Ayurveda emphasizes right diet as the foundation of all healing therapies. Food is the first and the most important aspect of health. The question of raw versus cooked is often raised.
We need both.
Ayurveda generally recommends raw food only if your digestive fire is strong enough to handle it for a short time but not for long term health maintenance.
The reason being is that often the “agni” or digestive fire is not strong enough to digest a lot of raw food. This is particularly important in those who are sick or those with a Vata constitution, who usually have a weak or variable digestive power for eg, gas, bloating, acid indigestion, etc. People with a Kapha constitution i.e. a slow metabolism and sluggish digestion are often debilitated by too much raw food as well.
Raw foods increase the air and ether elements in both mind and body. Cooked foods are better for increasing the earth and water elements, the Kapha components, and also increase the pitta elements (fire).
Raw foods promote our more subtle sensitivities of mind i.e. the increase of our prana. Raw diet is part of a traditional yogi diet and is used to do exactly this – increase the prana. Raw foods are nutrient rich i.e. full of enzymes, vitamins and minerals and definitely have their place in our diet.
However for most of us, we simply do not have the digestive fire to handle a raw food diet for long periods of time.
Cooked foods tend to be easier to digest and often good nutrition is not so much what we eat, but what we can digest.
Our answer is to eat lightly steamed vegetables (how we interpret cooked) but always with an edible garnish such as coriander, parsley, rocket greens or sprouts. Eat at least 30% or more raw foods, drink fresh fruit juice, eat tree-ripened fruit and utilize the spices to enhance digestion.
Listen to your body.
In winter you will probably crave warmer foods such as soup, and in summer you are likely to crave more raw foods such as salads. Normally for people with balanced agni, we suggest to have salads at lunch time as the digestive fire is strongest at noon.
As the body becomes cleaner, so will your ability to digest more raw foods, and you will find that your energy, clarity and health will all improve.