Chinese Food Therapy

Chinese food therapy or nutrition therapy is an ancient practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine that relies mainly on the consumption of natural foods to heal the body. In Western countries, physicians generally regard dietary changes as an important part of medical treatment but not the primary cure to most diseases. Traditional Chinese Medicine views the nature and functions of the human body in a unique way, even how diseases manifest and how they are treated.

Chinese Medicine believes that illnesses can be treated by eating specific combination of foods and in a certain amount instead of taking medicines. Chinese food therapy is based on the well-known fact that improper eating leads to illnesses and proper diet contributes to the body’s health.

There are four food classifications in the Chinese diet: grains, vegetables, fruits/nuts and meats. The first two are essential to sustain life (30 to 40% of diet) and the last two are supplementary foods that should be consumed in moderation (10 to 15% of diet).  The Chinese also classify foods according to the five tastes, each acting on or influencing a particular vital organ.

The five tastes are

  1. Sweet (acts on spleen/stomach);
  2. Sour (acts on liver/gall bladder);
  3. Bitter (acts on heart/small intestine);
  4. Salty (acts on kidney/bladder) and 
  5. Pungent (acts on lungs/large intestine).

The proper diet should combine the five tastes in good balance to promote internal body harmony.

The principles of Yin and Yang (opposing but complementary forces) which govern Traditional Chinese Medicine are also followed in Chinese food therapy. Practitioners believe that foods have different natural properties. They can be neutral or posses either yin or yang properties. Yin foods are cold or cool while Yang foods are hot or warm.

The key to good health is to achieve balance by eating foods with properties that are opposite of the body’s constitution, which is also described as cold, cool, neutral, warm and hot. There are specific symptoms indicated in Chinese food therapy to identify a person’s body constitution. For example, a person with cold extremities even in summertime who tires easily and is overweight by 20 pounds is said to have a cold body type and should eat more of Yang (hot/warm) foods to maintain the body’s balance.

Eating foods according to the body’s constitution is fundamental to staying healthy. It is important to understand the nature of foods and their critical role in preventing and treating ailments and diseases. Even with the existence of very high-tech medical technologies today, keep in mind that food is still the most important pillar of health.

chinese-food-therapy.jpg