The Than Hsiang Vegetarian Canteen organised a health talk cum organic set lunch on Saturday, 23 June 2007. The first health talk on organic food was held on 12 May 2007 and it was well received by an audience of about 60 persons. The talk was then given by Dr Lee Her Chin in Mandarin. This time around, Dr. Lee spoke in English.
Dr. Lee Her Chin is no stranger to Than Hsiang Temple. She had given Dharma talks to the senior citizens of Wan Ching Yuen Centre and often comes for organic food lunch at the Canteen. Dr. Lee is a medical practitioner attached to Rumah Hospis, where she is doing great work in caring for the terminally ill cancer patients.
In her talk, Dr. Lee informed that from her 20 years as a medical doctor, she found that 80% of her patients were sick due to an unhealthy diet. She now treats her patients holistically instead of just giving pills to her patients. She said basically, the causes of sickness can be broadly classified as physiological, mental and spiritual.
There is a saying, “Man lives on 1/4 of what he eats and on the other 3/4 lives his doctor.” Dr Lee emphasized that the most obvious cause of any sickness can be traced to the types of food that is consumed. She cautioned that the production of modern food is so infused with artificial and toxic additives, preservatives and chemicals that the consumer's health is at the mercy of these unethical food manufacturers and producers. Consumers would do well to take the initiative to learn more about the types of food they take.
Chinese Physicians have long recognized the close relationship between the emotion and the physical well-being of a person. For example, too much happy feeling affects the heart and a person in an angry mood will harm his kidneys, while sad emotions would cause harm to the lungs and anxiety would lead to problem in the liver. Interestingly, it has been found that an angry mother while breast feeding her infant is unknowingly giving him toxic milk. So we must watch our emotions as it has proven to affect our physical body.
How does spirituality connect to the well-being of a person? When in spite of the precautions of taking the right types of food and maintaining the right frame of mind, one is still burdened with sickness; then a Buddhist will attribute the cause to having planted the seed in a past life to be sick in this life. For a Buddhist, the best guide would be to tread the middle path and avoid extremity in our conduct and to have spiritual faith in the Triple Gems. This would go a long way in removing the physical or mental afflictions.
Dr. Lee explained that organic food is defined as “naturally produced” food that is produced without the input of any synthetic fertilisers, artificial pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic foods exclude meat, milk, egg as well as all types of processed and refined food products, such as white bread and white rice.
Eating organic foods, such as vegetables, fruits, non-GMO grains, beans or sprouts help to raise our immunity, prevent chronic disease, improve our energy level, maintain our body weight, and enhance our longevity in a healthy way. It is important not to over cook organic food so as not to destroy the enzymes, phytochemicals (or phytonutrients), bioflavonoids, carotenoids, chlorophyll, and isoflavones in them. In fact, it is better to eat the fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible.
Red organic food, such as carrots and tomatoes are good for the heart, green vegetables are good for the liver and help to detoxify it, while yellow vegetables and fruits like pumpkins are good for the pancreas. Black organic food such as mushroom is good for the kidney and the reproductive system and white organic food such as white cabbage is good for the lung and improves the lung function.
Organic food then has the natural healing power and this is why a famous doctor, Dr. Henry G Bieler wrote a book, “Food is your best medicine”. This aptly brings out the meaning of the day's topic of lecture namely, healing begins with organic foods. As a matter of fact, our bodies have the ability of self healing, if only we know how to eat correctly.
Dr. Lee also stressed that organic farming is less harmful to the environment and results in less killing of the insects, all of which have a role to play in nature. When asked, Dr. Lee replied that Than Hsiang Vegetarian Canteen is the only place she knows of in Penang to serve cooked organic food. In the short session of question and answers after Dr. Lee's talk, a lady shared her experience of how she finally resolved her long standing problem of gastric pain by taking meat and vegetable or rice and vegetables but not meat and rice together. Following this, all the participants adjourned to enjoy a sumptuous organic lunch.