Anti-aging foods are inexpensive, easy to find
By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
What is cool about being bicultural? I have the best of both Chinese and Western worlds, especially healthy foods.
However, the difference between the East and West in achieving health is distinct. The West focuses on scientific evidence and research. But the Chinese culture believes in what your ancestors have passed on from generation to generation. My late grandmother, mom, and in-laws believed in eating foods for rejuvenation, not just for days, but the whole life. They eat to preserve energy and vitality, and less for external appearance. Their influence has affected my choices and habits of eating.
Western science has inspired my daily food intake to make me feel good physically and mentally, and also gives me strength.
The first thing I take every day on an empty stomach in the morning is what Chinese people call “the legendary magic mushroom,” ling zhi. Mushrooms are an antioxidant, but you have to cook them well before eating. Ling zhi’s origin is linked to a tale of immortality and longevity in China. On Chinese websites, ling zhi is said to increase immunity. No, it hasn’t been proven with scientific experiments.
But naturopaths trained in America have prescribed ling zhi.
In the past, ling zhi were found in the wild in rare places in China’s mountains. So they were expensive. Most Chinese people would boil them into soup. Now, they come in pill form. You can buy them in Chinatown herb stores. Prices are much more reasonable, and they are not hard to grow anymore. People are smart to incorporate agricultural knowledge and germinate them everywhere.
The brand I bought from Hsu’s Ginseng, of Wisconsin, remakes its import of ling zhi from Japan, before it sells them in pills. Many Asians drink ginseng tea. For me, I prefer ling zhi, which revitalizes the body like ginseng.
Exactly what those Chinese herbs can do, none of my elderly could explain their functions to me satisfactorily. “It’s good for you, just eat it,” my late mother usually replied whenever I probed. That’s what grandmother said to her and she would tell me what she learned from her mother.
You have to be patient with Chinese medicine. After taking ling zhi for more than a year, I have discovered that my hay fever has improved. My allergy used to last for six months. Now, it has shortened to three months.
My family also recommended goji berries, but I have not been eating it as often as I like. For instance, when I travel, I would skip the berries. You can boil them in soup or just eat them as snacks.
Water is a beauty aid
Jennifer Lopez shared her one beauty tip when asked on the Dr. Oz show. “Water” is her answer. If you want to have youthful skin, always keep yourself hydrated. Your body will be tense frequently if your body is dehydrated. Water lubricates our skin and flushes out waste. It also nourishes your brain and body. Far better than a diet Coke, water has zero calories. If you are a young parent, train your kids to drink water. They will have fewer health issues as they grow up.
The Japanese diet
Japan has a world record of longevity. They have the oldest men and women in the world, living to their 90s and 100s. Japanese seniors’ diet is simple — veggies, seaweed, and fish. The Japanese diet is low in cholesterol and has no harmful fats. Fish is a rich source of protein and omega 3 fats. It‘s healthy for your brain. Seaweeds are a great source of iron, iodine, and vitamins K and B. I enjoy eating seaweed and fish two to three times a week, especially when it is fresh.
Garlic, green onion, and ginger
Both the East and West have suggested that garlic not only enhances flavors in cooking, they are antioxidants. Garlic, ginger, and green onions are key ingredients in Chinese cooking. I stir-fry, pan-fry, bake, stew, steam, and boil my food with those three ingredients. To increase my garlic consumption, I use garlic powder on practically everything I cook. Don’t buy garlic salt, though. Over consumption of salt can be harmful to your heart, and can cause hypertension.
A few slices of ginger in your cooking helps to cleanse your body and enhance energy. Green onion serves a similar purpose to garlic and ginger. Together, they create wonders in taste and aroma.
I prefer tea to coffee. I used to drink Chinese and English black tea. Black tea stains my teeth, warned my dentist. A few years ago, I restarted my habit of drinking Taiwanese Mountain tea, oolong. You can buy them in Asian grocery stores. My relatives in Taiwan introduced me to Taiwanese tea decades ago.
They would give them to my late mother whenever they visited Hong Kong. My mom, bless her heart, would save them for me whenever I visited her. Now that my mom is gone, I yearn for the fine tea, and remembered my mom’s love for me. Tea contains flavonoids, an ingredient for longevity.
My mother would often shun fats, not knowing our brain actually needs good cholesterol to maintain cognitive functions. American nutritionists and doctors have urged us to eat healthy fats every day.
Just consuming fish often is not sufficient. So I put two drops of extra virgin olive oil on my breakfast egg, as well as my banana for snack.
My other source of fat is avocado, twice a week. Even though each is about 300 calories, its benefits outweigh the harm.
Many longevity studies have highly recommended blueberries. Washington state and Maine are two states famous for the fruit except Maine’s berries are grown wild everywhere, so you don’t have to buy them. A serving of about 30 blueberries will fight aging. Unfortunately, I am not fond of blueberries. So I take two highly-concentrated blueberry pills a day.
Walnuts with prawns are a popular Chinese dish. But if you are serious about the health benefits of walnuts, don’t just eat them when you dine in Chinese restaurants. Eat them raw.
Several studies have found that walnuts are better than other kinds of nuts, such as pecans, almonds, and cashews. With walnuts, you won’t have to worry about constipation.
Every morning, I mix 10 to 12 walnuts with oatmeal and flaxseed powder in my cereal. Learn to love walnut’s natural flavor. It will do your body good. One doctor suggested soaking walnuts in water before eating them. I gave up on the idea after a while, as I have found little difference in taste, function, or texture.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
In general, fruits such as apples, grapes, oranges, papayas, bananas, and watermelons are great for your body as they provide lots of vitamin C and fiber.
I eat vegetables more than meat. They are easy to digest and many are antioxidants. I wouldn’t suggest cutting out meat completely. Meat can provide lots of protein and vitamins. My weekly choice of veggies include bok choy, broccoli, kale, watercress, sweet potatoes, purple yams, and pumpkins. They keep me healthy and energize my mind and body.
There are many kinds of anti-aging foods, such as honey, lemon, red wine, turmeric, bone broth, and juice mixed with celery, applies, carrots, a piece of ginger, and cucumber— I can go on and on. To maximize the effects, you cannot just eat them once in a while, you have to integrate these edibles in your normal life. If not daily, you should at least eat them a few times during the week.
Healthy eating inspires you to form healthy habits. You might not want to eat them for longevity, but if these foods make you feel good and healthy, it’s worth a try.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.