Eat Warmer to Improve Your Diet and Health
by Josh Zimmer
In America, we love cold food. We enjoy hot food as well, but there’s a special place in our hearts for icy drinks and refrigerated fruits or vegetables. Air conditioners run so low that edibles we consider room temperature are actually cold, too.
A cool diet seems to make sense, especially in Florida. You’re hot, so eat cold. No wonder patients are surprised to hear acupuncturists say that eating this way all the time undermines their digestive systems, and therefore, their general health. As we know, a troubled digestive tract is at the heart of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
The idea of focusing on warm, cooked foods is as basic to the Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy as Qi flow. That’s because our digestive system is considered an engine that powers us today and into the future. Like a car, the cooler the engine, the less efficiently it runs which means a slower metabolism and weight gain. The list of symptoms related to that is long––low energy (particularly in the afternoon and after eating), bloating, uneven bowel movements, muscle aches, slow healing, and possibly lack of focus and chronic inflammation.
For the moment, keep in mind this cold concept includes raw vegetables, another surprise to many. Take a second and conjure up pictures of sodas swimming in ice. Or refrigerator-chilled salads consumed with the belief that pounding vegetables this way is a low-fat route to adding nutrients and promoting weight loss.
Have you ever wondered why numerous people who do this don’t lose weight, despite exercising constantly? As a practitioner who, like most TCM colleagues, spends considerable time trying to improve digestive functions, I find these images extremely frustrating. They’re based on a mix of false assumptions, taste preference and skillful marketing by the food industry.
Contrast this with another part of the world––Asia. Although obesity has become a modern-day problem in China with the adoption of American-style fast food, the basic Asian body type remains thin. A fresh diet rich in vegetables is one reason. But there also is a deeply-rooted culture of eating cooked food that is almost entirely warm.
Except for sushi, how many cold meals have you had recently in a Chinese, Thai or Indian restaurant? Apart from issues of weight and obesity, modern research supports more than ever the ancient obsession with digestive health. To live energetically and avoid unnecessary inflammation and disease, we need finely-tuned digestive systems. From the tried-and-true perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we need to be eating more cooked vegetables and much less cold food and drinks.
Even non-raw dieters wonder if cooking kills vegetable nutrients. All I can say is there’s a strong counter-argument. In tests, cooking alters the chemical composition of vegetables, lowering and raising various nutrients, but the overall nutritional value remains. And in terms of Qi flow, the food is easier to digest.
People are open to hearing another perspective on food, with all the reasons expressed above. Some are already familiar with the warm food versus cold food argument. It’s much easier for people who already cook. In conversation, most can envision warming up what they normally eat cold and raw, whether they prefer to sauté, roast, steam or bake.
Try these simple steps for starters. Warm everything up––the leftovers, the healthy grains and even the bread in your sandwich. Try going without ice, then experiment with warm drinks, at least when you’re in an air conditioned environment. Start the day with warm or hot water and lemon (add honey and herbs for more flavor). Also, transfer meals. If you like soup for lunch or breakfast, consider it for breakfast. Many soups rock the nutrition charts.
Josh Zimmer, DOM and Licensed Acupuncturist, takes appointments at Four Pillars, located at 8209 Natures Way, Suite 221, Lakewood Ranch. He is currently offering free 20 minute consultations and a 20% discount for all Initial Evaluations (90-minute service) booked in November to Natural Awakenings readers. For more information or to make an appointment, call 941-373-3955, email Info@FourPillasFlorida.com or visit FourPillarsFlorida.com.