Food for a Healthy and Happy Life
The full art of Changming is about maintaining perfect health. Perfect health is – simply put - that you never have even a headache, a common cold or a flu. Your eyes shine brightly, your skin is soft and has a beautiful pink colour and your muscles and joints are flexible. You do not suffer from any pains. Your mind is always calm and your emotions are smooth. Under normal circumstances you never feel tired. You never lose your temper, nor do you suffer from anxiety or fears. You're at peace with yourself and the people around you.
Changming* literally means 'long life' or 'longevity' and this tradition of maintaining perfect health dates back as far as 10.000 BC. Changming has been tested and handed down from generation to generation, and it is just one of many health arts known as the Eight Strands of Brocade*. Since around 1.000 BC these arts have been practiced, cultivated and passed on within the Li family. Thanks to the work of Chan Kam Li and Chee Soo these arts were introduced in the West.
Nutritional guidelines form an important part of Changming: What to eat and which foods to stay away from, how to prepare your food, and how to eat and digest your food. The key principles regarding nutrition are:
- Eat only when hungry and not just out of habit.
- Eat with moderation and don't over-eat.
- Chew your food really really well.
- Eat vegetable food that is locally grown and in season.
- Keep your diet simple.
From the perspective of this website – which is about the joy for preparing delicious natural food – you might want to add:
- Make every single meal delicious.
- Get lots of variation in terms of ingredients, flavours and textures.
Ingredients of choice
- Grains such as wheat, rice, oats, spelt, buckwheat, barley, millet, rye and maize, all preferably whole wheat. Use them for breads and pancakes, noodles and pastas, buns and dumplings, pies, cakes and cookies or porridge and breakfast cereals.
- Legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, broad beans, chickpeas, green peas, soybeans, etc. and bean sprouts such as taugé and alfalfa.
- All kinds of vegetables and seaweeds.
- All kinds of herbs.
- Local fruits and berries.
- Dried fruits such as prunes, raisins, currents.
- Tofu (which is made from soymilk), tempeh (basically fermented soy, sometimes with some other grains).
- Roasted and unsalted nuts.
- Eggs, but only use them in cakes or puddings, or serve them scrambled or in omelettes.
- Vegetable oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, or safflower oil and margarine made of these oils.
- Moderate amounts of honey or molasses.
- Sea salt and soy sauce.
- Low fat yoghurts.
- Soymilk and rice milk and occasionally some coconut milk.
- Juices made from local fruits.
- Herbal infusions.
- Chinese teas.
- Coffee-like drinks made from roasted grains and roots.
If you haven't accustomed yourself yet to a vegetable diet, you may at times have a craving for some meat or fish or milk-products. Take your time. Preferably choose from:
- White fish, shrimps or prawns. Try to get fresh ones that haven’t been frozen.
- Lean poultry such as chicken, pigeon, pheasant or turkey, preferably wild or free range.
- Skimmed milk or skimmed milk powder.
- Cottage cheese or feta.
Ingredients best left aside
- Anything made from white flour. It’s such a waste of the goodness contained in whole wheat grains. Eating white flour products is like running your car without oil, which will just ruin the engine.
- Some vegetables also contain toxins you can do without. So rather leave potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, aubergine, spinach or rhubarb aside.
- Meats – and animal fats in general - are very hard to digest. So stay away from pork, beef, veal, mutton, lamb or venison and any lards or extracts or stocks made thereof.
- Fatty fish is also a drain on your digestive system. So best stay away from red or blue fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna.
- Cheese, milk and butter all contain a lot of animal fats and are best left aside.
- Stay away from any chemical and unnatural preservatives, colourings and flavourings.
- Sugar puts a strain on the nervous system, so better keep it out of your diet. Candy in general contains lots of sugar. But even many processed and store-bought savoury food-items contain lots of sugar these days.
- Drugs attack your mental, emotional and physical health. So stay away from alcohol, 'party' drugs, nicotine and tobacco, end even stimulants like chocolate, coffee and black teas.
- Strong spices such as pepper and mustard, and mixtures containing such spices such as curries weaken your energy and are best left aside.
- Try not to use refined salts or rock salt. Why would you bail out on all the goodness you find in sea salt?
- Stay away from acids, as found in vinegar or used in pickles. Tropical fruits also contain lots of acid. Acids harden the muscles and weaken the joints.
- Keep your fluid intake low to moderate. Too much liquid will overwork your bladder and kidneys, and weaken the tissues.
- Avoid fizzy drinks or soda’s. They tend to contain mainly sugar and artificial flavourings.
- All the goodness of eggs is contained in the yolk. Egg white is hard to digest on its own, so stay away from boiled, fried or poached eggs.
- Choose fresh and locally grown vegetables if you can and stay away from any processed foods and pre-cooked foods. Simply use fresh ingredients to make yourself delicious meals.
- Use a large variety of ingredients. Go to different shops every now and then, or try a specialised market. If you see something you don’t know, just get it, try it, and enjoy it. You will not only have the fun and excitement of preparing something new, your body will probably appreciate the unique quality of that particular ingredient. Listen to your body. If you crave for a certain ingredient, your body probably needs it.
- Prepare your food with a feeling of relaxation and exhilaration.
- Wash your food carefully before preparing it. You would be shocked if you knew the amount of insecticides and preservatives that is used in modern agriculture, food transport and retail. If you can, and if you can afford it, get naturally grown food. Using generous amounts of water will rinse of any dirt, and it will remove water soluble chemicals. If you use warm water, you will also get rid of some of the fat soluble chemicals.
- Keep your diet simple. Delicious and healthy food does not necessarily mean it is complex food with lots of different ingredients and elaborate cooking methods.
- Preferably stir-fry, grill, roast, bake or steam your food. Be aware that boiling vegetables not only takes out a lot of the flavour, but also minimises the nutrients. Be aware that deep-frying results in overly fatty food, so it’s best reserved for special occasions. Be aware that raw food is more likely to contain harmful bacteria compared to cooked food.
- Taste, play, try, experiment, vary, learn and improve continuously. If you try something new, you may not get it perfect the very first time. Just learn from the experience and make a mental note of what to do different next time. You will quickly get the hang of it.
- Feel the effect in your body. If it feels heavy on the stomach you have either over eaten, or you have used the wrong ingredients, or you haven’t prepared them properly. It is natural that after your meal, a part of your body’s energy is directed towards digesting the food. But if all your energy is drained after the meal, then either your organs are in bad shape, or, once again, you have used the wrong ingredients, or you haven’t prepared them properly. If you have a bad taste in your mouth the next day, you may be able to pinpoint it to what you were eating the day before.
- Ice-cold foods drain your energy. So they are best reserved for special occasions of left aside completely.
- Preferably serve any drinks after the meal, and not during the meal. This way your saliva can play its natural and crucial role in digesting your food.
For an in-depth look at Changming and the medicinal side of it, please refer to "The Tao of Long Life - The Chinese Art of Ch'ang Ming" by prof. Chee Soo, The Aquarian Press, 1979.
Sons of Reflected Light - Fănguāng Zĭ (反光子) (Wade-Giles: Fankuang Tzu)
Eight Strands of Brocade - Bā Jĭnxiàn (八锦线) (Wade-Giles: Pa Chin Hsien). These health arts include nutrition, herbal therapy, thermogenesis, acupuncture, spot pressing, massage and physical therapy.
Changming or Long Life Diet - Chángmìng (长命) (Wade-Giles: Ch'ang Ming)
A contemporary term for a vegetarian diet generally adopted by Daoists and Buddhists is Zhai-food - Zhāi (斋) (Wade-Giles: Chai)