Chinese dietary medicine is used to nourish qi and blood and restore organ/meridian functioning. Based on yin/yang and five element theory, each food is characterized by its energies, therapeutic actions and flavors. TCM food therapy utilizes the belief that hot (yang) and cold (yin) food properties affect different energies in the body.
Both types of food should be included in the diet to keep the body in balance. Yang foods increase the body’s heat and raise metabolism while yin foods lower body heat and metabolism. Individuals susceptible to yin diseases (anemia) or yang deficiencies should include additional yang foods in their diet. Yang infections (measles, sore throat) or yin deficiencies can be treated with yin foods. Intake of food should also be balanced according to the season. Summer (yang) should have more yin foods in the diet and winter (yin) should include more yang foods.
Related to yin/yang, food properties are further divided into four energies (cold, cool, hot, warm) with an additional neutral category for foods that have no energetic temperature. Cold/cool foods (tofu, raw vegetables, melon-type fruits) reduce inflammation of the kidneys, clear heat and eliminate toxins. Hot/warm foods (chicken, garlic, ginger, plums, chili pepper, onion, most meats) strengthen spleen/stomach/kidneys, eliminate cold, invigorate blood and warm meridians. Neutral foods (glutinous rice, tuberous vegetables) improve lung/kidney systems and act as diet harmonizers. Hot treats cold conditions, cold treats hot conditions.
Food flavors correspond to five element organ functioning and should be balanced in the diet. Fire (bitter/heart/small intestine/yin) foods are cooling, earth (sweet/stomach/spleen/yang) foods are strengthening, metal (spicy/lungs/large intestine/skin/yang) foods are warming, water (salty/kidneys/bladder/yin) foods are cooling, and wood (sour/liver/gallbladder/yin) foods are cooling. Food intake should correspond to the elements and related organ systems that require strengthening.
These TCM dietary factors should be tailored to individual constitution to preserve health and prevent and treat illness. Fore more information on Chinese food therapy contact Dr. Richard Browne at (305) 595-9500.