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Find balance in a yin and yang vegan diet

By Features Reporter

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Chef Ching-He Huang, author of Asian Green.Picture : Tamin Jones/PA
Chef Ching-He Huang, author of Asian Green.Picture : Tamin Jones/PA

Chef Ching-He Huang switched to plant-based eating after seeing how it could dramatically change people’s lives.

Her husband, Jamie Cho, started Huang on a “journey of self discovery”, the 42-year-old chef and presenter explains. Within a month of trying it himself, Cho noticed improvements in his asthma, eczema and psoriasis.

Of course, everyone’s body is different and may react differently – it’s worth checking with a medical professional if you’re considering big diet changes, especially if you have existing health conditions – but for them, Huang says it was “quite a revelation”.

Huang’s personal journey led her to write Asian Green, her first fully vegan cookbook which stays true to her food ethos of getting “maximum flavour with minimum fuss”.

“Being a Chinese chef, we experiment, and being a Chinese food connoisseur you’ve got to try everything,” she confesses.

Huang found plant-based eating aligned well with the Chinese philosophies she’d been brought up on by her family in Southern Taiwan.

“I’ve always believed in ‘you are what you eat’, [and] a balanced diet,” she explains. “I grew up with my parents and my grandparents, and they eat seasonally.

“Think about yin and yang; balancing hot and cooling foods depending on your body, a little bit like the Indian Ayurvedic principle of eating. If you’re tired and stressed, your body’s very yang – if you’re always cold and shivery, then your body’s too yin, you’re having too many yang and fiery foods.”

So how do you balance this yin and yang?

Firstly, Huang says: “You literally just need to listen to your gut” – then you’ll be able to properly judge what your body needs. She remembers her grandmother saying if “you eat too many vegetables, you need to have ginger because vegetables are yin and ginger is very yang – it’s fiery, so it balances your body”.

“On a vegan diet, you need to have more garlic, ginger, chillies – more yang dishes,” she explains. “Mostly, yang ingredients are from meat.” How you cook your meals also plays a part. “Steaming is more yin and stir-frying is more yang,” says Huang. “Overall, we’re trying to create the perfect balance. I think it’s really hard in the modern day to try and create this balance – to even understand it – but I think food is a conduit to that.

“We could be bombarded with all this technology and science, but you actually have to listen to our instincts.”

For Huang, it made sense to adopt a plant-based diet, saying it “aligns with who I am” – and the results make it worth it. Asked how she feels, she says: “Much healthier and lighter, I just have more energy – but obviously everyone should do what’s right for them.”

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