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Sunday, 03 July 2016 00:00

Get Healthy with the Right Diet

Written by  Chin Kee Keu & Foong Lian Chee, KL & Selangor / Translated by Chew Chiau Ping

Dr Zhang’s concept of health restoration through food centred around one’s health. [Photograph by Beh Chun How]

Despite advances in technologies, food safety remains a major concern for the general public. It causes all kinds of illnesses such as cancer, and costs the lives of many. Unhealthy diet and lifestyle are the main culprits, however, medication is not necessarily the best remedy. Dr Zhang Yan from Taiwan emphasized that safety along the food chain could potentially safeguard our health against diseases.


As an old saying goes – disease enters by the mouth, whereas trouble comes out by the mouth. A noted physician from Tang Dynasty, Sun Si Miao advocated the homology between medicine and food, proclaiming that food is the remedy for illness, and medication comes in second. His idea resonated with a famous quote from an ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Nature’s healing forces inhabit each living organism, hence, the right diet can promote the self-healing process.

Plant-based diet promotes one’s health and well-being

Ancient wisdom had long associated nutrition from a plant-based diet with medicinal benefit. Hence, such diet can potentially maintain our health and increase our well-being.

On the evening of July 2, 2014, KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall welcomed 1,200 attendees to the health seminar by Dr Zhang Yan on “Health Restoration through Food”. Due to overwhelming response, another session held on the following afternoon, recorded a combined turnout of 2,218 public members and Tzu Chi volunteers.

Born into a family of doctors in Taiwan, Dr Zhang Yan earned her Bachelor of Medicine from Oxford University, and Master of Pharmacy from the University of Sydney. With substantial clinical experience in modern medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine’s pulse diagnosis, her expertise and knowledge have reached vast audiences.

Dr Zhang’s concept of health restoration is that food centres around one’s health. After years of practising medicine, she realized that unhealthy food is on the rise, hence, the urgency to restore food to its finest form. To achieve that, each checkpoint in the food supply chain is crucial, from sourcing, transportation, to display in shops, before arriving at the consumers. Any mishandling in between could contaminate the food. Once consumed, nutrients from the “healthy” food will initiate cell regeneration and promote healing in damaged organs.

Clean food source provides peace of mind

Master Cheng Yen’s idea of refining environmental conservation from the source had inspired Dr Zhang. She too stressed the need of a clean source to ensure food safety, thus giving the consumer a peace of mind.

Food is no doubt the best medicine, as the right diet can offer significant health benefits. Food that is naturally-sourced and pesticide-free can provide the nutrition we need through simple cooking; conversely, can be detrimental to our health.

Livestock producers routinely give antibiotics to animals to keep them healthy. However, traces of drug would remain in meat from treated animals, posing a risk to human health when consumed. Subsequently, it would re-enter the environment via human waste, causing further contamination.

Besides, patients who love to eat meat tend to recover slower due to thickened arterial walls, whereas those on a plant-based diet tend to recover faster as nutrients are absorbed more easily. However, vegetarian processed foods such as veggie chicken, sausages and others should be avoided as they often contain harmful chemicals and additives, as well as heavy metal toxicity.

Plant-based diet speeds recovery

Most people are unaware of the medicinal benefits observed in a vegetarian diet. Dr Zhang’s sharing managed to convince them otherwise. A diet therapy generally lasts around three months, and its healing effect is evident especially in cancer patients. Therefore, sticking to vegetarian diet do reap major rewards.

Without using a stethoscope, Dr Zhang relies solely on pulse reading to customize a diet therapy according to individual’s condition. No medicine is prescribed and she does it for free. Critically-ill patients often require more persuasion to adopt this new treatment as they tend to agonize over it. By addressing their mental issues first, Dr Zhang managed to convince many to undergo the therapy with positive results.

The audiences also learnt about various success stories through Dr Zhang’s video. There are cases such as arteriosclerosis, cholecystectomy, uterine fibroids, fatty liver disease, herpes, gallstone and others. Dr Zhang would first determine the patient’s absorption ability by taking their pulse.

However, she still stressed the importance of medical treatment, as the diet therapy rich in vegetables and fruits is meant to prevent relapse. Patients have to adhere to vegetarian diet as meats are known to make our body acidic, which is the root cause of many diseases. Unlike meat, vegetables and fruits are mainly alkaline in nature.

Best to avoid genetically modified food (GMO)

Dr Zhang emphasized that the food selection varied among individuals, while genetically modified food should be avoided. For example, the white-flesh dragon fruit also comes in red flesh acquired through genetic engineering techniques, as red-coloured food is known to sell better.

Cold-natured fruit such as watermelon is not without benefit, as it can lower our blood pressure. However, due to its high sugar content, individuals with high cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, or those with kidney and stomach problem should avoid it. Watermelon can be acid-producing, leading to bloating in individuals with stomach problems. Nonetheless, watermelon is good for uremia, but then not for those patients with kidney problems as well.

Selection of vegetables is crucial. Eating the same vegetable up to two or three times a week could hinder metabolism and promote accumulation of toxins. The popular water spinach contains enzymes that can have negative effects on those with arthritis symptoms. While luffa that comes with high water content is good for individuals with a fungal skin infection, it is bad for those suffering from arthritis. All types of fruits and vegetables come with varying benefits, therefore, individuals should choose the right variety accordingly.

Dr Zhang introduced the audiences to fig, a “superfruit” packed with anthocyanins. They grow abundantly in Canada, yet receive little interest from the locals. She even encouraged the audiences to plant it at home. Another fruit with similar benefits is the blueberry, but we should wash it thoroughly before consumption.

Starfruit possesses a considerable amount of fibre and minerals such as beta-carotene, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, potassium, sodium, calcium, vitamin C and so on. It is known to cleanse our lungs, promote the production of urine, control blood pressure, and relieve symptoms of a sore throat. However, those on medication are advised to consume the fruit after a two hours’ gap, whereas individuals with a kidney problem or alcohol poisoning should steer clear of it.

Three ways to boost our immune system

Dr Zhang also cautioned the sequence of food consumption. Examples of toxic food combinations include mushroom and bamboo shoot, eggplant and banana, burdock and spinach. Her sharing was indeed an eye-opener for the audiences.

One should keep in mind that food can be medicine, but not the other way round. Dr Zhang revealed three ways to boost our immune system: well-balanced nutrition, regular workout and good mood.

The length of workout depends on individual’s age and health condition. For instance, a healthy person can exercise for two hours a day, while a sick person should keep it between 30 to 40 minutes, and increase slowly as they recuperate. A quote from Jing Si Aphorism – “practise contentment and gratitude to cultivate blessing; while virtues of understanding and forgiveness eradicate old karma” suggest excellent ways to maintain a good mood.

A volunteer from Puchong, Zhen Jin Huang, attended the health seminar with his wife. A picture showing “food is medicine” left a strong impression on him. He learnt that the choice of food has a profound effect on our body, be it negative or positive.

The fact that our environment and food share a close connection resonated with him. Over-development continues to devastate our ecosystem, polluting the crops we consumed. He wondered when would humans stop destroying the environment as this would do wonders for nature and ourselves.

Treat our environment and body well

After learning about her selfless devotion to patients through the video, Jin Huang applauded Dr Zhang for her benevolent practice of medicine. He quipped about becoming a doctor like her if he was 20 years younger. However, his priority right now is to volunteer actively in Tzu Chi to help others.

Hoping to get more information on ways to treat his wife’s cancer, he bought a book by Dr Zhen titled “Health Restoration through Food”. He hopes to bring her to Taiwan to consult with Dr Zhang’s team soon.

Another volunteer from Sungai Buloh, Yang Jia Bing took by heart, Dr Zhang’s advice on eating a variety of vegetables. Being a vegetarian for years, she now intends to put more thoughts when preparing meals for her family, hoping they would embrace vegetarianism for better health.

Two friends from Balakong, Chen Ya Li and Liang Xin Yuan came together for the seminar. This turned out to be a fruitful experience, particularly the exercise routine demonstrated by Dr Zhang. After learning about the various benefits of a vegetarian diet, they decided to stick to it for good.

The seminar had inspired everyone to re-evaluate their own diet options. True health must come from within, as the human body has the natural ability to self-heal. Therefore, good health will ensue when we eat right. Dr Zhang also reminded those on diet therapy to abide by the restriction, persevere, and eat wisely. Unhealthy foods usually taste great, while healthy foods can taste bland and boring.

Master Cheng Yen once said, “You won’t mind the long journey when you are on the right path; you won’t be beaten by sickness if you eat right!” Dr Zhang also quoted, “Problems will recur if we don’t change the way we eat; but once we change, good health will ensue.”

 

Dr Zhang’s health seminar received a huge turnout of 1,200 Tzu Chi volunteers and public members. She reminded everyone that good health will ensue when we eat right. [Photograph by Choo Kok Choi]   Dr Zhang shared a simple exercise routine with the audiences. [Photograph by Choo Kok Choi]

Dr Zhang’s health seminar received a huge turnout of 1,200 Tzu Chi volunteers and public members. She reminded everyone that good health will ensue when we eat right. [Photograph by Choo Kok Choi]
 
Dr Zhang shared a simple exercise routine with the audiences. [Photograph by Choo Kok Choi]
 
Around 700 copies of Dr Zhang’s new book titled “Health Restoration through Food” were sold out. [Photograph by Choo Kok Choi]   A picture showing “food is medicine” reminded Zhen Jin Huang (right) that our choice of food has profound effect on our body, be it negative or positive. [Photograph by Low Mai Yin]

Around 700 copies of Dr Zhang’s new book titled “Health Restoration through Food” were sold out. [Photograph by Choo Kok Choi]
 
 
A picture showing “food is medicine” reminded Zhen Jin Huang (right) that our choice of food has profound effect on our body, be it negative or positive. [Photograph by Low Mai Yin]
 
A vegetarian, Yang Jia Bing (3rd right) intended to put more thoughts when preparing meals for her family, hoping they would embrace vegetarianism for better health. [Photograph by Low Mai Yin]   Chen Ya Li (right) and Liang Xin Yuan vowed to stick to vegetarian for good after learning about various benefits of the diet. [Photograph by Low Mai Yin]

A vegetarian, Yang Jia Bing (3rd right) intended to put more thoughts when preparing meals for her family, hoping they would embrace vegetarianism for better health. [Photograph by Low Mai Yin]
 
 
Chen Ya Li (right) and Liang Xin Yuan vowed to stick to vegetarian for good after learning about various benefits of the diet. [Photograph by Low Mai Yin]