If you want to nurture optimum health (and perhaps boost your fertility) by bringing your body’s rhythms in to harmony with those of nature, the energetic quality of what you eat on a daily basis is key. This energetic aspect of food is overlooked by most western nutritionists, but is central to Chinese nutritional principles.
Chinese nutrition is a complex matter, but as the seasons turn I’ll being posting blogs that give a few general guidelines on how to eat well at that time of year and offer some seasonal recipes.
My tips will centre around the premise that your diet, like your lifestyle, should mimic the energy of each season – evident by observing the natural world. This is true for everyone, but if you suffer from symptoms related to a particular element in the Chinese cycle of Five Elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water – then the related season is both a time when you risk suffering the most and when you have the greatest opportunity for change.
Basic diet guidelines
I do not believe that a one-size-fits-all diet exists so will not be giving any rules for how to eat to be well. The details and proportions of your personal diet will be dynamic and depend on many factors, such as your constitution, your present state of health, your activity etc.
However, my seasonal tips do pre-suppose that you eat a diet that honours both your own and the planet’s well-being. This means that your food will, as far as possible, be organic, local, seasonal and wholegrain. Personally I would also recommend that your diet centres on seasonal vegetables, wholegrain cereals and legumes, supplemented with fish from good but sustainable sources and (if you so wish) moderate amounts of the best-quality meat. I believe that most people benefit from keeping dairy consumption to the minimum and from doing their very best to avoid sugar, coffee and other stimulants and to eliminate processed and refined foods.
My diet tips are (unless specified) aimed at boosting the vitality of generally healthy people, so, for specific issues, please do seek out personalised expert advice.
So many foods are now claim to be super-foods that will transform your health, with the suggestion that you can go on eating badly so long as you include these items in your diet. This is simply not true and the only way to use food to increase your overall well-being is to take responsibility for eating well.
I do however believe that certain foods have extraordinary health-giving qualities and would recommend them to most people within a generally healthful diet. Some examples are healthy fats (e.g. from fish oils, coconut oil, chia seeds, other toasted seeds and seed butters), seaweeds, raw sauerkraut, bone broth. I will occasionally focus in on such foods and their benefits in my posts.
It’s not just what you eat …
… but how you eat it.
If you want to eat well for good health, it is not enough to just improve the quality of your food, while continuing with bad habits like eating on the run and not chewing your food. Such habits put a great strain on your body to try to carry out the energy-hungry process of digestion, so much of the benefit of your improvements will be lost and any boost in your vitality will be limited.
Therefore when it is time to eat, it is time to stop, to sit down, to put away other distractions and to focus your attention fully on the smells, flavours and textures of your food. If you feel stressed or emotionally unsettled in any way, wait till you have calmed down before eating, else your food will be poorly digested.
And be sure to chew very well – your stomach does not have teeth, and mixing your food with saliva in your mouth starts the digestive process. If you find it hard to slow down enough for this, try putting your cutlery down between mouthfuls.
Do not continue eating until you feel really full. By that point you have already over-eaten and put a great digestive burden on yourself.
And when you have finished, make sure to wait at least three hours before going to bed. If your body is still busy trying to digest your food while you are asleep, it will not be able to perform well its real nighttime function of digesting and assimilating the events of your day so you can wake up in the morning feeling restored, refreshed and ready for the next day of activity.
Look out for my Autumn diet tips, coming soon …
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