Chinese medicine master Jeffrey Yuen’s essential health & beauty diet regimen

betty ming liu Food, Health 46 Comments

Now that the holiday party season is over, I am left with 10 extra pounds of blubber, an itchy scalp, a pasty-pimply complexion and bad breath. There’s only one way to deal with this mess. Gotta return to my good food regimen. That means sticking to a diet created by the rock star of Chinese medicine experts.

This is a timely topic because right now, up to half of all Americans have some type of chronic pre-existing health condition, according to a new federal government study. And that’s just here…our bad eating habits have been exported around the world (McDonald’s, anyone?)

Who is Jeffrey Yuen?

Given our alarming lifestyle trends, I feel an urgency in introducing you to Jeffrey C. Yuen, an 88th generation Daoist priest from the Jade Purity Yellow Emperor Lao Zi School.

Over the years, I’ve taken his classes on Chinese herbs, acupuncture, reflexology, pediatric care and other topics. Along the way, we’ve become buddies. In getting acquainted with his fascinating world, I served a term on the New York State Board for Acupuncture (2002-2007). These days, I see him when he drops by my house to see how I’m doing, have lunch and play with the cats.

Even though Jeffrey is such a special person in my life, I haven’t written about him in more than 15 years. Back then, I did a story on Jeffrey in the New York Daily News. It brought him tons of unwanted phone calls from the media and folks hoping to schedule consultations.

Since he’s not interested in publicity or taking on patients, I felt terrible. But his wisdom is so precious that I’m going to ask a favor of you. In this post, Jeffrey shares his secret to healthy eating. As a thank-you to him, let’s respect his privacy by NOT contacting him.  :)

Let’s leave him alone to pursue his passion: traveling the globe to teach a deeply personal, close-to-nature approach to acupuncture and herbs.

Jeffrey’s students include everyone from conventional Western physicians to acupuncturists and herbalists. If you’re looking for a practitioner trained in his classical approach to Chinese medicine, check out the Jeffrey Yuen Student Directory.

Learning with Jeffrey Yuen

What I like about Jeffrey is that he doesn’t have a Chinese-is-superior mindset. This is an expert who vibes with the essential oils used in aromatherapy (a French tradition). He also often suggests Western vitamin supplements for me.

But Chinese medicine is still at the core of his wisdom, with good reason. Acupuncture offers an amazing way of looking at the human body. In this ancient medical system, each of our organs has energy channels running through the body. A skilled acupuncturist knows how to insert hair-thin needles into key points along these channels to release toxins and stimulate wellness.

Acupunture channels

Herbalists know about these energy channels too and reflect on them as they mix herbal formulas based on dried roots, barks, berries and flowers.

Like all medical fields, Chinese medicine consists of many schools, approaches and factions. Jeffrey is into classical principles compiled through the centuries by earlier Daoist priests (pronounced DOW-ist and sometimes spelled “Taoist”).

Now that you have a little background on Jeffrey and how he thinks, let’s move on to his food philosophy.

We are what we eat

When I met Jeffrey 20 years ago, I was a junk food queen. Since he believes we are what we eat, I could see that my poor eating habits were making me sick.

The first thing I had to do was quit my sugar addiction. Next to go were products made of refined flour — pasta and bread.

For a while, I thought that eating Chinese food was the solution because if it’s Chinese it should be healthy, right? Not. Chinese cooking features its share of deliciously fried, fatty and flour-based dishes that are just plain toxic.

Thanks to Jeffrey, I’m developing a regimen that supports digestion — which is why my allergies — and skin problems associated with allergies have cleared up. The results have so impressed my friends that some of them are trying his dietary guidelines, too.

If you think I look good at age 54, it’s because I’ve been sticking to Jeffrey’s food list. Even when I cheat (like, all the time), the general principles give me a structure to live by.

Of course, I still love me some cakes, cookies and potato chips. But sparingly. Hey, even Jeffrey lets loose on occasion. Once, we went out for lunch and I watched, mesmerized, as he nibbled on french fries.  ;-)

Jeffrey food philosophy is simple: Nourish the body’s blood by eating close to nature.

Beware the four whites

Over the years, I’ve given up:

  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • White flour
  • Cow milk and related cow milk products like cheese and butter

The logic here is that since sugar and white flour are processed foods, they offer zero nutrition. As for cow milk, think about it: Humans are the only mammals who  still consume milk long past infancy.

Comfort foods like ice cream and cheese are too rich for adults, which might have more than a little something to do with our increasing rates of obesity and diabetes.

But Jeffrey’s food list gives us a chance to rethink how we live.

Jeffrey’s food list


  • no white sugar
  • no sugar substitutes, which are heavily processed & even worse than sugar
  • no tropical fruits (mango, pineapple, coconut, oranges, limes, lemons, bananas, papaya, avocado)
  • limited juicy fruits (grapes, watermelons, plums)
  • honey is better than sugar. Honey is also better than maple syrup.
  • no corn because it’s filled with sugar
  • Good to have: apples, pears, Asian pears, blueberries


Flour and carbs:

  • no wheat or pasta made of white flour
  • Okay: limited spelt, which is an ancient, rough grain.
  • Okay: limited potatoes (red potatoes better; they’re less starchy)
  • Okay to have:  rice, oat
  • Good to have: quinoa (high in protein; it’s a seed rather than a grain)


Dairy and fats:

  • Cow milk products are really bad
  • Sheep milk is a little better
  • Peanut & corn oil are terrible. So are peanuts, cashews, pistachios
  • No mayonnaise
  • No fried foods
  • Avoid fermented milk, which is more commonly known as yogurt
  • Okay to have: limited amount of goat milk product
  • Okay: almond milk
  • Okay: tofu/soy once a week
  • Okay: few eggs per week (only two for a petite person like me)
  • Good to have: olive oil, sesame oil
  • Good to have: almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds



  • No luncheon/deli meats because they’re full of salt
  • Limit canned products because they’re full of salt
  • Okay: sea salt, Bragg Amino Acids instead of soy sauce



  • No duck, turkey
  • Okay: limited beef
  • Okay: chicken, lean pork



  • No shellfish with legs (shrimps, lobsters, crabs) because they aggravate skin
  • Limited sushi/raw fish
  • Good: shellfish with no legs (clams, mussels, oysters, scallops)
  • Good: fish (fresh water is better than ocean water fish)



  • No tomatoes, green peppers, eggplants
  • No onions and, definitely no onions in combination with beef
  • Good: all dark, leafy greens
  • Good: root veggies are great (beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, etc.)
  • Good: sweet potatoes, squashes
  • Good: string beans, snow peas, sugar snap peas
  • Okay: limited broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage



  • Okay: limited hummus, chick peas
  • Okay: limited larger beans (eg kidney)
  • Good: small black beans, black-eyed peas, aduki, lentils, mung



  • No hard liquor
  • No soda
  • Limited caffeine, especially coffee
  • Decaf products are worse than caf products because they are more processed
  • Good: LOTS of water, especially half an hour before meals to aid digestion
  • Okay: very little juice
  • Okay: a glass or two of wine per week

Comments 46

  1. You hear this-and-that food are bad all the time. It becomes difficult to believe and remember it all… this post and the health info you provide make it clear and make Jeffrey’s advice seem totally legitimate! I wish I could have the discipline to drop the four whites… I’ll give it a shot.

    Two years ago — when I was a senior in high school — I spent two weeks in China. I lost ten pounds! I just ate lots of rice and veggies and just little tastes of sauce-y meats. I do think running around, sightseeing all day contributed to my weight loss, but Asians definitely follow better diets than the Greek, and Italian cultures of my household. I wish I could avoid the cavatelli, prosciutto, and fresh mozzarella my dad always serves us!

  2. Hi Betty,
    Thanks so much for this resource. This is great for me and my patients; so very concise and right on! I love Jeffrey’s teachings. I have been fortunate to connect with him through one of his long, long time students Steven Alpern, L.Ac.. He articulates Jeffrey’s teachings in a way that makes them very accessible (in my opinion). You can check his teachings (very largely influenced by Jeffrey) at Thanks again for all the great work! BW

    1. Post

      you’re welcome, bill! thanks for the link too. jeffrey basic food regimen is truly a gift for us all. it’s helped me and so many of my friends. :)

  3. Pingback: A delicious recipe for radish greens

  4. Pingback: Breaking up with my bf of 14 months has shown me exactly what I need in a relationship. I also learned how to exit on reasonably good terms.

  5. Hi Betty,
    Thanks for this post.
    I have done some minimal studying with Jeffrey through audio cd’s and have some questions a couple of things you say in your post.
    1) I remember him saying that some sugar is very important in diet, just the right ones and not to excess?
    2) Does avoiding tropical fruit only apply to people living in non-tropical climates?
    3) What does he say about modern soy and the toxic substaces associated with non-fermented soy?
    Thanks in advance and seasonal greetings!

  6. Hi Betty,

    Very interesting post…I had never heard of this Jeffrey Yuen but I have given nutrition a lot of thought in the past couple of years and his conclusions match up almost exactly with my own experience…

    That said, if you are still looking at these comments, I would be very interested to know what Jeffrey thinks of brown vs. white rice…

    I used to eat brown rice but found it too difficult to digest, and yet white rice is almost totally devoid of vitamins and minerals….

    In the past, people used to eat partially-milled brown rice…what does Jeffrey think of whole grains in general and does he recommend certain methods of preparation and cooking?

    1. Post

      Hi Greg,

      Thanks for stopping by! I can’t give you an exact quote on what Jeffrey thinks of white and brown rice. But from what I’ve heard in his classes and based on what he’s told me, I’d say that your views are still very much in sync.

      I’ve heard him say that brown rice is generally too hard to digest. And he’s always suggested limited noshing on white rice. He once told me half a cup every other day should be plenty. White rice is very carb-y in a not-good way.

      Instead, he has recommended quinoa for me. I also eat small beans like lentils, which are on his food list. Cream of buckwheat is my preferred hot cereal based on his teachings.

      Here’s my recipe for cooking quinoa:

      Hope this all helps. If you have more questions, just keep on commenting!

      1. Thanks for replying…that makes sense to me…

        Since I am interested in gaining weight, using an appropriate calorie-dense and nutritious energy staple is really important for me…I tried partially milled brown rice the other day, and while easier to digest that whole sprouted brown rice, it was still more difficult to digest than white rice…

        I tried quinoa, but it is also harder to digest than white rice and does not provide sufficient calories per unit of weight for me…I did some research on what the Incans used to eat, and actually it seems potato and not quinoa was the dietary staple of choice. While fresh potatoes are relatively low in calorie density, Chuno (freeze-dried) potatoes are on the same order of calorie density as white flour, and this apparently formed the bulk of the diet of Quechua indians. Without this freeze-drying process, it is doubtful in my mind that the Incans would have been able to establish such a large and powerful empire both for reasons of 1) food preservation and 2) calorie-density. In order to get 2000 calories a day from fresh potatoes that have been boiled, you have to eat about 5.1 pounds! That’s more than an entire large bag of organic potatoes from Whole foods! However, getting 2000 calories from Chuno Blanco (White dehydrated potato) requires eating only 1.3 pounds, a much more manageable amount, especially if spread out over 2-3 meals. ( Hominy corn made by native americans has about the same calorie density as white flour, but unlike wheat, does not suffer from the obvious disadvantages of gluten…Some websites mention that the Incan army used to eat quinoa, but I believe that would have been while they were deployed because it’s obviously easier to transport and prepare large amounts of dry quinoa than potatoes…

        I agree with pretty much everything Jeffrey put on his food list, but calorie-density is a real issue if you avoid wheat because of the gluten problem, and that includes nearly all bread products, which form the energy staple of western society. White rice actually does not provide enough calories for me as it is…I am having to resort to eating rice noodles to gain weight…That’s what they mostly eat in Southeast Asia btw…I’ve really given this issue a lot of thought, and I actually think humans have evolved to eat tremendous amounts of starch because of our enormous brains…Eating close to nature is very important, but processed starch seems to be a necessity for us individually and as a society…

        1. Post

          Greg, you are in territory way beyond my expertise; I’m not even sure what calorie-density means! Maybe I can ask Jeffrey to address the issue some time. All I can say is that he considers quinoa a better form of carb than either corn or rice. In fact, you will notice that corn is not on his good food list. Good luck though, hope you figure this out in a way that supports your health issues.

          1. Thanks for the reply…

            Calorie density simply means number of calories per unit of weight. Cooked white rice has about 130 calories per 100g, white bread has almost 270 calories per 100g, quinoa has about 120 calories per 100g…

            From this simple comparison, it’s obvious that if Americans stopped eating wheat bread products and switched to eating white rice, they would effectively halve their carbohydrate calorie intake…I think it’s safe to say this would have an appreciable effect on their waistlines…

            The reason I think this is important is because if, like me, you are trying to put on weight, you can only eat a certain volume of food everyday without overly taxing your organs…My theory is that the amount of enzymes secreted by the pancreas is based on volume of food as opposed to weight. So far, I have found that pasta is actually the best way for me to gain weight because it has more easily digestible calories than white rice or other intact grains and it has a lower volume…anyway I know weight gain for skinny guys is not a topic of interest on your blog, but if you ever run into Jeffrey and talk about this stuff, would be interesting to get his take on it…

  7. I forgot to add that while many societies have apparently consumed whole grains (many examples given by the Weston Price foundation), all of them prepared the grains in special ways, using soaking, sprouting, fermentation, pounding, drying, etc. to name a few. The Scots ate dried/fermented oat cakes. The Swiss ate sourdough bread from partially refined rye flour. The Ethiopians ate Injera. Certain African tribes relied on cassava (which took weeks to process). Hominy corn, in addition being nixtamalized, was apparently also fermented. I am not sure how quinoa used to be consumed traditionally, but I would be very surprised if some kind of labor-intensive preparation method was not involved…All of the above methods serve to make a difficult to digest raw material into a nutritious, digestible, and calorie-dense food source that can serve as the energy staple for a large number of people…

    The difference today it seems, is that due to advances in refrigeration, transport, and farming, people eat way more animal products and fat than they used to, and the traditional calorie-dense starch staples of yore have taken a backseat and been relegated to their current status as primarily animal feed…

  8. Betty, thanks for sharing your all of this really good info! But it would be helpful for us to know *why* some of those items (like certain veggies) are on the Bad List. Some of the foods are no brainers as to why they are unhealthy. But what are the harmful effects of these on your list:
    >>No tomatoes, green peppers, eggplants
    >>No onions and, definitely no onions in combination with beef

    1. Post

      James and Dan, one of these days I will see if I can get Jeffrey’s explanation about these issues. Meantime, here is a link to one viewpoint on these particular vegetables, which are known as nightshades. This is a macrobiotic website. If you Google around, you will find there is quite a bit of debate bout the value of these veggies. Happy harvesting!

      And based on my personal experience, I found my digestion and complexion improved tremendously once I cut out tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and onions. These days, I rarely even use scallions. Just the occasional shallot. Another point: Since I’m buying really good quality fresh farm produce, I really don’t feel a need to add many seasonings. Fresh vegetables have a flavor all their own!

  9. Was curious about the statement that Corn is a no-no because it’s filled with sugar, but honey,pears, apples, blueberries are ok, which are certainly also “filled with sugar.”

    I’m also curious about why tomatos (rich in lycopene), green peppers, eggplants are bad for you?? Are these restrictions based on sound science, or just tradition?


  10. I forgot to mention that certain Buddhists, Daoists, etc., limit their intake of onions, leeks, garlic because it is said to “disturb the mind” or, to be more exact “make you horney.” I wonder if this is some carry over tradition?

  11. Thanks Betty, It’s interesting that being over 50 I found that I started to break out alot. When I had a blood test I found that my estrogen level was too high. The doc prescribed me an aromatase/estrogen inhibitor and my skin cleared up within a couple of weeks. Maybe breakouts are hormonal and these vegetables have exert some influence people’s hormones? I won’t limit these vegetables myself. I remember the words of my old gastroenterologist who once told me that he never tells anyone to limit any vegetables because we live in a world where most every person doesn’t eat their minimun daily allowance of vegetables.

    1. Post

      James, I don’t have a scientific answer for you at the moment. But when it comes to food and how we eat, that’s one of the most personal, intimate decisions in the world. What’s important is your freedom to choose!

      As for the lack of veggies in the typical diet, that is so true. You know those big plastic boxes of pre-washed salad greens that the supermarkets are selling these days? I recently took one big box and cooked its contents in a pan, adding just a little olive oil. The whole mess wilted down to barely a 1-cup soup bowl worth of greens, basically one serving of cooked veggies. But if I had tossed a salad with the contents of that box, it would’ve been enough raw salad for at least five or six people!

      Bottom line is that if you’re gonna eat more veggies, the healthiest approach is to get a good mix. And the dark, leafy greens are really important!

  12. Pingback: Gluten-free pasta-making class — photos & review | betty ming liu

  13. Do the leafy greens have to be cooked, or is it okay to have a good wallow in a happy salad?

    Also, what about green tea and water intake? Were there any recommendations on either of those?

    1. Post

      Jeffrey is all about making food as digestible as possible. So gentle cooking is a plus because greens are easier to digest than when they’re raw. According to Chinese herbal medicine, too much raw food makes us “damp.” Think of sludge, rather than fresh water, circulating through the body.

      Water is always the best but Jeffrey likes green tea. I don’t know if there’s a limit, never heard him say anything about that in class. But we can’t go wrong with lots of water and everything else in moderation. Thanks for inquiring!

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

  15. This article is a god-send.

    As a Chinese woman growing up in North America, I struggled greatly with skin, mood, sleep, weight, and digestive issues. I recently switched from a Western health food diet to a Chinese diet because I believe that it was what my genes and digestion understood best.

    On a white-rice, Chinese diet, I felt quite satisfied physically and emotionally, yet I wasn’t seeing the same “beauty results” (i.e. sexy curves, glowing skin, prominent cheekbones) as on my buckwheat, Western-style diet. On a Chinese diet, I noticed that my facial features were less pronounced, and I was pasty, but darn, white rice made me feel soooo good. If I wanted beauty, I would have to return to my Western health diet and not feel good. So what’s a vain, Asian, health-conscious woman to do? Look for the Chinese diet alternative to beauty, of course.

    So glad I found your blog. Yay!!! Now I can have my white rice and enjoy beauty benefits too.

    I would love and greatly appreciate more Chinese food and diet secrets, as I believe we are what we eat and pride myself on being naturally pretty without too much makeup. I’m sure many women reading your blog would benefit from these tips too.

    Thanks so much, Betty, I will be checking back.

    1. Post

      Hannah, Thanks for leaving this comment. Yes, you can have your white rice, but depending on your age, you might need to moderate how much of it you eat. I used to be a two-bowls-of-rice kind of girl. Every meal. Two bowls. But these days, I’m at about half a cup every other day.

      As you point out, culture matters. Here’s another post for you, about why Chinese American women gain weight:

      I also believe that cutting back on sugar is sexy:

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing in the adventure!

          1. Post

            Hannah, whatever works for you is great. And thank you for the link. In terms of me, rice and ancestors, all I can say is that with diabetes running strong in my family, I had to cut back in early 40s. Plus, if my ancestors are the model, they probably ate much less rice because they were poor! Everybody’s different. There’s also a very good book called “Between Heaven and Earth.” It’s one of the best guides to Chinese medicine I’ve ever read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *