There is so much information about diet in the news everyday that it can be quite confusing to know what is right for you; these days the controversy is particularly related to carbohydrates – do or don’t?

This is what I learned on my recent trip to China.

The average Chinese person eats about 2 servings of rice or noodles per day – clearly carbohydrates. Yet most of them seem to carry no extra weight.

I believe this is due to a few reasons:
It is very difficult to get sugar or sugary foods and desserts in China. Traditionally, the average Chinese person consumes very little sugar in general. As you might know I have reduced my intake of sugar significantly since my accident, to reduce inflammation in my body, and thereby speeding up the healing process. I do however choose to have sugar on holiday as a treat and so was seeking sugar. A sweet dessert after dinner is so common in the Western world; well the opposite is true for Eastern world. Eastern chefs tend to use a lot more flavour spices and herbs in preparing food and in this affects every taste bud area of your tongue, (sweet, sour, bitter and salty). So the first observation would be that sugar seems to be a big culprit adding to increased weight in Western society. The other observation I made is that the younger generation tends to eat more at the Western food places (that would include Star bucks, McDonalds and KFC – they’re everywhere!) And they are the ones that tend to carry more weight. I didn't observe one older person with extra weight.

The other reason for a better lifestyle is what the average Chinese person drinks. The beverage of choice is either water or tea. No sugar or milk, both which are inflammatory are not added to the tea. In just about every train station, and on every train (we travelled about 3000km on trains) there is free boiling water. People take their own tea leaves and refill their thermal mugs and flasks and drink this throughout the day. We went to a tea garden in Hangzhou and had some tea made from the first picking of the green tea leaves. This is the most sought after as it is the best quality tea. You can use the same tea leaves 5 - 8 times over. I must say this green tea was excellent. Green tea has many health properties. No wonder it was the beverage of choice for the Emperors.

Some of the benefits of green tea include acting as an anti-oxidant (prevents “rust” forming in the body and thereby preventing disease), detoxifies the kidneys, speeds up the metabolism. An interesting fact revealed in some research done about 3 years ago showed having 3 cups of good quality green tea daily can help reduce breast cancer significantly. It has been pointed out as being one of the most significant actions to reduce breast cancer. Also drinking lots of water helps the body work more effectively, as we well know.

The Western lifestyle tends towards the typical cereal breakfast (which by the way is loaded with sugar and very refined carbohydrates) or the typical eggs, toast and bacon. Here are a few examples of the delicious selection in the Eastern lifestyle for breakfast.

Most of you have heard me say that in order to obtain all our nutrients we need 10 servings of vegetables per day. That is right PER day. The easiest way to do this is to consume a vegetable smoothie for breakfast.
As you can see the choice for breakfast in China is vegetables. Maybe it is time to rethink our breakfast routine?

Walking and walking and some more walking. Most people in China rely on public transport. Also the easiest way to travel is with trains and underground to avoid traffic jams. Believe it or not when we arrived in Xian (the place of the Teracotta warriors) at eleven at night we got stuck in 2 traffic jams. This is apparently common. So in order to get to the train stations there is walking involved. If you think of the typical affluent South African - we tend to drive as close as possible to our destination and walk a very small distance to get to the final place we want to be.

What in your exercise routine can help you too move more? For example, choose the furthest parking spot, take stairs rather than the escalators etc. Our time on Yellow Mountain also showed me how the old people stay active. We climbed on average 12 000 steps up the mountain daily. There were many people in their 70's climbing these steps with ease.