A TCM Perspective on Cooked vs Raw Foods
Most of my patients are surprised to hear the recommendation to skip salads and cold foods during winter months. Ever wondered why Chinese prefer to eat cooked food, drink warm water, and never include salad on either restaurant or home menu?
The answer lies with better understanding how digestion works from a Chinese medicine perspective. Chinese Medicine sees life as a series of warm transformations—the underlying philosophy of Taoism where change and transformation are natural processes which, given the proper environment, will happen on their own. The process of digestion is viewed in the same light. Give the body proper food and liquid, a proper environment, and there will be abundance of energy and balanced metabolism. The stomach is viewed as a pot that needs to ‘cook’ the food in order to extract the nutrients (separate the clear from the turbid). The ability to transform food into usable nutrients for the cells is dependent on the ‘digestive fire’ to ‘cook’ the foods and ensure this transformation is completed. Using cold/raw food will lower or in some cases simply put out that ‘digestive fire’ resulting in symptoms like bloating, gas or upset stomach.
Importance of Cooking Foods
- Cooking increases the warming properties of food
- Helps break down food structure
- Nutrients are more available and better assimilated
- Relatively few nutrients are lost in simple cooking
- The energy of the body is less focused on digestion and can be used in other ways.
- Moderately cooked food is recommended to help support mental clarity and energy metabolism.
Remedies to beat the Cold:
- Use ginger, cinnamon, clove, basil, rosemary in teas and foods regularly.
- Warming seeds and grains: Oats, spelt, quinoa, sunflower seed, sesame seed, walnut, pinenut, chestnut, fennel, dill, anise, caraway, carob pod, cumin, sweet brown rice
- OK to use Neutral grains rice, corn, buckwheat and rye. Other grains are too cooling.
- Veg/Fruit: parsnip, parsley, mustard greens, winter squash, sweet potato, kale, onion, leek, chive, garlic, scallion; cherry, citrus peel and date.
- Small amounts hot peppers/spices
- If needed, butter is only warming dairy product. Milk/cheese are neutral.
- Meats: anchovy, mussel, trout, chicken, beef and lamb.