Eating Well, Feeling Great!
Woke up on the wrong side of the bed again. Checked my emails and was notified that the 2 books I ordered would be delayed. Squirted toothpaste into the basin instead of onto the toothbrush. Poured out some cereal, opened the fridge, there was no milk. Took 5 minutes to heat up the car before the ice on windscreen melted, and then the bin lorry pulled up and blocked the exit in front of me. I was thinking to myself – it’s gonna be a bad day again!
Had an intensive 8 hours work ahead of me. Good to be productive. As usual, a late afternoon school pick up always ends up sitting in traffic for an hour. Tried to be really patient but couldn’t help a big deep breath - no point being annoyed and grumpy, it wouldn't push the queue forward, would it? Stayed calm and even smiled whilst turning the radio on. Magic happened and it was medicinal chef Dale Pinnock talking about his new book (one of the books I was waiting for) The Power Of Three! What perfect timing to catch his interview on the radio whilst in traffic. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03fyywm)
Dale Pinnock is one of my favourite book writers who highlights the medicinal value of food to build a healthy body. I’m a big believer that your dietary choices can lead to better general health. Dale’s discussion about ‘The Power of Three’ has so many interesting points, aka the 3 pillars that keep the body in optimum balance to achieve good health.
I wasn’t taught in the western world about diet. If I have a theory it will be, just like most of us, the theory that our body reacts to the consumption of certain food. It’s always a combination of preferences – some are more well known goodies and some may be categorized as ‘naughty treats’. But to me, I think as taught by my parents, our body needs ‘balance’ of the “hot and cold’ - not in temperature, but the property of balance like Yin & Yang in the universe. The heating and cooling effect of food can do good or harm to health depending on your own body’s composition of hot and cold properties.
The trigger of minor ailments is always, I believe, a result of upsetting the balance. It’s my experience when too much ‘hot’ food is consumed, I find myself falling ill with a sore throat, and I need to consume some ‘moderate & cooling’ food to get rid of the heat in the body. So instead of taking paracetamol to stop the pain of my sore throat and dry cough, I may choose to have a piece of water-melon to cool down the body-heat. But if the dry cough lingers on with itchiness showing a hint of ‘over-cooling’ symptoms, I may take some honey that has the 'heat' property, to counteract the chill in the body. Having said that, this is the result of trial and error of how certain foods effect my body, and it may not be the same for everyone, as everyone's body is unique. It has a lot to do with how and what we were exposed to over time, and the body changes in different environments to keep us safe.
I remember visiting the allergy clinic in Addenbrookes and I turned out to be highly allergic to some grasses. The consultant, who is of Malaysian origin told me she has the same symptoms – very allergic to certain kind of grass simply because we were not exposed to this grass where we were brought up, nor does this kind of grass exist in the oriental world. And our bodies became highly defensive to it in our first encounter. And instead of totally avoiding it, I just slowly let the body learn that it’s actually not harmful and the histamine will not react too much to bother me – but it takes a long time for the body to recognize and learn the clue. Juicing is one of my favourite ways to expose my body to more exotic plants and to consume different vegetables daily for the body to learn if an ingredient is suitable for me. Some work really well and some, like pineapple and honeydew melon, triggered discomfort on my tongue at first. But slowly I noticed this reaction disappeared after occasionally adding a tiny amount in my juice.
While lots of customers tell us how well they react to certain ingredients and how great they feel after taking raw juice, I must say not all ingredients are suitable for everyone. Ironically one of my best friends who was so tempted to try our raw juice daily simply cannot consume raw vegetables. We use the word ‘allergy’ in the modern world, but again it’s the balance of ‘heat & cold properties’ I reckon – both in food and our body. If we are not used to salad but eat a lot of cooked vegetables instead, raw vegetables can actually trigger body’s histamine to react. Or simply some people tend to have more ‘cold’ properties in their bodies, too much vegetables can upset the stomach.
Another point I agree with Dale is the importance of nutrient-dense food. I’m not a big eater. With limited space in our body, I will feel guilty filling it up with something I don’t need. There are a few dishes and drinks that I normally cook or consume at home regularly with easy-to-obtain ingredients:
1. Seaweed & Salmon: I put these 2 ingredients together because I do sushi a lot. Seaweed is consumed more in Hong Kong and Japan than in Britain, although it’s getting more popular here now. There is more vegetation in the sea than on the dry-land. So my theory is that seaweed is more nutritious than veg from the land. I'm not a big fan of meat and milk, I would rather add seaweed to my diet to supplement calcium, iron and magnesium.
I like my sushi with salmon, which is well-known for its high Omega fatty-acids (it is also highly emphasized in Dale’s discussion about fatty-acid balance) and animal protein and tons of vitamins & minerals.
Salmon rolled with rice in seaweed sheets is particularly simple when you have a rice cooker. Homemade sushi is so easy to make and you can control the amount of rice and fish/veg in each. Children can start rolling sushi together on the dinner table before they can use chopsticks and it’s really fun to ‘make’ dinner together without being surrounded by hot stoves or the oven.
2. Shellfish, Ginger & Spring Onion & Garlic: I listed these ingredients together here because that’s how I cook them – always together. Yes, I’m a fish lover. Out of all beautifully nutritious organisms in the sea, shellfish may be more nutritious than some fish. It's shame that a lot people are allergic to shellfish - you are so lucky if you are not. Shellfish is not only tasty but packed full of other nutrients like vitamin C, B-vitamins, Potassium, selenium & iron, some even have a very high content of zinc, copper and vitamin D. I particularly like prawns, lobsters and crabs.
Getting back to my discussion of heat/cooling properties of food, I have to remind you that onion, garlic and ginger belong to the hot category. Whilst the smell and flavour are difficult to resist, try not to consume too much. If you happen to chew on a few pieces of fresh ginger and garlic on the tender flesh of the lobster meat, have sip of beer to counteract the heat. Yes, beer! Beer is in the cold category. That’s why you may find a few big pints of cold beer on the table during hotpot dinners among the Orientals. It’s a tradition to have it together with meals that have ‘heat’ properties. With the long history of Chinese cuisine, I do see the reason to have counteractive drinks next to a hot dish. Beer on the ready!
3. Spinach: except salad, I particularly like putting broccoli and spinach together when I cook homemade soup.
I was bewildered by Popeye growing big after spinach when I was a kid, but now I finally get it! Although if I was writing the cartoon myself I would definitely let Popeye eat fresh spinach instead of opening the canned ones. I like spinach in salad but my favourite is to stir-fry it with chopped garlic. Those who find it difficult to persuade young ones to eat a lot of veg may like the idea of cooking the whole bunch of 500g of raw spinach which will shrink to 100g after it’s cooked quickly. Even a spoonful of cooked spinach equals the amount of a bowl of raw salad. Easily available, anti-oxidant, fibre and protein rich – what more can you ask for, a simple meal with this sweet flavoured vegetable. Those who like Bridges green juice may have tried lots of spinach in their diet already – the easiest way to consume greens!
4. Chocolate and Berries: It’s well known berries are very high in antioxidants. Yes, chocolate too – or should I say cocoa – is highly dense in nutrients. I’m not talking about those sweetened commercial chocolate bars, but the dark chocolate which can make a lovely low-sugar dessert. The amazing amount of antioxidants can lower blood pressure and improve brain function. Try adding wild berries, especially raspberries, on top of a dark chocolate mousse to give the slightly bitter dark chocolate a refreshing taste. If you don’t feel like chocolate or don’t have time to make a dessert, try a mixed berries juice. If you have some berries in the fridge it just takes 3 minutes to blend the smoothie with banana and / or milk, or blend with fresh apples to make a juice on the go.
Can’t believe it’s time for another school pick up as I write this. It must be the positive thinking making me feel good about today. I still have 5 minutes before getting to the car. Craving a bowl of granola, I pour it and have it ready. Opened the fridge – still no milk but a tub of yogurt and an overripe banana on the table. ‘Even better!’ I told myself and gobbled it up before making a smoothie. Oops no fresh berries and I’ve used up the last banana. Okay, head to the freezer to get a few frozen ones and blended it with 2 apples and a bit of lime juice. The frozen berries actually made the juice remarkably chilling and refreshing.
Door bell rings. Yes, the long-awaited second book arrives. Rush to the car and same old story of being stuck in traffic. The clock hit 16:17 and heard a familiar voice on BBC radio. This time it was Ella Woodward – the interview with Deliciously Ella was on! Yes, I was holding her newly arrived book just before rushing to the car. What perfect timing to stay in the traffic jam. Life couldn’t be happier. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03g4xpy)
I remember a saying I read sometime ago ‘A healthy lifestyle is not just about what you eat, it is also what you consume emotionally, mentally & spiritually’. (www.modernmedicinewoman.com.sg)
And having a positive mind is equally important to create that balance of health. No more waking up on the wrong side of bed, no more moaning about staying longer in traffic. Same incidents same routine, depends on how positive you see it or anticipate it. The difference is how you choose to look at it – yes, we have a choice.
Through writing this little food blog, I suddenly realise, apart from the hot and cold, Yin and Yang, maybe it’s the physical and mental health balance that really matters?