Now I am not a nutritionist but the need for good nutrition cannot be over emphasized in ones health and well being. However, many people do not make the necessary changes in their life to help themselves feel better. Of course there are psychological hindrances to changing ones diet, but many people just don’t know what changes they need to make in their diet in order to sleep better, have more energy, feel emotionally better and much more.
First and most importantly, take away the bad. Too many people are so concerned about what to eat or add to their diet that they don’t first take away all the bad in their diet to begin with. So in order to make a true change, first take away the bad. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a very simple approach to eating. TCM addresses not only what to eat and what not to eat but also how and when to eat. So let me begin with how to eat.
Eat slowly. Many of us don’t eat at a normal pace. We are often times in such a rush that we eat too fast. This can really upset your stomach and cause distension, flatulence, gas and other uncomfortable feelings in the digestive tract. And because we eat fast we don’t chew our food which leads to number two.
Chew your food. Saliva and teeth were created in order to help us pre-digest our food before getting to our stomach so please use them. Saliva actually contains digestive enzymes and teeth chop up our food to make it easier to digest. This makes it easier on our stomach to actually break down our food. This will then lead to better absorption of nutrients in the small intestine which is good for your whole body.
Don’t overeat. Overeating is hard on the stomach and will cause uncomfortableness as well. Imagine your stomach is just hanging out and then it you overload it with food. It went from not doing anything to doing too much. That will leave the stomach over worked and damaged.
Eat at regular intervals. People feel excessively hungry when they don’t eat at regular intervals which results in eating fast and probably too much. So eat at regular intervals to avoid this.
Don’t eat and drink at the same time. Unless the drink is something that aids digestion (i.e. warm ginger tea) wait 30 minutes or so after eating to drink. Otherwise, it will be harder to digest when your mixing food and drink at the same time. Especially avoid cold drinks and cold desserts after eating as that will cause your digestive fire (your stomach digests using hydrochloric acid) to go out. Just think of it like this; your stomach with it’s digestive fire (hydrochloric acid) is breaking down your food and then you drink cold water. That cold water puts out the fire or in Western Medicine it is described as diluting your digestive enzymes. Many patients report great relief from gas and bloating when they have stopped eating and drinking.
Next, let’s touch on when and when not to eat. Nature is beautiful if you truly observe it, it has its own rhythm and we are very much connected to it. Everything from your heart rate and mental awareness to water metabolism is affected by the rhythms of day, night and seasons. Now when we wake and the sun rises it is activity time (Yang time). It’s time for movement and action. Adults go to work, kids go to school and we’re all moving. However, as evening sets in we slow down. We’re preparing for rest and so our body slows down (Yin time). For this reason we must eat more during day time (6am -6pm) than evening/night time (6pm-6am). During the day when there is more activity on the planet our bodies move around (metabolize) much better than in the evening or night when our bodies are more sluggish and preparing for rest. Even recent studies have shown the importance of eating breakfast to kick start your metabolism for the day.
Furthermore, by not eating late at night you can ensure yourself a better night’s sleep. In addition, if you want to loose weight wouldn’t you want to eat at times when you can actually metabolize your food better than at times when you can’t. If you’re really strong you can try what I call the half day fast. That means not eating for half the day (6pm-6am) and see how you feel. However, even if you eat after 6pm or sunset depending on where you’re located and the season, make sure to always eat a lighter dinner. Since you can’t metabolize food that easy in the evening/night it’s better to have a lighter and simpler meal for dinner.
You also want to avoid eating when you are emotionally stirred up. This means don’t eat if overexcited, angry and stressed. You won’t be able to digest your food that well during those times. Don’t eat because your bored or to fill some void in your life. Eat when you’re hungry! And if you find yourself eating to fill some void in your life then find the necessary help to overcome that.
Eat more cooling and draining foods (i.e. Fruits, vegetables) during the summer and warmer months. Furthermore, since there is more energy on the planet during the summer months, take that opportunity to eat less or possibly do a fast. Your body can survive on less food during the warmer seasons.
Eat more warming and nourishing foods (i.e. meats) during the winter and cooler months. Eat regular meals and avoid doing fasts during the winter months because it will be harder on your body.
- Avoid eating and then going to sleep.
- Avoid eating and then taking a shower.
- Avoid eating and then exercising (especially swimming).
- Avoid eating and then having sex.
Make sure you have digested your food before participating in any of the above listed.
Now let’s touch on the types of food we want to avoid.
Avoid too much spicy food. Actually a little spice warms you up, promotes circulation and aids digestion but many of us consume way too much spicy food. Spicy food is inherent in many of our cultures and many of us love it. Unfortunately, spicy food can really damage our digestive tract as well as create lots of heat in our body. If you are prone to any chronic inflammatory condition (i.e. Cholecystitis, UTI, acne), or have an autoimmune disorder, hepatitis, HIV or cancer then you must stop or at least slow down on the spicy food. Especially avoid spicy food in the evenings. Our bodies are warmer in the evenings and adding more spice will just create more heat in your body. This in turn will cause late afternoon/evening fevers as well as night sweats and trouble sleeping. Just try it for a while and you’ll see the difference it makes.
Avoid greasy food. Greasy foods are another bad group of foods that damage the body. Greasy foods slow our ability to metabolize and actually make our blood thicker. Of course, this can lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure so beware of greasy foods. There are many places you can read about the differences in the many different types of oils. Some oils are good and some bad so educate yourself about this.
Dairy?. Natural dairy from the farm is actually very safe. I know that whenever I visit Ethiopia, milk is fresh from the cow, boiled and drank with no problem. Add honey, brown sugar or molasses and it’s really tasty. Furthermore, in many parts of the world, if you have a tummy ache, people drink milk because it can soothe out your stomach, but in America, you get the tummy ache because you drank the milk. In actuality, it can be very nourishing and strengthening for the body. It is considered the white blood in many parts of the world meaning it will strengthen and build the body. However, dairy from the factory is basically useless. This milk is found in most super markets in the US. I see no reason to drink it. I even remember as a young boy, after arriving in the US, tasting the milk in the US and wondering what was wrong with it. It had no taste at all. I now know why! Pasteurization and homogenization were created more to give milk a longer shelf and travel longer distances than for safety. It’s great for corporate profits but bad for you! However, we have reached a point that farm milk is illegal due to the lobbying of the milk industry and turning this around will be quite difficult. Now this does not mean that dairy is for everyone. If you just have an intolerance to it ,then avoid it. However, these people are few and far between.
Avoid sweets and candies. Sweets I really don’t need to mention but I still do because there are still so many people that eat too many sweets. Sweets not only can damage your digestive tract but also creates an environment for infection to thrive as well. And of course if you are genetically inclined to getting diabetes or have diabetes then you must watch your carb/sweets intake. Avoid sweets and deserts especially after big meals and avoid them even more after a big dinner. Your stomach will feel better and you’ll sleep much better. If you need to snack, instead of a candy bar or chips have some fruit.
Avoid raw foods. Please eat cooked foods. There are many people who think that raw foods are better for them because it is more nutritious. This may be true but it’s also true that it’s harder for your stomach to break down raw foods than cooked foods. Cooking is like a pre-digesting your food, and since it’s harder to break down raw foods, then your body won’t absorb the nutrients as easily than if they were cooked. There are many people who eat raw foods exclusively and have gas, bloating, distension, loose stools and even diarrhea. If you eat salad, eat it at the end of the meal.
Avoid cold and chilled food and drink. Your stomach likes warmth and that warmness is what actually aids digestion. So learn to drink room temperature or warm drinks as well as warm/cooked foods and your tummy will be much happier. You will digest your food a lot easier sipping on hot tea rather than ice cold water with a meal.
Having a good diet is not difficult when you take away the bad. When we take away the bad all that is left is goodJ So eating more grains and vegetables and just some protein is fine. If you’re a vegetarian then make sure that you’re getting your proteins from good sources. So many vegetarians look emaciated, pale and weak because they’re not getting enough protein so do your research before quitting meat. I generally recommend a diet that’s in a ratio of 45% vegetables and fruits, 35% protein and 20% carbs (complex carbs mostly) for adults. As we get older, our body’s are more susceptible to disease so we need foods that are rich in anti-oxidants. That’s why I recommend a high amount of vegetables and fruit in the diet for adults. For children, they should have a higher intake of protein. Protein is very strengthening for the body and eating it is much more beneficial when we’re younger than when we’re older. Carbs are very important because they keep our moods stabilized. However, too much can cause weight gain and blood sugar problems. Sugar and salt are two substances our body’s need, but in excess can be very harmful so beware.
For breakfast, instead of having a bagel, pancakes or bacon and eggs have some oats, barley or millet porridge. Porridge is strengthening, nourishing and easy on the stomach first thing in the morning. Or have a boiled egg with toast and fruit. Eat a bigger lunch than breakfast and a smaller dinner than lunch. Generally, eat more during the day (6am- 6pm) than night (6pm-6am). Good digestion means having more energy, a richer, fuller sex life and better sleep. And guess what. Studies show that the less you eat, the longer you live. In this case less is more. So don’t be afraid to fast once in a while(preferably summer). Finally, eat to live and don’t live to eat.