The Chinese approach to Health
What you eat is fundamental to your health
If you are in good health and your body is neither too hot or too cold (see A brief introduction to Chinese Medicine), then it is best that the bulk of the foods you eat are neutral, neither hot or cold foods.
If you feel your body is too hot or too cold, then you should include some foods to bring your body back into balance. For example, in a hot climate eating some watermelon (a cold food) is good, it will cool your body down. In a cold climate eating watermelon is bad, as your body is probably already cool. This will decrease your qi (life-force, inner energy) and reduce the ability of your digestive system to absorb the nutrients in the food.
Another important factor to consider is how well you digest your food and make it available to your body to promote qi and health.
Humans have six basic stages to their life: baby, infancy, youth, adult, middle-age, old age.
A baby spends its first six months eating liquid foods and generally lying around. There is very little movement of the body, so there is very little qi developed from movement. The body needs liquid foods so it can absorb them easily, the stomach and digestive organs are not functioning fully for the first six months or so. A baby needs non-solid foods that are easily digested.
An infant is crawling around and eating more and more solid foods. An infant is active and its body is in an almost unspoiled condition. The movement of the body develops more qi and the digestive system is working well, so the infant is full of energy, bright and alert. If not, then you need to discover why. It is having sold foods introduced into its diet, which its digestive system can now handle. The combination of food and movment produces more qi and promotes good health. Mental stress is generally not an issue.
A youth is full of energy and at the peak of physical condition. It is said a teenager could sustain life by licking a rock. A lot of qi is produced from the body's movment and the digestive system is at its peak and generally undamaged. However lifestyl, like heavy drinking, smoking and junk food can start to have an impact and weaken the body. This will generally not show up until later in life. Food is not really an issue. Mental stress can start to impact on some teenagers and reduce their qi and ability to readily absorb the nutrients in food.
An adult is still strong and in good condition physically, however lifestyle will be starting to cause damage to the physical body. This is where lifestyle starts to have a direct impact on health and well-being. Generally an adult is reasonably active. Qi is a funtion of how active the adult is and how much damage the adult is doing to its body due to lifestyle, ie: drinking, smoking etc. The more damage the less the body is able to gain nourishment from food. Food is generally not an issue unless the adult develops an illness. Mental stress is often a feature of stiving to achieve, and reduces qi and ability to readily absorb the nutrients in food.
Middle-age, from 40 on, sees the lifestyle we chose as a youth and an adult start to play out on our body. Generally someone in middle-age is reasonably active, but not as much as when they were an adult. With the body is not so active, the digestive system is not as effective. This is compounded by damage that has been caused by lifestyle and any mental stress. Therefore, middle age is when the body starts to notice the lack of nutrition from the food you are eating. This is the age when you should start to seriously consider the food you are eating and how you prepare it.
Old age, from 60 on, magnifies any problems that have manifest. Old age sees the level of physical activity declining rapidly. The body struggles to get the nutrition it needs from the food you are eating. This is the age when what you eat and how you prepare it is vital to your health and well-being.
Food is the building block for all health. The right food and the right preparation promotes good health.
So, what can you do about it …
First, choose your food wisely and on the principles of hot & cold.
Ensure you have a balanced diet of meat, vegetables, fruit and grains.
Second and vital, ensure that your body can access the nutrition in the food. That is best achieved by eating foods that have been softened: stews, soups, and beverages. As you get older, your digestive system copes less and less with solid, hard to get at foods.
If you are healthy, then the above will help you to keep healthy.
As you get older, this becomes more and more important.
If you are ill, then you can build up your bodies ability to heal itself and cope with the illness by eating well and, most important, ensuring your body can access the nutrients.
If you are ill then we suggest that you eat plenty of beef and lamb stews, soups and broths.
Your body needs easyily accessible nutrients. You are like a baby and cannot cope with solid foods. Your qi is not strong enough. That effects your digestive system, which stuggles to get all it needs from solid foods.
Generally, you will need to avoid cold foods and eat plenty of beef and lamb stews or broths with a balanced mix of vegetables, beans and grains (ie: barley). Steamed rice is good to have on the side. Wheat is a cold food and should be avoided. Potato is also good, though pumkin is best. Avoid tomato.
Combine this with whatever gentle exercise you can manage each day.
Here is a list of foods to help you:
Neutral: rice, highland barley, rice bran, sesame, soy bean, pea, haricot, horsebean, red bean, black bean, oats.
Hot: sticky rice, black rice, sago, broomcorn.
Cold: millet, wheat, barley, buckwheat, green bean.
Neutral: pork, pig’s heart, pig’s kidney, pig’s liver, chicken egg, goose, donkey, milk,
yoghurt, shellfish, fish
Hot: beef, mutton, chicken, sheep’s milk, venison, hairtail
Cool: duck, rabbit, abalone.
Cold: duck egg, crab, oyster, snail, octopus, mullet.
Neutral: plum, pineapple, olive grape sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, coconut juice, peanut, haw, chestnut.
Hot: peach, apricot, date, lichee, longan, lemon，pawpaw，pinenut，walnut，cherry
Cool: apple, pear, orange, strawberry, mango, loquat.
Cold: persimmon, grapefrui，banana，starfruit，fig，goosebeery，sugar cane，
Neutral: radish，carrot，brocoli，potato，sweet potato, taro，edible tree fungus，calabash.green vegetables, corn
Hot: shallot, spring onion，garlic，leek，caraway，onion，pumpkin.
Cool: tomato, celery, eggplant, spinach, lettuce, tofu, cucumber, mushroom
Cold: seaweed，kelp，bamboo shoot，bitter melon
Other examples of hot and cold food:
Bamboo shoot, banana, bitter gourd, clam, crab, grapefruit, lettuce, persimmon, salt, seaweed, star fruit, sugar cane, water chestnut, watermelon, lotus root, cucumber, barley, bean curd, chicken egg white, marjoram, oyster, pear, peppermint, radish, strawberry, tangerine, and yogurt, broccoli, cauliflower, zuccini, corn, tomatoes, pineapple, turmeric.
Neutral (balanced yin and yang):
Honey, corn, abalone, apricot, beef, beetroot, black fungus, carp, carrot, celery, chicken egg yolk, cuttlefish, duck, fig, kidney bean, lotus fruit and seed, milk, olive, oyster, papaya, pork, potato, pumpkin, radish leaf, red bean, plum, sunflower seed, sweet rice, sweet potato, white fungus, yellow soybean, brussels sprouts, snow peas, sweet potato, taro, dates, figs, raspberries, raisins, sage, rosemary, thyme, brown rice, apple.
Pepper, cinnamon bark, ginger, soybean oil, red and green pepper, chicken, apricot seed, brown sugar, cherry, chestnut, chive, cinnamon twig, clove, coconut, coffee, coriander (Chinese parsley), date, dillseed, eel, garlic, grapefruit peel, green onion, guava, ham, leaf mustard, leek, longan, mutton, nutmeg, peach, raspberry, rosemary, shrimp, spearmint, sweet basil, tobacco, vinegar, walnut, jackfruit, durian, leek, shallots, spring onion, , apricots, blackberries, black currant, mangoes, peaches, cherry, mandarin orange, grape.