Eat yourself healthy

Posted on: 03 January 2012 by Gareth Hargreaves

Traditional Chinese Medicine can teach us a thing or two about adapting our diets to help maintain a healthy weight, boost energy levels and maximise our overall wellbeing

Chinese medicineThis can range from eating in line with the seasons, to avoiding eating late at night, or reducing the amount of processed food we consume.

Here, Daverick Leggett, member of the British Acupuncture Council and author of Recipes for Self-healingRecipes for Self Healing explains why eating the right foods, at the right time, can be so beneficial to overall health and well-being.

Daverick’s tips to eat yourself healthy

Acupuncture is based on the theory that good health is dependent on the smooth flow of Qi - the body’s motivating energy - around the body. Interruptions to the flow of Qi manifest themselves as illness, and the food we put into our bodies is just one of the things that helps maintain the flow of Qi, minimising the chances of getting ill.

Most cultures have some version of the saying ‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper’. Because digestive Qi is stronger in the mornings eating a proper breakfast is always recommended. Eating late, especially heavy foods, can disrupt the flow of Qi, causing digestive problems and making it harder to regulate your weight, so I always encourage people to eat their evening meal as early as possible.

Here in the UK, we tend to over-consume sugar and under-consume vegetables and sources of vegetable protein such as nuts and beans. Unprocessed, simple foods such as pulses and rice that can be easily digested to the body are less disruptive to the flow of Qi so are less likely to lead to problems such as indigestion. They are also often cheaper to buy and have more health benefits.

It’s important to eat according to your constitutional needs - Chinese medicine recognises the uniqueness of each person and that no single diet suits everyone. What supports one person may be damaging to another, so it’s important to understand your constitution and support its needs through diet and lifestyle.

Daverick’s top ten tips for health eating:

  1. Eat less sugar - the most damaging thing we do to ourselves is over-consume sugar. Practitioners of Chinese medicine believe that too much sugar weakens a person’s constitution and undermines whatever good things they may be doing elsewhere in their lives.
  2. Reduce consumption of animal products such as dairy and meat – not just good for your own well-being but also for the planet.
  3. Eat more vegetables - the government have got it right on this one, Brits just don’t eat enough fruit and veg. We would also benefit hugely from switching towards higher levels of vegetable protein e.g. beans, seeds, nuts.
  4. Eat less generally - culturally we tend to overeat in the UK and many of our common health problems such as diabetes, obesity and digestive disorders are the result of over-consumption.
  5. Upgrade the quality of your food - choose organic over chemically farmed, local over imported and fresh over preserved for better health.
  6. Understand and follow the natural rhythms of the day and the season - eat heavier meals earlier in the day and light meals in the evening. Try and eat foods that are in season where possible.
  7. Hooray for soup - eat more of it as it’s warming and nutritious.
  8. Forget expensive ‘Superfoods’ e.g. goji berries -  the value of cabbage and other simple foods, such as pulses and grains are much higher.
  9. Don't worry - worry knots the Qi and interferes with good digestion. Enjoyment of food is fundamental to good health.
  10. ‘If it ain't broke don't try to fix it’ - if your diet seems to be working for you don’t make radical changes, the chances are you are probably getting it right. 

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