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Chinese Food Therapy: Nourish Beauty from the Inside
Nourishing Beauty from the “Inside”
I’m Chinese and people have often commented that Asian women stay young looking for a very long time. Whether this is true, I’m not sure, but there are a few things I personally practice based on Eastern medicine such as: eating a healthy diet and staying out of the sun. I’m going to share some general ideas from my culture’s history of food therapy believed to help people stay younger looking.
Rooted in traditional Chinese herbal and food therapy, there is a popular Chinese belief about how to nourish beauty from what you eat（吃出美丽).
Growing up in China, I vividly remember that my grandma would prepare our meals and teach me how black sesame seeds（黑芝麻 in Chinese）can help hair stay thick and dark, how white fungus (银耳) is good to improve skin elasticity and decrease wrinkles, and how ginseng （人参）can revitalize skin and drop away tiredness and stress in the body. Indeed, there are over three hundred herbs that are commonly used in Chinese medicine for the purpose of herbal and food therapy.
Given this idea of food as medicine, there are two the central questions: what foods are most beneficial and how should they be prepared?
In Greater China, the idea of the yin-yang （阴阳）balance dominates the philosophy of what to eat. Foods are classified into yin- enhacing, yang-enhancing, or neutral. Yin-enhancing foods are considered to decrease the body’s metabolism and yang-enhancing foods are believed to raise the metabolism.
For vegetables and fruits, typical yang-enhancing foods include ginger, basil, chives, garlic, onions, ginseng, lotus root, sweet potato, and potatoes. Yin-enhancing foods include bananas, watermelon, sugar cane, cucumber, eggplant, celery, amaranth, spinach, cabbage, green beans, and others, and neutral foods embrace rice, corn, soybeans, black beans, peas, red bean, tomatoes, apple, pumpkin, and mushrooms.
In China, we are guided by two fundamental principles for choosing what to eat:
- To internally amend the yin-yang consumption according to your body’s metabolism level.
- To externally adjust the yin-yang intake with the season and temperature.
For example, in the Chinese food as medicine culture, we believe that over-consuming yang foods could cause rashes, lead to dry hair, wrinkling of the skin, oliguria, and constipation. On the other hand, over-consumption of yin foods could cause one to develop poor blood circulation or to suffer joint, muscle, or other tissue diseases.
Based on the goals, we now have some of idea of what to eat. Ideally, we strive to have a balance between the yin-enhancing foods and the yang-enhancing foods unless we are trying to correct a medical problem. Let’s discuss preparation.
Food Preparation: Beneficial Soups and Teas
Besides eating fresh foods, it is believed that consuming liquid-cooked foods such as congee and soup nourish the body in a way that simply eating the foods or drinking water cannot. For instance, whole grains are considered to have a nutritional value. Why? The belief is that a seed that can grow to a tall tree contains the concentrated essence of life. So we should eat these seeds too! Congee, a type of rice or grain porridge, helps the body absorb and assimilate nutrients quickly and fully.
There is also a long tradition is Asian culture to drink soup as a treatment for illness and to maintain healthy skin. There are many different soups cooked with unique ingredients to treat a specific problem or create a particular effect. Ginseng, white fungus, and red date are some of the most popular ingredients. Ginseng is rich in antioxidants; it can neutralize free radicals that can seriously affect the skin. White fungus contains large amounts of fiber which is essential for the production of new skin cells. Red dates help improve a deficiency of qi and low blood pressure. I drink soups made with these ingredients to help keep my skin healthy.
I also drink different teas, including green tea, flower tea (e.g., jasmine, rose, etc.), and Pu-erh tea (普洱), which are believed to have certain ingredients that have anti-oxidant anti-aging effects.
Note that congee, soup, and tea are all warm foods or drinks, which aid the body in digesting and dissolving fat. It’s a part of Chinese culture to pay attention to the foods I eat and to eat consciously to help nourish my physical body.
Are you ready to nourish your beauty from the “inside”? Learn more about Chinese food therapy and see how you feel!