Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Are Cleansing Diets Right For You?

Though our culture seems to be attracted to the idea of cleansing regimes and cleansing diets in general, perhaps a puritanical throw back, very few of us may actually thrive on a super cleansing diet, such as a raw food vegan or a macrobiotic diet, in the long run.

I have tried both a raw food vegan lifestyle - yes it is much more than a diet -  and macrobiotic diet and lifestyle for many years, and though I, currently, don't follow either program exclusively, I still incorporate much of what I learned from them into my current lifestyle.  Here are some of my thoughts on cleansing diets.


At the risk of sounding esoteric, raw food, in my mind, is loud food.  In order to break up the fiber in raw food, especially the hardier greens such as kale and collard greens, so that you can digest and assimilate the nutrients, you have got to use some pretty heavy duty kitchen equipment.  Equipment that is often not appreciated by sensitive ears.

Raw food energy is essentially loud energy.  Loud and superficial.  What I call surface energy - like the dance of light across the surface of a lake.  There is a certain magic in the energy.  The energy feels great. You feel light, energized and even somewhat euphoric.  But, at the risk of sounding like a kill-joy, despite the energy high, on the back-side, the bodies deep energy reserves are depleted.  That would approximate a depletion of kidney or root energy from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective.  Or, from a Western perspective that would mean a lack of key nutrients - particularly the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K-2, as well as B-12, essential fatty acids, unless supplemented, and essential amino acids.

Simply stated, a raw food vegan lifestyle, though often useful in the short term, is seldom sustainable in the long run.


The macrobiotic diet is also considered a cleansing diet - often used to treat excesses in the body such as tumor, cysts, growths and the like.  The macrobiotic diet is mostly a plant based diet, consisting of brown rice and vegetables with the infrequent addition of white non-oily fish or shellfish.

The focus is on slow-cooked food prepared by hand.  The food is quieter, more sustaining, and grounding than raw food.  When raw food is served it is often sauerkraut, pickle, or pressed salad and in small amounts.  The dishes are prepared by hand, requiring no more technology than a knife and cutting board.  Seeds are ground by hand using a suribachi and surikogi, which is the Japanese equivalent of a mortar and pestle.  The proper use of heat or fire is applied to "humanize" the food and help prepare it for digestion.

The diet has been helpful for people recovering from illness, however, in the long-term the diet can be depleting unless a wider diet is adopted.   Like the raw food vegan diet -  fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K-2, unless one eats natto, certain essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids are conspicuously missing.

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