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 Diet: diet means food it is the fuel for the body; Diet offers the joy and satisfaction of eating; Diet reflects the social culture, it furnishes the social relationship; Diet is one of the determinants of both good and bad health, the proper dieting is one strategy for managing disease and restoring health.

 What is in your mind when talking about Diet? For most people in a very long period of time, diet or food only plays the role as the fuel for the body.  It also brings in joy and satisfaction when consuming the desired food. Only in the late twentieth century, food finally began to be recognized in the west as an important healing force. Since 1980’s, some doctor’s statements started to acknowledge that the poor diet habits play a large part in the nation’s most common killers – Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, Atherosclerosis, Diabetes, and Cancers. Ever since then, the discussions of diet and health started to be booming. There is a long list on information of the basic facts on nutrition of fats, protein, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins, and their effects on our health. However most of the information is contradictory, there is no other subject more confused, emotionally charged, and important in our lives than diet and health. For instance, the olive oil is regarded very beneficial to the health now, but it was deemed detrimental for cardiovascular health not long ago. Vitamin E was thought to be very good for cardiovascular disease, then it was reported 3 years ago the recommended dosages cause heart disease. People express themselves on diet like this “you are what you eat” ”Diet, exercise, die anyway, all in your genes” “I will not give up the pleasure of eating instead of dieting”.

Diet Strategies in TCM:

Many studies have looked for a link between what women eat and breast cancer risk, but so far the results have been conflicting. Some studies have indicated that diet may play a role, while others found no evidence that diet influences breast cancer risk. Studies have looked at the amount of fat in the diet, intake of fruits and vegetables, and intake of meat. No clear link to breast cancer risk was found.

Studies have also looked at vitamin levels, again with inconsistent results. Some studies actually found an increased risk of breast cancer in women with higher levels of certain nutrients. So far, no study has shown that taking vitamins reduces breast cancer risk. This is not to say that there is no point in eating a healthy diet. A diet low in fat, low in red meat and processed meat, and high in fruits and vegetables might have other health benefits.

 While scientists work on finding the scientific proof for healthy diet to human health, let us look into the thousands of years of diet experience in the Far East. In the ancient TCM medicine, the food and herbs were almost indivisible, in the experience of searching for food, the edible, tasty plants and fruits became food, the others with unpleasant taste but with healing functions became medical herbs. In the Key Principles of Chinese medicine, each individual has their own unique internal climate as Cool or Cold, Warm or Hot, Humid or Damp, Dry or Dry Heat, Windy as unstable feeling, so both herbs and food were discovered to have the thermal nature of warm, hot, cool and cold; they were also divided into five tastes: Pungent or Acrid, Sweet, Salty, Bitter; The thermal nature and taste will decide which herb or food to be good at addressing different internal climate. The simple principle to help understand is: if the body constitutional condition is hot, the cooling herbs or herbal formula will be prescribed and cooling food will be recommended.

Ginger, for example, it is the most popular kitchen spice and food in many cultures. As an herb for healing, the most common use is to treat the upset stomach in the west. Whereas in TCM, fresh ginger is pungent and warm, air dried ginger is pungent and slightly hot, roasted dry ginger is pungent and very hot, the skin of ginger is pungent and cool. So Ginger is NOT for all stomach disorders, only for the ones caused by the cold conditions. It can also be applied to different body imbalance or illness, depending on different preparation and different part of ginger, please see the following incomplete list.



                                 TCM Features                                 Clinical Application

Fresh Ginger      Pungent, Warm               Common Cold with body achiness, Nausea or Vomiting with cold feeling in the stomach

Air Dried Ginger                Pungent, Slight Hot      Stomachache or abdominal pain with cold feeling in the stomach or abdomen, maybe cold extremities

Roasted Dry Ginger        Pungent, Very Hot          Expel coldness in the deep, internal body, beneficial to all kinds of pain with cold feeling, either localized or whole body, specifically beneficial to menstrual pain or other menstrual disorders with cold signs

Ginger Skin                        Pungent, Cool                   Edema, Skin disease 

More Examples of the Taste and Thermal Nature of Some Common Food IN TCM

Black Bean ---- Sweet, Warm

Kidney Bean ---- Sweet, Cool

Lentil ---- Mild flavor, Neutral in Thermal Nature

Asparagus ---- Bitter and mildly pungent, slightly warm

Beet ---- Sweet, Neutral

Broccoli ---- Pungent, slightly bitter, cool

Celery ---- Sweet and Bitter, Cool

Cucumber ---- Sweet, Cool

Barley ---- Sweet and Salty, Cool

Buckwheat ---- Sweet, Neutral

Corn ---- Sweet, Neutral

Rice ---- Sweet and Neutral

Wheat ---- Sweet and Salty, Cool

Fruit in general is Sweet and Cool

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