Pop culture has us believe that being healthy and eating salads go hand-in-hand.
The ideal of being healthy, slim, and active are held in high regard, with little attention given to the fact that “looking” healthy and “being” healthy are not always the same thing.
The same people who count calories often suffer from low self-esteem concealed by external metrics that do not include feelings of peace and contentment as an important marker of well-being.
I should know, because I used to be one of them. I had incredible anxiety, a skewed body image, and I tried to control my internal state by controlling external events, especially my food. I counted calories and avoided carbs like the plague, unwittingly exacerbating my underlying health conditions and making myself miserable.
This culminated in incredible back pain caused by my misguided attempts to be healthy that propelled me to eat primarily salads that left me so ungrounded I would wake up at 2 a.m. and eat half a jar of peanut butter just so I could sleep!
This is because raw food was and is not a good fit for my unique constitution type—only a select few truly benefit from a raw only diet.
The Reality of Raw
While many proponents of a raw food diet cite higher nutrient content as one of the primary benefits, this only works for people who have a strong digestive “fire” that allows them to burn through anything. If your digestive capacity is weaker, you won’t get the extra “benefits” because your body can’t break the food down well enough to access them! What else do you need to know to understand why diets work for great some but are a total fail for others?
It’s because fad diets don’t take individual differences into account, leaving many confused about why their spouses or friends get results but they don’t. The way your body and mind respond to different foods totally depends on your unique constitution type. All cars need fuel, but the fuel grade and even size of the gas tank vary from vehicle to vehicle. There is no one-size-fits-all for health, and we need to adjust our diets and lifestyles according to our unique mind-body types, or doshas, to optimize our health and well-being.
The Raw Food Breakdown
What mind-body types is a raw food diet good for, and which benefit more from cooked food?
As mentioned, people with strong digestion (or are pitta dominant) are able to enjoy raw food with the least difficulty physically. However, there are signs of mental imbalance you should look for to see if it’s time to relax your restriction.
>> extreme perfectionism
>> a bad temper
>> prone to frustration
>> cutting people out of your life because they don’t do exactly what you do
How does raw food contribute to this? Raw foods contain more vāta dosha, or air element, and air fans the flames of fire. Many times, when people have a pitta or fire imbalance, there is a corresponding air element imbalance that needs to be addressed for this reason.
The Impact of Raw versus Cooked on your Doshas
What happens to food when we cook it?
When we cook food, we generally add the elements of heat, moisture, and spices that balance the cold, dry, bitter, and astringent nature of vegetables. This makes food much more suitable for vāta and kapha people who tend toward weaker digestion. Because you are not what you eat—you are what you can digest.
If eating raw foods gives you symptoms of indigestion like:
>> stomach pain
Or if you suffer from:
>> inability to focus
>> low energy
These are all signs your body is not happy!
I have heard many people in raw food groups tell new members “you’ll get used to it” or “it will go away eventually,” and that makes me cringe. You should not get used to symptoms of discomfort like this—these are clear signals from your body you are doing something wrong and they should be heeded instead of ignored.
There is a time and place to push through, but your digestion isn’t one of them.
Doing so teaches you to tune out from your body, which is the opposite thing you need to be healthy. I can already hear you pitta people saying things like “discomfort makes you stronger” or “I am the boss of my body”—but this way of thinking does not work for everybody! Let’s switch our paradigm of what’s healthy to one that honors people’s different needs instead of trying to force everybody into one box.
What is the ideal way to prepare food?
Again, there is no one answer to this question. This depends on your unique constitution type, your imbalances, the climate you live in, and so on. However, an excellent guideline is this:
Favor lightly cooked food that preserves prāna but helps you to digest properly. And remember, if you have symptoms of a vāta imbalance, grounding foods are important, and veggies alone aren’t enough.
To learn more about specific guidelines for each dosha please check out my article, “Eat Right for Your Body Type.”
It’s important to unlock your mind-body type so you can learn what diet is best for you! Many of my clients have tried a number of diets with no success, and the root cause of their confusion is a lack of understanding about their own constitution types and what they need to thrive.
Humans are social creatures, and one way we learn is by looking at what other people are doing, but this falls short when it comes to dialing in our diet and lifestyle habits.
A dosha quiz or reading a book is a good place to start, but if you want real progress now, it’s time to work with an expert such as myself.