Thursday, June 3, 2010

How China Changed My Diet

Rambutan- spiky on the outside, smooth and slick on the inside

Mangosteen - Very tart, sort insides, eggplant colored on the outside

Dragonfruit - Sweet, cooling flesh with creamy texture.
Love the contrasting colors of red against black-speckled white!

The biggest dietary change I ever experienced was moving from Provo, Utah where I attended college, to Hong Kong, China where I volunteered with my church. The food in Utah was heavy, relying mostly on processed foods and dairy. Nearly everything I ate, both socially and when I cooked at home, contained cheese, milk, and probably Campbell’s soup in some form. Yogurt, quesadillas, ice cream, casseroles, cheap Italian food - these were my staples. I was uncomfortable much of the time and would later learn that I had developed lactose intolerance and mild IBS. But that’s another story.

Flash forward to Hong Kong. Rather than doing my shopping at a huge Smith’s supermarket, I ventured to the market when I needed food. The Chinese are obsessive about eating everything fresh, to the point that there are live chickens, fish, and sea creatures displayed proudly in the stalls. These unfortunate creatures will be slaughtered in front of potential buyers. It took me a long time to get over my shock at the visible organs of an open-splayed fish, still jiggling around after being hacked in half. Once the fish stops moving, it’s no longer considered "fresh".

It took me a long time to learn to eat fresh, partly because I had trouble recognizing what I saw as food! Apples and oranges were a distant memory; I discovered the sweet nuances of dragonfruit, dragoneyes, rambutans, lychees, mangosteens, and mini bananas so sweet they were like eating candy for breakfast. The soups that were urged upon us by kind Chinese friends were promised to make our skin beautiful, no matter what ingredients they contained.

Some things I never adapted to - the fatty, cartilege-ridden cuts of meat that the Chinese find superior to our leaner, meat-only versions. Or eating hot foods even in the summer instead of cool, crisp salads (older Chinese people didn't believe raw vegetables to be edible). But my health improved in my time there as I learned the benefits of a diet that is low in dairy and sweets, as well as the importance of keeping it fresh! Now I visit the Chinese markets, hoping I'll strike gold and find some of the fruits or foods I grew to love.


  1. This was such a wonderful story, which I came upon in my search for more information about dragonfruit. I read some of your other posts too, which are both thoughtful & thought-provoking. Thank you for providing the pleasant reading. :)


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