Raw or Cooked?
Yoga’s and Ayurveda’s recommendations about eating raw food seem to be opposed but only at first sight. Ayurveda generally does not recommend raw food for a long term diet but only for short term detoxification. That is because raw food is harder to digest and does not provide as much bulk nutrition as cooked food.
Raw foods increase the air and ether elements in the body and mind, the attributes of Vata dosha. Cooked foods add water and earth elements (Kapha) and increase fire, the Pitta factor. This makes cooked foods better to build the body, but raw foods better for our prana and mind.
Raw foods are rich in prana (life energy), which the yogi is seeking for cleansing of the nadis (channels) through increasing prana. The correct practice of yoga, particularly, Pranayama (breathing practices), increases digestive fire (Agni, see Concept of Agni), so one is able to digest raw food. With a higher internal heat and pranic fire the yogi can handle raw foods, extreme temperatures, little sleep and other physical imbalances that ordinarily cause disease.
Ayurveda, however, is designed for ordinary people with regular digestion, which may not have the power to handle raw food for long periods of time. Yet most people can benefit from periodic raw food diets for detoxification purposes, particularly in late spring time, when nature itself is cleaning up (see detailed recommendations in Ayurveda and fasting). In our everyday diets we require about 10 to 20% of raw food, to get the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
Vata type has the least tolerance to raw food because of its weak digestion. Good raw fruit for Vata to take with meals are avocado, apricots, ripe berries (both sweet and sour), banana (ripe), cantaloupe, coconut, fresh dates and figs, all kinds of grapes, lemon, lime, ripe mango, melons, sweet oranges, papaya, pineapple, plums, soaked raisins, and prunes. The rule of thumb is that all fruits have to be fully ripe and be eaten at least 1 hour before a meal. Vata’s raw vegetable list is pretty short: cilantro, cucumber, green beans, and okra. Note that onions, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, and spinach should be cooked to suit Vata’s delicate digestion.
Pittas have a strong digestive fire but low tolerance for sour taste. Good fruits for them are ripe apple, avocado, sweet berries, cantaloupe, coconut, dates, figs, red grapes, lime, ripe mango, melons, sweet oranges, peas, pomegranate, raisins, prunes, and watermelon. All fruits have to be fully ripe and be eaten at least 1 hour before a meal. Raw vegetables good for Pitta are beet greens, bitter melon, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cilantro, cucumber, dandelion greens, green beans, kale, lettuce, okra, parsnip, peas, spinach, and sprouts. Carrots and onions should be cooked in order not to disturb Pitta.
Kapha type benefits from apples, apricots, berries, green bananas, cherries, cranberries, peaches, pears, persimmon, pineapple, pomegranate, prunes, and raisins. Beet greens, bitter melon, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chilies, cilantro, dandelion greens, green beans, lettuce, okra, onion (raw and cooked), peas, radish, spinach (raw and cooked), turnips, and sprouts are good for Kapha in raw form.
TODAY’S TIP: As you progress in following the Ayurvedic diet for your dosha you’ll notice that your body chooses more and more healthy pranic food and doesn’t crave junk food any more.