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Dao of Eating

by Shihan Mary Bolz
Licensed Acupuncturist
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Master Martial Arts Instructor

“Dao” in Mandarin is a Chinese character that literally is translated into English as path or road. This path or road implies not only the physical road, such as highways and thoroughfares, but the path of life, a way of life, as to how to live to be content, happy and useful to the rest of society and the earth. There are many Dao. Eating is also Dao, the way of eating is important to the way of life. This is because we really do think, act and live according to how we eat. Just as filling up gasoline in an automobile; poor quality fuel affects the everyday functioning and the longevity of the automobile’s useful life.

The old saying when computers were first being used was garbage in, garbage out referring to the resulting data only being as good as the input data. So it is with what we put into our own bodies.

There are four basic foundations of achieving and maintaining good health. These are diet, exercise, adequate rest and relaxation, and a good mental attitude. Chinese medical theory is based on yin and yang. In terms of medicine, yin means substance and yang means function. This is similar to the Western medical dichotomy between form and function. Form and function are interdependent. To sum up the traditional wisdom of Chinese (and Japanese) dietary theory, humans should mostly eat vegetables and grains with small amounts of everything else. We should mostly eat cooked and warm food which is not too sweet, not too greasy or oily, and not too damp. In addition, we should eat moderately and chew well. It is healthful to drink a teacup of warm water or a warm beverage with meals. But it is unhealthy to drink or eat chilled, cold, and frozen drinks and foods with meals. This is because our digestive system runs via heat. Cold and iced substances taken into the stomach shock the internal digestive system and also makes it works excessively to warm up and digest these things. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the stomach is considered a pot in the middle and the spleen is both the fire under this pot and the distillation mechanism to which this pot is attached. Because of the over consumption of cold beverages and food, many Americans have a medical condition known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Spleen Qi (pronounced chee) Deficiency. In other words, most Americans have weak and poorly functioning digestive systems.

Most Americans do not eat enough vegetables or whole grains. Whole grains; not white bread and pasta, not white rice, not cold breakfast cereals; but whole grains that have only been hulled. This means brown rice, whole wheat berries, whole millet, quinoa, teff; whole oat groats, whole barley, etc. Then it must be cooked. To be healthy, the bulk of one’s diet should be composed of complex carbohydrates and vegetables which help people get plenty of fiber, and less animal proteins, refined sugars, oils, and fats. This is very much the traditional diet of all people living in temperate climates the world round. This is also very much like what our great grandparents ate. In Asia, the traditional diet is just that.

Japan and Okinawa have the greatest number of centenarians that are still active and even working to this very day. All of these active and healthy centenarians eat the traditional diet; not the Western diet. As the younger generations in Japan, Okinawa, and China have adopted a more Western diet, rich in animal protein through meat and dairy products and refined sugar products, the rate of degenerative diseases such as heart disease and cancer has gone up greatly. Even in America, one hundred and fifty years ago, most people only ate meat once or twice a week. Mostly they ate grains and vegetables. Because they did not have refrigeration, they ate mostly what was in season and what could be stored in root cellars and through pickling, salting, and drying. Sugar was too expensive for most people to afford more than a tiny bit per year. Likewise, oils and fats were relatively precious commodities and were not eaten in large quantities. Those oils which were available were pressed from flax, hemp, sesame seeds, or were derived from fish oil, lard, and butter. They were not the heavily hydrogenated tropical oils which are so frequently used in commercial food preparation today. It was also a well-known fact of life 150 years ago that rich people who ate too well and exercised too little were more prone to chronic health problems than those who lived a more Spartan and rigorous life. If one looks at the cartoons of the 18th and 19th centuries, one frequently sees the overweight nobleman with the enlarged and gouty toe. Likewise, the Chinese medical classics contain numerous stories of doctors treating rich patients by getting them to do some physical work and to eat simpler, less rich food. Gerontologists today have noted the fact that those ethnic groups who tend to produce a large proportion of centenarians, such as the Georgians, the Hunzakuts, and certain people in the Peruvian Andes; all eat a low animal protein, low fat, and high fiber diet. Diets high in animal protein are hard on the kidneys. In this country, we have a large population of people with kidney diseases and the greatest number of people requiring kidney dialysis than any other country in the world.

The modern Western diet which we take for granted is mostly a product of post World War II advances in technology and transportation. Until after World War II, the lack of mass refrigeration and interstate transportation did not allow for everyone to buy a half gallon of fresh orange juice or apple juice , etc., anytime of the year at an affordable price nor to keep a half gallon of ice cream or frozen yogurt in their home freezer. Special interest advertising has fostered erroneous ideas about the healthfulness of the many new foods. TV commercials, etc. are extolling the healthful benefits of orange juice, milk, meat, instant foods, etc. and it is so common that we seldom remember that these are partisan propaganda bought and paid for by commercial growers who depend upon the sale of their product to turn a profit. The companies who do the processing do even more damage to the food; but claim it is healthier. It is time that the American people of this generation see through this, instead of buying into all that advertising. After all, the modern Western diet is a relatively recent aberration in the history of human diet. It is an experiment which has largely run its course as more and more people as well as governmental agencies come to the conclusion that so much of what we take for granted these days as a normal diet is really not healthy. It has taken a while for the American people to recognize that smoking tobacco is bad for one’s health, now it is time for America to realize that their typical diet is bad for their health. The recent fad about “carbs” being bad for you needs to be understood. What they are talking about is simple sugar and refined grains. The fact is, carbohydrates are the most important and the basis of our energy source. Unrefined grains are complex carbohydrates and are GOOD for you! Complex carbohydrates take a long time for the body to break down into glucose which is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles and used as the fuel that the body can call upon as needed. Refined grains and other simple sugars (like refined cane sugar) do not take long to break down and if not used immediately, the excess energy supply is stored as fat in the body. Even if flour is ground from whole wheat berries and not refined, it should be limited in consumption. That means, instead of eating bread, eat the whole grain. Bread tends to produce dampness and phlegm in the body and stays in the digestive tract because it is sticky. When bread is eaten, the best is made from whole grain naturally fermented, not made with yeast. Modern yeast used in the making of bread is also unhealthy and creates bloating and digestive problems.

Let’s talk about what you, yourself can do to start on the road to health right now. Clean out your cupboard and refrigerator. Get rid of all that is packaged which has artificial ingredients, refined ingredients, sugar and preservatives. Get rid of any canned and frozen food. Start stocking your refrigerator with fresh, organically-grown vegetables and some fruits. Learn how to cook! Cooking is an art and activity that is required for good health. Stock your pantry and refrigerator with whole grains stored in jars or crocks.

Consider cooking one of the most popular staple grains on this earth: rice. Use only unrefined, whole, and preferably, organically grown brown rice. Short grain is more energizing. One of the best ways to cook brown rice is in a pressure cooker. It takes a little over one hour to cook. This rice tastes the richest, softest, and is the most flavorful. Remember to chew well. Good chewing is 100 times per mouthful, acceptable is 50 times per mouthful, and best is 200 times per mouthful. (Yes, difficult, so start with 50!) Here is a recipe for pressure cooked brown rice…….happy chewing!

Delicious Pressure-cooked Brown Rice
For every cup of brown rice, use 1 1/4 cup of water. Depends on the rice crop, though, could be 1 1/8 cup of water or 1 1/2 cup of water. Short grain brown rice recommended.

  • Wash rice
  • Put the water and rice in the pressure cooker
  • Leave lid open.
  • Put flame on medium to low
  • Let sit on this heat for 20 minutes
  • Add good quality, real sea salt and 1 pinch per cup of rice
  • Put lid on pressure cooker
  • Bring to pressure.

Cook on a very low flame or low, low electric heat, as low as you can get it without the pressure going down, to avoid burning the bottom. You may need a flame deflector under the pressure cooker, especially if you have an electric stove. Cook under pressure for 45 minutes. Shut off heat and let the pressure come down naturally. After pressure comes down, it’s ready! **Note: For extra delicious rice and sure never to burn, use a clay pot with a lid inside of the pressure cooker. Follow same recipe as above, put inside of clay pot and cover with lid. Then you need about 4 cups of water in the pressure cooker itself and follow all of above directions. Sure to please!

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