AOMA Blog

Summer Cookout at Tara’s House, A TCM Perspective

Posted by Tara Lattimore on Fri, Jul 07, 2017 @ 01:00 PM

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It’s that time of year when family and friends come together to celebrate with a good, old fashioned cookout. The problem is these emotionally nurturing gatherings can often leave one feeling overheated, bloated, and requiring an extra day of recovery.  From a Chinese medicine perspective, many of the foods we eat, coupled with alcohol and the Texas heat, can lead to a toxic buildup of internal heat and dampness which makes us feel heavy, lethargic and vulnerable to getting sick. Luckily, there are simple modifications to classics you can use to naturally balance your menu and your belly. 

watermelon mocktailFull disclaimer: I am a Licensed Acupuncturist and I love having friends and family over. I am not a chef and I am not saying you can’t occasionally indulge in your traditional dietary staples. Sometimes, we let loose by splurging, and if we’re going to do so, the last thing we need to add to the aftermath is guilt. However, I’ve found that over the years, I don’t bounce back from poor lifestyle choices as easily as I used to, and with a little planning, celebration doesn’t have to mean indigestion and pain. So I’m going to invite you into my kitchen and share a few tips and recipes my family and I will be indulging in this year. I will not be writing out exact recipes for the most part because that is not how I cook. I want cooking to be an organic and playful practice that I can do every day with ample wiggle room to experiment.

Hydration

If you are planning to drink soda or alcohol throughout your celebration, it’s good practice to drink enough water to balance out the sugars and toxins. For example, if you drink a glass of water (preferably without ice) for every alcoholic beverage, you’re going to help keep your body hydrated which will lessen that dreaded hangover the next day. If you don’t like plain filtered water, you can prepare a pitcher of cucumber-mint water. It’s so easy and your guests will appreciate it. Simply grab a bunch of mint, chop up cucumbers (I peel mine first but you don’t have to) and pop them in a pitcher of water. I do this the night before and keep it in the fridge so the water has enough time to soak up the flavor. Cucumbers and mint have a naturally cooling effect on the body and the taste is refreshing but not overpowering.

Mocktails & Cocktails

watermelon and lime TCM

We don’t drink sodas in our household so I offer a flavorful alternative for my alcohol-free friends. An old favorite for summer is a watermelon and bitters mocktail. Blend 3 cups of chilled, seedless watermelon chunks with 4 dashes of bitters and the juice from 2 squeezed limes. This will yield 2 servings of a refreshingly balanced and frothy drink. If you want to make this into a cocktail, it pairs well with rum, vodka or gin. You can also run the mixture through a strainer to top off a sparkling brut or Topo Chico.

Burgers

I grew up overseas and I remember learning at a young age that burgers were tied into this idea of being “American.” In fact, my school dedicated one day annually to celebrate the diverse backgrounds of our student body, culminating in a food fair where parents would set up tables and serve dishes from their represented country. The United States table always had watermelon and someone at the grill cooking burgers and hotdogs. I know the origin of the burger is more complex - stemming from Germany for a start - but I admit I still associate it with this country and it is rarely left off our summer cookout menu. 

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This year, we will be having 2 types of burgers: Portobello and chicken. My husband Brian and I try to cater to our guests and their dietary allergies and one of the easiest ways to do that is to keep processed foods to a minimum and utilize a ton of whole foods. If I use something that came from the store packaged in a container, I want there to be roughly fewer than 5 ingredients and I want my guests and I to understand exactly what every ingredient is. For example, the ingredients in most organic bottled mustards are going to be distilled white vinegar, water, mustard seed and some other spices (really easy to make at home, by the way) so I feel comfortable serving that to my loved ones. If it has preservatives or long chemical names that my guests can’t pronounce, I don’t want to risk putting their immune system through the hassle. My personal goal is to have a healthy ratio between foods that are going to make my guests feel great and foods that might cause them discomfort. The lesser the latter, the better!

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Marinate the Portobello burger for a couple of hours in a Ziploc bag with balsamic vinegar and spices of choice – I included my favorites here. If you want to skip this step or you forget to, it’s not necessary but I like how soft and succulent the “patty” becomes. Brush the top of the cap in your marinade and start grilling smooth side down, flipping them as needed and averaging 5 minutes on each side. You can use this in place of a meat patty and unlike many vegetarian burger patties you’ll know exactly what’s in it.

chicken patty-1.pngIn place of a heavy red meat this year, we are choosing local ground chicken. We buy ours from the farmer’s market and 1 pound yields 4 patties. Farmer’s markets are great because you can find out where your food comes from and how the animals are treated. You are also supporting your local community. The spleen and stomach are responsible for digestion in Chinese medicine and they are connected to the Earth element. The less time (and tampering) food spends between the Earth and our mouths, the stronger the connection and the more nourishing. If my “food” spends a long time in a cold factory, it’s not going to have the same type of nutritional or energetic value as something cultivated in Austin by friendly Austinites.

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This burger is easy to make. Simply mix the ingredients together, form 4 patties and place on a medium-high heat grill. For photography purposes, I tried cooking these on a grill pan and they came out just as well as the outside grill. You want to make sure they cook all the way through, about 4-5 minutes. If you are concerned or don’t have a meat thermometer, you can always finish them off in the oven.

I don’t tend to use buns. This is more to avoid processed flours and chemicals that are used to make commercial bread than gluten specifically. In fact, many gluten free breads are filled with so many other products and binders to achieve the look and feel of wheat based bread that you end up with an equally unhealthy food. Again, I want my body to recognize what I’m putting in it so it’s not overwhelmed. To do this, I play with ways to wrap my food using what grows in nature. My favorite is the reliable lettuce wrap. Yes it is messy but what burger isn’t?! It’s also ridiculously delicious. 

lettuceburger-1.pngNow, you might notice a lot of bright colors from the fruits and veggies in these photos. While this is great, you do want to be mindful and not overload your system with too many raw foods as these can tax the digestive system and lead to loose stool if done all the time. It’s all about balance. For example, I don’t consume salads and smoothies daily, especially in the winter months, but they can hit the spot at a hot cookout. My favorite is a combo of baby arugula, chopped tomatoes, watermelon, and strawberries. I blend ripe avocado, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper to make a dressing. I usually use half an avocado and play with the proportions of the other ingredients, tasting until I get a consistency and flavor that I like. My husband likes to use the dressing on his burger while I like using mustard or a homemade pesto (blended basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts and some salt and pepper.)  We will probably also make some baked sweet potato fries on the day of, and you can find many delicious recipes online.

Balance ☯ 

Everyone’s individual relationship with food is sacred and it should shift with the seasons.  Awareness about what you’re eating and how it makes you feel in your environment is a practice I continue to cultivate every day and one I encourage in my patients. Contrarily, we shouldn’t obsess over what we eat or psychologically punish ourselves when we make the occasional toxic choice. I use every splurge as a learning opportunity to gain clarity about how my body and mind are doing and how they adapt. Own the decisions you make, soak up the company of your loved ones on a hot summer day, be curious about your relationship with food and enjoy cooking with ingredients you have a connection with and make you feel good. Above all, be kind to yourself in all ways and you will benefit. Thank you for joining me and my family this holiday. I’d like to end with a Texas proverb from a dear friend: a good pair of cowboy boots can last you your whole life if you treat them well and the same goes for your body. Wishing you and your family a happy (and healthy) summer season!

Tara Lattimore, L.Ac. is the Clinical Operations Manager and Academic Advisor at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. She treats in the South Professional Clinic on Saturdays and Tuesday nights.

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Topics: tcm nutrition

TCM Nutrition - The Nature (Temperature) of Food

Posted by Violet Song on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 @ 02:33 PM

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When we talk about Western nutrition, we generally think about the seven basic nutrients necessary for our body:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Fats
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Fiber
  • Water 

However, when talking about nutrition in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the basic factors of food are separated in a completely different diagram. According to TCM, the properties of food are analyzed as:

  • Nature (temperature)
  • Flavors
  • Moving tendency
  • Functions

Let’s talk about the nature (temperature) of food today. In TCM, a food’s nature is described as hot, warm, neutral, cool, and cold, just like temperature types. But what is meant by the food’s “temperature” in TCM is not the absolute temperature. For example, whether the food is taken out from the refrigerator or kept in a room-temperature cabinet, the same food has the same nature or temperature according to TCM principles. The nature (temperature) of the food depends on the body reaction of those who eat it. For example, warm mint tea can make people “chill out” and feel cooled down, while iced cayenne pepper can still make people feel hot and sweaty. Because of the nature of food, certain foods can be used in TCM dietary therapy to correct imbalances of the human body’s yin and yang. Cold-natured food are used to clear heat from the body, while hot-natured food can be used to strengthen the body’s heating energy, such as yang essence.

Animal food sources are high in protein and fats that can be beneficial for the human body. But different meats have different natures (temperatures) according to TCM:

Meat

Nature (Temperature)

Beef

Neutral, slight warm

Pork

Neutral, slight cool

Chicken

Warm

Duck

Cool

Lamb, mutton

Slight hot

Venison

Hot

In a colder season, warm or hot-natured meats are generally suitable seasonal foods and can bring warmth to the body; for example, mutton or chicken. However, some people have a body constitution characterized by yang deficiency. In the same room temperature, yang-deficient individuals typically feel colder than others, they’re frequently tired, and they tend to easily have indigestion. Some commonly related diseases are hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia. In this type of case, warm-natured foods are recommended, like Lamb Masala: (http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/lamb-masala/7d4dada3-fc97-44db-95c5-e5fe8dbe05b9)

On the other hand, for people who have a heat pattern condition, lamb is not a very suitable choice. Heat conditions can manifest as the person easily feeling hot, desiring cold water, having red burning pimples break out often, etc. In this case, cooler temperature meat is recommended, like Pork Lotus Root soup: (http://thewoksoflife.com/2016/02/lotus-root-pork-soup/)

TCM teachings encourage you to choose foods according to both the nature of the food and your body condition. Many of AOMA’s acupuncturists incorporate TCM diet therapy into their clinical practices and can help you identify your body constitution, as well as create a diet plan individually suited to your symptoms and body condition.

Learn more about TCM nutrition by scheduling a consultation at one of our clinics.

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Topics: nutrition, tcm nutrition

TCM Tips for Back to School

Posted by Qiao Xu on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 @ 01:25 PM

TCM watermelon health for summer

According to the lunar calendar, the hottest days of 2016 will be from July 17 to August 25 – but Texans don’t need that reminder, with triple-digit heat continuing into August. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) emphasizes holistic practice and our connection to the surrounding universe. Seasonal changes have a large impact on our bodies. For the latter part of this hot summer, here are some general tips to maintain the health of you and your families.

First, despite the temptation, try to avoid extreme cold in the form of either icy-cold beverages or gusts of AC. Drinking cold beverages can cause stomach pain and indigestion. Many people do not realize how important their digestive systems are. Chinese medicine emphasizes the stomach as a critical part of your body’s strength -- “Take care of your stomach for the first half of your life, and your stomach will take care of you for the second half,” as a saying goes. Even if you don’t experience any such symptoms now, a little care now goes a long way.

A common TCM recommendation to all patients is that they drink water and other liquids at room temperature or as close to it as is palatable for them. Also take care not to drink too much water at once to avoid shocking your system – instead of chugging your water after a day out, try to drink smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day.

Another side effect of summer comes from artificially cold environments. Be careful not to blast your AC directly on your neck, shoulders, and back, because this can cause muscle spasms or colds, especially if you were sweating beforehand. Overly air-conditioned buildings can even contribute to arthritis. 

Dietary suggestions are a key component of TCM, as different vegetables and fruits have a wide range of actions essential to our health. Since it’s so hot outside, we should try to eat foods that are cooling in nature to reduce the heat in our bodies. For vegetables, this includes cucumbers, avocados, asparagus, spinach, celery, bok choy, mushroom, seaweed, bittermelon, mung bean and mung bean sprouts, radish, dandelion greens, and tomatoes. Recommended fruits include apples, pears, watermelon, bananas, strawberries, grapefruit, and rhubarb.

Given the soaring temperatures and physical activity characteristic of summer, we sweat more than usual and exert greater energy, making it easier to experience fatigue. Some may also find that their appetite is suppressed. To prevent colds and maintain general health, you can drink a glass of lightly salted water (with 1/8 tsp of salt) to help replenish salts and fluids within the body.

Finally, as the kids get ready to go back to school, they may experience excitement or anxiety over the new academic year. A little bit of stress is normal, but if your child cannot overcome this anxiety, then consider seeking professional help. At AOMA, we can use Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture to help with focus and stress reduction.

In addition, there are certain things that can be used to help boost your child’s immune system, apart from a regular schedule, healthy food, and exercise. Chinese medicine emphasizes improving your bodily constitution to prevent catching disease. We can use pediatric tuina massage and herbal medicine to help combat germ exposure. Such treatments can be implemented both before sickness as a preventative measure, or during illness to reduce symptoms.

If you have any questions about these general wellbeing tips, or specific health issues, please feel free to request an appointment in our clinics! Enjoy the rest of summer, and our eventual transition into fall.

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Topics: tcm nutrition, tcm health, heat

Heart and the Emotional Wellbeing in Chinese Medicine

Posted by Xiaotian Shen on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 @ 03:50 PM

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In modern society, an illness is no longer considered just the problems of the physical aspect of the body. Very often, the emotional state of the patient can be a contributing factor, if not the primary cause, of their illness.

Today we typically believe that the brain commands the emotions and mental activities, but in the tradition of Western culture, the true source of our emotions is deeply rooted in the heart. We say “I love you from the bottom of my heart”, “heart bursting with joy”, “heart is full”, “my heart is broken”, instead of saying “I love you with my brain” or “brain wrenching”, etc. On the surface, the heart of the issue seems to be that in the West we think with our brains, feel with our hearts, and go with our guts. But if we look deep into Western traditions, some similar philosophies to Eastern culture can be found. When people say “know by heart”, or “take it to heart”, we put the heart in charge of the conscious and subconscious awareness in the same way Chinese medicine believes; when people say “heart to heart”, “heart of steel” or “heart of gold”, it suggests people still intuitively identify their sense of self with the heart. In Chinese medicine, the Heart governs both the mind and the spirit, and therefore represents a more holistic and less isolated approach.

While there’s a recognition of biofeedback based upon heart-brain connection in both cultures, the difference in Western and Eastern medicine is that Eastern medicine takes the heart-brain connection, and furthermore the heart-body connection, more seriously. Traditional Chinese medicine in particular uses it in a more practical way within everyday diagnosis and treatment instead of treating the body with medicine, treating the mind with science, and treating the spirit with religion - as is commonly done in modern Western society.  

Heart is considered the monarchy organ in Chinese medicine, which means Heart not only dominates the blood circulation of the body, but also guides our consciousness and awareness, memory and intellect, emotions and mental activities. When the Heart is strong, we sleep soundly, think clearly and have a good memory, and we have balanced emotions and consciousness. When there are disorders in the Heart, we might experience memory and concentration deficiencies, poor sleep, moodiness and even madness in some extreme cases. In Traditional Chinese medicine we tend to look at a person as a complete system and treat both the emotions and the physical body. Consequently, when we treat, we treat the whole person and we put our hearts into it.

According to the Eastern ancient medicine, the positive energy of the Heart is essential to the good health of the entire body. In order to cultivate the energy of the Heart, one should focus on maintaining a positive outlook and worrying less, seeking peace and tranquility being driven by compassion instead of desires, keeping a regular sleep and eating schedule, and exploring nature often.

The foods that are good for the heart are usually red, because the Heart is the fire organ according to the five element theory and the color red corresponds to the fire element too. These foods include red berries, tomatoes and watermelon; some red meat also helps to nourish heart blood, but remember another important principle of Eastern medicine: everything in moderation.

Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program Introduction to Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

Topics: tcm nutrition, tcm, tcm health, chinese medicine

Acupuncture and TCM for Weight Loss

Posted by Violet Song on Wed, Jan 06, 2016 @ 11:50 AM

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When it comes to New Year's resolutions, weight loss usually takes the cake as being the most popular area of change people wish to make in their lives. From diet fads and pills to intense workout regimens like Insanity and CrossFit, the various ways to lose weight seem endless. Some even take the Western medical route to "fix" their problem areas, opting for costly and risky surgeries or procedures like Botox or Liposuction. What the average American might not realize is that options in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture are effective and much safer in comparison.

Measuring Obesity

When talking about weight loss, there are two indexes often used for measurement of weight issues:

1. Body Mass Index

In June 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Database on Body Mass Index (BMI) was developed as part of WHO's commitment to implementing the recommendations of the WHO Expert.

BMI = WEIGHT (kg) / HEIGHT (m) × HEIGHT (m)

BMI Categories:

Underweight = <18.5

Normal weight = 18.5–24.9

Overweight = 25–29.9

Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

2. Waist Size

Waist size is the simplest and most common way to measure “abdominal obesity”—the extra fat found around the middle that is an important factor in health, even independent of BMI. It is the circumference of the abdomen, measured at the natural waist (in between the lowest rib and the top of the hip bone), the umbilicus (belly button), or at the narrowest point of the midsection.

Below are the abdominal obesity measurement guidelines for different ethnic groups according to the Harvard School of Public Health:

Country/Ethnic Group

Waist Circumference Cut Points

Europids*

In the USA, the ATP III values

(102 cm male; 88 cm female)

are likely to continue to be used for

clinical purposes

Male: ≥ 94 cm

Female: ≥ 80 cm

South Asians
Based on a Chinese, Malay,

and Asian-Indian population

Male: ≥ 90 cm

Female: ≥ 80 cm

Chinese

Male: ≥ 90 cm

Female: ≥ 80 cm

Japanese**

Male: ≥ 90 cm

Female: ≥ 80 cm

Ethnic South and

Central Americans

Use the South Asian recommendations

until more specific data are available

Sub-Saharan Africans

Use European data until

more specific data are available

Eastern Mediterranean

and Middle East (Arab) populations

Use European data until

more specific data are available

*In future epidemiological studies of populations of Europid origin, prevalence should be given using both European and North American cut points to allow better comparisons.

** Originally, different values were proposed for Japanese people but new data support the use of the values shown above.

How TCM and Acupuncture Can Help 

According to China Knowledge Integrated (CNKI) database in China, there were 74 clinical research papers published between 1994 and 2002 on acupuncture application for weight loss. The effectiveness reached 85%-97%. The acupuncture is targeting both BMI and waist size.

Generally speaking, weight loss acupuncture is used to stimulate the acupoints and meridians. It can help by regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary– adrenal axis and the sympathetic-adrenal medulla systems. Therefore, it accelerates the basal metabolic rate and promotes fat metabolism. When calorie-burning increases, accumulated fat is consumed.

Using acupuncture to regulate and adjust, the human body self-balances. The approach is to stimulate the acupoints in order to strengthen the vital qi (the energetic substance). When the vital qi is strong, pathogenic factors cannot stay in the body. In other words, body fat no longer accumulates.

Benefits of Weight Loss Acupuncture

First, acupuncture can efficiently regulate lipid metabolism. Overweight patients usually have above normal lipid peroxidation. Acupuncture points are used to lower the lipid peroxidation level and accelerate lipid metabolism, thus achieving weight loss.

Second, acupuncture can help correct abnormal food cravings. Acupuncture regulates the nervous system in order to control the excessive gastric acid secretion. After acupuncture, the gastric emptying process slows and food cravings are reduced.

Third, acupuncture can effectively regulate endocrine disorders. Endocrine disorders are often accompanied by weight gain. The most typical endocrine overweight examples are postpartum and menopause related. There are two systems involved: the hypothalamic-pituitary–adrenal axis and the sympathetic-adrenal medulla. Disorders of these two systems are often found in overweight patients.

Besides acupuncture, herbal treatment, dietary regulations, meditation and, most importantly, exercise are all part of a weight loss treatment plan. There are many weight loss methods which we use during clinical practice at AOMA and which your acupuncturist can discuss with you. Acupuncture is a safe choice for weight loss without side effects. The acupuncture treatment regulates the body's internal functions and helps the body return to a normal rate of metabolism. It is not a temporary action, but one that produces long-term benefits.

Request an appointment at the AOMA clinics with Violet Song:

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Download our introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine Nutrition:

Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Nutrition

Topics: tcm nutrition, tcm, weight loss

Winter Recipes for Optimal Health according to Chinese Medicine Nutrition

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, Dec 01, 2014 @ 10:22 AM

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With the gluttony of Thanksgiving behind us and a just few weeks until the next-biggest eating holidays of the year, maybe it is time to give your body what it is yearning for: nourishment. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) nutrition principles, during the winter months our energy begins to move inward. It is a time of quietude and the best season to tonify and store essence internally. We asked two of our esteemed faculty members to share their favorite recipes for the season. We hope you enjoy!

Winter Tonic Oxtail Soup

Dr. Violet Song recommends this Winter Tonic Oxtail Soup. It is warm in nature and is a great kidney yang tonic. It’s a superb dish for the winter season! Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) calls for “Winter Daikon, Summer Ginger.” Winter cold can bring the coagulation of qi flow in the human body. The oxtail can be so much of a tonic that it can be too greasy, but the daikon can move qi and offset this consistency. The soup can be served 1-2 times per week all through the winter.

tcm nutrition daikon

Ingredients:
1 lb oxtail
1 tbsp cooking wine
Water
1 lb daikon radish
Carrots, greens (optional)
Salt
Cilantro as garnish (optional)

Instructions:
1.    Chop the oxtail into 1-inch cubes.
2.    Put the oxtail cubes into pan with 1 tbsp of cooking wine and 1 cup of water. Boil for 5 minutes.
3.    Strain the liquid and use warm water to wash the oxtail cubes.
4.    Put the washed oxtail cubes in a crock pot with plenty of water (more water, more soup) and stew for 3 hours.
5.    Cut the daikon radish into 1-inch cubes. Add the daikon radish to the crock pot with the oxtail and continue to stew for 1 more hour. You may add other vegetables, like carrots and greens, depending on how long they will take to cook.
6.    Add salt to taste. You may garnish with cilantro.

tcm nutrition oxtail soup

Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Nutrition

Ginseng and Walnut Congee

Dr. Grace Tan recommends Ginseng and Walnut Congee for a healthy sweet treat in the wintertime. This rice porridge boosts the qi and warms the kidneys. It also calms the spirit and generates moisture in a typically very dry season. It is not suitable for patients with a cold or fever.

nutrition ginseng

Ingredients:
5g ginseng (approximately 1 inch of the root)
½ cup walnuts
2½ cups rice
Water
¼ cup honey


Instructions:
1.    Soak ginseng in water at room temperature until soft. Cut into small pieces. (5g is a good amount if you are just starting to take ginseng, you can gradually increase amount up to 10 or 15g)
2.    Place first four ingredients in a clay pot and add more water. You can also do this in a crock pot, although if you do it overnight, make sure to add extra water.
3.    Bring the pot to the boil on high heat, then reduce the heat and continue to simmer until the soup thickens.
4.    Add honey and continue to simmer until the soup turns into a paste-like consistency.

tcm nutrition walnut congee

Get more traditional Chinese medicine nutrition tips as well as a recipe for each seaon by downloading our TCM guide to nutrition.

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Topics: nutrition, tcm nutrition, tcm

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