Misha Ruth Cohen
The Chinese Way to Healing: Many Paths to Wholeness
Q: Do I have to change how I eat today?
No. I would never say you should or shouldn't eat this or
that. For people who have chronic sinusitis, general fatigue or digestive
problems, diet therapy is used immediately. But for others, dietary changes can
be more gradual. The guiding principle is that adjustment is more important than
radical change. Embracing Chinese medicine dietary practices is a process of
expanding what you eat, not constricting your diet. You may give up some foods,
but you should find there's a whole world of varied foods you may have never
tried before. To make a shift in your diet-from out of balance to balanced-you
must find the place in your heart and consciousness that makes the transition
comfortable and unforced. Discovering the best way for you to improve your diet
is a very personal process. You can't rush it-you must give yourself the time to
learn about how your body functions and adjust to what it tells you.
Q: Is it better to eat Oriental foods than an American
A: Becoming healthy is not about growing up in Pennsylvania
and eating like someone from Beijing. Chinese dietary philosophy suggests that
you generally embrace your native foods and eat foods grown locally and in
season. What is unhealthy about American foods is not the fact that they are
American but that they are too often commercial inventions instead of natural
foods. Stick to natural, home-grown, and chemical-free products and you'll have
a bountiful supply of healthful food choices.
Q: Is meat bad for you?
A: No, but the body handles meat protein best in small
quantities. You should eat no more than two to three ounces at a meal, limit the
amount of red meat you eat to about six ounces a week, and begin to think of it
as an accent, not the centerpiece in any meal.
Q: What about sugar?
A: Sugar is also part of a balanced diet when eaten in small
quantities. Refined sugars have the fewest nutrients, but other sugars such as
fructose are contained in nutritionally beneficial foods. Chinese medicine
sometimes prescribes sugar as a tonic.
Q: I'm pregnant. Should I change my diet completely?
A: It's not a good idea to make a radical shift in your diet
during pregnancy. You want to eliminate coffee, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.
As for other shifts, simply concentrate on eating the most nutrition-packed
calories possible. That will naturally lower your fat intake and increase the
grains and vegetables. If you are planning to become pregnant, however, you may
want to make a dietary renovation part of your plan. Whatever you do, remember
the growing embryo requires fuel. Women who eat too few calories in an attempt
to control weight gain or follow some strict food plan are hurting themselves
and their baby.
Q: What will happen when I change my diet?
A: A diet rich in grains and legumes, poor in fats and
refined sugars can come as a surprise to your body. It will free the Qi to move
throughout your system and that can evoke all kinds of transitory negative
feelings until the flow is established. That's why you want to go through the
process gradually and comfortably. You may want to work simultaneously with
other aspects of healing such as herbs and acupuncture since they all reinforce
one another. If you feel you need to help your body purify itself, you may want
to eat Liver cleansing foods such as beets, carrots, and burdock.
Q: Are all grains good for healing?
A: Yes. All of the grains can be used to make healing
congees-Chinese therapeutic rice soups (see the full text of this book for
recipes). However, some grains are not for everyone. For example, since most
Westerners are already too damp and too mucous, I don't recommend oatmeal all
that often because in San Francisco I often see people who suffer from Dampness.
Oatmeal is beneficial, however, for Lung Yin Fluid Dryness or Yin Deficiency.
Then, if you like, put a little honey, milk and butter on it. This helps
increase Yin and fluids.
Q: What can you do to grains to make them appropriate for
treating Deficiency or Cold conditions?
A: Add spicy or warm foods such as scallions, ginger, etc.
For some of the Spleen Deficiency conditions, a little sweetener is fine.
However, honey is contraindicated if you have diarrhea.
Q: What is the most life-extending diet?
A: Chinese medicine has long advocated bland, unprocessed
food for a long, healthy life. Bland food is not flavorless; it is pure and
subtle and sweet. Grains, beans, meat and most root vegetables are sweet. We've
become used to heavy, over flavored, impure foods that promote damp ness, heat,
phlegm and a cloudy pallor.