Introduction to Chinese Dietary Therapy

Healthy mealIn summary, Chinese Dietary Therapy is guided by nature, instead of analysis of micro-nutrients as in western nutrition. Each food is assigned characteristics of taste, temperature, energetics, and which organs it most affects. Each food also has special medicinal properties. For example, walnuts are sweet, warm, and moistening to the lungs and intestines. Therefore walnuts can help with such issues as a dry cough or constipation. Another example which I personally find fascinating is that in one ancient Chinese text from 652 A.D., seaweed is prescribed for a patient with a goiter (a very large lump on the neck due to enlargement of the thyroid). Salty flavors are said to dissolve lumps and hardness in the body. We now know that iodine (naturally present in seaweed) deficiency is a cause of goiters. Amazing! This treatment pre-dates any western use of iodine therapy for goiters.

I wanted to give you a little preview of the type of information you’ll get in our workshop on Jan 26th. We will be focusing on foods and recipes for the health challenges women tend to face (such as PMS and menstrual irregularities) as well as digestive issues, low energy and low libido, just to name a few. In the workshop we will also combine eastern and western philosophies, bringing you the best of both worlds. You’ll get personalized recommendations; for example, some people should significantly limit dairy, but others would be fine with several servings per week. As with anything, there is no one size fits all.

Below you will find what I consider the two most surprising suggestions from Chinese Dietary Therapy. Read on, and if this information makes sense to you, I encourage you to attend the workshop for more information! Just click on the “Links and Resources” tab, then “Events”.

Some Surprisingly Unhealthy Foods:

1) Salads- this is always the biggest shock to patients. Raw foods are considered “cold”. Therefore, eating large quantities of uncooked foods can over time weaken the digestion and create too much cold in the body. This can lead to many problems, but most notably decreased immunity, chronic stomach pain, loose stools, always feeling cold and low energy. Small quantities are ok in summer when there is naturally more heat in our bodies to counter the cold, raw food, but in winter it should be avoided as much as possible. No matter the season, if you are going to eat a salad, combine it with some cooked (but not neccessarily hot) foods such as quinoa, brown rice, roasted vegetables, or a protein source like chicken. Or, have a small salad with a larger bowl of hearty stew. You may be asking, “What if I am always hot, even in the winter?” In these rare cases, more raw foods are acceptable, but generally, should never be eaten 100%. Some worry that cooking foods decreases their nutritional content, but in my experience, the tradeoff of lightly cooking foods so your body is better able to break them down and assimilate nutrients is worth it.

2) Yogurt- Do you eat yogurt every day for breakfast, or as a mid-day snack? Chinese Medicine tells us that eating excessive dairy can produce something called dampness in the body. With dampness, you feel full, sluggish, fuzzy-headed, experience gas/bloating, loose stools and low energy (and if this sounds similar to the effects of cold foods, you are right! Dampness and cold often go together). Of course some people tend more towards dampness than others, so there is a range of how much dairy is ok based on the individual. I recommend avoiding dairy on a daily basis (unless it’s just a splash of milk with your tea) and at most having 2-3 servings a week. You can get your calcium in other foods such as broccoli, arugula, turnip greens, kale and oranges. Yogurt is actually not as damp-producing as other dairy such as milk and cheese, since it is rich with probiotic bacteria which aid in digestion. If you do eat yogurt, be sure to have unflavored (i.e. no sugar added), organic, and pasture raised.