Eating with the Seasons: why a salad isn’t always the healthy choice

One man’s food is another man’s poison. 

One of my most recent pet peeves is when you ask someone about their diet and they say with tinge of guilt in their voice that they haven’t been eating very healthy and that they know they should eat more salads or they say with pride in their voice that they have been eating a salad every day so they know their diet is good.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with fresh green salads in and of themselves.  The issue lies in a majority of the populations lack of education when it comes to health and the energetics of food.  I was once one of those people.  I spent a good year when I lived in northern California attempting to be a raw foodest.  I went to workshops, bought books, and was amazed by the culinary delights I created without ever using the stove.

Although the idea of eating raw sounded great to my brain (I mean HELLO! Think of all those vital nutrients unharmed by cooking!!!), my body didn’t think it was that great.  I didn’t really make the connection myself.  See I had no training in medicine at the time so I was just winging it.  I started seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner who pointed out the connections of my symptoms and my eating choices.  At the time I was suffering from constipation, anxiety, insomnia, gas and bloating, painful periods and inability to concentrate.  Although there are some differences in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, there are also a lot of similarities.  Because I am training Chinese medicine, I will explain in those terms.

In a previous blog post I explained that the digestive system is like a wood burning stove.  You need to be continually stoking that digestive fire in order for it to break down the food and send nutrients to your body.  If you’re continually adding cold foods (in temperature like icy things, or raw uncooked foods), you’re making your system work extra hard to try to absorb nutrients from the food.  In particular in the fall and winter months when the weather gets colder and your body is trying to keep warm you want to be adding warm things not cold things like salads.  Think of it like leaving the front door wide open in the middle of winter when you’re trying to heat your house – it makes everything work harder and not very efficiently.

Even though ‘raw’ foods may have been promoted as having more nutrients in them, if your body is unable to digest and assimilate them, it’s a waste. By lightly cooking and steaming your foods, you’re maintaining nutrients and maximizing absorption…helping you get the most out of the food and feel good doing it.

The other thing to consider when picking your veggies is what is growing naturally in your area at that moment.  If there is snow on the ground, it is unlikely that there would be salads around.  Nature knows best.  Those hearty root vegetables are probably a better choice for you until the summer months when you’re cruising around in your tank top and shorts.

The last things to consider is where in the world you live.  If you live here in Santa Fe at high elevation (7,000 feet), it is unlikely that even in the summer months it would be a good idea for you to survive predominately off raw foods.  The human body functions best at sea level.  The higher you go, the harder your body has to work to keep hemoglobin concentration up.  So if you are at high elevation and especially an athlete, give your body what it needs and eat a little meat.

The one exception to this whole raw food thing, in my opinion, would be if you lived at the beach in Brazil.  But even then I think it would depend on your body type.  Gabriel Cousins, raw food revolutionary, describes in his book Conscious Eating the different body types based on Ayurveda and how much raw food they should eat.  I am mostly vata (which would be someone who leans towards TCM blood deficiency) so even in the IDEAL climate I should only eat 80% raw.

So before you decide what to eat on any given day, take a look outside at the weather, where in the world you are living, and what’s going on in your body.  It is so easy for us to remain disconnected from Nature because we spend so much time indoors, in cars, and not growing our own food.

P.S. The quickest way to find out what the best things for you to be eating is to consult a professional…either Ayurvedic practitioner or a Doctor of Chinese medicine

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