The Inside and Out of Chinese Nutrition

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine

We often hear people say, “You are what you eat.”

That statement has wisdom on its own.

In today’s article, we will explore Chinese nutrition philosophy.

And the TCM concepts on how foods and nutrition affect our well-being.

Your Qi Must Be Balanced

Think of your body as a big adventure park; Qi is like the energy that keeps all the rides going smoothly.

But, if Qi gets stuck or goes wonky, it can be like a ride breaking down, causing health troubles — illness.

Your Nutrition is Your Source of Qi

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), food is more than what fills your stomach.

It’s like a boost for your body’s energy called Qi.

Each food does something different inside you.

So, when you choose the right foods, you maintain a good balance of Qi in your body.

This balanced Qi ensures your body stays healthy.

The Main Goal of TCM Nutrition

The main aim of TCM nutrition is to use food to create balance and harmony in your body.

However, having a balanced diet is just one part of living healthy.

TCM believes that to be healthy, you need to be in balance in every aspect of life —- including rest, diet, emotion, and exercise.

TCM Food Categories

In Chinese medicine nutrition, the discussion revolves around five fundamental flavors – spicy, sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.

Each taste serves a distinct purpose, contributing to your body’s overall balance.

For example, bitter foods and herbs contain drying and cooling properties.

These qualities are helpful.

They work well in dealing with issues linked to damp heat.

Damp heat can show up as heat rashes on the body.

Furthermore, there is a unique taste called bland, which complements the basic five flavors.

Blandness is valued for its ability to help where other flavors may not reach.

Foods and herbs can have one or all five tastes, giving a variety of flavors.

This diversity makes the palette interesting.

Beyond taste, Chinese nutrition associates specific flavors with particular organ systems.

However, it is a fundamental guideline, not a strict rule.

It indicates that salty flavors are associated with the kidneys and bladder.

Sour flavors are linked to the liver and gall bladder, while bitter flavors tend toward the heart and small intestine.

Spicy flavors connect with the lungs and large intestine.

Sweet flavors tend toward the spleen and stomach.

The Chinese diet also has six food groups: meats, fruit, dairy, vegetables, grains, and spices/herbs.

Foods like processed sugars, coffee, and salt are considered extra or unnecessary.

Additionally, the Chinese philosophy believes that the principles of yin and yang also apply to nutrition.

These principles extend into the realm of what we eat.

Meats are generally associated with yang energy, while vegetables lean toward yin.

TCM sees winter as the most yin time.

Therefore, to be healthy, consume yang foods.

TCM also sees summer as the yang time.

Therefore, go for yin foods in summer.

It’s essential to note that individual dietary needs differ.

Considering the season showcases the adaptability and personalized nature of Chinese nutrition,

Love your Season and Locally Grown Foods

TCM also believes in eating what’s in season and from nearby places.

These in-season and locally grown foods are fresh and not refrigerated.

So they are more nutritious.

Thus, in the summer, go for yin foods like watermelon and cucumber.

In the winter, warm up with yang foods like ginger and cinnamon.

It’s like letting your meals vibe with the weather, keeping things balance and cozy.

Cooking Methods Matter

Various cooking techniques influence the characteristics of food and how it affects the body.

Take stir-frying —- a yang method;

This cooking method adds warmth and dryness to yin foods.

On the other hand, boiling —- a yin method, can bring cooling and moistening effects to yang foods.

How You Eat Matter

TCM believes that eating isn’t just about putting food in your mouth.

You need to create a good mood to enjoy your meal.

Ideally, a calm, happy atmosphere will aid your digestive system to work properly.

Eating in a hurry or when stressed will harm your body balance, messing with your digestion.

So, take it easy, chew slowly, and enjoy your food vibes.

The Concepts of Food Energetics

Now, let’s talk about the hidden stories in your food.

According to TCM, bitter foods, like dandelion greens, clean up your liver.

Sweet foods, like honey, are like the comfort food that makes your tummy and mind happy.

Sour foods, like vinegar, stimulate the appetite and promote digestion.

So, the foods we consume affect our bodies beyond their nutritional content.


In short, Chinese medicine tells us eating right is more than just food—it’s about keeping everything balanced.

Thus, it’s about more than what’s on your plate.

It’s about how everything fits together, like eating, resting, feeling good, and exercising.

Choose foods that match the season, and eat local foods.

Want to know more about balanced foods?

Visit our healthy recipes and wellness articles.


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