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  • Ben Heathcote

Chinese Dietetics - Food for Health

Eating the right foods is seen as an incredibly important part of Chinese medicine. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked and often forgotten. Knowing what foods are right for you, as an individual, and those you should avoid will allow you to live a longer, healthier and happier life.

The Chinese medicine approach to food is unlike any system of dieting you may have encountered. But as it is customised to suit the individual I believe it is the best system of eating available. By taking into consideration your constitutional make up and current health concerns food choices can be made that strengthen those weakened areas, guard against disease and encourage longevity.

Foods are classified according to many factors. We classify them according to their taste, their heating or cooling effect, the effect that have on Qi, Blood, Body Fluids and Essence and also the meridians they influence the most.

A simple way to illustrate the understanding of food properties in Chinese medicine is to look at chillies and watermelon. It is fairly obvious, which is heating and which is cooling, right? Correct! Chilli is heating and watermelon is cooling. In a similar way cinnamon and ginger are also heating and cucumber and apples are cooling. These examples simplify the extent of understanding we have when it comes to food in Chinese medicine but they are easy examples that most people would understand some logic behind.

Here are a few more examples explained in more detail:

Beef: Sweet flavour. Neutral in nature. Pertain to the Spleen and Stomach meridians. Great for poor appetite, general weakness, oedema and fatigue.

Bananas: Sweet flavour. Cooling in nature. Pertain to the Stomach and Large Intestine meridians. Promote Body Fluid production, Nourish the Yin and moisten Dryness. Great for dry throat and thirst due to heat in the body and constipation due to dryness.

Cherries: Sweet and Sour flavour. Warm in nature. Pertain to the Spleen and Liver meridians. Strengthen the Spleen, Stomach, Liver and Kidneys. Great for fatigue, low appetite, pain in the waist and knees and gout.

Mushrooms: Sweet flavour. Slightly Cold in nature. Pertain to the Spleen, Stomach and Lung meridians. Mushrooms strengthen Qi, moisten Dryness and clear Phlegm. Great for coughing with shortness of breath, general fatigue and lack of milk in breastfeeding women.

Black Sesame Seeds: Sweet flavour and Neutral in nature. Pertain to the Liver, Kidney and Large Intestine meridians. Black sesame seeds strengthen the Liver and Kidneys, replenish the Essence and moisten Dryness in the intestines. Great for early greying of the hair, dizziness, tinnitus, weakness in the back and sore knees.

These are just a few examples but what’s important to keep in mind is that every single thing you eat has a different effect on your system as a whole. If you naturally feel hot all the time then Cooling foods will be recommended whereas if you always feel cold then Warming foods are best. The right food choices can really make a world of difference.

Food as medicine is an important approach and you should ask your Chinese medicine practitioner what you should and shouldn’t be eating. Most of the foods are common and sometimes you will find that some special Chinese foods or herbs are also recommended. It’s always best to get expert advice to make sure your diet consists of the foods that are right for you.

For more information check out the following links: (look for the dietary info at the bottom of the page)


Dr Ben

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