Herbalism & Food Therapy & Dietitian
Without the knowledge of proper diet, it is hardly possible to enjoy good health.
When we look at a cup of watermelon cubes, as a western dietitian, we think about numbers:46 calories, 0.9g protein, 11g carbohydrate, 0.6g fiber, 9g sugar, 0.2g fat, 170mg potassium, 20% DV vitamin A, etc.
For a TCM dietitian, food is more about descriptive words: cold, a summer or late summer fruit, sweet, heart/stomach/bladder meridian, down-bearing in nature.
Here are the four major energetic characteristics in TCM:
5 Thermal Natures: All foods are assigned to a thermal nature in TCM: cold, cool, neutral, warm, hot. Note that it is not related to the physical temperature of the food, but to the sensation our body feels after consumption of certain food. For example, watermelon is cold, cucumber is cool, potato is neutral, beef is warm, and chili is hot.
5 Flavors: This concept is closely related to Five Element Theory. Each food is associated with a flavor, which implies certain functions. Sweet: tonify (similar to strengthening), moisten, calm; Acrid: disperse, invigorate, warm; Salty: cool, soften, loosen; Sour: astringe, gather, preserve; Bitter: dry, harden, cool
4 Food Qi Movements: Food can influence how Qi moves throughout our body! And the movement of Qi will then influence how we feel and how our organs function. Qi can move Upwards: hot/warm, yang-replenishing foods, usually spicy or sweet; Downwards: cool/cold, yin-nourishing foods, usually salty or bitter; Inwards: sour foods, usually sour (think about a baby’s “sour” face after tasting a lemon); Outwards: acrid yang foods, usually warming spices
Meridian Affiliation: This is a more complicated concept that is mostly used in the clinical setting. Each food can be associated with several meridians. Here is a very general and not- always-accurate categorization. Spleen/Stomach: sweet flavor, late summer foods; Lung/Large Intestine: acrid or spicy flavor, autumn foods; Kidney/Bladder: salty flavor, winter foods; Liver/Gallbladder: sour, flavor spring foods; Heart/Small Intestine: bitter flavor, summer foods.
TCM Food Therapy is NOT entirely the same as TCM herbalism.
The latter focuses on potent herbal decoctions rather than a long-term, diet-based approach that food therapy adopts.
You can think of herbal decoctions as “pharmaceutical drug” and food therapy as “superfoods,” if this makes sense. These two practices, however, do share similarities:
The use of some herbs
(To be exact, which are called 药食同源 food-medicine herbs)
Basic principles of combination and prep method.
Individual Body Constitution and Conditions
One important thing that makes TCM nutrition stand apart and above from the diet trends is how personalized it is.
It encourages you to eat according to your own body constitution and health conditions, rather than blindly following the recommended daily value of protein and calories and fat.
There are nine body constitutions in TCM, and each deserves a slightly different approach to diet and lifestyle. You can test yours by clicking the button on the left side!
For example, winter melon is great for a person with Yin Deficiency because of its cooling and hydrating properties, but ginger is not ideal for that person because it can easily create too much heat in their body. On the other hand, temporary health conditions like catching a cold after a freezing rainy day may allow and ask a Yin-deficient person to consume ginger shot to expel the cold and dampness invasion.
You can book a consultation with our TCM dietitian & herbalist to learn more.