Nutrition in Chinese Medicine: what is food?
“You are what you eat” (Anthelme Brillat-Savarin)
Chinese food habits and culture is a very deep science. There is no limit to its study. Through this first article, I would like to introduce the very fundamental concept of Chinese nutrition philosophy and give some simple guidelines.
Hopefully this can help to correct the common mistakes and bring an increased interest to the study of "how to eat" in order to be, and stay, healthy.
First of all, it is important to understand that the Chinese vision of nutrition is quite different from the Western one. Chinese do not look at the components of food (proteins, lipids, vitamins, etc.) because that is only part of what a food is.
Rather than breaking down what builds a food, Chinese medicine defines a food as a whole. Therefore, we will talk about the "Nature" of the food, the "Flavor", the "Color", the “Movement”, and the “Organ network”.
The focus of Chinese Medicine nutrition is to help produce, transform, assimilate, store, and maintain the “Five Essential Substances” within our bodies: Flow of Life (Qi 氣), Blood (Xue 血), Body Fluids (Jin Ye 津液), Congenital Essence (Jing 精), and maintain a high Spirit (Shen 神).
In order to manage this, one should grow sufficient knowledge about how to nourish the “Five Essential Substances”.
Let’s break it down to the most simple, but essential, knowledge about nutrition in TCM. In terms of self-care, “Nature” and “Flavor” are the most important factors to know. For a therapist, all notions need to be considered.
Remember that if one of these characteristic is consumed excessively, instead of nourishing the related system, it will injure it. If a characteristic is missing, the related system will lose its vitality.
Therefore, moderation and variety within food, is key.
!!! Et surtout, bon appétit !!!
Written by Cedric Mallants / Acupunctuur en Traditionele Chinese Geneeskunde therapist in Eindhoven.
Huang Di Nei Jing (黃帝內經)
The Tao of Healthy Eating (Bob Flaws)