Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is such an interesting system! A lot of people don’t know this, but I have actually been studying Chinese Medicine since 2016, and am just finishing my final clinical hours to graduate (I’m actually super excited)! 🥳
I always found nutrition to be the most interesting aspect of TCM because it takes things such as taste, colour and temperature of foods in mind. As you may know, in our society most dieticians typically only take nutrient content and calorie amount in mind when constructing diet plans. Which is great, because it’s so important that we meet the dietary guidelines, however food can do so much more for us if we consider all aspects and qualities!
So today I decided to write a quick blog on Traditional Chinese Medicine nutrition, how it works and how I personally use it to help my clients balance their diets!
Yin and Yang
In Chinese Medicine, the concept of yin and yang is really important.
Yin is considered the light and is attributed to cold and deficiency. Whereas yang is considered the darkness and is more excess and hot.
Individuals who have a more yin constitution typically feel cold and tired most of the time, crave warmer foods and may have more specific symptoms such as night sweats or a pale tongue.
Individuals who have a more yang constitution typically feel hot, have trouble falling asleep, crave colder foods and have a red tongue which signifies heat within the body.
The interesting thing is that the tongue actually says so much about someone’s health and diet! A pale tongue means that there is cold within the body, and the patient should eat warmer foods such as cinnamon, soups or vegetable broths.
Whereas a red tongue means there is too much heat in the body, and the patient should eat colder foods such as cucumbers, salads or smoothies.
For more information on how tongue diagnosis works and tips on checking yours out at home, check out my blog Tongue Diagnosis: The Basics.
Balancing diet with temperature
Chinese Medicine practitioners use this very basis to come up with personalized diet plans. Yin and yang is huge and in my opinion, not mainstream enough!
From there, we can start using the temperature of foods to restore balance within the body. For example, as someone who has been vegan for 5+ years, I eat a lot of foods that are cold in nature. I used to always have cold hands and feet, I always felt tired and had pale dry skin.
Using moisturizer didn’t seem to make a difference and no matter how many sweaters I wore- I was still cold!
It wasn’t until I started studying Chinese Medicine when I learned about the concept of warming or cooling the interior. Which basically means to eat more foods based on temperature so that your organs have an optimal environment!
Because I balance my diet using temperature in addition to my dietary needs, I no longer have any negative symptoms and my digestive system has never been healthier.
This can be applied to people who experience pain as well! People who have pain typically have poor circulation, commonly known as blood stasis in TCM. Blood stasis results in a purplish tongue, pain and sometimes inflammation. Foods that move the blood (improve circulation) such as mung beans, black beans or green lentils would be greatly beneficial in this case!
Taste and colour
Taste is another interesting aspect that we look at! The five element theory attributes each organ to a taste, colour, season and element. The five element theory is mainly used when selecting an acupuncture treatment plan, but it can also come in handy when creating a personalized diet plan as well!
As you can see, each organ has a different colour. Meaning, we benefit from eating all of the colours that nature has to offer!
Here’s a quick breakdown of each colour, the connected organ and foods that are beneficial:
- Green (liver): kale, bok choy, collards, cabbage, green lentils
- Red (heart): tomatoes, cherries, red pepper, strawberries
- Yellow (spleen): corn, potatoes, squash
- White (lungs): onions, garlic, green tea
- Black (kidneys): black beans, dark fruits, blueberries
Interestingly enough, green foods are high in antioxidants which help detoxify the liver and improves the quality of blood. Red fruits & veggies contain a compound called Lycopene which is what produces red pigmentation, and is also beneficial to our heart and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Yellow foods such as corn and potatoes contain starches that are beneficial to our gut microbe and white foods such as garlic or herbal teas can vent pathogens out of the lungs.
And lastly, dark foods such as black beans, blueberries and dark berries are high in antioxidants that are beneficial to our kidneys and water metabolism.
As you can see there are many overlapping theories and modern day nutritional facts that do support each other!
Check out the rest of the chart and try to incorporate more colourful foods into your diet this week!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog on modern day nutrition and Chinese Medicine diet. I really hope I did a good job explaining certain concepts and didn’t lose you half way through haha!
The main thing I want you to takeaway is that there are plenty of ways to balance our bodies with food and nutrition! The earth has over 80,000 edible plants and herbs that aid our health and fight against disease. Start choosing fruits and veggies that are colourful, nutritious and always keep your health in mind above anything else!
“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison”.
For personalized nutrition advice/health coaching, please click here to check out my services!