatigue, or a feeling of congestion or bloating after meals is a sign that your body is not absorbing the maximum amount of nutrients.
By even lightly cooking your food, the nutrients may decrease slightly, but your ability to absorb the nutrients increases, feeding you better.
Cold drinks have been used throughout history to treat fevers. Which makes sense when you think about it. When you put something cold in your system, your body will draw heat from another place where it will warm it. If you're too hot, chilling your food will cool you down.
But if you have little heat (i.e., you are the cold in the room and suffer from weaker digestion, loose intestines, stomach cramps, bloating or nasal congestion after raw or cold food), when eating or drinking cold or raw food, you're taking precious heat from somewhere else to warm the contents of your stomach. It is not ideal.
Hotter food is less energy consumed to cool food
Imagine, if instead of putting a frozen smoothie or a glass of ice water in your system, you opt for a hot pureed soup, a savory stew, or a sip of a hot beverage like ginger tea instead of an ice cold one.
Your body would have to do very little to prepare that for digestion. In fact, it can make you warm up and strengthen your digestion, helping you feel better and more balanced overall.
There are people who, although they pride themselves on eating spinach salads every day, their body is not able to absorb them making them feel bad, and they may be better with a hot soup, for example, even if they think that 'raw' is better.
What about "hot" people
Now for those who naturally do better with hot. These are the ones in t-shirts or shorts in February when everyone else is in sweaters. They are the type that burn through food as fast as it can be served.
These "hot" guys tend to have excess energy and heat. This basically means that they can easily heat, break down, and process the food they eat.
Since raw foods cool naturally, and things like cold-pressed juices and smoothies contain a lot of replacement fluids, dry and “hot” people do very well with them.
Just take a quick look at your tongue; Is your tongue crimson red? Do you notice cracks all over the body of your tongue (think dry desert soil)?
If you're the hot type, suffer from overheating or sweating, and have a very red tongue, including some raw foods or lightly peeled or steamed foods with cold-pressed juices may be ideal for you.
Avoid slow-roasted or overcooked foods and spices that get hot, like ginger, black pepper, etc., as it will add more heat to the body.
Eat according to the season if you are healthy
Eat according to the season - varying your diet in the seasons. If you are healthy and want to continue like this.
If you're generally healthy and want to stay that way, changing your diet throughout the year can be a great way to naturally balance your system and reap the benefits of raw and cooked foods.
Eat fresh raw foods in the summer, like leafy salads, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. and slowly add warmer cooked foods in the fall and slower cooked and broiled foods in the winter.
Once spring rolls around again, slowly start adding some fresh sprouts or veggies to your cooked food and then move onto fresh raw food as the season rolls around to start the cycle all over again.
Spring is the best time of year to clean up and add raw food back to your diet, but you should still cook a little or include a raw and cooked mixture in a meal.
Raw fruits and vegetables are considered more cleansing, but again, listen to your body. If you feel cold or notice that your digestive system does not respond well to raw food, simply opt for a cooked food cleanse and add more raw food as the weather warms up.
Summer brings the garden. Eating fresh food without much cooking is best in the summer. We have a lot of heat around us, in general, our body is prepared to digest them.
Although, if you are a person who is "cold" throughout the year, it is better to avoid everything raw, even in summer. Or if you want to include something in your diet, try to make it only a small portion of your food and make sure you always have something warm with it.
As the weather begins to cool down and nature prepares to retreat for winter, it's time to start adding more hot, cooked foods to your diet.
Soups, roasted vegetables, warmer teas. If you still enjoy salads or fresh foods, it is generally recommended to make warm salads or partially cooked salads (sauté some veggies then serve over a bed of fresh greens for a warm salad with lightly cooked veggies).
You can also heat up you’re dressing or add hot foods like ginger, black pepper, or toasted sesame oil.
The perfect time of year for simmering. The longer it takes to cook, the more the property heats up. When preparing soups or stews, the nutrients are infused into the broth, making it very easy for your body to break them down and absorb the nutrients. It's great to add naturally warming spices, like ginger, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, and fennel to your diet.
You can also use root vegetables and grains like quinoa, which also have a slightly warm side. Drink hot broths or teas during the season and your body will thank you.
Vegans or on a mostly plant-based diet, be sure to add more spices for warming and with more warming techniques (baking, sautéing, stewing) during the winter and year.
Ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, rosemary are all naturally hot foods and spices and, by adding them to your diet regularly in the colder months, they will balance the natural cooling and cleaning properties of vegetables and fruits to keep you strong and nourished in the depths of winter.
Some plant eaters get tired over time from eating too much raw food, but by only slightly modifying spices and cooking methods, you can help your body absorb the maximum amount of nutrients and feel vibrant and strong all year long.
As in any season of the year, be sure to listen to your body and notice how you feel after eating. If you feel good, have more energy and your bowel patterns are regular and formed, then you are doing great!
If you're feeling tired, constipated, bloated, or have digestive disorders and looser intestines, it's time to change the way you're eating.
General rules for food preparation
1. Eat seasonally and adjust your food preparation methods according to the season (if you can't believe it, try eating fruit and salad all day for a few days and check your bowel movements. If they become irregular (loose or constipated) or if you see undigested food in the stool, then your digestion is not working as well as it should be. Summer will be different than winter.
2. Remember that raw foods are amazing for cleaning and cooling, so they are great for those who are the hot type of body, who are strong and have excellent digestive systems.
If you are regularly cold, frequently ill, fatigued, or have a weaker digestive system, eat hotter cooked foods throughout the year.
3. Avoid frozen or cold drinks with your meals: too much liquid dilutes digestive secretions and cold lowers the temperature of the stomach, which makes everything more difficult to digest. Taking broth or a small amount of hot tea with your meals can be an excellent substitute.
4. Listen to your body: energy levels, stress levels, environments, etc. They change throughout the year and throughout our lives, so changing your diet and eating patterns to suit how you feel can be a simple yet profound way to help keep your body strong and healthy throughout your life.
Enjoy your food: Eating with your loved ones and enjoying the food on your plate is the first step to healthy digestion.
Glucagon is released overnight and between meals and is important in maintaining the body’s sugar and fuel balance. It signals the liver to break down its starch or glycogen stores and helps to form new glucose units and ketone units from other substances. It also promotes the breakdown of fat in fat cells.