Diet and nutrition have always been cornerstones of healing in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine. Since the beginning of recorded history, Chinese doctors have observed that it is far easier to prevent disease than it is to cure problems once they occur. Countless studies have confirmed the healing powers of food — ordinary foods that we can eat every day.
In my studies, I found that the centenarians of two longevity capitals — the Japanese island of Okinawa and rural Rugao County north of Shanghai — ate nearly the same diet: sweet potatoes, rice or buckwheat, mushrooms, seaweed, vegetables, a little oil and a small amount of fish. In many Asian countries, we still find grains or noodles along with beautifully presented vegetables as the central feature of meals, with a little fish or meat offered on the side.
Eating like a centenarian means consuming foods for health and nourishment, and not only for pleasure. As Hippocrates, the father of modern western medicine declared, “Let food be your medicine; the best medicine is your food.” As living examples of the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet, these centenarians suffered from very little heart and liver disease and had negligible rates of cancer and degenerative diseases.
Something else that almost all centenarians also had in common is that they were lean. Since many of them were people of modest means, they usually ate sparingly. In addition, some centenarians practiced hara hachi bun, a Confucian teaching that instructs people to eat until they are 80 percent full. Eating small amounts and giving our brains enough time to register the fact that our stomachs are nearly full is a useful practice that we too, can apply.
Centenarians living in rural longevity capitals tended to consume high-quality, locally-grown, locally-produced foods. We can mimic that practice by eating fresh, organically-grown foods when we can, carefully washing foods that are not, and avoiding highly processed and refined foods that are stripped of critical natural nutrients that must be artificially added back in as part of an industrial process.
The diet of centenarians followed the seasons. They were aware that nature has the perfect plan for providing appropriately healthy foods at each time of the year; produce that ripens in the summer tends to be cooling which counteracts the heat of the season while winter foods tend to have a warming effect. And, good news for a healthy earth, we too can eat better and lessen our carbon footprint by doing exactly the same.
May you Live Long, Live Strong and Live Happy!
Dr. Mao’s “Get Your Digestive Juices Flowing” exercise:
About an hour after eating, bend your knees slightly, lean forward and place your hands on your thighs just above the knee. Press down with your hands, exhale deeply and draw in your stomach as tightly as possible at the same time. Holding your breath after full exhalation, use your abdominal muscles to push your belly in and out several times. Then stand up as your inhale, and repeat the cycle for a total of three times.
Originally published at medium.com