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Food as medicine in Viet Nam
Dr Chi Nguyen*
Viet Nam has inherited ancestral knowledge about using food as medicine in close relation to our nature, environment and the seasons.
Our nature is based on two basic principles: the Yin and the Yang, for example during the day we are active and at night we rest. Thus health is a state of equilibrium between the Yin and the Yang.
However, with urban life and its constant stressful stimulation, we forget our true nature and often travel and live far away from our regular environment, whether as a recent arrival or long-term expatriate.
A simple guide is to think about the adage ‘you are what you eat'.
If food is medicine, food can also be the roots of health problems such as atherosclerosis and its well-known causes such as over-consumption of fat from animals, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and lifestyle triggers such as stress, tobacco smoking, hypertension, being overweight, diabetes and thyroid hormone disturbances.
You can easily find lemongrass in Viet Nam, which has these properties for helping digestion and breaking down fat through limonene, and through other components, which also relax muscles, loosening the guts.
To solve intestinal disorders and stomach discomfort, you can eat the delicious pho ga (chicken noodle soup). The broth has spices such as the anis flower, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and which calm the body, reducing the formation of gas in the intestine and easing abdominal contraction which causes pain. If you add herbs such as cilantro, mint leaves and basil to the soup, they can also help digestion.
Other cooling (Yin) and neutral food recipes include steamed tofu with vegetables sauted in olive oil and minced lemon grass, which also gives a delicious lemon taste to food.
Another type of meal to help detox the body is chao dau xanh (rice porridge with mung beans), which creates harmony between Yin and Yang forces. Brown rice is also known as a Yin food and roasted sesame seed as a Yang food.
Wishing you a prosperous year of the dragon with health and joy, while you are in Viet Nam.
*Dr Chi Nguyen is a French-Vietnamese general practitioner in integrative health (combining western and eastern medicine). He used to work as an integrative health specialist at the International SOS clinic in Ha Noi.
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