You’d think living in a warm place like Florida, my diet would be full of raw foods like salads, smoothies and more salads.  For the sake of my sensitive stomach, think again.

Seriously.  How people dive into raw salad bowls with kale, cabbage, carrots and beets –and not experience major bloating or gas, is beyond me!

Same goes for smoothie bowls.  I’m sure acai berries blended with almond milk makes a delicious base.  But adding oatmeal, more berries and nut butter on top?  Along with the 50 grams+ of sugar (!) to contend with, unless you have a stomach of steel, that combination of fruit, protein, fat and starches is a digestive nightmare waiting to happen.

For me, and it may be different for you, I’ve learned I’m best with simplified meals. I don’t overload my plate with too many combinations at one time.  If you’ve seen my daily salad of arugula with green goddess dressing, you know what I mean!

Along with keeping things simple, I’ve learned the Ayurvedic way can be very beneficial for a number of reasons, including digestion and energy. I’ve also turned to my trusted health guru, Andrea Larsen, who  got me eating fish after years of being vegan.  So far, so good.

The Ayurvedic Way

From an Ayurvedic perspective, our health is determined not only by the foods that we eat but our ability to metabolize those foods. In other words, we’re not defined by ‘what we eat’ but more, what we digest and absorb.

If you’ve seen food (shredded carrots, almonds, etc) in your stool, that’s a tell-tale sign you’ve got digestion and absorption issues.

Ayurveda regards raw foods as being cold, dry, light, rough, and Rajasic—a Sanskrit term that means activating or enervating.

Consuming foods with these qualities can strain our digestive fire and decrease our digestive capacity, particularly for those of us with weak digestion to begin with.  This can lead to poor absorption of nutrients, lack of nourishment to our tissues, imbalances in our body, and, ultimately, illness or disease.

“I’ve seen a number of people suffer adverse effects from eating primarily raw, uncooked foods, including gas, bloating, constipation, insomnia, dry skin, decreased vitality, feeling cold, and low libido. When they’ve shifted to a more balanced, Ayurvedic diet, their symptoms disappeared.” 

Dr. Valencia Porter, Director of Integrative Medicine at the Chopra Center.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy our kale salads or coconut ice cream mind-you. To counter the coldness, here’s a few tips I regularly follow:

  • Before each meal, I’ll try to drink a cup of warm water to prepare my stomach (and digestive tract) for in-coming food.
  • When making a salad at home, I’ll lightly steam some of its ingredients, such as kale or diced cauliflower – sliced avocado too.
  • For veggies like carrots and zucchini, I’ll use a spiralizer. A game changer for easier digestion, and the kids love the colours too.
  • When eating out, I’ll sometimes order puréed soup or request a hot cup of water with lemon. If I’m having a salad, I’ll pour a bit of the soup right over it.
  • Along with cinnamon and nutmeg, my pantry is always stocked with digestion-friendly (gas-reducing) cumin and fennel.
  • When it comes to nuts and legumes such as almonds and cashews, I’ll soak them overnight or buy sprouted almonds at my local Whole Foods.

To learn more about warm-based eating and whether this approach might be right for you, you’ll want to determine your Dosha. Discover your Dosha Type by taking this quiz from the Chopra Center.

For those with a Vata constitution (like me), warm is always best. However, for those whose constitution is Pita for example, eating raw foods can be totally fine.  🙂