January 20, 2011

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 C. 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.

Learning with Jeffrey C. 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:

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