The subject of nutrition…The Yin/Yang Principle, Part 2


Welcome back! Last Thursday, I started reviewing Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford, 1993, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA.  I shall continue here, but not finish because there is too much to cover. I hope that I’ve already convinced you to invest in this informative book!

Part II provides detailed information on the essentials of nutrition. I already summarized the sections on water, oils and fats, sweeteners and salt. There’s more good stuff:

–          Condiments, caffeine and spices:  Warming properties and therapeutic uses of vinegar, pepper and mustard are discussed.  Paul describes why he is not a fan of baking powder, monosodium glutamate (which should be avoided at all times as it is a BAD actor) and caffeine. He brings up good points about the dangerous chemicals used in the production of coffee – poisonous herbicide and pesticide sprays, petroleum-based solvents for decaffeination, and other chemicals in making it instant. He therefore recommends the use of whole, organic coffee beans if one must partake, but also notes the health issues associated with moderate (2 cups/day) and heavy coffee intake. He finishes this section by explaining why he is a big fan of teas and many spices. No ringing endorsements for double lattes here…perhaps organic lattes should be considered a treat and organic green tea the daily ritual.

–          Vitamins and supplements: Paul does not recommend heavy reliance on supplements to compensate for poor dietary practices. Instead he suggests a balanced dietary approach: eliminate negative foods (e.g. intoxicants and chemical ingredients), replace inferior foods (e.g. refined grains with whole grains), supplement deficiency (e.g. using whole foods supplements), and reduce excess conditions (which result from a rich and fatty diet).  He notes that whole food supplements may have merit at times but also includes an explanation of alternative concentrated sources of nutrition (e.g. wild foods, seaweed, etc). All very sensible.

–          Calcium: Paul includes an extensive section on calcium, which I appreciated as a middle-aged dame. I learned something here because it turns out that the conventional wisdom about getting calcium from dairy products and supplements may not be so wise. He talks about the Chinese using calcium supplements like oyster shell for its sedative and cooling value, not for strengthening bones. In fact, alternate approaches are more effective – nurturing the kidneys and eating foods high in calcium and cofactors of calcium metabolism. These cofactors are critical for the absorption of the calcium, and include dietary magnesium, phosphorous, vitamins A, C, and D. He spends several pages going into the science behind calcium metabolism, foods to avoid because they inhibit calcium or contain oxalic acid (which counteracts their ability to supply calcium), foods with high calcium content (spoiler alert: yogurt is 25th on the list), and other ways to increase calcium absorption.  I didn’t know that silica played an important role. Good old SiO2.

–          Green food products: This section is packed with interesting information. Paul spends time discussing chlorophyll – the product of photosynthesis and the substance that makes plants appear green.  He explains the properties and actions of chlorophyll (e.g. purification) and gives many examples of healthy green foods. He also explains that chlorophyll may be able to enrich the blood and treat anemia because the molecular structure of it and hemoglobin (red blood cells) is very similar. The molecules are virtually identical except for their central atom. The center of the chlorophyll molecule is magnesium whereas the center of hemoglobin is iron, which is why chlorophyll is sometimes called “the blood of plant life”. I didn’t know that!

–          Enjoyment of food: Lots of good stuff here, too.  One example is the section on chewing food sufficiently, something we usually don’t think too much about, especially if we are in a hurry to finish a meal. It is an important process as carbohydrate digestion begins in the mouth. Paul explains that whole vegetal foods, especially whole grains, must be mixed with saliva and chewed until liquid to release their full nutritional value. He recommends counting the chewing of each bite 30 – 50 times at the beginning of each meal. I tried this and it feels unnatural as I am apparently not used to chewing sufficiently.  That’s an easy one to change though. Paul also included a very informative section on meal schedules, the optimal times to eat throughout the day, and optimal types of foods for each meal. I thought I had things pretty worked out in this regard, but not so much. Need to eat some different things AND chew them well, apparently. He points out that the liver, in particular, needs to complete numerous subtle metabolic functions between 1am and 3am according to the Chinese clock, unhampered by the early stages of digestive activity. One of these functions is blood purification, which is interrupted and altered when late meals are eaten. So dinner before 7pm, people, and your liver will be very appreciative.

–          Food combinations: Paul gives a good explanation about the importance of food combining, which is generally not taken into consideration in the western diet. One entrée may have proteins, starches, dairy and vegetables, which according to his explanation is a digestive nightmare. The reason for this is that proper and complete assimilation of food is a result of the action of digestive enzymes. Different types of food require their own unique enzymes. When many different ingredients are eaten at the same meal, the body becomes confused and is not able to manufacture all of the necessary enzymes simultaneously. Paul thus presents 3 different types of meal plans, the loosest for the generally healthy person who wants to extract the most nutrition from effective digestion, to the tightest for those who are ill or have digestive issues. This  whole approach makes a lot of sense and is worth considering, especially if you feel bloated and heavy after a complicated meal.

The last two sections are on Fasting and Purification and finally Food for Children. They are also full of good information and I direct you to them if they are topics of interest.

And that brings us to the end of Part II! There are 3 more parts: The Five Element and Organ Systems, Diseases and Their Dietary Treatment, and Recipes and Properties of Vegetal Foods. I will spend another 1 or 2 postings to review those interesting sections.

Until we meet again, I thought I would end with some satire from Jon Stewart. The Daily Show does a great job skewering Monsanto’s business practice of suing small farmers over patent infringements. Kudos to them for shining a bright light on this travesty:—seed-patent-laws?xrs=share_copy

As a Catholic I can appreciate this one from Woody Allen: “Photons have mass? I
didn’t even know they were Catholic.”

Om Shanti Om,



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