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— updated 2001-01-09

Chinese herbal artwork

Diet and nutrition checklists:

Basic food information for healthy eating

Nutrition, diet, healthy foods and preparation methods. Foods and food products no one should ever eat. The common junk foods and food additives listed in step 1 are likely responsible for over 70% of chronic illness in America during the past few decades.

by Roger W. Wicke, Ph.D.

Page contents…

Copyright ©1992-1996 by RMH-Publications Trust; all rights reserved.






General food intake guidelines

So many Americans have poor diets that consist of synthetic and toxic foods that no one should eat, that I've found it necessary to outline foods to be avoided in a compact form. For individuals with particular food sensitivities or constitutional requirements, the table in step 2 is useful. Foods to be recommended may be circled, and foods to be eliminated may be indicated by crossing them out.

There is no one perfect diet for everyone, which is why diet book writers will be busy until the end of time. Requirements vary depending upon daily energy needs due to occupation, climate, season of year; constitutional differences in ability to digest and metabolize; and individual sensitivities to particular foods. Many diets don't work because they are not individually tailored, and they focus on only one aspect of a person's health: i.e., weight-loss, normalizing blood-sugar, lowering blood pressure, etc. Many diets become exercises in self-imposed torture, based on pseudo-scientific reasoning. Vegetarian, macrobiotic, fruitarian, or high-protein diets can be either beneficial or harmful depending upon circumstances.

The most important rules to follow with foods (herbs and supplements, too) are:

  1. If it consistently makes you feel worse, STOP, regardless of how many experts and food gurus recommend it.
  2. If it consistently makes you feel better, then eat moderate amounts as part of a varied diet.
  3. Just because a little may make you feel good, a lot more will not necessarily be better.
  4. You are the only one who can sense from day to day exactly how much is enough; "scientifically" proportioned and measured diets that fail to take into account changing daily circumstances are often disastrous because they fail to include your own senses in the feedback loop.

America has more bizarre "health-food" fads and craziness than anywhere else because we have lost touch with our own sensations, having been trained to rely on television commercials, experts, gurus, and consultants to tell us what we should desire. We forget that such external advice is usually designed to maximize profits rather than our own well-being. Most side-effects from inappropriately chosen diets or herbal supplements could be avoided by paying attention to the many warning signals such as discomfort, pain, or indigestion. Common sense begins with SENSATION. If it feels good, without after-effects and without withdrawal symptoms, then do it. If it doesn't feel good, either at the time or later, then don't do it. Why make life more complicated than necessary?

Speaking of complications, below is a list of socially acceptable poisons, ersatz foods, pseudo-foods, and outright toxic substances that are hidden in food to "improve" appearance, mouth-feel, and addictive potential. They are responsible for an incredible amount of unnecessary suffering and disease. Over the years I've witnessed hundreds of clients improve their health significantly, merely by eliminating the items on this list. In many cases, herbal supplements and even potent medication cannot mask the damage inflicted by these invisible chemical terrorists.

No one should eat any of the items in the following list, because they are harmful to most people, to varying degrees. This list is not exhaustive, because the food industry churns out poison faster than these lists can be updated.


Step 1, Eliminate or minimize harmful foods and substances.

harmful foods or substances recommended substitutes
margarine, Crisco, hydrogenated oil, oil-roasted foods (all of the preceding are major contributing factors to arthritic illness, heart disease and cancer) butter, ghee, mechanically-pressed ("cold-" or expeller-pressed) vegetable oils (best are olive, sesame, almond). Do not cook with vegetable oil. Store in cool, dark place.
fried foods in general Add oil (see above) to foods after they have been cooked or steamed. Occasional sautéed onions or garlic are OK.
artificial colors, preservatives, and/or synthetic ingredients (all of the preceding are major contributing factors to attention deficit disorder in children, as well as numerous other diseases)
white, brown, or "natural" sugar (results in increased incidence of diabetes, "Damp" diseases in TCM) honey (raw uncooked type only), maple syrup, Stevia rebaudiana, anise, fennel. Do not cook or bake with honey; it becomes irritating to mucosal tissue. Stevia is an herbal sugar substitute that helps normalize blood sugar, and is a safer than most synthetic sweeteners.
ordinary table salt with aluminum additives Roasted sea-salt (roast for 30 min. at 375 deg.F and leave the kitchen to avoid chlorine vapors). Miso with active Aspergillus culture (miso promotes beneficial bowel flora, and was used effectively by Japanese after atomic bombing for minimizing radiation damage to digestive tract).
ice cream (besides margarine, is the next worst substance for aggravating arthritis and TCM Phlegm disharmonies)
most commercial dairy products, except for butter (pasteurized and homogenized dairy products in the U.S. are hard to digest and aggravate all types of TCM Phlegm disharmonies) certain soy milks or rice milks (caution: many people have food sensitivities to these products also - a bit of experimentation may be required to find a personally acceptable substitute for milk)
cold-temperature foods in general (digestive enzymes do not work well if stomach fluids are too cool) Foods and drinks should be at least room temperature.
commercial meats with additives that may include hormones, antibiotics, or formaldehyde organically grown beef, lamb, chicken; wild deer, elk, moose. (Commercial lamb is often cleaner chemically than beef or chicken.)
shellfish and non-scaly fishes such as octopus, eels, squid (these seafoods are highly susceptible to bacterial, parasitic, chemical and heavy-metal contamination) fresh-water fish from unpolluted waters, scaly-type sea fish from unpolluted areas (becoming increasingly difficult to find). Inspect all fish for visible parasites; cook or bake thoroughly.
all pork products, ham and bacon (pork products are implicated in a wide variety of illnesses too numerous too list)
hard-boiled or fried eggs soft-boiled or lightly-poached eggs (easier to digest)
commercial spices and herbs from many grocery stores (are usually very old and are irradiated) non-irradiated spices and herbs (available at many health food stores). Fresh spices should smell fragrant, not like powdered dirt. Obtain whole, grind just prior to use.
foods canned in metal containers (acid foods especially may leach out metals from the container lining) foods canned in glass jars
peanuts (tend to be contaminated with harmful molds) almonds and filberts
commercially shelled sunflower seeds (become rancid very rapidly) freshly picked and shelled sunflower seeds ; pumpkin seeds, which are less susceptible to mold and rapid spoilage than shelled sunflower seeds.
yogurt that is not completely soured (susceptible to unhealthy bacterial growth) completely cultured yogurt (it must taste sour to be beneficial and promote healthy intestinal flora) with no additives and made with non-homogenized milk
granola (commercial) toasted with oil Make granola yourself without vegetable oil.
flours of all types Grind grains yourself just prior to use. Flour spoils quickly.
white flour (lacks many of the nutrients that are present in the wheat bran and germ, and most commercial flour is chemically bleached) whole grain flours, ground as needed
baking powder containing aluminum baking powders containing calcium carbonate as the active ingredient. Do not use baking powder in excess, since it may create abnormally alkaline intestinal pH; combine with yogurt to minimize interference with vitamin metabolism.
wheat germ (it spoils rapidly) Use whole wheat, which has not had its germ removed.
moldy or green potatoes fresh potatoes. Cut off all dark, eroded areas before baking.

Step 2, Reduce harmful or addicting substances.

Eliminating addictive habits is greatly eased by turning the TV off (often the greatest addiction of all). (Would you allow crazed maniacs with uncontrollable addictions into your home when you yourself are trying to go clean? Yet that's what people do when they don't exclude Hollywood from their living rooms.) Also, cravings and addictions often come in pairs (coffee and cigarettes, chili peppers and ice cream, coffee and sugar). One member of the pair usually functions as the "upper" and the other as the "downer". Eliminating both, either gradually or cold turkey, is the way to successfully restore your health with the greatest ease.

harmful substances recommended substitutes
tobacco (nicotine interferes with blood circulation, the smoke inflames lung tissue) Burn incense; chew gum. Substitute organically-grown tobacco if you are climbing the walls going cold-turkey; the chemical additives in most commercial cigarettes may be more addictive than the tobacco itself.
alcohol (avoid all clear-distilled liquors, which are clarified with asbestos filters)
drugs of all types except those prescribed by a physician consult with your health care provider
coffee, tea, chocolate (all contain addictive stimulant drugs: caffeine, theobromine, theophylline) roasted chicory or barley; various non-medicinal herbal teas

Step 3, Eat generally acceptable, high-quality foods.

The following list does not take into account possible intolerances or allergies to certain foods or food groups. (Dairy product and wheat intolerances are the most common; other intolerances include those to corn, eggs, nuts and seeds, citrus fruits.) Categories, subcategories, and entries are roughly ordered according to their "density", the densest and most difficult to digest foods listed first, the "lightest" appearing last.

basic food group recommended foods
meats, fish, poultry beef, lamb, wild deer, elk, moose; turkey, duck, goose, chicken, Cornish hens, wild game birds; white tuna, trout, salmon, turbot, halibut, cod, flounder
non-homogenized dairy products butter, cheese, milk, goat's milk, yogurt (sour). A majority of people benefit by eliminating all dairy products (except for butter, which is better than margarine, in moderation).
eggs eggs
nuts and seeds walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, filberts, almonds, pumpkin seeds
beans and bean products black turtle, red, kidney, garbanzo, pinto, aduki, mung, lentil, white navy; soy products (better for Asian people only, who possess the necessary enzymes to digest properly; includes soy milk, tofu)
grains and starches wheat products (includes breads, pastry, pasta, triticale, semolina, couscous, gluten, seitan, spelt, kamut, tabouleh, bulgur), rye, barley, oats, corn, millet, rice, buckwheat (toasted or untoasted), amaranth, quinoa; sweet potatoes and yams, potatoes, arrowroot powder
vegetables starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, pumpkins, winter squashes, peas, corn;

roots: carrots, beets, parsnips, salsify, turnips, kohlrabi;

greens: romaine lettuce, dark-green leaf lettuce, bakchoi, celery;

greens, Cheniopodiaceae family (eat sparingly because of oxalic acid content): beet greens, chard, spinach;

crucifers: cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, mustard greens;

misc.: zucchini, summer squash, string beans, okra, eggplant, green peppers, tomatoes

fruits concentrated-sugar fruits: figs, dates, dried fruit in general, carob, tamarind;

misc.: bananas, pears, grapes, pineapples, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, strawberries, papayas, apples;

citrus: oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes

seasonings culinary herbs and spices, miso, sea salt (roasted), soya bouillon or tamari, tamarind, cured green or black olives, onions, garlic, lemon, lime; apple-cider vinegar; mechanically-pressed sesame, almond and extra-virgin olive oil; baking powder (non-aluminum variety); tomato sauce (canned in glass, no added sugar)

Step 4, Follow basic rules of food combining.

Eat fruits and simple sugars like honey and maple syrup alone, on an empty stomach. Wait several hours before eating anything else. (Exceptions: Apples, as well as using lime or lemon to season other food.). Fruits are absorbed quickly by the digestive tract, but combining them with other foods causes the sugars they contain to ferment within the digestive tract, promoting unhealthy bacterial flora, yeasts, and parasite growth.

Do not eat starches and meats in the same meal, unless you possess an "iron" stomach. (If you do this, it is best to eat meats first, followed by starches, since this optimizes the pH necessary for each in the stomach and duodenum.) For example, combine rice, beans, and vegetables. Do not combine beef and potatoes or rice.

Eat beans and grains or potatoes in a 1:3 ratio. (Less beans, more grains.) This optimizes the proportions of various amino acids needed to rebuild body proteins, and is a ratio followed throughout the world, especially in cultures with low animal protein intake.

For fartless beans: soak beans overnight in warm water with one tbsp. apple cider vinegar. After 8 hours of soaking, drain off vinegar soak water. Add cold water to about 3x level of beans. Add a few tsp. of thyme. Cook twice as long as standard recommendations; i.e., 2 hrs. for lentils, 8 hrs for garbanzos.

Don't eat within several hours of going to bed. At night the body likes to be empty of food. (Late-night eating is a common cause of TCM pattern of Deficiency of Stomach Yin.)


Step 5, Cooking procedures.

Stainless steel (magnetic-type) and Pyrex cookware are the best. Do not use teflon or aluminum pots and utensils. Aluminum reacts with food, especially acid foods, and elemental aluminum will react with digestive enzymes to deactivate them. Chronic aluminum poisoning is also implicated in Alzheimers disease and other degenerative CNS diseases. Teflon is susceptible to release of fluorinated hydrocarbons, especially if it is overheated or damaged.

Best cooking methods: bake, steam, or simmer. High temperatures damage food; avoid frying, stir-frying, barbecue.

Avoid using microwave ovens; each year new evidence is discovered of some new health hazard related to both the direct radiation exposure from them and the consuming of food cooked in microwaves. The chemical structure of the food is altered much more than in conventional cooking, and microwave heating has been shown to change cis-fatty acids to the toxic trans-fatty acid configuration, like those found in margarine.


Step 6, Use moderate amounts of spices and seasonings.

Try using miso or lemon instead of salt.

Experiment with herbs and spices, initially using small amounts. Even common table spices have mild effects if taken regularly (either beneficial or not, depending upon your constitution and the nature of your health imbalances). Simply pay attention to how each spice tastes and how it makes you feel after you eat it, and you will be able to determine which spices benefit you and which are not appropriate for you.

Common herbs and spices: marjoram, savory, basil, oregano, bay leaf, thyme, sage, parsley, garlic, onion, fresh ginger, dry ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, caraway, fennel, aniseed, dill, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, asafetida, cayenne, chili peppers, black pepper, vanilla. Essential oil extracts: orange, lemon, bitter almond, citronella, vanilla.

Use Stevia rebaudiana as an herbal sweetening agent if sugar intake must be limited for health reasons. Experiment with small amounts to determine sweetening level desired.


Step 7, Learn to recognize your individual sensitivities to foods.

Pay attention to which foods make you feel good overall, which don't. In case of suspected food sensitivities you may need an evaluation by a health care professional.


To learn more

  • Recommended reading in health and alternative medicine. Common health concerns, environmental health, diet, nutrition, herbs, and health politics. See especially the section on "Healthy food and food preparation".
  • RMHI's Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences program for health professionals includes a significant emphasis on learning to recognize multiple food sensitivities, teaching people how to improve the quality of their food, and how to tailor food intake to one's body type. We recognize that while herbs are helpful, they are not the sole answer to people's health problems in modern society, and the effective health care provider must be knowledgeable about problems with our food supply, including synthetic ingredients, contaminants, pesticides, genetic engineering, and damaging preparation methods.