by Maureen Cromey
An Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Expert
I’ve always loved looking into shopping baskets at the checkout queue and then looking at the shoppers. Do they match their shopping, are they what they eat?
There is the large lady with a basket full of diet drinks, low fat 'healthy option' diet foods and sachets of low cal hot chocolate drinks standing behind a pale slight figure with packets of no-meat burgers, cheese, pre-washed salad and bread rolls. The rosy faced big bellied wine drinker heaving with the weight of three bottles of wine some mineral water and ready-made beef stroganoff bustles in. There is a harried mother with an irritable child, juices, pasta, wine, ice-cream, ketchup, sausages and a family packet of quavers, and finally Mr Fit, I like the contents of his basket, fruit, green vegetables, sea bass fillets, goats cheese, packet wholegrain rice , green tea bags and a bar of 85% cocoa chocolate. Yep we are definitely what we eat.
In clinic I always discuss diet with my patients; Chinese medicine considers diet to be the most fundamental basis of health. Without a balanced diet our body will not run properly or efficiently. Worse if the food is wrong for us it will damage us. In addition to the food categories and vitamin content the Chinese diet considers foods to have temperatures and tastes. Foods are used as medicine to balance disharmonies. For example meat is hot yang protein and fish is a cooler yang protein. Vegetables are yin and some are sweeter than others affecting different organs.
When your Chinese medicine practitioner offers dietary advice it is peculiar to you. They may be suggesting warmer drying foods if you are sluggish and prone to weight gain. Cooler yin foods if you are suffering from headaches and high blood pressure. The lady with the cold diet drinks and processed food cannot understand why although she is eating very few calories she is always tired and still overweight. She needs a warm nutritious diet that would support her spleen and stomach energy; she would eat more, feel lively and be lighter.
Here are a few basic rules to start with:
- Balance the proportions of your food. Aim for only 10-20% rich food. That’s animal products oils, fats and sugars. Split the rest between vegetables, some fruit, and grains and carbohydrates, keeping wheat very low.
- Eat regularly, three meals a day and never stuff yourself full. Eat to 70-80% full.
- Eat only good quality fresh unprocessed foods.
- Chew your food, eat slowly.
- Keep stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol very low, but do occasionally enjoy a glass of wine with your food.
- Listen to your body, if a food causes you discomfort or cravings it may feel better excluding it from your diet.
- Drink green tea and herb teas.
- Eat some warm and raw food every day
- Take moderate exercise and enjoy your food
Try this for a while; it takes a couple of months to establish a new habit. Having set the foundations for a good diet you will be able to build on this, maybe taking advice from your Chinese medicine practitioner. You will feel better and over the years reap the benefits living a healthy, long and active life.