How To Aid Digestion of Raw Vegetables

challenge veg saladThe benefits of consuming a diet replete with raw vegetables of all colors and kinds are enormous, but some people often get gas or bloating trying to digest them.  These foods are the healers and life-givers.  They alkalize our blood, prevent aging and disease, provide the enzymes necessary for digestion and metabolism, support immunity and vital organ function, and much more.  Because so much of the enzyme and nutrient potential in plant food is lost with cooking (approximately 85% by most estimations), consuming lots of vegetables in their raw form is key to vibrant health and longevity.

However, some people experience difficulty when they eat a salad, cole slaw, or some other favorite raw dish.  They find it creates gas, bloating or loose stool.

The thing that makes digestion of raw vegetables difficult for some is the cellulose, or insoluble fiber.  Cellulase, the enzyme that breaks down cellulose, is produced by intestinal bacteria, so if there is dysbiosis in the small intestine, production of cellulase may be diminished.

In fact, in Chinese medicine, consuming lots of raw vegetables is not considered ideal for everyone, and particularly not for people with weak digestive fire.

SO how to aid in the digestion of raw vegetables so that you can reap the health benefits without negative after-effects?

The most difficult raw vegetables to digest are the cruciferous vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collard greens, cabbage, and brussel sprouts.  You might avoid eating these raw if you have a tendency to get very gassy or have upset digestion following consuming raw vegetables.

The easiest vegetables to digest raw are:

  • The non-sweet fruits:  cucumber (best if other skin is peeled), tomato, and sweet yellow, orange, or red peppers (not green because these are unripe and more difficult to break down).
  • Celery
  • Carrot and beet, shredded for easier digestion
  • Summer squashes (yellow and zucchini)
  • Baby spinach, romaine and other watery lettuces
  • Sprouts

Aside from eating more of the easier to digest vegetables, other ways to aid digestion of raw vegetables include:

  • Strictly follow food combining.  This is one of the most important tools for aiding digestion of anything.  I’ve observed many clients have success with eating raw vegetables by following this dietary principle alone!
  • Eat a digestive enzyme before each meal.
  • Add lemon juice and/or sea salt on top of raw veg, as both aid digestion and to begin to break down of the fiber.
  • Eat them fermented, especially the cruciferous vegetables.
  • Chew really well!
  • Don’t drink water with meals – wait at least ½ hour before or after eating.
  • Only eat when physically hungry.
  • Don’t eat too much at one time; a quantity equaling 2-3 cups per meal (as if blended) is about right for most people.
  • Drink raw vegetables as a smoothie, so that the cellulose is pre-shredded.
  • Drink raw vegetables as a fresh juice, in which the cellulose is removed completely so you get all of the enzyme and nutrient benefits, and none of the taxation on your system.

Try some of these ideas and let us know how it goes.  Any other tips?  We’d love to hear what works best for you!