Salads and raw foods or warm cooked foods? A better choice for healthier gut?


“ I eat very healthy. I eat fruits in the morning with yogurt and then salad for lunch and dinner with some protein ”


How often do I hear this in my clinic from my very well meaning and health conscious patients. Being able to keep our meals green by eating salads seems such a proud achievement, we do feel that we have made a healthy food choice. But have we really? 

Digestive energy in Ayurveda is called Jathar Agni. Agni means fire. Stomach and spleen according to Chinese Medicine are warm organs. Similar to the fire that cooks our food, the digestive fire transforms and digests food and water. So how are salads for our health?

Our modern view of food is to see it as carbohydrates, fiber, protein, fats, vitamins etc. But traditional view of food is more wholesome. It  takes into account the energetics, temperature,  taste and after taste of the food. Raw and uncooked foods like salads or uncooked vegetables are seen as cold foods. In small amounts they are fine. But when consumed regularly in substantial amounts they drain the stomach of its natural warmth that is much needed for its optimal function. 


A weak stomach qi  (energy) or a weakly burning digestive fire makes the stomach function sluggish and impedes its flow. 


Youth is  forgiving; when young our energies are robust and we don’t notice the drain caused by eating cold foods. But when we do that over months and years the effects are cumulative and alarming. Symptoms like poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, bloating, constipation can very often be traced back to a diet full of cold foods. These foods can also cause accumulation of cold, mucus and dampness in the body.

Dampness will manifest in the body as heaviness and overweight. So if you are trying to loose weight by eating salads think again. Because warm energies that are astringent ( tightening) in function do not fare well when constantly antagonised by cold foods.


Traditional Chinese Medicine's approach towards digestive issues.


When I see people with digestive issues I want to know about their diet. Are they eating salads as a whole meal? Are they drinking ice cold water with their food? Depending on other symptoms, I sometimes ask them to start eating warm/cooked foods, and drink room temperature water.  More than a few times, patients have come back reporting significant relief in their symptoms. 

Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture bring us closer to the traditional wisdom of living that makes life easier and healthier. Making food choices that are in alignment with the traditional wisdom is often first step towards digestive health. 


Easy tips- 

  1. Eat warm and cooked foods. 
  2. Drink warm water or room temperature water with food if you must. Ideal is to wait for an hour so you let digestive juices to work without being diluted.  
  3. Make salads no more than 15-20 percent of the meal. Use a nourishing and moistening dressing with it. 
  4. Combine it with food that are warm like cooked vegetables/ soups. 



Dr. Tirtha Mendake graduated from Mahatma Ghandi Medical College in India as a doctor of medicine.  She additionally has degrees in Chiropractic from Life Chiropractic College West, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine from American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  She is currently licensed by the California State Boards of Chiropractic and Acupuncture. Her practice Avaya Wellness is located in SOMA area of San Francisco. 

Dr. Tirtha Mendake. D.C, L.Ac, M.B.B.S Dr. Tirtha Mendake. D.C, L.Ac. ABORM, M.B.B.S Dr. Tirtha Mendake is an Acupuncturist, Herbalist and Chiropractor at Avaya Wellness. Dr. Tirtha Mendake provides integrative treatments to patients from throughout San Francisco from her practice, Avaya Wellness Center, located in the SoMa neighbourhood. Her specialities are Pain management, Fertility, Pregnancy / Postpartum care, digestive wellness and total wellness. She also treats variety of other conditions like GERD, bloating, Eczema, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, prolapse, asthma, Her treatments are a combination of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Chiropractic and dietary/lifestyle interventions. Dr. Mendake grew up in India, where she was exposed to traditional healing methods from an early age. These experiences directed her training, leading her to study in the fields of conventional medicine, acupuncture, yoga, herbs and traditional Chinese medicine.

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