Diet is an important component of staying healthy and aging well. As an acupuncturist, I have studied food and dietary therapy from the standpoint of Chinese medicine. The Chinese view food as medicine that we eat three (and sometimes more!) times a day. Beyond good digestion and eating certain foods for specific conditions, a number of my patients have asked us what makes up a good diet.
My first answer is always to eat for your specific body type or health condition. For example, if you have digestive problems, it is important to eat cooked, easily digestable foods such a soups, stews, and stir fried dishes. If you tend to feel hot much of the time, eating foods that are energetically cooling, such as bananas, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, and mint are appropriate. If you are chronically cold, warming foods, such as lamb, ginger, and cinnemon can be helpful. Eating for your particular condition is best done with the consultation of a practitioner of acupuncture or Chinese medicine.
A general guideline for eating according to Chinese medicine, is to incorporate the following into your diet:
-Lots of dark-colored cooked vegetables
-A little fruit
-Small amounts of protein
-A wide variety of local foods
-Avoid ice cold foods and drinks, concentrated juices, saturated fats, sugar, and sweeteners
Eating according to the principles of Chinese food therapy is just one way to better health, however. There are a number of theories as to what makes up the optimal diet.
Some current research on diet points to the Mediterranean Diet as another optimal way to eat to maintain good health. TheMediterranean Diet incorporates foods from the countries around the Mediterranean, and its benefits include increased cardiovascular health, weight maintenance, a decreased risk of some cancers, reduced inflammation and decreased cognitive decline. The good news is that very modest lifestyle changes, like incorporating only one or two components of the diet, or starting changes later in life can still produce significant health benefits.
So what is the Mediterranean Diet? While there are a number of versions, the key components include:
-Olives and olive oil products along with lots of fruits and vegetables
-Red wine (up to three glasses a day!)
-Deep sea fish
-Legumes (beans), nuts, and seeds
-Fermented low fat dairy products (yogurt, kefir, etc.)
-Limited red meat, sweets, and full fat dairy products
While it's always better to incorporate changes early in life, the take away message here is diet does matter, and regardless of when you start, small changes can impact your health.
Lynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist practicing in Minneapolis, MN. For more information and articles, visit her website at http://www.acupunctureinthepark.com or her blog at http://www.acupuncturetwincities.com