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See why you should always cook your vegetables before eating

Health Tips

As a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary combines the best of Western medicine with time-tested Ayurvedic practices. This week, we’re thrilled to share some of Dr. Chaudhary’s favorite ancient techniques to reach optimal health. If you’re inspired to learn more, check out her new course: How to Use Ancient Ayurvedic Wisdom to Heal Your Gut & Achieve Long-Lasting Weight Loss.

I’m going to start with some advice that may sound strange to many of you health-savvy readers: Don’t eat any raw vegetables.

You can eat raw fruit (except for apples, which should be cooked), but other than that, all the solid food you eat should be cooked.

“But isn’t a raw diet the way to lose weight?” you might say. “And don’t we need to eat salads on a diet?” Actually, no. According to Ayurveda, cooking our food does two important things:

  1. It warms the food to increase blood flow to your gut and improve digestion.
  2. It makes food easier to digest by breaking down some of the cellular matrices so that nutrients are more bio-available.

There is research to support this. One study analyzed the effect of cooking on nutrient availability in vegetables and found that cooking in water (such as steaming or boiling) better preserved antioxidant content, especially of carotenoids but also of vitamin C. Plus, antioxidant capacity was improved in all cooking methods. The study surmised that this was “because of matrix softening and increased extractability of compounds.”

If you love salad for lunch, you don’t have to give it up altogether. Simply toss it in a warm skillet for a minute or two before you eat.

Beyond nutrition, however, raw vegetables can simply be hard to digest. Anybody with irritable bowel syndrome knows this. You can chew and chew, but cold, hard raw food can upset the digestion, especially when it isn’t working at optimum capacity.

When you have a completely intact, strong digestive system, you can eat your big salad at lunchtime (I never recommend raw food at dinner because of lower digestive strength at night). But for now, hold off on that and opt for cooked veggies instead. Steam them, sauté them, or poach them, but give your digestion that extra boost. Cooking them in ghee makes them even more digestible because ghee increases your digestive fire.

If you love salad for lunch, you don’t have to give it up altogether. Instead, try tossing it in a warm skillet for a minute or two before you eat it, just to warm it up and wilt the greens slightly. Warm salads are delicious. Try a roasted root vegetable salad, or wilted greens with roasted vegetables.

At the very least, consider warming your salads during cold weather. When summer comes and your digestion is strongest, then you go back to those cold crispy lettuces you love — but just at lunchtime when your digestion is the strongest.

As for beverages, just say no to ice. Drink your water warm or at room temperature, and avoid chilled beverages of all kinds. No ice-cold lemonade, no ice-cold beer, no ice-cold soda, and no ice water.

If room-temperature water and herbal teas are your beverages of choice, your digestion will run more smoothly. Just think about what happens when you stick your hands in cold water or snow. Your fingers turn white because cold reduces blood flow to the area and vessels clamp shut. When you drink cold liquids, such as iced tea or ice water, the same thing happens to your digestive tract: blood vessels constrict and blood moves out of the area. The channels that move nutrients in and waste out then close up.

This is exactly the opposite of what you want. You want blood to flow to your digestive tract, to help facilitate healthy and efficient digestion and carry out waste easily. Warm liquids open up channels and encourage flow.

So keep drinking that warm tea, but leave the ice out of your water.

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