When it comes to jump-starting your health and wellness there’s no one answer. But consistent wholesome eating is a key marker of good health. If you’re a lover of real food- I hope these pointers have you covered.
Please feel free to jot a comment below- I’d love to hear from you. ~Emma
Eating wholefoods as nature intended
In Chinese medicine, the best diet for YOU is built on balance and is dependant on many factors, such as your unique constitution, lifestyle, metabolism and the strength of your digestion.
As an acupuncturist, I support an 80/20 approach to eat closer to nature (aiming for healthy food choices 80% of the time). I’m a believer that most food has a rightful place in a balanced diet. After all, eating a little of what you fancy in moderation can be incredibly nourishing for your spirit (Shen).
Typically, I encourage cooking with quality, unprocessed ingredients. This helps to rebuild energy and improve the digestive processes essential for health and wellness.
To set your food shopping up for success, I’ve put together the following introductory guides. With a little planning (and some key ingredients) you’ll be on your way towards eating food as nature intended.
When a patient shows up with poor digestion or bathroom habits, I normally tweak parts of their diet from a Chinese medical perspective. I’m a big fan of sustainable harvesting and socially conscious products, hence recommending organic food.
It is thought eating organically can help to cultivate a healthy gut by reducing exposure to harmful substances. The gut is a collection of organs running from the mouth to the bowels, with help from the stomach, liver, pancreas and gall bladder. All of these structures work together to extract the greatest amount of nutrition from whatever food we chose to eat (Freer, 2019). So it makes sense to eat real sustenance.
While I appreciate organic price points can be high, it’s worth the extra investment if you can.
Try prioritising your meat, fish and dairy first followed by any groceries or other commodities. For the freshest, heartiest ingredients ever, check out your local farmers’ markets, health or farm shops.
When it comes to meat, I am VERY cautious about manufactured produce. In Chinese medicine, all meat in moderation helps to strengthen and nourish the Blood crucial for every part of us.
These super-easy tips are worth pursuing:
Quality over quantity. Rather than eating lots of meat, choose organic pieces as condiments.
Processed meat. Most unpurified meat contains substances the body has difficulty assimilating. These substances make it last longer, look more colourful and give it a supposed flavour (yikes!). Common sources are sausages, hot dogs, salted or cured ham, smoked, dried or canned meats and, yep, the list goes on…
Studies show a diet high in processed meat for years or decades may increase your exposure to chronic disease, particularly cancer. Shockingly, some varieties also include antibiotic traces that then pass down the food chain. Need I say more?
Organic feeding. Organic food usually involves grass or alfalfa feeding methods. These have higher levels of Omega-3 fat and lower levels of pesticide residue.Omega-3 fat can positively affect cardiovascular health, rheumatic diseases, age-related macular degeneration, brain health, and much more.
If you’re a fish lover, I recommend eating sustainably raised and low-mercury options high in Omega-3 fat.
Studies suggest fish like tuna, shark, salmon, swordfish and even shellfish, among others, may contain high levels of mercury. Lots of seafood are now also becoming endangered species. So, being respectful of the type of fish you’re eating is not only vital for your health but the planet, too.
Try eating in moderation small cold-water water types like wild-caught salmon, herring or sardines. They are great sources of Omega-3 fish oil, known as the ‘good fats’ that cool off inflammation in the body (the basis of many chronic diseases).
In Chinese medicine, it’s all about eating a diet rich in seasonal produce, especially organic vegetables. Try picking plenty of red, orange, green, purple and dark, green leafy options packed full of nutrients.
Non-starchy veg are also favourites for balancing blood sugar levels. Good examples include artichoke, asparagus, bean sprouts, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, onions, radishes, salad greens, squash, and many others.
The ancient Chinese recognised regular cravings for sweet foods as an indication that the digestive system is weak. Or sometimes that the hormones are out of balance.
In short, too much sugar in the diet can lead to type II diabetes, heart disease, and there’s even a connection between sugar and brain health.
Try these tips for easing back on sugar:
Eat breakfast. A low sugar and high protein breakfast with plenty of healthy fats and fibre can help to stabilise blood sugar levels.For example, a savoury avocado on sourdough toast.
Sugar and artificial sweeteners. Cakes, biscuits, sweets and pastries are obvious sugary foods to avoid. There are also hidden sugars to watch out for in balsamic vinegar, salad dressings, low-fat yoghurts, fizzy drinks, fruit juices, cereals, wine, pasta sauces, ready-made meals, corn syrup and many others.
Vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are great for balancing blood sugar levels. They’re packed full of fibre, which can slow down absorption and prevent sugar cravings. So, eat plenty of these!
Fruit. If you’re already eating a lot of sugary food, too much fruit can be negative (especially when candida or diabetes are prevalent). Please, eat this within reason.
Whole grains (rice, quinoa, buckwheat).In Chinese medicine, whole grains can help to strengthen your digestion. But they can be tricky to assimilate if the digestive system is deficient. If your digestion is pretty robust, these grains are likely to be okay when not overeaten. You can learn more about the energetic strength of your digestion by seeing a traditional acupuncturist.
Refined grains (bread, cereals, crackers, desserts, pastries). Refined grains are enriched. It means they’re highly processed and fortified with nutrients that do not occur naturally. They may contain hidden refined sugars, artificial flavourings, thickeners and emulsifiers. These can wreak havoc with your digestive health, so they’re best avoided or, if you must, eat in moderation.
To rule out any health concerns (food allergies/sensitivities) related to whole or refined grains, I usually refer patients to a clinical nutritionist for further analysis.
When it comes to soya, there are concerns about its estrogen-like effects, particularly regarding breast cancer. Equally, there are incredible nutritional profiles related to non-genetically modified products, too.
If eaten infrequently, high-quality soya may suit certain individuals more than others.
In Chinese medicine, high-quality soya is a healthy food option when eaten moderately as part of a balanced diet. So, consuming good-quality tempeh, edamame and miso with other whole, unprocessed foods may be okay for certain individuals, especially vegetarians or vegans.
Many people are non-celiac gluten sensitive without realising it. In conventional medicine, the most common traits can be bloating, diarrhoea, stomach pain, headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even brain fog.
If you’re intrigued to find out more about gluten intolerance or sensitivity, a qualified nutritional therapist can run significant tests to see if you have difficulties in this area.
With dairy, the ancient Chinese had is sussed. Way back when, they understood it could be problematic for your health.
I have seen many patients, particularly with arthritic conditions, benefitting from reducing or stopping dairy. To learn more about this topic, and to help with some useful dairy shopping tips, head to my post Think Twice Before You Eat Lots of Dairy.
When out and about food shopping, it’s a good idea to ask yourself, ‘Did nature grow this or man create it ..?’. (Hyman, 2021).
Please discuss with your doctor or traditional acupuncturist if you have a severe medical condition before trying any of my advice. As with all articles on emmasammels.com, this is no substitution for individual medical intervention. If you are interested in finding out more information, please visit my Bookings page.