What does it mean to be on the AIP for an Asian? Here’s a tongue-in-cheek look from a Chinese Singaporean point of view:
1) Bone broth rules
Our parents and grandparents knew best when they made us gulp another bowl of clear soup aka bone broth. Some of those herbal concoctions were downright potent…
2) All those ‘odd’ parts of the animals mattered
Chicken feet? Pigs trotters? Intestines? In Asia, nobody blinks an eye at eating such parts. Speaking of eyes, they’re a source of collagen, just sayin’. Also, remember to give those chicken feet a pedicure before cooking, yeah?
3) No more goji berries, noooooo!
While this is a relatively recent health food trend in the west, goji (or wolf) berries have been consumed as part of the Chinese diet for possibly countless millennia. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it’s seen as an eye tonic and incorporated into nourishing bone broths and such. I practically wept when I realised that I had to stop eating them as they are a member of the nightshade family *sniff*…
4) No more beans and soy-based products, nooooo!
Soya sauce is such a basic cooking condiment in Asian cuisine (especially Chinese) that the idea of cooking without it is akin to the concept of cooking sans salt. Thank goodness for coconut aminos, which makes a passable (albeit pricey) substitute. Don’t even talk about fermented bean pastes, it makes me want to weep and salivate at the same time (okay… someone hand me a tissue paper, please).
5) Did someone say no rice?
Tell an average Asian that you’re to stay off all grains (including rice) and chances are you’d be met with a look of incredulity (or insanity?). Maybe with a look of sympathy too. My boys still eat white rice, so whenever I cook rice for them I’d inhale the heady aroma and savour it olfactorily. I think my sense of smell picked up somewhat upon starting AIP. Mmm, rice… (P.S. cauliflower rice is a tasty alternative!)
6) Bye-bye street food
Food is a big deal for many Asians and in Chinese culture, the traditional and respectful manner of greeting is to ask if someone has eaten. Pretty much the equivalent to ‘How are you?’. ‘Cos if you’re hungry, you’re probably hangry, right? So once you’re on the AIP, you’d better be prepared and stock your bag/ work station/ home well with AIP-friendly snacks to prevent hanger strikes. No more strolling down the street to grab a freshly cooked street snack from the friendly corner food seller. I know, it’s a killer. Mourn and move on. Sorry.
7) Hello ‘sinful’ stuff
Much of the mainstream East has adopted the grain-rich low-fat culture just like in the West, and hence foods such as red meat or fatty cuts such as pork belly are seen as ‘sinful’ foods and hence to be eaten sparingly. Growing up, my parents and their parents would cook food in lard. That’s now pretty much replaced by inflammatory industrial seed oils, sadly. The good thing about the AIP is that healthy animal fats are encouraged, so go ahead and indulge in that crunchy home made Sio Bak (roast pork belly) in moderation, of course…
8) Your local vegetable seller just became your new best friend
Continuing from number 7 above, just because meat and animal fat shouldn’t be feared doesn’t give one the ticket to eat bucket loads of it. In fact, your plate should be composed substantially of vegetables (#morevegetablesthanavegetarian – awesome hashtag). Which is great because markets in Asia are usually choke full of fantastic fresh greens and other vegetables. And if you build up a great relationship with your vegetable seller, he/she might just throw in freebies like coriander, scallions and other herbs (Thank you, uncle/ auntie*!). If you’re already eating heaps of vegetables, keep going! (Just keep out the stuff like eggplant/ brinjal, tomatoes, capsicums, chilli as these are nightshades …)
(*term of respect commonly used for elders, including those not related to you. Just don’t use it on your professor or CEO…)
9) Rediscover root vegetables and friends
Speaking of friends… root vegetables and other tubers are often seen as the poorer starchy cousins to the almighty rice for many Asians. Being on the AIP has made me reignite my interest in these humble and under-appreciated vegetables. Cassava, eddoes, taro, sweet potatoes, to name a few… cooked either savoury or sweet style. If you can tolerate starches, experiment! Suddenly rice seems, dare I say it, boring!
10) Slow down that lifestyle!
Many Asians work insanely long hours and with a huge lifestyle change that a healing protocol like the AIP entails, one could wail and go: Who has the time to do all that food prep?! Well, sad to say that you will have to take the time. The food processor is your best buddy in the kitchen (or your domestic helper, lucky you). Maybe it’s not so sad after all, as it’s a great opportunity to halt and rethink one’s lifestyle. Stress and lack of sleep are major contributors to autoimmune disease and we humans are just not built for the modern ‘go go go’ lifestyle from the early wee hours to way past sundown. I should know, I’ve been there before! So grab that blue light blocking glasses, install f.lux on your computer, go for a massage session, move (in moderation), and learn to say no. Self-love and care are very, very, important. Got that, Dora?
Well, that’s it from my experience. Just because it’s written from my point of view doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the same for you, and I’m certain many non-Asians can relate as well! I’m sure I’ve missed many other points! Have you any to share?