Combining East and West: A Modern Approach to Nutrition
Unlike Western nutrition, which focuses mainly on the individual components of the foods we eat - namely carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and calories - TCM nutrition also considers the energetics of each food. So while Western nutrition often mentions things like "superfoods" that are supposedly beneficial for everyone, Eastern nutrition takes a much more customized and individualized approach to nutrition. Foods are classified by temperature and general energetic functions. For example, alcohol, coffee and spicy foods are warming foods, while cold foods include green tea, asparagus and soy. Energetic functions include concepts like "move qi" (i.e. peppers and onions), "tonify yin" (i.e. black sesame seed and black beans) and "drain dampness" (i.e. mung beans and pearl barley). When deciding which diet fits best for a patient, the practitioner will first consider the patients constitution, and then the energetics of the pattern diagnosis. During pattern diagnosis, the practitioner will decide which organs and channels are involved, if the disease is hot or cold (i.e. patients feels hot and sweats a lot vs. a patient feeling cold all the time), and if it is based in deficiency (i.e. weak digestion leading to lack of energy) or excess (i.e. accumulation of stagnant energy causing severe pain). Then, based on this diagnosis, a list of foods will be picked that will work at balancing the energetics of the patient.
Healthy Eating 101
With the plentiful and constantly changing news about the health or dangers of foods, many people feel at a loss about which foods to buy. Should you buy local, or is it more important to buy organic? Are all prepared or quick-fix meals bad for you? How about genetically modified foods? Or corn syrup? The list goes on and on. In general, it is preferable to prepare all meals fresh and use only organic local ingredients. In reality, however, many of us need to rely at least sometimes onto prepared foods, and finances often don't allow for organic local foods all the time. So here are a few tips on how to eat and shop healthy on a budget without having to spend hours in the kitchen.
Know which foods tend to have high levels of pesticides and other harmful substances, and try to buy these organic. Here is a link to an article including food list about this topic: Dr.Weil
Local foods are better for the environment because they don't have to travel far. That also makes them healthier, because the fresher the food is, the higher the nutrients content is.
Look for CSA, or Community Supported Acupuncture, in your community. For example, Tanaka Farms offers weekly boxes filled with organic fruits and vegetables that were picked the day before delivery, and several schools in the area participate in this as a fundraising program. This is a great way to get the freshest organic seasonal foods at a great savings. Here is a link: Tanaka Farms.
Your crock pot is your best friend. Throw in some fresh vegetables and protein of your choice with broth into the slow cooker in the morning and cook it on low throughout the day. You come home to a healthy and delicious soup.
When buying prepared or processed foods, read the labels. Make sure you recognize everything listed as a food you would expect to find in a pantry or refrigerator. Don't buy anything with ingredients you don't recognize as foods (anyone up for some cellulose gel?) and definitely stay away from things you cannot pronounce.
Just because something is FDA approved doesn't mean it's safe. FDA approved food dyes have recently been linked to allergies, ADHD and cancer. Here is a link to the article on CBSnews.
Trader Joe's is a good option to start bettering your diet. Their prepared foods are healthier than many of their supermarket counterparts. Even though many of them are still high in sodium, fats and sugars, at least they contain less additives and preservatives.
Sugar is bad for your health. However, there are differences in the different sweetener options, and some are more harmful than others. High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup and artificial sweeteners are the most harmful of the lot and should be avoided completely. Aspartame, the chemical used to sweeten most diet and light foods, can lead to severe neurological problems. Watch this documentary the get the scoop: Sweet Misery. If you get a sweet tooth, it is best to stay with minimally processed sweeteners like evaporated cane juice, raw honey or stevia extract, and eat those in moderation. Also, never feed honey to a child under the age of 1 year!
Asparagus is a a great seasonal vegetable to use for cooking in spring and summer. It is low in calories and high in folate, potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants. It is also a great diuretic and aids your body in removing toxins.
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon of Sesame Oil
3 to 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 lbs. green asparagus, tough ends removed
2 Tablespoons of water
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
1. Cut asparagus into 2" long pieces. Heat oil in large pot or a wok on medium heat, add garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add asparagus, water and soy sauce. Saute for about 5 minutes or until asparagus is tender but still has a crunch, depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears. Add more soy sauce if necessary.
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