How to make daikon noodles for good health

A Chinese herbal medicine diet that’s good for the health and skin conditions

betty ming liu Health 17 Comments

It’s taken me nearly two decades to come up with a regimen that keeps me feeling strong and energetic. To find my path, years of therapy unburdened my spirit. Holistic health options (see my post on rolfing) and yoga continue to do wonders.

Then there’s my friend, Jeffrey Yuen, the Chinese medicine master.

We met during a very bad stretch in my mid-30s. My physical problems during that period included persistent adult acne, horrible skin rashes and chronic yeast infections. Plus, stubborn allergies had me on the verge of getting shots from my conventional Western doctor. The thought of injections as a lifestyle scared me into looking for alternatives.

In taking classes with Jeffrey, I learned so much about eating healthy. He has gradually transformed me from a junk food-loving, pasta-obsessed, bread basket fiend into a person who still loves that stuff — but eats more often in a way that’s closer to nature.

We are what we eat

Jeffrey believes that we are what we eat. Specific vegetables, fruits, grains and meat each have specific properties that are helpful — or hurtful — in dealing with health issues. For instance, try using a vegetable peeler on a daikon radish to make these veggie “noodles.” Try it, using my post on how to make fat-busting daikon noodles.

How to make daikon noodles for good health

With these kind of nutritious meals, I can fuel my body with the raw materials for building good blood. Good blood, in turn, circulates nourishment throughout my system. If you dine with me on a daily basis, you’re dealing with a person who is on a low-carb, no sugar regimen that features very little meat, no cow milk, no tropical fruit.

Hey, just so you won’t think that I’m not a total kill-joy — if you dine out with me, or I eat at your home, I am an enthusiastic social eater and drinker. Serve me anything. I will savor every bite. Bring the party on!

In order to have the fun times though, my daily routine involves managing the four evil whites so that I can let loose once in a while.

Watch out for the 4 whites

The four white can cause a lot of trouble:

  • sugar
  • white flour
  • cow milk & animal fat
  • salt

The four whites are NOT anywhere close to nature. Sugar and flour are such highly processed items that you can’t really call them nutritional on any level. Sure, food manufacturers try to compensate by pumping vitamins and minerals into the crap they sell. But it’s still crap. (Although, usually very tasty crap, I must admit.)

Cow milk is on this no-no list for one reason. As my herbalist says, humans are the only mammals who insist on having milk when they’re past infancy. That makes ingesting milk and anything made from it — ice cream, cream cheese, cheese, yogurt — a form of not-living-close-to-nature. Milk is just too rich for anyone but babies. (But my herbalist says a little goat milk and goat cheese is okay once in a while.)

Salt can be found in nature but not in the quantities that we consume it. So I go easy on the salt shaker. And if this seasoning is used at all, I stick to its purest form — sea salt has more flavor and health value than the iodized version. It doesn’t cost much more either.

If we spend a moment to reflect on the four whites, there’s an obvious trend. America, which is imploding from obesity and diabetes, is filled with people who are in love, love, love, love with the four whites. When my herbalist put me on this regimen 20 years ago, my friends were incredulous. What could be wrong with milk? Or pasta? Well, these days, I don’t have to explain myself anymore. Everyone gets it.

But one question remains. When I initially began this diet, it felt so un-American. What is a meal without bread, orange juice, potatoes and corn? What the hell is there left to eat?

Quite a lot, actually. Here’s what I do:

Food regimen

  • Quinoa is a high-protein seed that feels like a carb-y grain. Check out my recipes.
  • Lots of root-y veggies like daikon radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, beets, carrots — cooked and raw.
  • Lots of dark, leafy greens.
  • Mineral-packed seaweed in all its forms — wakame, hijiki, you name it.
  • Other greens like string beans and the whole range of Chinese vegetables.
  • Squashes like zucchini, kombucha, butternut, in moderate quanities.
  • Fish a few times a week.
  • Small beans, like lentils, adukis, black-eyed peas.
  • Limited fruit but I still have an apple or pear a day, and blueberries in season.
  • Most nuts are too fatty but almonds and walnuts are key to my diet. So are sesame seeds.
  • I only cook with olive oil. Sesame oil is used for seasoning.
  • Tofu once a week.

Drink regimen

  • Tons of water, at least a quart or two a day.
  • Juices are caloric and most create mucus/phlegm. If they do that to your spit and snot, imagine their impact in turning your blood to sludge. For that reason, tropical fruits are off limits. That’s right, no orange juice!
  • Since caffeine dries out the skin, vanity demands a limit on these beverages. I have very few wrinkles!
  • Limited caffeine…only a few cups of tea a week.
  • Limited alcohol…my herbalist advises only one glass of wine a week.

Meat options

  • Fish, preferably fresh water (trout) or ocean fresh.
  • Shellfish is okay, but only the kinds with no legs (clams, oysters, scallops, mussels).
  • No shellfish with legs (shrimp, lobster, crabs) because they irritate the skin.
  • Chicken.
  • Lean pork.
  • Limited beef.
  • No turkey or duck. In classic Chinese herbal medicine, turkey is considered a “fire” meat that creates excess heat in the body. Duck is considered toxic.
  • Very little sushi; my herbalist says raw fish is too hard to digest.

Food preparation

  • As you’ve probably guessed, fried foods are off-limits.
  • Steaming, cooking in a little water and baking are my main techniques.
  • No microwaving (except in emergencies) because zapping denatures food’s original chemical structure.
  • Leftovers are reheated on the stove.

And what if you cheat?  ;)

If you want to know the truth, I cheat a lot. In fact, more than I probably should. It’s okay, though. What’s important for me is that these principles keep me on track. They form a very supportive structure for my life.

And I still thoroughly enjoy food, maybe more than ever. I love shopping for fresh produce at farmers’ markets. When I go off my diet to dine out with friends, I feast and booze with zest! If they come over for dinner, they can count on a delicious meal that might include noodles and other carb-y treats. But the next morning, I’m back to rummaging around the fridge for leftover quinoa and greens.

This is the first time I’ve ever publicly revealed my diet. I feel very self-conscious about it because in the early days of this adventure, my friends gave me a lot of grief. They thought I’d gone over the edge. Even now, I feel like a fanatic writing all this. But over the years, I’ve seen modern science and new studies gradually come around to acknowledging the value to many things I’m sharing here.

Still, I should post a disclaimer. This regimen is simply what I do. I’m serving it up as food for thought. I didn’t grow up knowing about any of this stuff. My mom was hard-core modern science all the way. Everything I believe now began with taking classes on acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Btw, from  2002 to 2007, I served on the New York State Board for Acupuncture, which regulates both the practice of this science and the licensing of its practitioners. The experience convinced me that more and more, Americans will be hungry for new ways to eat for good health.   :-)

P.S. — If you want to get started in understanding how acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine works, I can recommend a book that completely changed my life. Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield  and Efram Korngold is well-written and absolutely fascinating. The authors do a great job of explaining The Five Element Theory of Chinese medicine. The logic behind the five elements is elegant and breathtaking.

Would love to get your feedback on all this!

Comments 17

  1. Post

    aw, mj, i’m sorry! that’s why i’ve never really talked about my regimen before. i usually get one of two reactions — either total turn-off or total interest. there’s just one more thing i must add…

    this diet solves a lot of problems for me. and yes, I do admit that it was initially depressing to cut out fun foods and things that i loved. but my health issues were more depressing! now i’ve got tons of energy and i can still indulge once in a while.

    i have gone back and tweaked this post several times since the initial posting. but there’s not much i can do to sugar-coat this one, if you’ll excuse the pun. in the past, i have shared this diet privately with friends who were desperate for solutions. and you know what? it works. so i figured it was worth putting the concept out there for everyone!

  2. Post

    and now that i’m in india, you can see why i had to do this post. all i’m doing now is eating rice and yogurt all day long. of course, i’m thoroughly enjoying it.but i am now way beyond my new dietary comfort zone. hmmmm.

  3. Hi Betty,
    I think it’s great that you are exploring and doing it with the person you love–your daughter. Your making memories with her that will last a life-time…no time for men when you’re following your passions and discovering new ones! I’m excited for you! Terry

  4. Always a refreshing read! I like how open you are with your diet and lifestyle and appreciate that you are not cramming it down anyone’s throat. I think your recommendations are easier to take when put that way. Two of my cousins introduced me to TCM 2 years ago and it felt like a miracle for a lot of my issues.
    I have a long way to go in comparison to you. I’ve done a lot of acupuncture and herbal treatments, but I cling to cheese and spices still. Meat isn’t an issue, but spices, oh the spices!

    I never knew that bit you mentioned about turkey.

    I hope you are enjoying India! I am licking my lips when I think of the cuisine.

  5. Post

    thanks terry. thanks skye! and skye, i used to be pretty judgmental and preachy. but that just made everyone around me miserable. i wasn’t too happy either. glad you’re finding tcm (traditional chinese medicine) helpful. and i know what you mean about cheese: i love it too but it doesn’t love me back. i’ll bet when you get rid of the spices you’ll notice huge changes in your system — it’s taken me forever to eat bland but that works too! and you know what else really works? cheating on my diet everyone once in a while!

  6. Having been partially raised by a Chinese Mom (my best friend Emerald’s mother), I personally know much of this to be true. She always used to experiment on me and prevent me from eating stuff, which I hated as a kid. As I grew older, I began to respect and appreciate the wisdom – especially since she always seemed to heal me of various ailments! I deeply respect and adore TCM – two cultures that I would trust with ailing health indeed are Chinese and Jamaican. The above-mentioned foods are the true White Devil, and are not prepared in my house under any circumstances. Preferring poultry and fish/seafood, I’m not a big red meat fan – except for burgers, and I usually crave those mainly when my cycle changes. When I’m not bingeing on fried pastelitos or pints of Haagen-Dazs when I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin (food has always been an emotional Achilles’ Heel for me), I eat pretty much as you do.

    BUT I DRAW THE LINE AT DAIRY, DAMMIT!!! I reF– USE to live in a world without cheese, yogurt, ice cream or kefir!!!

    Oh, and if duck is so toxic, how come all of Chinatown is pushing it like crack or heroin?? *scratching my head*

  7. Hi,
    thanks for the info. I am wondering if you know when is the best time to eat chinese herbs. i mean how long after eating food should i drink dissolved chinese herbs in hot water?


    1. Post

      you’re welcome! but behi, there is no rule on when to take the herbs. you need to ask your herbalist because it all depends on what you’re treating. i’ve had herbs that needed to be taken before meals, between meals, at bedtime, etc.

      as with all medications, this is powerful stuff. and it’s important to get advice from a professional. :)

  8. Pingback: Getting started with Jeffrey Yuen’s approach to Classical Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine | betty ming liu

  9. Pingback: Simple dietary solutions for skin allergies | betty ming liu

  10. Dear Betty. I am wondering why there are so many articles that contradict what you say about Duck meat from a Chinese Medicine perspective. Most of the articles I read say something similar to this excerpt: “According to traditional Chinese Dietary Medicine, Duck meat is neutral in temperature and is therefore suitable for many constitutional types. “

    1. Post

      Doug, over the years, I’ve found that classic Chinese herbal medicine is different from the traditional approach. The classists go their own way on so many food items, especially fatty meats and animal products. As herbalists, they prefer a plant-based diet. Hope this helps!

      1. Sorry. Not really. The articles I was referring to come from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective. I don’t know if that is what you are referring to as classical or not. However you really did not address my question so let me ask in a different way. What evidence can you cite that supports your claim that that duck meat is considered toxic in Chinese medicine?

        1. Post

          Oh, okay. Thanks for explaining. I see what you’re asking now. Actually, TCM and classical medicine are two different schools of thought on Chinese medicine. Since you’re bringing this up, I added the word classic” to the blog post, just to clarify.

          As for duck’s merits or demerits, that discussion is beyond the scope of my blog post. In fact, I have not done any readings on TCM. But I wish you luck in your exploration of this topic. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Interesting about the duck and goose meat. I’ve heard from my parents (Chinese) all my life that it is toxic as well. Some tcm websites say it’s neutral too but I guess lots of diet things have to relate back to your individual body (constitution) and whether you can tolerate it or not… my brother and I both break out in lots of acne if we have too much duck (too much heat). So we can’t really tolerate it… maybe a question to ask my Chinese doctor next time I go for a check up.

  12. Eating a healthy is so important. You wrote such a great article. I supplement my diet with several Chinese Herbal formulas. There are many ways to keep boosting your immune system using ancient Chinese formulas.

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