Many people assume that all raw vegetables are good for them. But raw vegetables are only beneficial as a food source if you can digest them, which is more of a widespread issue than most people realize.

There are some vegetables that you will always want to consume cooked or fermented.

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You can use the Veggie Culture Starter to ferment vegetables to enjoy at each meal. Eating cultured vegetables will help you to get even more benefits out of the raw vegetables you eat!

Additionally, some raw vegetables are better than others, so be careful with what you munch and learn to choose the best raw vegetables of the bunch.

Vegetables are nature’s most perfect foods and are also the most abundant foods on earth. They are alkaline-forming and rich with the vitamins and minerals needed to heal your body.

Raw vegetables are said to be enzyme-rich and are therefore widely believed to be an excellent source of enzymes that aid digestion. However, many people’s digestive systems are simply too weak to digest raw vegetables in spite of all their natural enzymes.

Are You Digesting Your Raw Vegetables?

For many, digestive distress like gas, bloating and abdominal pain are common reactions after eating a meal that includes raw vegetables. Tune in to your stomach the next time you eat a raw vegetable and see how you feel.

Poor digestion of raw vegetables is more common than you might think, yet the popular raw foods movement has many of us convinced that we must eat raw foods to be healthy.

Yes, raw foods do contain enzymes, but raw vegetables also contain cellulose, a fiber that is poorly digested by humans. Though fiber has little nutritional value, it is very important for intestinal health and for helping form a healthy stool. But unlike cows and other ruminants, humans simply do not have the enzymes in our bodies necessary to properly digest the fiber in vegetables.

The enzyme needed to digest cellulose is called cellulase and it’s produced by intestinal bacteria. Cellulase enzymes break cellulose fiber down into blood sugar. Since humans cannot digest cellulose, taking a digestive enzyme like the specially formulated Assist digestive enzymes is not only necessary but vital for healthy cells. Fermenting raw vegetable is also key because this process breaks down or pre-digests the fiber.

What the Ancients Knew about Raw Vegetables

The ancients were well aware that raw vegetables were difficult to digest; in Chinese Medicine, for example, it is well known that raw foods are best eaten by someone with strong “digestive fire.” A major cause of poor “digestive fire” is that our adrenals and thyroid are both poorly nourished and taxed by toxins and daily stress. It takes energy to digest foods but they are not doing the job.

The Body Ecology system of health and healing focuses on creating this “digestive fire” by creating a healthy inner ecosystem; the foods recommended on the diet are teeming with friendly microflora (good bacteria) that reside in our intestines and keep us healthy and strong.

Until your inner ecosystem is healthy, you may have trouble digesting raw vegetables.

For this reason, we suggest cooking your vegetables by baking, simmering, sautéing or lightly steaming them to make them more digestible. Simultaneously focus on strengthening your digestive fire by eating cultured foods. Cultured vegetables have an abundance of enzymes and contain beneficial bacteria that are very helpful at digesting all the foods eaten in your meals.

Fermented foods like raw cultured vegetables will provide you with important plant enzymes and healthy microflora to populate your inner ecosystem to build your digestive fire. The Body Ecology system of health and healing provides many other solutions to heal your digestion and create energy and vitality. Following the 7 principles and adding fermented foods and drinks will get you on your way to strengthening your digestive fire so that you can get the most from that raw vegetable platter.

Beware! Some Vegetables Should Always be Cooked

Eventually as your digestion improves, certain raw vegetables can become a part of your daily diet.

However, there are some vegetables that you will always want to consume cooked or fermented. This includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards and brussel sprouts — all members of the cruciferous family that in their raw state are considered to be “cooling” and suppressing to your thyroid.

Again, it is very important to ferment or cook these very nutritious vegetables. (When we added collards as one of the many super-nutritious ingredients in our Vitality SuperGreen Drink, we went to the extra expense and effort to have them fermented.) Remember, when you ferment any food, you increase its nutritional value.

Meanwhile, here are a few vegetables that most people can comfortably handle raw. But remember you are unique, so see if they work for you:

  • Cucumbers
  • Celery (a high-fiber vehicle for your favorite dip)
  • Carrots (still difficult for some)
  • Red, yellow and orange bell pepper (not green, which is typically immature and difficult to digest)
  • Summer squashes like yellow squash and zucchini.

Whether raw, cooked, or fermented, Donna Gates, creator of The Body Ecology Diet, says, "The most important foods you will eat are first and foremost vegetables. We're very fortunate today because we have vegetables that come from all over the place. We have all kinds of variety, beautiful colors. Vegetables if you really, really think about it are kind of miraculous foods. And when you study the genes, and when you study the microbiome, you'll see that they're the most important foods you can possibly eat."

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Here’s a recap of some key ways to make digesting raw vegetables easier:

  • Include fermented foods and drinks (our Vitality SuperGreen Drink contains fermented collard greens) in your diet so you can build a healthy inner ecosystem. A gut supported by beneficial bacteria can help you digest your food and assimilate the nutrients. Cultured vegetables allow you to get all the benefits of fermented foods and raw vegetables at the same time.
  • Chew your vegetables completely — at least 20 times per bite.
  • Bake, simmer, sauté, or lightly steam your vegetables to make them more digestible.
  • Blend your vegetables in a raw vegetable smoothie.
  • Take Assist Enzymes to boost your digestion at each meal.

According to the Body Ecology Principle of Uniqueness, your digestion may behave differently than anyone else's -- so watch and observe how your body responds to the raw foods you eat. Most people are able to comfortably enjoy vegetables like cucumbers, celery, summer squashes, and red, yellow, and orange bell peppers when eaten raw.

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