We all know that raw fruits and vegetables are really good for us. There are many benefits to eating real foods in their natural state — they fill you up with bioavailable nutrients, are loaded with health-supporting enzymes and prebiotic fiber essential for healthy gut biome, and contain vitamins and minerals. By eating raw foods our bodies naturally lower inflammation, improving digestion and cardiovascular health, and help fight preventable diseases. Eating raw foods also increases our energy and helps us maintain a proper body weight.
You might be surprised to know that cooked vegetables (with a couple of exceptions) are actually harder to digest than raw! Cooking nutrient-dense vegetables over 112 degrees Fahrenheit, can actually destabilize some of the plant enzymes, compromising antioxidants and vitamins in the process.
Inflammation is linked to many of our greatest health concerns, from cancers and autoimmune disorders to neurological disorders and hormonal imbalances. When food gets stuck along the digestive tract there is a likelihood it will start to ferment, creating a toxic situation and causing gas, rancid fats and putrified proteins which irritate the mucosal lining of your gut. This is often referred to as leaky gut. Besides sounding gross, even constant low levels of inflammation in the body are dangerous.
The fiber in raw fruits and vegetables is necessary to keep food moving through the digestive system. Raw foods are loaded with healthy fiber and special enzymes, which help to break things down in our digestive tract. While our bodies come complete with the ability to produce enzymes in the pancreas, aiding our digestion, the other half of the enzyme equation is contained in raw foods, known as exogenous enzymes. The more exogenous enzymes in the body, the more efficiently the body is at digesting nutrients; thereby not stressing our system and causing inflammation. Remember, nutrient dense foods are only as good as the amount of nutrients absorbed into the body — we want to maximize absorption to benefit our health.
We can counter the possibility of a digestive inflammatory response by improving the acid/alkaline balance the body. We know that diseases can more easily develop when we have a high level of acidity in the body. An acid state is known as acidosis and it is linked to lower immunity. There are many environmental factors that can contribute acidosis including processed foods, toxins, stress and even cooked foods. One of the ways that a plant based diet helps to lower inflammation is by helping to alkalize the body; thereby reducing acidity and minimizing the possibility of foods fermenting in your digestive system. Raw foods have all that lovely fiber and those good-for-you enzymes that help to neutralize those dangerous acids and keep your body more alkaline.
Knowing the health benefits of raw foods is great, but the real challenge is to get those veggies into your diet with some simple, delicious recipes that work on a busy schedule. Instead of a traditional green salad, get excited about making slaws your new gorgeous salads and sides.
- Choose organic whenever possible. You will be lowering your toxic load and reaping flavor benefits.
- When possible, buy local and eat seasonal to help protect the environment.
- Learn some new tricks. Get a vegetable spiralizer and start using vegetables in new ways. Sweet potatoes, beets and turnips take on a new dimension when they are made into noodles.
Traditional slaws are made with cabbage and creamy dressings. To make your slaws more health enhancing, and to reap the longevity benefits of your vegetables, lighten things up with flavor and health-boosting additions like miso, fresh ginger, herbs and citrus juices. Slaws can be any combination of thinly sliced raw vegetables and, once you get the hang of it, slaws will be your new go-to side dish.
Slaws are as easy as traditional salads; in fact, if you need a short cut, most grocery stores now carry pre-made selections of slaw ingredients. They are good in a pinch, but your slaws will have more nutrients and more flavor if you take the time to slice your own vegetables. Additionally, the flexibility of slaws should not be underestimated. There are countless vegetable combinations that work as slaws — allowing you to tailor recipes for every taste. So work through a couple of recipes and get the hang of it, then you will have the tools you need to start creating your own healthy slaws.
Remember, your body was designed to eat and digest raw foods. The more brightly colored vegetables you can get on your plate, the better. In our busy world, slaws make it easy and delicious to get your daily dose of veggies in one simple serving. Simple, delicious and beautiful, slaws deserve a place on your plate.