For most cultures across the globe, there are beauty constants such as clear skin, bright eyes, and shiny hair. Like calmness and strength, these outward features are universally attractive. While we work towards these qualities with regimens that may include exercise, meditation, or even using a nice shampoo, the foods we eat are key to achieving inner and outer beauty.
In traditional Chinese medicine, foods are prescribed for their effects on organs, blood, yin, yang, and Qi, the major players in our physical and emotional health. Foods such as rice, seaweed, sweet potatoes, and bananas nourish our yin, which in turn hydrates and nourishes organs. Think of a parched plant; after a good watering it becomes more tumescent. Eating yin-enhancing foods nourishes the body in a way that simple drinking water cannot.
Sweet black rice, when cooked with longan berries (euphoria longana) and Chinese dates, becomes a congee that nourishes blood and Qi. In the Chinese system of food cures, these three foods work together to enhance beauty and longevity.
- The sweet rice promotes the flow of liver Qi, which helps keep angry feelings at bay and leads to calmness.
- The Chinese dates (different from the Mediterranean variety) nourish blood and spleen, promoting restful sleep and mental clarity.
- Longan fruit, a blood enhancer, was used by the ancients to add luster to the skin. From a Western perspective, we know that longans contain large amounts of Vitamin C and phenolic compounds, which may help to detoxify and protect the liver.
Jane Gleeson, RN, L.Ac., often recommends this sweet rice congee to patients who want to enhance their fertility. After a few weeks they often report feeling and looking better, too, she says. She advises her patients not to eat too much at one sitting, but to eat small amounts regularly over time to maximize the benefit.
Sweet Rice Congee
(Taken from Ancient Healing for Modern Women, by Dr. Xiolan Zhao, C.M.D.)
1 cup black sweet rice (wash before using)
cup dried longan fruit
10 Chinese dates
2 tablespoons raw sugar
inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
In a large heavy saucepan, add 6 cups of water, black sweet rice, longan fruit, dates, and raw sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with ginger. Makes four servings.
Note: All ingredients are available at most Asian grocery stores.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Lynch is a Chicago-based photographer and writer who focuses on food, cooking, and health.