I lived in Miami for a while and did my teacher training there. One of my teachers was a raw foodist. After attending his workshop on raw food diet, where he gave some very good arguments as to why go raw, I decided to try. So, I stocked up on raw Lara Bar's (cashew cookie!) found few places I could go and have lunch, and visited Saturday's raw food market regularly. I didn't go as far as buying a dehydrator and learning how to prepare full meals myself, I was happy to eat salads at home and go out for meals (or buy them at the market) when I needed to. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Ok, I cheated with chocolate a few times and perhaps a few bruschetta’s, but most of the time I was well behaved. And, I have to say, I felt great. I felt light but strong and healthy. I didn't lose any weight (so many people have asked me if I have), or strength. But, I also have to be honest and say my daily activities were yoga, reading, beach, hanging out with friends and sleeping. No work, no stress, no complicated relationships. I'm sure that helped:).
The flirtation with the new diet lasted for months, until Christmas time came and while my friends celebrated Christmas under palm trees and 35 degrees C, I boarded a flight home to see my family. I was looking forward to snow, wearing something other than hawaiians, and the look on my mum's face when I, yet again, I try to explain a diet choice I made. A what?? A raw food diet mum. It's actually very interesting. You see the enzymes blah blah blah… (I lost her at enzymes:).
I haven't been home for almost a year and was super excited when I finally landed. I was jet legged and tired the first two days, but just couldn't slow down. There was so much to do, people to see, places to go. After a few days I started to feel like I'm coming down with flu. My mum, of course, suggested a soup, but I was still chewing on salads, nuts and my raw Lara bars. Few days went by and, when I couldn't blame it on the jet lag or the flu, I became worried I will spend holidays in bed. And then a funny thing happened. I got an irresistible desire for a hot stew. I had such craving for a bean stew with carrots and potatoes that I asked my mum to cook it for me. She was very happy as you can imagine. That stew brought me back to life!
Now, if you are a raw foodist please don't frown. I know what you're thinking. Raw food is not just about the salads, nuts and raw bars. And sure, there was no raw food restaurants in Zagreb back then, so my choices were limited. But, I know now that my Vata increased with the travel, change in my daily routine and the climate change, and raw food just made it worst. Since I am a Pitta / Vata constitution, while in hot climate I can benefit from eating more raw foods and that’s why it was a good choice while in Florida. But not in Europe in December.
So, what is the moral of this story? It's hard to survive on fruit, veg and nuts in winter? Maybe not for some people. For me it was true. My body told me what I needed and I listened to it. When I got back to a warmer climate, I forgot about my mum's veg stew. I left it at her house together with my boots and winter coat. But I also never went back to a full raw diet.
I believe that we are individual beings with different needs. I also believe that all the answers are in the nature around us. We should eat seasonal foods and prepare our food according to the season and our body's needs, our constitution.
Going back to raw food, the main argument is that most vitamins, minerals and enzymes are lost when you cook your food, and that food is better absorbed and not so heavy on the digestion system when raw. Let's look at the enzymes first. It is true that the plant enzyme brakes down when it's cooked and cannot be used by our bodies, so our bodies have to make enzymes to process the food. Is this a problem for our smart bodies? Recent studies have shown that we lose digestive enzymes through sweat and body waste and that with 'overproduction', enzymes lose their strength and ability to do their work. As we age, the production of our digestive enzymes becomes less efficient. So, eating more raw foods that already contain digestive enzymes seems like a good idea.
Now, what about the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients? Some studies have shown that you can't put all the veg in the same pot. Literally. Some keep more nutrients steamed (like carrots, celery and green beans), some are better raw.
So, the story of what we should or should not eat and when, is much more complicated than it seems. We would love to have that one solution that fits all, in every season, in every phase of life. But that is not the case. While raw food might be the way to go for some people, I believe it isn't for all of us.