Some of these points you have heard time and time again and they are quite general. This is because healthy eating is simple and follows basic laws of nature. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) has cultivated and refined how to balance flavours, thermal natures, yin-yang and other properties of foods over thousands of years to create most optimal health and treat disease. Certainly tried and true!
- Eat mostly vegetables every day, in every meal, organic and local where possible
- Eat wholefoods, as fresh as possible and unprocessed where possible
- Eat foods lightly cooked (eg. Steamed, sautéed) and slow cook meats instead of frying and BBQ
- Hara Hachi Bu (Japanese phrase loosely translating as “finish eating meals when 80% full”)
- Limit snacking and grazing as the stomach qi and fluids are weakened. Allow digestion time between meals and give the digestive organs time to carry out their functions. The stomach will signal when ready to receive food again through appetite. Spleen qi is easily overburdened
- Slow cooked bone broth is a kidney qi and jing (essence) tonic plus blood nourishing. Cook with apple cider vinegar to draw out the marrow and cool to skim saturated fats off top before consuming or freezing in portions to use in different recipes. Use any bones with marrow.
- Avoid trans fats completely (hydrogenated or hardened vegetable oils)
- Drink filtered water – no fluoride and chlorine and other water treatment chemicals or unfiltered rainwater. This protects the microbiome and digestive acid balance.
- Avoid MSG and highly processed foods… basically avoid numbers and packaged foods.
- Avoid wheat – check labels at supermarkets and you’ll be surprised how many products wheat is in (under various names). Better still, avoid all packaged foods and you won’t need to screen. Wheat has a sticky (think “gluten = glue X ten”), highly dampening nature and is not suitable for many patterns yet excessively consumed by most people in Australia.
- Eat freshly fermented cultured probiotic and prebiotic foods regularly- eg. Naturally fermented sauerkraut, yoghurt, kefir, miso, tempeh.
- Make fish your primary dish… eat more fish than other animal products. Second to fish comes poultry, but in more moderate amounts. Deep sea and cold water fish have rich concentrations of omega 3 fatty acids and oils, which are generally beneficial yet best consumed moderately by people with weak gall bladder or liver function. Always accompany with lemon or lime juice so the sour flavour can aid in fat digestion if GB function is weak.
- Consuming olive oil as the primary oil and fat source is protective against internal inflammation and Type 2 diabetes (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30002281)
- Moderation, moderation, moderation: occasionally eat rich natured foods in small amounts.
Common rich foods:
red meats in TCM are heating and drying (not too drying if cooked in soups, stews, slow cooks)
fatty meats like pork, bacon, BBQ and roast chicken, duck, lamb, beef, prawns
egg yolk the yang portion of the egg, also rich in saturated fats. Balanced by yin egg white though
alcohol – some studies on the Mediterranean diet found a small glass of red wine with food has a cardio-protective quality and may reduce risk of many chronic diseases
(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30096779). Red wine is heating and best avoided by those with heat, damp-heat and phlegm-heat patterns. Alcohol in general is heating, especially spirits.
sugars – all kinds… including fruit juice, honey, rice malt , agave and other naturally sweet foods marketed as health products or low sugar. Sugar is sugar in the body, whether a nutritious wholefood or not
dairy products – natural yoghurt is the most easily digested dairy for most people and often OK in small amounts if stomach qi is strong and no damp. Cheese, cream and butter are the most rich forms
nuts – best freshly shelled and generally a handful a day is a good amount for adults
high starch foods, eg. white potato, white rice
chocolate – no need to elaborate much here. Rich in every way: caffeine, sugar, fats, dairy
salt – disrupts yin and yang, kidney qi and fluid balance in body plus makes you crave sweet
hot spices – heating and drying. Only indicated for people with cold damp conditions if tolerated
coffee – heating and drying; stimulates yang but without the right balance of yin yang is empty like an engine that has hardly any fuel left and no oil to keep it running smoothly
These general principles, mostly derived from TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) dietary therapy principles, are supported by current allopathic research into dietary guidelines that promotes a more holistic way of eating such as the Mediterranean diet is more effective as a preventative approach to managing health rather than suggesting singular nutrient profiles for treatment of disease (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30215930) (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26746178)
Other recent peer-reviewed medical literature compares the effects of low carb and low-fat diets on weight reduction and reduced metabolic risk factors. Both diets produced similar results and proved to be beneficial. Both sugars and fats are rich foods to be consumed in moderation. This is common sense in TCM. The age-old adage “everything in moderation” is still undergoing scientific scrutiny but current research reflects this same message that has been passed down through the centuries for thousands of years.
Eat, Drink and be Merry
Fiona D’Elboux (BHSc, Acupuncture)