Health Concerns In Chinese Nutritional Therapy

Chinese nutritional therapy in Bellmore works on the premise that consuming a more balance diet based on one’s own constitution can resolve an underlying pattern of imbalance. The aim of creating the best nutritional diet is to know that there is no one best diet for every person. Each person’s rate of metabolism is different, our levels of physical activity vary, and the climates that we live in also vary. In addition, all of us have distinctively unique health patterns. While some people seldom become ill, others are always sick. Also, parts of the body in some people that are affected by the same pathogen may differ in others. Each of us has some basic needs in common and Chinese nutritional therapy begins with these basics in mind.

Chinese Nutritional Principles

A Chinese Medicinal diet depends on energetic principles that helps promote clean burning digestion, balance, and a well-functioning body full of energy and free of diseases. In Chinese medicinal training, we are taught how to bring back balance in our bodies after it has become off-balanced and are now experiencing disease or pain. In Chinese Medicinal therapy, herbs or needles are used to restore this balance, although it can also avail of a wide variety of tools such as tai chi, qi gong, and nutritional therapy. While these techniques can treat illness by repairing imbalances, the primary objective is to prevent the body from becoming imbalanced in the first place.

From the viewpoint of traditional Chinese energetics consuming an insignificant amount of meat once a day was deemed to be beneficial. Even Tibetan Buddhist monks, who affirm the inviolability of all living things, would occasionally eat meat in order to preserve warmth in their bodies against the cold, severe Himalayan winters. Most of us lead hectic lives with demanding schedules, and meat provides the nutrition and energy we need to function and survive. Alternative choices for obtaining protein are available for vegetarians. These people procure energy and nutrition through various foods that contain a healthy nutritional balance and good energy. As vegetarians, some people can possibly obtain adequate nutrition from a variety of non meat products. While most people in our culture do not follow a vegetarian diet, a lot of us who strive to eliminate or limit meat from their diet end up actually eating an excess amount of milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products.

According to Chinese nutritional theory, children are the only ones who should consume milk. These days, a preponderance of dampness is one of the most common energetic imbalances Chinese medicine practitioners diagnose. Aside from being extremely allergenic substances, dairy products are not appropriate for people with this type of imbalance and should be avoided. Cheese, in particular, has an inherently extremely warming property and also creates dampness in the body. People manifesting a pattern or dampness may benefit by eating a tiny portion of meat, or by knowing how to properly derive protein from vegetable sources, rather than by deriving it from dairy products.

One other Chinese nutritional theory is that all foods are supposed to be consumed while hot or warm. Our bodies must first bring food to body temperature in order to utilize the energy obtained from it. So, if food is eaten while hot, the body can transform it into energy much faster. This is the reason icy drinks, or drinks taken from the refrigerator, are not recommended in Chinese nutritional therapy. All drinks, including water, should preferably be drunk hot, even though this is neither always practical nor desirable. Request drinks without ice when you eat. At home, simply allow refrigerated drinks to warm to room temperature or simply do not put ice in drinks before drinking. Since fluids expedite the conversion of food into energy, during meals, herbal tea or hot water rather than cold drinks should be taken.

Since the process of cooking breaks down the cell walls of vegetables (where most of the nutrients and vitamins are found) cooking your food really helps with digestion. By mainly consuming hot or warm food, a person will have fewer digestive problems and will feel more energetic.

Chewing your food slowly and carefully is one other aspect of Chinese nutritional therapy and one that is common to a lot of spiritual traditions. Most people chew with reckless abandon and then swallow their food with the aid of liquids. When you take the time to chew (for each bite, usually seven times or more), digestion, as is the way you enjoy the food, can be enhanced. You shouldn’t be pressured to finish your meals and they should be eaten in a relaxed mode. The Chinese also recommend eating food when they’re in season. If you’re healthy, this means eating cool food when the temperature is warm and eating hot food when the climate is cold. People who are not in good health should only eat hot food. Fruits should not be taken as juices since they tend to be overly concentrated and should be eaten whole.

Ancient Wisdom

During the Jin dynasty, a famous physician named Li Dongguan, stated that the foundation of life is the primordial Qi of the abdomen and spleen. Pathogenic injury of the abdomen and spleen can result in a number of diseases. Li recommended moderation in drink and food as well consuming less meat and more cereals, avoiding desire and worry, and being satisfied with life without wealth and fame. A person should avoid overexertion, cold, and wind and keep himself warm in order to foster his primordial Qi.

In the Qing dynasty, in his Four Essentials of Health Preservation, Chen Shongling suggested moderation in drinking and eating, shunning anger, “sparing the mind,” and avoiding infiltration of cold and wind. Chinese medicine states that problems in the flow of blood and Chi will increase if the mind isn’t calm. A person needs to consider the ancient Chinese adage: “Anger hastens your death, distress causes your hair to become gray, and laughter makes you ten years younger.” A famous Chinese poet once said, “… with the mind in a pleasant frame and the spirit improved, disease can be cured.”


In the West, millions of people drink substantial amounts of coffee every day. However, besides being a stimulant with almost instantaneous effects, coffee causes the overstimulation of the adrenal gland which can result in a delayed fatigue sensation. In addition, coffee contains acids that can cause digestive issues. Coffee is considered warm and sweet in Chinese nutritional therapy, which is the reason lots of coffee drinkers suffer from an overabundance of dampness in their system. Tea, on the other hand, is a bit cool and bitter which makes it a vital component of any Asian (including Chinese) diet.

While tea has a number of varieties, the more common ones are herbal, black, and green tea. Jasmine tea and other herbal teas may be drunk during all seasons. Black tea is especially recommended in winter since it warms the abdomen and spleen. Green tea has a cooling quality which makes it an ideal drink in summer and is capable of reducing fever.

Lu Tong, a poet of the Tang dynasty once said, “Seven advantages is brought by drinking seven bowls of tea: One, it ensures longevity; two, it boosts memory and stimulates thinking; three, it helps people lose weight; four, it induces sweating to alleviate colds; five, it promotes digestion; six, it refreshes the mind; and seven, it quenches thirst and increases the production of body fluids,.”

Dietary Rules and Regulations

1. So as not to bring on new illnesses, worsen existing conditions, or cause imbalance, dietary modification should be slowly implemented. To move immediately from junk food and/or high protein diet to a diet that mainly consists of grains and vegetables is unwise.

2. It is important to not overeat; a much better way is to stop eating before you become full and to eat smaller portions of foods and eat them more frequently.

3. Dinner should just be a light meal while breakfast and lunch should be your main meals.

Listed below are guidelines based on Chinese nutritional therapy principles that can help a person improve his health.

Processed beverages and foods should be avoided:

o Diet foods and sweets
o Cane juice, white sugar, refined sugars,
o Raw foods (except in warm climates or during summer months)
o Junk food
o Ice cold beverages and foods
o Fried and greasy foods
o Fruit juices
o Alcohol (except for people with cold patterns)

Recommended healthy alternatives and foods:

o Vegetables — with skins retained (for irritable bowel sufferers, skinless) stir-fried, lightly cooked or fresh
o Unrefined cold pressed flax oil, sesame oil, olive oil,
o Unrefined cane powder or juice
o Soups, casseroles, stews,
o Rice syrup
o Peas, beans, and oats
o Lean meat — 2 oz./day
o Green stevia powder, extract
o Grains — should be the staple of the diet, including corn (if not allergic), buckwheat, wheat (if not allergic), whole grains (if not allergic), rice, or millet
o Fruits — whole (not recommended for candidiasis sufferers)
o Eggs — in moderation

Foods that need to assessed:

o Citrus fruit
o Yeast-containing foods
o Cereals (may aggravate digestive issues)
o Vinegar
o Fermented foods
o Tomato products
o Nuts
o Spicy foods
o Soy products
o Shellfish

Applying The Five Elements Theory In Chinese Nutritional Therapy

The Chinese believe that there are five different types of energy or ‘chi’ and that the world is surrounded by five fields of energy which are known as the Five Elements. They also believe that people’s fate could be seriously affected if these five elements are moved or altered.

The five elements can be reflected in and referred to as the five planets, five processes, five forces, five movements, five phases or five agents.

The “five elements” should be considered as the linchpin of Chinese culture if the theory of yin and yang is the center of Chinese culture. What role do these five elements play in Chinese cuisine and what exactly are the five elements of Chinese cooking?

The “Five Elements” are made up of earth, fire, water, wood, and metal. These elements have been used by the Chinese for thousands of years for a lot of reasons, from communication between Chinese medicine, politics, internal organs, and even Chinese food and cooking.

This is just like finding the harmonious balance between yin and yang. Between the five elements, the Chinese are constantly striving to find the right balance. There are mainly a couple of relationships between those five elements. One is termed ‘mutual overcoming’ and the other is ‘mutual generation’.

Examples of “mutual over coming”

o Water stopped by Earth (Imagine people constructing a dam to contain water)

o Fire stopped by Water

o Metal melted by Fire

o Wood cut by Metal

o Earth consumed by Wood

Wood can start fire, and the wood ashes eventually go back to the earth.

Examples of “mutual generating”:

o Fire strengthened by Wood

o Earth (ash) made by Fire

o Metal bared and contained Earth

o Water quality improved by Metal

o Wood grows with Water

How role do the Five Elements Theory play in Chinese nutritional therapy?

According to Chinese physicians and herbalists, in order treat a patient properly, one should know the condition of the five elements of the patient’s body. Any excess or deficiency of an element can result in illness.

Our five major organs are also represented by the five elements. These organs are the spleen (earth), heart (fire), kidney (water), liver (wood), and lung (metal). The five elements can also be symbolized by five different colors: yellow (earth), red (fire), blue/black (water), green (wood), and white (metal).

Water Element

This element is related the Kidney (Yin) and Bladder (Yang) organs, feeling of Fear, the color Black, and Salty taste.

Metal Element

This element is related to the Lungs (Yin) and Large Intestine (Yang) organs, feeling of Sorrow, the color White, and Spicy taste.

Earth Element

This element is related to the Spleen (Yin) and Stomach (Yang) organs, feeling of Thought, the color Yellow, and Sweet taste.

Fire Element

This element is related to the Heart (Yin) and Small Intestine (Yang) organs, feeling of Happiness, the color Red, and Bitter taste.

Wood Element
This element is related to the Liver (Yin) and Gallbladder (Yang) organs, feeling of Rage, the color Green, and Sour taste.

According to Chinese nutritional therapy and medicine, if a person is ill or weak in certain organs or parts of their body, they should eat certain elements/colors of food in order to improve their state of health and help them feel better. If a person has a problem with his kidneys, for instance, they should then eat foods such as black sesame, seaweed, wood ear and foods that are water element and black in color.

List of different element/organ/color foods:

Water/Kidney/ Black Food:

Sweet bean sauce, tea, black vinegar, black sesame, black grapes, blueberry, raisin, black beans, eggplant, shiitake mushroom, seaweed, wood ear, etc.

Black colored food is good for your reproductive organs, ears, bones, and kidneys.

Metal/Lung/White Food:

Rock sugar, white sesame, almond, banana, Asian pear, soy milk, tofu, milk, white wood ear, bamboo shoot, broccoli, winter melon, bitter melon, garlic, onion, daikon, lotus seed, sticky/glutinous rice, rice, etc.

White colored food is good for your skin, respiratory system, nose, large intestine, and lungs.

Wood/Liver/Green Food:

Wasabi, green fruits, green vegetables, Chinese leeks, Mung beans, etc.

Green color food is good for your joint, muscle, eyes, gallbladder, and liver.

Fire/Heart/ Red Food:

Brown sugar, apple, dragon fruit, goji berry, jujube, red pepper, red beans, chili, strawberry, sweet potato, tomato, carrot, etc.

It is believed that eating “red color food” is good for brain, small intestine, and heart.

Earth/Spleen/Yellow Food:

Honey, walnut, peanut, papaya, pineapple, lemon, star fruit, orange, ginger, bean curd, egg yolk, soy beans, yellow pepper, butternut squash, white pumpkin, oat, taro, yellow sweet potato, baby corn, sweet corn, most yellow colored foods, etc.

Eating yellow color food can be good for your spleen and digestive.

It is important to remember that eating a balanced diet is extremely essential in attaining and maintaining health and well being. This article is just an introduction and a recommendation of the ‘Five Elements” and how their concept is mirrored in Chinese food. Before looking into any specific diet, talk to a doctor to see if you have any health issues.

Dr. Marco Dibonaventura – Board Certified Acupuncturist and Herbalist in King of Prussia, PA

Chinese Nutritional Therapy And Foods That Can Help Resolve Specific Underlying Imbalances

Chinese nutritional therapy in Austin categorizes food based on its energetic qualities instead of its components. Certain foods may be considered warm and nourishing while others are deemed eliminating and cooling; some foods can help build energy or qi in the body while some possess yin or yang or blood tonifying qualities. So, according to Western medicine, while a yogurt and apple breakfast will always possess the same nutritional value regardless of who eats it, traditional Chinese medicine sees it as helpful for people overcoming deficient yin conditions but damaging to people suffering from dampness or deficient yang.

In this regard, based on your condition, food can either impair or aid your everyday effort to recuperate from disease or help maintain health. Chinese nutritional therapy is more than the consumption of highly nourishing food; it is also eating healthy food that is appropriate for one’s unique body types.

The Five Flavors in Chinese Nutritional Therapy

In traditional Chinese medicine, all foods have their own distinct qualities based on the five flavors or tastes: salty, pungent, sweet, bitter, and sour and the four natures: hot, warm, cool, and cool.

The flavor of food (salty, pungent, sweet, bitter, and sour) may be utilized to foretell its effects on the body. Also, the nature of food (hot, warm, cool, and cool) can have a direct impact on the body. The manner in which food is prepared may make it more proper to the constitution of a person:

Salty foods

This flavor group includes among others soy sauce and kelp. Both tend to hold fluids in the body and are cooling in nature. They have a purgative effect, can soften hardness, and have a downward movement. Energetically, salty foods affect the will (zhi) and the Kidney and too much of it injures the blood.

Pungent or Spicy Foods

These types of foods include cayenne pepper and onion. They have a warming effect, promote the circulation of blood and the flow of qi, and in terms of direction, move upwards and outwards to the body surface. They can also help eliminate mucus from the lungs. Energetically, spicy taste affects the po (animal soul) and goes to the Lungs; too much of it injures the qi.

Sweet Foods

Sweet foods can be warm and nourishing or neutral and nourishing. Sweet foods include starchy vegetables, dairy products, nits, legumes, and meat; apples, rice, potatoes, honey, sugar, and fruits are foods that are sweet plus cooling. Energetically, the foods that are sweet have a tonifying effect and affect the mind (yi) and Spleen; too much of it injures the muscles.

Bitter foods

They include dandelion leaf and rhubarb. Bitter foods dry dampness, drain heat, and moves qi downward. Certain bitter foods have a purgative quality and can induce bowel movements. Energetically, the bitter taste affects the spirit or Shen and Heart; too much of it injures the bones.

Sour Foods

They include olives and grapefruit which are cooling, generate yin fluids, and have an astringent effect. They can promote digestion in small amounts. Energetically, the sour taste affects the hun or spirit soul and the Liver; too much of it injures the nerves.

Deficient Yin

Yin symbolizes the energy that tends to have cooling and moistening effects on the body. When your yin becomes weak or becomes depleted, your body will start to manifest indications of “heating up”. This is not real heat but instead a suggest lack of cooling and moistening abilities that are needed to preserve healthy balance.

Foods that can help tonify Yin include:

1. Dairy: Duck egg, cow’s milk, chicken, and cheese, chicken egg, cow’s milk, duck egg
2. Meat: Rabbit, kidney pork, pork, goose, duck, and beef
3. Fish: Most kinds of fish as well as octopus, oyster, cuttlefish, crab, freshwater clam, and sardine
4. Seeds and Nuts: Walnut, black sesame seed, sesame seed, and coconut milk
5. Bean Products: tofu (soy)
6. Beans: black beans, adzuki, kidney, black soya, , mung, and lima
7. Fruit: Apricot, apple, banana, avocado, lime, lemon, mulberry, mango, persimmon, pear, watermelon, pomegranate, and pineapple
8. Vegetables: Artichoke, alfalfa sprout, kelp, asparagus, pea, mung bean sprout, seaweed, potato, sweet potato, tomato, string bean, zucchini, yam, and water chestnut
9. Grains: Millet and barley
10. Condiments and oils and: Malt and honey
11. Spice/Herb: Nettle and marjoram
12. Supplements: American ginseng

Samples of regular western foods that can help fortify yin, include:

1. Miso soup with seaweed and tofu
2. Apple and pork dishes
3. Baked Potato with sesame seeds and soy sauce and stuffed with tofu.
4. Tacos topped with a small amount of cheese and made with Kidney beans
5. Egg salad and sesame seeds with asparagus
6. Cheese omelet
7. Fish foods with coconut milk
8. Fruit salad or Fruit smoothies with banana and honey

Foods That Should Not Be Eaten

Stimulating foods should be avoided as they only tend further exhaust yin: Sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and pungent hot spices.

It’s important to note that if large amounts of yin tonifying foods are consumed, they can promote stagnation and block the spleen. Hence, you may want to frequently eat only small amounts of these foods rather than eating large helpings of them irregularly.

Deficient Yang

Yang symbolizes the energy that tends to activate and warm bodily functions. A depletion of yang may cause your body to stagnate and manifest signs of cold and under activity. Foods that can build yang include:

1. Meat: Lamb and beef kidneys, venison, lamb, and chicken
2. Fish: Lobster, anchovy, trout, mussel, shrimp, and prawn
3. Nuts: chestnuts, , walnuts, and pistachio nuts
4. Fruit: Raspberry, peach, cherry, , strawberry, logan, and lychee
5. Vegetables: leek, watercress, mustard greens, turnip, onion, sweet potato, radish, squash, and scallion
6. Grains: wheat germ, sweet (glutinous) rice, and quinoa
7. Spice/Herb: basil, white pepper, black pepper, thyme, turmeric, caper, star anise, cayenne, spearmint, chive seed, savory, cinnamon bark, sage, clove, rosemary, dill seed, peppermint, fennel seed, nutmeg, fennugreek seed, horseradish, ginger, and garlic
8. Supplements: malt sugar, brown sugar, and Korean ginseng
9. Beverages: Jasmin tea, chai tea

Samples of regular western foods that can help tonify yang

1. Potato and seek with black pepper
2. A teaspoon of Brown sugar and nutmeg with rice porridge and cinnamon
3. Rosemary with roasted vegetables
4. Roast chicken with thyme and sage
5. When cooking you can also add any of the many spices mentioned to these foods.

Foods That Should Not Be Eaten if You Have Deficient Yang:

Cold foods and liquids can increase the draining of yang in your body. By cold liquids and cold foods, we mean foods not only taken straight from the fridge but also of raw foods, since they need extra energy to be digested compared to foods that are pre-cooked. This can mean eating steamed veggies rather green salads or for breakfast choosing oatmeal over granola.

When cooking, use a warming method that will preserve yang and boost the energy of the body. Hence, foods that are roasted slow, stews, or soups, can be preferred dishes for individuals with a severe yang deficiency. Too much use of hot seasonings can result in sweating and may even have a drying and cooling effect on the body.

Buildup of Damp Phlegm

Dampness in the body may indicate a condition that reflects the humid environment the person is living in currently. Dampness can occur due to the digestive system’s inability to transport food and fluids. It may also indicate that the body has been overwhelmed by external damp (eating foods that produce damp, damp living conditions, or damp weather). It can also be caused by an illness, or from abuse of certain antibiotics and other drug that creates dampness.

Phlegm is a condensed manifestation of dampness. When a person has been diagnosed having a buildup of Damp Phlegm in his body, it is important that he avoids eating fried, fatty, sugary, processed, cold, or raw foods in order to nourish his Spleen.

Foods that can clear internal dampness include:

1. Fish: Anchovy, mackerel, tuna, eel
2. Fruit: Umeboshi plum, lemon, papaya, lemon
3. Beans: Kidney, lentils, aduki
4. Veggies: scallion, pumpkin, mustard leaf, onion, kohlrabi, white fungus, daikon, parsley, turnip, radish, corn, caper, button mushroom, alfalfa sprout
5. Grains: Rye, basmati rice, barley, corn
6. Spice/Herb: aniseed, white pepper, garlic, parsley, horseradish, nettle, marjoram

Foods That Can Clear Damp With Heat Include:

1. Beans: Kidney
2. Fruit: Umeboshi plum, cranberry, blueberry
3. Vegetables: Chinese cabbage, celery, asparagus
4. Spices & Herbs: Tamarind

Foods That Can Help Remove Phlegm:

1. Seeds and Nuts: walnuts, almonds
2. Vegetables: Radish, plantain, onion, mustard leaf, daikon, watercress, button mushroom, shiitake mushroom, olive
3. Beverages: Soy milk, black tea
4. Spice/Herb: White or black pepper, thyme, mustard seed, marjoram, horseradish, garlic, cardamom caraway

Foods Which Can Help Clear Phlegm plus Heat:

1. Fruit: tangerine peel, persimmon, pear, lemon peel, grapefruit, apple peel
2. Veggies: Water chestnut, seaweed, radish
3. Beverages: Pear or grapefruit juice, peppermint tea, elderflower tea
4. Spice/Herb: licorice

Foods that That Can Help Clear Phlegm plus Cold:

1. Vegetables: Scallion, onion, mustard leaf
2. Spice/Herb: rosemary, onion, savory
3. Beverages: jasmin tea

Deficient Blood

In TCM, the notion of blood has a close similarity to the western notion in which blood has both a nourishing and moistening quality. But with regards to the theory of deficient blood or blood deficiency, importance is laid on the qi of the body. In TCM, Blood is considered as a visible manifestation of qi, and this qi pays a vital role in helping circulate the blood wherever it is needed. Treatment of Blood Deficiency is also aimed at strengthening the ability of your digestive system to absorb the nutrients required for the production of blood from your food successfully.

Food That Can Help Build Blood includes:

1. Dairy: Egg, chicken
2. Meat: Liver of sheep, pork and beef, all red meat particularly the bone marrow
3. Fish: Tuna, sardine, oyster, octopus, mussel
4. Grains: Bran, wheat, sweet rice, oats, corn, barley
5. Beans: Aduki, kidney, black soy
6. Beverages: Soy milk
7. Spice/Herb: Parsley, nettle
8. Supplements: Pollen, dang gue, algae

Samples of regular western foods that can help build Blood:

1. Spinach salad, mushroom lasagna, and kidney bean and with a spinach salad
2. Snacks of dried almonds and apricots
3. Calamari with mussel chowder
4. Scrambled eggs with parsley
5. Salads with dark leafy greens