Air, food and water, and a good quality lifestyle are essential to our wellbeing.
This section focuses on the what and how of utilising foods.
The best treatments can be undone or not have much effect if the person's food intake is not correct for their particular constitution. This is a fascinating and large subject and refinement can only be made through one to one consultation. Here I shall outline the basic principles of Chinese foods dietetics to begin the process of claiming back your wellbeing.
A balanced, good quality diet will tend more towards a greater vegetarian, lower animal and, lower dairy end of the food spectrum. It will consist in greater part whole foods - this means unprocessed, unrefined, fresh, seasonal and well prepared foods.
a. Make external (physical) adjustments
i. Reduce the consumption of 'heating' foods
ii. Make foods digestible through understand ways of food preparation and combining. This reduces food stagnation and ensures efficient absorption of vital nutrients.
b. Most importantly to make internal (mental) adjustments - consider ways to overcome ‘heating’ emotions – mental stress, worries and so forth.
Doing these two things alone can be most beneficial without the need to spend time and money on expensive products to fix what is naturally available. We need to encompass wisdom in our mind not add to our confusion and problems.
There now follows ways and principles of eating that will make your food more digestible and less acidic.
Where possible and practical emphasis is placed upon
- whole foods (that which is organic and unprocessed)
- that is fresh and seasonal
- recently cooked and eaten
- unfussy preparation of food
- delight in eating as a vital part of life and not as an appendage to it
Combinations of food will sometimes include both heating (acidic) and cooling (alkalising) food groups. However this cannot be avoided in many instances, especially at the beginning when you are trying to make a transition to more wholesome and less 'heaty' ways of eating.
Do not get too bogged down or discouraged by this process of learning and just have fun. Local greengrocers or supermarkets that have a good selection of whole foods and whole food supermarkets (such as organic secion in supermarkets, local farmers markets, Planet Organic & Wholefoods) or health stores are good sources.
There are three things we need to understand when cooking and eating food:
a. Keeping a healthy and balanced digestive system. This is essential for maintaining optimal vitality and good health throughout life.
b. Tend towards a diet that is more towards vegetarian end of the spectrum.
c. Combining and consuming food and drink for good digestion.
Maintaining a good digestive system
Cooking food makes them digestible with the appropriate cooking method. Frying and baking tend to add too much heat to the food so limit these for the occasional treat. Steaming and boiling are generally recommended.
Food Groups with approximate proportions for a healthy digestive system.
50-80% Gains (corn, barley, millet, oats, rice, spelt, wheat)
30-40% Cooked vegetables & legumes
5% Meat & Fish
5% Raw foods, salads, fruit; more during the Summer months
Use high quality, clean, unprocessed foods, organically grown if possible
Enjoy your meals, don’t rush
Eat "breakfast like a king, lunch like an emperor and dinner like a pauper"
Stop eating when it tastes best
Drink plenty of fresh clean water. Consume only small amounts of liquid during meals as too much can weaken the digestive fire (dilute stomach acid)
Take into account your individual constitution when planning meals
Choose foods that are appropriate for the season (locally available and grown foods is a useful guide)
If vegetarian – ensure enough energetically warming foods ; skilful the use of herbs and spices.
Too much raw or cold foods and fruits and tropical fruits (esp. not in cold/cool seasons)
Too much dairy
Over stimulation whilst eating (watchingTV, debates, reading, chatting too much)
Too much oily, fatty foods
Too much sugar, sweet flavours
Too much alcohol (have equivalent of a glass of wine at dinner)
Too much meat (have only 2-3 times per week)
Late evening meals (after 8.30pm)
Overly rich foods
Excessive and prolonged fasting
Gut health is key to wellbeing
This is of key importance in Oriental medicine especially in the area of food therapy and the secret for optimum vitality.
The qi obtained from the absorption of nutrients is called gu qi (qi from grains). A large part (about 70%) of this is derived from a varied amount of carbohydrates.
If this network is weakened the body invariably develops acute and later chronic qi or yang vacuity. This is generally experienced as tiredness, heaviness and bloatedness initially. Later this progresses to poor immune function (frequent colds/flu’s), and starts to impinge on the functions of the internal organs. This causes a premature degeneration of the body’s health.
Combining foods to optimise digestion and energy
Try to limit ‘tasty’ overly spiced and processed foods to a few times per week.
Water should be no more than 2-21/2 litres per day (more will cause tissue swelling and dilute your body salts causing major problems with your organs’ functioning)
Aim to have a greater proportion of carbohydrates than protein. Have a lot of vegetables - cooked if possible especially dark green leafy vegetables.
Eat raw fruits on their own during the day and not at night. Leave at least 2 hours clear between consuming fruits and other foods. This prevents fermentation.
The digestive energy is the strongest during the morning and begins to weaken progressively throughout the day. It is at its weakest after 8.30pm. Overall the digestive system weakens with age.
During the early parts of the day the body can tolerate more food but less so in the evening. This should then guide us in the selection of the quantity of foods that we can consume – more during the day and much less in the evening. The old adage of ‘Eat breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and dinner like a pauper’ should give you an idea.
Eat slowly, chewing food well increases the surface area that makes digestion further along the digestive tract easier and hence less work needs to be done by Stomach acidity and digestive enzymes.
Chewing thoroughly allows time for saliva to mix with the food. Saliva is alkaline in quality.
Try not to eat whilst watching TV, reading, talking to others, agitated mind. So take time to eat – your body will make the most of the food that it is given if you do.
Also the digestive system does not tolerate cold and raw foods very well.
Try to keep the foods unfussy – not too many elaborate flavours, rich sauces etc. Ideally eat freshly prepared, whole food that is in season.
- Morning beverage to be consumed soon after rising, quench thirst with water, herbal tea, vegetable broths, green drinks (wheat/barley grass or spirulina drinks), veg or fruit juice. Slightly warm or room temperature at least
- Interval between rising & first meal : at least 1-2 + hours before 1st meal; eat only when hungry – applies to all meals
- Very weak or sick people should eat according to condition and hunger
It is best to start slowly. Firstly understand the food combination and ways of eating. Look for ways to make you daily food accord as closely as possible given your particular lifestyle and work schedule.
Mainly understand to emphasise more carbs during the day (breakfast and lunch) and more protein at dinner time. Give yourself at least a month or two to get the idea and also feel the improvement that it has on your well being.
Also make the meals at breakfast and lunch more than at dinner since the digestive system is weakest and more prone to injury and depletion after 8pm - keep dinner easily digestible and light (soup, cooked/steamed veg).