It is a well-known fact that being overweight or obese is a major health hazard, which in the past concerned mainly the Western world and much less the Asian population. The reason for such difference was and still is clearly the different eating habits and nutrition in those countries. Unfortunately, this seems to change rapidly to the worse in the 21st century, with Asia's population's income structure rising and these countries coming more and more under the influence of the well-known U.S. fast food chains and soft drink corporations.
So it may nearly seem a bit nostalgic, when I present here the virtues of the Chinese diet but as I had the opportunity last year in November to come to and stay in Shanghai for a few months, I could experience the still existing difference myself. I wholeheartedly can state that I quickly became a fan of the Chinese kitchen and this for at least three reasons:
1. The incredible variation of meals you get in China is unmatched to all Western style kitchens.
2. Even with only little or no physical exercising, which is basically limited to fitness clubs in Shanghai (of which I am not a fan!), it was virtually impossible for me to put on any weight eating the traditional Chinese diet. From experience I know, that with Western food I would have gained at least 3 to 5 kg!
3. Due to it's preparation, the ingredients and eating style (chop sticks), the Chinese kitchen and way of eating is by far healthier.
These positive experiences motivates me to put together a brief insight into the secrets of Chinese food, which has a tradition of a few thousand years and used to keep one fifth of the human race slim. Perhaps the one or other spa owner will be encouraged to introduce some of those elements (occasionally) into his or her spa kitchen (why not at home too?) for the client's benefit.
Here now come the 12 basic rules of the Chinese diet:
1. Stop counting calories Chinese look at food as nourishing, not unwanted calories and eat slowly (by virtue of chop sticks!) only until not hungry any more - and not to finish the servings under time pressure as we know it so often.
2. Don't fear the fan ("cooked rice") This is no carbohydrate loading. More than a billion slim people and 3000 years of history can't be wrong!.
3. The liquid diet Known as "congee," it is liquid fan (rice based) and eaten for breakfast mainly - warm and either sweet or savoury. It has a cleansing effect and prevents dehydration.
4. Veggies are the dishes Traditional Chinese diet is carnivore-lite and veggies rich. The anti-oxidants are found in veggies, not dead meat.
5. Mixing is key The food comes on the table in large numbers and small quantities each. Western food is served in the opposite way. Taking a little many times ensures that the diner feels satiated earlier.
6. Eat till full Right. That is what the Chinese diet allows you to do. Comfortably full but not stuffed because your brain realizes too late that you have eaten too much. The beauty of slowness, not speed, at work!
7. A meal is an occasion, not sheer necessity Three proper meals a day and enjoyed with family and friends, not our snack-on-the run or firing up the microwave in order not to miss the soccer game on TV - that makes the difference!
8. Balance the flavors Most Chinese meals incorporate five flavors: sweet, sour, salty, pungent and bitter. Those flavors enter into different organs, which results in less desire for sweets as we know it from Western diets. Even the common craving for chocolate does lose its power here.
9. Eat food, which is "alive" Chinese food is traditionally freshly picked, not processed and conserved. They believe a living organism requires "real" food and not a food substitute.
10. Green is healthy Green tea is the much healthier choice than coffee or black tea. Slightly stimulating with its small caffeine content and full of anti-oxidants, when brewed with not quite-boiling water, it is said that five or more cups per day keeps cancer away.
11. Food is meant to keep you fit Chinese believe that food must ensure to keep disease away, must constantly support health and immunity. Those health boosters are seen in ginger, chillies and garlic in particular. They are delicious and support the body's health.
12. Respect the body's climate The Chinese don't entertain the malpractice of putting icy beverages into their body as so common in the West or steaming hot soup. They prefer in general room temperature and the food is cooked and not raw, therefore warm too - in complete harmony with body temperature.
After experiencing the benefits of such very different, more healthy eating habits and nutrition, I only can encourage you to evaluate carefully the above said. Try to take over as much as you feel comfortable with into your health business (should you have one) and/or private life, which is not difficult as today most supermarkets have an assortment of Chinese food on the shelf. Even better if there is a Chinese store in your area.
Last but not least I invite you to have a look at existing literature and recipes of Chinese diet, which will not only deepen your knowledge of the matter but will allow you to design and cook many healthy Chinese meals for family and friends.The Chinese Diet
Dr Axel Brandt is an entrepreneur and consultant in the health and wellness market since 1992. He designed and managed South Africa's first 5 star holistic wellness center in Cape Town, has written various ebooks and numerous blogs about health and spa business. His blog http://www.startingaspabusiness.com is a good introduction into the health and wellness field.