Back in 2011, TV presenter and cookery writer Ching-He Huang began to suffer from allergic reactions, weight gain and tiredness.
As a healthy eater with a balanced diet, Taiwanese-born, London-based Huang couldn’t work out the cause of her health problems, and embarked on a diet detox to combat them.
After making changes, ditching processed grub and eating ‘clean’ – fresh greens, salads, soups and fruit –the self-taught chef started to notice an improvement in just two weeks.
“Through a process of elimination, I found out that it wasn’t the actual food or the ingredients I was allergic to, it was what the ingredients were covered or preserved in,” she recalls.
Huang discovered it was sulphites – used as preservatives in the production of some food and drinks– that were giving her the reactions.
“We have more food available [today], but actually, when you break that down, most of it’s not really food. It’s chemicals, it’s processed food, it’s food that can’t be found in its natural form,” she notes.
“Just like the planet, we have our own little ecosystem,” the 36-year-old adds. “I thought, ‘Here I am trying to get people to love Chinese cuisine, but what’s more important is people’s health, and eating for health’, so I decided to clean my own recipes up. Because it starts with you, to share and promote this way of eating that’s more mindful of one’s own health.”
Huang, who moved to the UK with her Chinese parents aged 11, has poured her experience and findings into a book of healthy recipes, called Eat Clean: Wok Yourself To Health.
Dishes in the book include Nourishing Mixed Seafood Miso Broth; Garlic, Basil, Tomato, Aubergine and Soba Noodle, and Smoked Tofu With Dinosaur Kale.
It also contains Huang’s advice on eating clean – from a diet made up of 80% plant-based foods and 20% organic meat, fish, dairy and eggs, to using seasonal products and reducing sugar intake – and her top 20 clean foods, which include garlic, dark leafy greens, avocado and fresh chilli.
Despite her passion for healthy eating, the chef - who studied economics and ran her own food production business before becoming a writer and presenter - confesses she’s “no saint”.
“I have a sweet tooth and that’s been the hardest to curb,” she says with a laugh. “It’s a daily battle, of course it is!”
And while she admits eating clean can be technical and “perhaps makes people think about food in an unsexy way”, Huang says it’s time to face up to what we consume.
“We have to really uncover the best ingredients to sustain our health for the long-term,” she adds.
detox soup - ingredients
1 butternut squash
1tsp crushed dried chilli
1 red onion, finely sliced
600ml vegetable stock
200ml coconut milk
Salt and pepper