An old Chinese saying that “disease enters the body through the mouth” is a variation of that Western adage “you are what you eat.” In any language, conventional wisdom tells us that a nutritious, balanced diet is crucial to good health. “A good diet is essential for a healthy lifestyle,” said Kimberly Ashton, a health and wellness coach at Sprout Lifestyle.
“By making wise choices about what we eat, we can, to a large extent, steer how we feel.” Sprout Lifestyle has openeda new flagship store in downtown Shanghai. Ashton personally recommends home-cooked foods because that’s the best way for people to control their diet. Unprocessed foods, less sugar and whole grains figure prominently in the ideal diet.
It really starts with reading the ingredients panels of packaged foods. The fewer additives, the better. Fresh foods are always preferred “A fresh banana is always more healthy than a pack of banana chips,” said Ashton.Shanghai people are notorious for having a sweet tooth.
However, eating too much sugar, especially refined sugar, not only piles on the calories but also burdens the digestive system. Some nutritionists finger sugar as a culprit in the development of some cancers. “I am not against sweet food, but I am against bad sugar,” said Ashton.
“It’s natural for people to crave something sweet in the afternoon, but it would be much wiser to eat fresh fruit or juices.” In cooking, brown sugar and honey are better choices than unrefined white sugar.
Whole grains like millet, oats and buckwheat are much healthier than refined rice and flour. They keep the body’s blood glucose levels lower and provide fiber to aid digestion.
Soaking the whole grains 6-8 hours in advance is advised. For those not used to whole grains, it sometimes helps to start by mixing them half-and-half with refined grains.
“Everybody is told they should eat a balance diet, but many people don’t know how to achieve that,” said Ashton. “A balanced diet is not only about a rich variety of ingredients, but also about properly cooking foods to retain their nutritional value.”
Traditional Chinese medicine classifies foods into “cold” (yin) energy foods, “hot” (yang) energy foods and “neutral” foods like rice, corn and apples.
“Cold” foods like cucumber, kelp and watermelon help the human body adjust to hot summer weather, while “hot” foods such as mutton, beef and longan help people keep warm in winter cold.
It is healthier to steam, quickly pan-fry or even simply put a dressing on raw foods in spring and summer. In winter, baked and slowcooked meals are best.
1 packet of tempeh, sliced
2 cups washed bean sprouts
1 cup rinsed snow peas
1 sliced red capsicum
1 tablespoon of dried chilies
1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce
The juice of half a lime or lemon (optional)
1/2 cup chopped Thai basil
1/2 cup chopped coriander (optional)
1/4 cup chopped chives
Marinade for the tempeh:
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 inch piece grated or sliced ginger, with its juice retained
1 tablespoon olive or grape seed oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Marinate tempeh for a minimum of 30-40 minutes. This can be done a few hours ahead of time or overnight in the fridge for a stronger flavor.
Prepare all the vegetable ingredients. Heat a frying pan or wok with a little olive or grape seed oil. Starting with bean sprouts, add the vegetables at 1 minute intervals, stirring the whole while. Add the soy sauce and lemon, lime or even a dash of vinegar for acidity.
Turn the flame low and add the basil, coriander and chives. The herbs shouldn’t be cooked long. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with brown rice.
4 pieces per person of wakame seaweed
1.5 inch piece of white, long radish
1.5 cups (per person) of filtered water
1 teaspoon of miso paste
While soaking the wakame in a small bowl of water, peel and dice the radish. Boil water in a small pot and add the radish. Cook for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add the seaweed and cook for another 1 minute. Turn flame to low and add the miso paste while continuing to stir. Serve as a side dish or as a starter for Asian meals.
Sauteed Chinese greens
1 bunch of any Chinese leafy green vegetable
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 tablespoon of olive or grape seed oil
1/2 cup of water
Sea salt to taste
Heat the oil in a pan and add garlic, followed by leafy green vegetables. Toss the vegetables while cooking, adding splashes of water to ensure they don’t dry out or burn. The more water you use, the less oil you need.
Cook until the vegetables turn a darker green but aren’t soggy. Test a piece to get the timing right.
Season with sea salt and give mixture one last stir.