Eating raw is an excellent way to incorporate many vegetables and fruits into your diet while ensuring their nutrients are intact. Cooking for too long often depletes nutrients such as Vitamin C, so by consuming foods raw you know you’re getting 100% of it in the food you are eating. Going raw is also a recommended treatment course for cancer patients(1) and other health conditions since there are so many live enzymes which helps break down the foods and make them more bio available (and thus giving our bodies the vitamins and minerals it needs to be healthy).
Of course when eating raw you want to make sure it’s as fresh as possible since picking too soon or sitting too long from farm to table can deplete nutrients as well.
But what if you tried raw and felt less than stellar in the tummy/digestion department? It’s very common to react since most of us are walking around with less than perfect digestive systems.
Stress, antibiotics, poor food choices, unbalanced gut bacteria and how we eat can all impact our digestive system in a big way. If you find yourself wanting to try raw but it just doesn’t feel good in your tummy, try these steps towards getting your system running happy and healthy, and introduce raw a little bit at a time. It’s an ironic thing, there are enzymes in raw foods that help you to digest the food, however if your system is already lacking in its own enzymes, it needs to work harder to break down raw food vs. cooked food and so digestive upset ensues.
Here are my 4 tips towards rockin’ out the raw
Chew, chew, chew. The digestive process begins in our mouths, especially for carbohydrates (which vegetables and fruits are). The enzyme amylase is secreted in your saliva when you first start to eat. By chewing your food to a paste (for around a minute) you are taking the pressure off your stomach and pancreas to finish the job. You’re also not throwing whole pieces of food into your stomach for it to churn on for hours on end. I also like to give my kale a little massage as a way of breaking down its tough exterior. Get in there and show it some love!
Don’t drink water before, during, or after meals. Chugging back a drink (of anything, not just water) will wash away any enzymes waiting and ready to take action. This once again puts a lot of strain on your system. Of course I want you to still have your 8+ glasses a day, but time it wisely (have a nice big glass with lemon first thing for example). Small sips during a meal is fine, just don’t chug. The same rule applies to cold drinks – so have your smoothies without ice or a lot of frozen fruit.
Probiotics. Probiotics are essential (in my opinion) for a healthy digestive tract. Their benefits are many, but one of them is that they produce enzymes and so help to digest food. When there is a significant lack of enzymes (or stomach acid) food tends to sit and putrefy in the belly, causing bloating, gas etc. Probiotics are also beneficial if you’ve taken antibiotics, are under a lot of stress or are getting sick frequently.
Stress management. When we are stressed – and I’m talking that fight or flight stress – our digestion system “shuts down”. What that means is that during the fight or flight episode blood is going to our muscles, our brain and our nervous system to keep us alert and ready to handle the situation. What it isn’t doing is supporting our digestive system. So if we are constantly eating while we are stressed (or, conversely, if we are constantly stressed) our digestive system is never relaxed enough to function properly. Take a few breaths and step out of the stressful situation before you eat. Become mindful of your food – look at it closely, smell it, really taste it, and chew, chew, chew it. This will tell your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest, digest, make babies system) to kick in and produce enzymes and stomach acid so that you can successfully digest your food.
If you follow the above tips consistently, you should notice a difference in how you feel as you start to incorporate more raw food into your life. As I said, the benefits are numerous, and once your digestive system is working properly, you’ll start to reap the benefits of actually absorbing the nutrients in the food. I often say that I can tell someone to eat kale until the cows come home, but if their digestion isn’t working properly, they won’t be absorbing the many benefits of that food.
So there you have it. Keep calm, and raw on.
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