If you’re like most people, you want to be as healthy as possible. You probably also realize that what you eat plays a big role in your health and how you feel. The Chinese also believe that food is the cornerstone to good health. In fact, they have a saying that if a patient is not feeling well, a healer should first try food therapy, and if that doesn’t work, only then should they turn to acupuncture and herbs.
We are bombarded with messages, ads, and Oprah segments on miracle foods, and amazing diets. The reality is, however, that with some simple guidelines, you can eat healthfully without a lot of effort or crazy diets.
Here are my guidelines, based in part on the theories of Chinese food therapy to eat well right now:
-Slow down. If you gulp your food down while dashing out the door or in between meetings, I’m talking to you. In order to fully get the most out of your food, slow down, sit down, and chew. The digestion of carbohydrates begins in your mouth through chemical components in your saliva. If you’re throwing down your meals without chewing, you’re not digesting well from the start.
-Watch what you’re drinking. Concentrated juices, such as orange or tomato juice can be hard to digest because they’re nutrient dense. Other juices and soft drinks can be loaded with sugar. (Alcohol will be the subject of a future blog post.) Ideally, you should drink a small amount of room temperature water or green tea with your meals.
-Go for the colors. Eat a variety of colorful foods. By doing so, you will ensure that you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients. In Chinese medicine, darkly colored foods are especially nutritious. This includes dark leafy greens, red and yellow vegetables, blue and purple fruits, and black, red, or green beans.
-Get cooking. Cook your vegetables, and when possible your fruits, too. By cooking your produce, you are essentially “predigesting” those foods and making them easier for your body to convert into nutrients. Obviously, you can’t cook a green salad, but if you suffer from poor digestion, eating your veggies in soups, stews and stir fries can help calm things down.
-Plan what you are going to eat. This point is for all of you who eat poorly because you eat what’s handy, not healthy. You know you go to work every day, you know you get hungry at 3 p.m., Bring something from home instead of grabbing chips or a candy bar from the office vending machine.
-Stop eating when you’re 80 percent full. You’ll live longer and you’ll weigh less. Researchers have documented that eating a low calorie diet can extend your life. The weighing less thing is pretty obvious.
-Eat breakfast. Eating a good breakfast that contains a little protein will help level your blood sugar, decrease food cravings, and you’ll get through to lunchtime without sneaking into the office coffee room for a Krispy Kreme.
-Clean up your act. When possible, eat local and organic. Become a label reader, and if a product contains multi-syllabic ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it back on the shelf. Better yet, aim for eating foods in their original form (e.g. corn on the cob, not corn syrup sweeteners).
-Get rough! When I had my colonoscopy, the doc said to aim for eating about 25 grams of fiber a day. Wow! I thought I was doing well, but that sounds like a lot. In reality, if you’re eating whole foods, including whole grains, produce, and foods in their original form, it’s not too difficult. Fiber speeds foods along throughout your intestinal tract and can help lower cholesterol. Your body will thank you.
-Choose foods based on your body constitution. Whether your digestion is poor, your energy is low, you feel hot, or are thin and depleted, there are specific food choices that are beneficial for you. While all those choices are beyond the scope of this blog, you can get some assessments, guidelines, and food choices most beneficial for you here.