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The Asian Diet: Simple Secrets for Eating Right, Losing Weight, and Being Well

by Jason Bussell MSOM LAc

listed in chinese oriental medicine

[Image: The Asian Diet: Simple Secrets for Eating Right, Losing Weight, and Being Well]

There are two aspects to Chinese Nutrition – the theories about healthy eating which can benefit anybody, and the specifics of food as medicine, used to treat illness. This slim, approachable book is all about the first – it aims to explain the main concepts of healthy eating as understood by Chinese medicine.

The book is divided into small chapters, some only a page or two long, each on a different topic. So there are chapters on 'soups', 'sugar substitutes', 'feeding our children', 'supplements', 'tips for losing weight' and so on. This makes information easy to find, but consequently there is a bit of a lack of flow to the book as a whole.

Some of Bussell's suggestions are at odds with conventional Western nutritional ideas, but are perfectly consistent with Chinese thought. For instance, he advises restricting cold and raw food, and favouring cooked and warm. This is because cold and raw food takes more processing by the body, and uses more Qi to digest. The same goes for rice, where Bussell takes the unusual step of advising white rice over wholegrain. Again, this is because white rice is much easier to digest and so ultimately provides the body with more Qi. This last point may seem unusual to those familiar with western nutritional advice, but reflects Bussell's Chinese training. In China, wholegrain rice is only fed to animals!

And these are not hard and fast rules – following the overall theme of 'balance and moderation' which Bussell advises for all areas of diet, we are recommended to eat mostly cooked warm food, and more white rice than wholegrain, but to ensure that we eat a little of everything, including raw food and wholegrain rice, from time to time. He says 'every food has something that nothing else can give us' and 'too much or too little of any one thing is not a good thing' and so he recommends a far wider variety of foods than most of us are used to.

Again, following the common Chinese view, he goes to lengths to promote green tea drinking, proclaiming it 'the greatest beverage in the world' and claiming that 'quitting smoking and drinking green tea are on the same order of magnitude  in terms of their respective health benefits.' The properties of green tea which elevate it to this status, according to Bussell, are that it is fat-burning, improves bone density and stimulates both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

For each of these suggestions, and the others in the book, plenty of explanation is given as to why, and how it fits in with Chinese thought. He is clearly an experienced practitioner and is used to fielding questions from people who are new to this way of thinking; in this book he answers all the obvious concerns about what at first can appear unusual advice.

The chapters on 'lifestyle' and 'attitudes' may not seem to fit in a book on diet, but Chinese medicine is a holistic system, in which the mental and emotional realms influence and interact with the physical. Bussell uses these chapters to talk a little about how one's attitudes and lifestyle can influence health, using concepts from Buddhist thought.

The final chapter gives a breakdown of the actions and effects of 168 common foods, arranged in alphabetical order. It suffers from the inevitable Chinese bias – including Chinese foods such as musk melon and lotus root, but has no entry for common Western foods like parsnip, broad bean or tuna. Nevertheless, it gives a glimpse into the way that food is seen and understood using the Chinese system – this is the information that practitioners of Chinese Nutrition use to make dietary recommendations. For instance, Lamb is listed as sweet and warm and effects the Spleen and Kidney channels. It boosts the Qi and warms the centre and can be used to treat lower back pain, postpartum chills and abdominal pain.

The main thrust of the information in the book is all about balance, moderation and variety. Bussell uses plenty of analogies and illustrations to explain the dozen or so main points to a healthy diet – cooked food is better than raw, vegetables are better than fruit, simple is better than processed, dairy  isn't so good, and so on.

The tone throughout the book is chatty, informal and colloquial. Absolutely no prior knowledge is assumed. While this certainly stops it from becoming too dry or technical, I found it to be too much, and even slightly patronizing in places.

This is not the most detailed book on Chinese nutrition and diet. Yet it is slim, accessible and reasonably priced. It is clearly not a book aimed at the Chinese health professional, but rather a lay guide. It might suit a complete newcomer to the subject, or someone who wants to know how to improve their diet without having to learn too much theory or work through a larger book.

Further Information

This title is available online from Findhorn Press, Amazon and all good bookstores.  

Neil Kingham
Findhorn Press

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