Each person is unique, so a diet should always be planned according to individual needs. Below are eight fundamental guidelines for healthy eating that can be followed within the scope of your healthy diet:
1. Eat Mindfully.
Most people eat too quickly, putting an unnecessary burden on their digestive systems. Your frame of mind is of utmost importance at mealtime; relax and slowly chew your food for optimal digestion and assimilation.
Chewing is a major part of digestion—remember, your stomach does not have teeth. The digestive process, particularly the digestion of starches, begins in the mouth, where enzymes are produced to help break down and absorb nutrients. Chew each bit of food twenty times and savor the flavor with joy, repose, and gratefulness.
2. Take care with good preparation.
The best ways to prepare foods so that nutrients stay intact (or, at least, are minimally lost) are steaming, stir-frying in water, stewing, and baking. Even the best quality oils become carcinogenic when heated. So if oil is desired, drizzle and stir it into the food after turning off the heat.
The best utensils for cooking are glass, earthenware, enamel-coated, or stainless steel cookware. Avoid cooking in aluminum, copper, and Teflon-coated pans—these materials can easily seep into the food. Stay away from irradiated foods when possible.
3. Favor whole foods.
Foods should be eaten in their wholeness whenever possible. Only peel fruits or vegetables with peels that are hard to digest, like papayas or bananas, or if they are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. Search out organic foods, or wash nonorganic foods in salt water or with a vegetable and fruit wash to eliminate or neutralize the toxins. Avoid highly processed and refined foods—they’re stripped of critical nutrients and then the nutrients are added back into the food after processing. My book the “Tao of Nutrition” can give you nutrition tips for what whole foods to eat to keep you healthy.
4. Say no to genetically modified (GM) food.
GM plants have been genetically manipulated to make them more productive or more resistant to herbicide. One of the side effects is that more herbicides are used to kill off weeds but spare the GM plants thereby causing more damage to the environment and leaving more carcinogenic chemical residues on the plant. Moreover the seeds of the GM plants breeds with the wild variety creating harm to the natural plants’ immunity. In other words, GM plants are bad for the consumer and bad for the environment.
5. Eat locally and in season.
Nature has the perfect plan for providing appropriate foods for each season. The fruits and vegetables that ripen in the summer, like watermelon, collard greens, and zucchini, tend to be on the cooling side to counter the heat of the season. In winter you’ll tend toward a warming diet, including leeks, onions, and turnips. And by eating locally produced foods you are lessening global warming by not buying foods that have been transported many miles to get to your dinner table and support local farmers and businesses.
6. Eat regular meals.
Your body functions best when fed at regular intervals. Eat breakfast before 9:00 a.m., lunch before 1:00 p.m., and dinner before 7:00 p.m. You may want to snack between meals to keep your metabolism going. Nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and vegetables with healthy low-fat dips like hummus or black bean dip are good snacks to help you maintain your energy level. Eating smaller meals more frequently is what I call just-in-time nutrition—eat just enough to propel you for the next three to four hours so that you don’t store more than half of a big meal as fat. And don’t eat right before bedtime unless you want your stomach to be working all night long!
7. Eat to live.
You have the power to choose what you put into your mouth. Ask whether your food choices will contribute to your health and well being or cause future problems and suffering. It’s easy to eat that awfully tempting ice cream sundae, but it’s difficult to work it off by exercising for an hour. Eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables to provide your body with more age-reversing antioxidants is an excellent example of eating to live.
8. Find sweetness in life.
Many people lack happiness and sweetness in their lives, so they turn to food to fill the empty space within. Eating poorly as a response to feeling depressed and anxious is highly destructive to your health, and can be life threatening. The average American consumes more than 200 pounds of sugar each year. Rather than looking to food for sweetness, seek sweetness from your life by being kind to yourself, by forming meaningful relationships, and by being grateful for what you have.
All foods possess natural healing properties, so be sure to keep you meal colorful with a wide range of foods.
May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, popularly known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Chinese medicine and a board certified anti-aging specialist. He practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the TAO of Wellness in Santa Monica, a Wellness Medicine group that he founded with his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni 25 years ago. He is also the cofounder and Chancellor of Yo San University in Venice/Marina del Rey. To make an appointment or to subscribe to a free newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com. You can contact him at [email protected] or call 310.917.2200.