In Traditional Chinese medicine, we embrace the idea that food promotes health and healing. Breakfast is one of the most significant meals of the day. We have adopted many Eastern traditions into our lives, from yoga classes and feng shui to consulting our acupuncturist for pain and more. The Eastern tradition of using natural foods to promote health and longevity through everyday cooking is equally as important, and should be another part of our healthcare regimes.
Traditional Chinese medicine makes no clear distinction between food and medicine, and the Chinese even say that food and medicine are from the same source (yi shi tong yuan). Chinese medicine holds a great respect for the healing properties of food, and this is used throughout everyday cuisine. We can use food to maximize our well-being and enhance our body’s own natural powers for health, healing, and rejuvenation.
We have an opportunity three times a day to nourish ourselves with healing whole foods. With such a focus on the convenience of food, many don’t sit down for breakfast. Patients often tell us that they grab a yogurt, a smoothie, or buy their breakfast at the coffee shop. They are eating on the run, at their desk at work, or perhaps skipping breakfast altogether. We encourage you to make time for your breakfast, even if this means waking up a little earlier or preparing breakfast the night before. In general when you eat a heartier breakfast, you have more stable energy levels throughout the day, feel more clear-minded and have better focus, and decrease those 3-4 PM sugar cravings.
In Chinese Medicine, we believe that it is especially important that the first meal of the day is a warm meal. It’s not uncommon for patients to have cold frozen smoothies or cold milk poured on boxed breakfast cereal for the first meal of the day. (Typically, boxed breakfast cereal contains highly processed grains, which we don’t recommend. Instead, try to cook whole grains – we’ll tell you how below.) We would like to challenge you to try something warm and nourishing! Here are some healthy, warm breakfast ideas to try – see which meals feel good in your body.
Your choice of steel cut oats, quinoa, amaranth, millet or buckwheat, topped with cinnamon, seasonal cooked or fresh fruit, nuts, grass-fed butter or coconut oil. First soak your grains for 8 hours in water with a tablespoon of yogurt, kefir, or lemon juice, drain, rinse well, add fresh water and cook. The grains will be easier to digest, more nutritious, and will cook up quickly. To save time, you might make a larger batch of cooked grains and simply heat up a serving in the morning.
Ginger and Jujube Porridge
A soothing and delicious congee, often the first solid food fed to babies, and great for anyone in a weakened condition, with an impaired digestive system, reduced appetite, or people with painful menses.
1 one-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
10 dried Chinese red dates, seeded and diced
½ cup ubcooked short-grain rice, rinsed and rained
4-5 cups of water
- Place ginger, red dates, rice, and water in a saucepan and bring to boil
- Lower the heat to low and simmer gently, covered with lid slightly ajar, for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Based on preference – add a pinch of salt or honey, and serve warm
Enhance-the-Qi Mountain Yam Congee
This recipe is a great option for a simple breakfast, and packs all the beneficial effects of Chinese yam. It is great for anyone suffering from poor appetite, fatigue, loose stool, and even diabetes.
½ pound fresh Chinese yam
½ cup uncooked short-grain white rice
4-5 cups water
Condiments: rice vinegar, soy sauce, salt, sesame oil for a savory congee; honey or other natural sweetener for a slightly sweet congee
- Peel the yam and cut lengthwise into halves, then widthwise into ⅛ inch slices
- Combine yam, rice, and water in a medium-size pot and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered with the lid slightly ajar for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add some extra water if you see the congee is too thick or drying out.
- Serve warm, with condiments of your preference.