Is There Such A Thing As “Good Food” In Chinese Medicine?

A good meal needs to have three important elements: Color (Se), fragrance or smell (Xiang) and flavor (Wei). Through the eyes, we see the color; through the nose, we smell the aroma; and through the mouth, we taste the flavor. Chinese sages during ancient times believe in this statement and they were aware of these three essential elements which are related to the body. According to Chinese Medicine, there are three vital components in our body; Spirit or Shen, Chi or vital energy, and Jing or Essence. Shen is more or less related to color; Jing more or less associates with flavor, and Chi more akin to smell than anything else. Therefore, we make use of the color, smell, and flavor of foods to nourish our life.

The Standard of Chinese Food Therapies

Chinese food therapies depend on the two aspects of Yin and Yang. These two are interdependent, independent, and evolving constantly into each other. They are the periodic arrangements of energy that encompass all life on earth and the whole universe. Yang is within Yin and Yin is within Yang. All people are born with a unique constitution and the Yin and Yang balance of our energies decides our dietary requirements, which shift as we get older.

According to the principles of Chinese medicine, foods are chosen based on the individual’s needs. We also need to consider the season, climate, and geography of a place and whether illness exists, which is differentiated based on certain symptoms and signs. In its basic form, individuals who are dry and cold require moistening and warm foods; people who are damp and hot require drying cool foods; those suffering from congestion require decongesting foods; and people who are weak require replenishing and nourishing foods.

When you have a clear understanding of your own unique nature, you can complement your inner environment with the right food choices, thereby synchronizing and strengthening the circulation of body fluids, blood and Chi. This is opposed to the Western nutrition axiom of ‘one size fits all.’ We need to remember that not all people will equally benefit from foods that hold the same amount of nutrients. The term “one man’s meat is another man’s poison,” implies there is no such thing as a universal standard for what makes for “good food” for any one person.

In Western cultures, people have this unhealthy habit of hopping from one magic bullet to another and still are unable to find answers to their health problems. A majority of them are drawn to the convenience and sophisticated appeal of processed foods, stylish diets, or the newest herb, mineral, vitamin, or drug fad (açai fruit, goji berries, etc.) all promising perfect health or the perfect body. All of us, at an early age or as soon as possible, need to establish good eating habits and as the body changes with age need to make the proper adjustments. For instance, the foods you’ve eaten when you were twenty are not the foods you need when you are fifty. In any case, a certain type of food that will promote your longevity is based on whether your body needs that food at a given moment.

Foods may also bring about illness (which tends to happen more frequently than it should); in Chinese medicine, this is known as food injury: consuming lots of foods with cool/cold energetic, excessive eating (prevalence and portion sizes), and intoxication are very typical reasons for this type of injury. long-term or too much intake of greasy foods block the smooth movement of body fluids, blood, and Chi which eventually will result in digestive function problems, that in turn leads to a buildup of dampness and internal heat. This accumulation of damp and heat can lead to loose stools, skin eruptions, constipation, and skin problems as well as in other health problems.

Jamie Catlett is an acupuncturist in Jacksonville, FL and the founder of Jacksonville Acupuncture Clinic.

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