27 Dec A Healthy Diet

When I was a child, there was no discussion about diet in any way. People ate what was the ‘National’ or regional cuisine. Nobody ever thought about changing their food habits because of possible health benefits. Luckily, times have changed. Fast forward to 2014, we are at the other extreme of the spectrum: faced with a myriad of cuisines, old and new diets, year round available fruits and vegetables even in seasonal climates and of course the ability to afford all these luxuries.

While many people still stick to traditional, mostly unhealthy-diets, more and more people are trying to make conscientious choices for their meals.

Many people also have to follow religious laws or customs. For example Muslims eat Halal (no pork, no blood, no alcohol), Jews eat Kosher (no pork, no shellfish), Hindus are either vegetarians or, like in Bali, non vegetarian (eating pork and fish and occasional beef), Buddhist clergy are year round vegetarian, and some Buddhist followers are only occasional vegetarians.

Before we try to define a healthy diet, we must identify at least some of the foods that have severe adverse health effects. Let’s call them the ‘food villains’.

1.Refined sugar: the negative effects of sugar in food and drinks can never be overstated. It causes havoc to every part of our body and mind (as an addiction).

2.Processed food: as with sugar, this is the cause of almost every health problem we face today; from obesity to diabetes to heart disease, cancer and even ADHD (attention deficit, increased aggression) in children.

3.Red meat: According to TCM, red meat has no health benefits at all, but causes obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Now let’s have a look at the healthy diets, which have been around for a long time and have proven their true effectiveness. I will take a closer look at the diet according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

A good TCM diet is based on energetic principles to encourage balance, a clean burning digestion and a well functioning body, free of disease and full of energy.

Proper digestion is the cornerstone of the Chinese medicine system and the foundation of good health. Improper digestion leads to ‘dampness’ causing allergies, asthma, pain, diabetes, high blood pressure etc. Meals are built around steamed rice, cooked vegetables and small amounts of animal proteins or beans. A low amount of cooking oil is used and very few flour products.

Vegetables play a major part in draining dampness. A variety of colors and textures pleases the eye and the palate and ensures satiety. Varied choices provide a broad array of nutrients and antioxidants to promote health and longevity. Fill half of your plate with vegetables.

According to TCM principles, rice is a balanced food, which is easily digested. Allergies (or intolerances) to rice are extremely rare. Rice should fill one quarter of your plate.

Small quantities of animal proteins (preferably poultry, fish, or seafood) or beans are included in the diet. Animal proteins are “building” foods and can be more difficult to digest. Ideally, they are eaten 4 times per week. Beans can be eaten daily. Protein should fill the last quarter of your plate.

TCM believes in not eating any cold or raw food. Lightly cooked vegetables and well-cooked grains allow your digestive system to immediately begin to extract energy without first having to heat the food to body temperature. Raw food contains slightly more enzymes and nutrients, but according to TCM, the net gain is less than that of cooked vegetables, as you lose energy to the internal heating process while trying to assimilate the foods.

For strict TCM practitioners there is no consumption of cheese, butter or milk. TCM considers dairy products to be a “building” food, only suitable for undernourished people. Dairy is not the only source of calcium. Foods such as almonds, salmon, leafy greens, kale and broccoli are high in calcium.

Concentrated sweets, containing refined sugar, like candy, soda, cake, sweetened yoghurt, chocolate etc. impair the body’s ability to transfer food into energy, causing blockage and disease.

It is also important to eat food in season, especially in colder climates. The best (optional) addition to cooked food would be the occasional salad (dressed with olive oil) and a daily fresh fruit mix (including some berries).

What you will gain by eating healthy is not only more years to your life, but more life to your years.