Chinese Principles of Diet



Chinese Traditional Cooking and Dietary Concepts originate in the Taoist philosophy of
Yin and Yang and the theory of the Five elements. In the traditional medical theory, QI, the life force, comes from three sources: heredity, air, and food. It follows that in order to maintain health and balance of Qi, one must eat the correct foods.
The concepts of yin and yang and the five elements were devised by the ancient Chinese as a method of defining and explaining the nature of all phenomena. As such they represent the Chinese conception of Nature and were fundamental to all natural sciences.
Yin and Yang and the five phases have played a major role in the development of medical theory and rule the basic principle of diet and food therapy.
The theory of yin and Yang, derived from simple observation of nature, describes the way phenomena naturally group in pairs of opposites: heaven and earth, hot and cold, night and day, winter and summer, male and female, up and down, inside and outside, movement and stasis. These pairs of opposites are also mutual complements.
Everything in the universe may be ascribed to yin and yang Each individual phenomenon possesses both a yin and a yang aspect. Yin and yang are natural complements in the sense that they depend upon and counterbalance each other. Further, they are mutually convertible, and either eventually transforms into its complement.
The theory of the five elements is based on the concept that all phenomena in the universe are the products of the movement and mutation of five qualities:
wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, otherwise known as the five phases.
In Chinese medicine, the five phases are used to categorise the various organs and tissues, sense organs, and foods properties. At the beginning of its development, Chinese medicine established correspondences between the five phases and the seasons, the types of weather associated with each season, the functions of the organs of the human body the type of foods needed to enhance Life Energies etc.

The energies of foods

play an important role in Chinese diet: one person may have a hot (Yang) physical constitution another a cold (Yin) one. The person with a hot physical constitution should consume more foods with a cold or cool energy; the person with a cold physical constitution, more foods with a hot or warm energy. Such a diet is always related to each individual’s physical needs and may differ from one person to another.
Since every substance has its own influence on excesses and deficiencies in our bodies and some are more influential than others, for a given patient, certain foods would be detrimental to eat, while others would have a profoundly therapeutic effect.
As stated earlier food is also considered an internal medicine. This, of course, is connected with energy theory, specifically the sources of Qi or Life Energy in the human system.

Foods are first categorised by their Four Energies, and Five Flavours. The Four Energies are hot, warm, cold, and cool, and they indicate their basic effects on the body. Hot and warm foods belong to Yang, while cold and cool foods fall in the Yin category. The distinction between hot and warm, cold and cool, is matter of degree.
The Five Flavours of Foods relate them to the theory of the Five Elements. The five Flavours are spicy, sour, bitter, sweet, and salty; spicy is in Metal element and affect the lungs, sour relate to Wood and affect the liver, bitter relate to Fire and affect the heart, sweet is within the Earth element and affect the Spleen, salty belongs to the Water element and influences the kidney.
The Five Flavours are as important as the Four Energies in determining which food is appropriate to a person’s condition. For example, people who generally have insufficient fluid in the body should avoid using bitter herbs because they have a drying effect and would only aggravate the patient’s fluid deficiency. Similarly, people with energy deficiency must avoid hot flavoured ingredients because this category of foods tends to scatter energy. The Five Flavours and Four Energies are considered together in selecting appropriate items for a dietary prescription.

The QI of the food

may be descending, ascending, floating, dispersing, expanding, astringent or contracting; this important action affect directly the normal flow of human Life Energy; QI’ movements in the body also are either ‘ascending’, ‘descending’, ‘expanding’ or ‘contracting’; (ascending and expanding movements may combine and cause profuse sweating; descending and contracting QI may manifest as diarrhoea with abdominal pain); this direction of the Qi of food also explain how certain foods “enter” and have a profound influence on some of the meridians of acupuncture.

All of the above categories are used in defining herbs or foods properties.
Spicy is often associated with Hot or Warm, sometimes with Cool; it is dispersing and activates Qi, with some affinities to the Lung and Colon meridians
Sweet is usually associated with Warm and Hot; it is stimulating and harmonises or regulates Chi; neither ascending or descending, it affect mostly the centre of the body, and the Spleen and stomach meridians
Sour is associated with cool or cold; it is astringent, contracting and descending and affect mostly the Liver and Gall Bladder meridians
Bitter is often associated with cold, but it can also be warm; it is descending, hardening and affects the blood as well as the Heart and Small Intestine meridians.
Salty is associated with cool or cold, it is descending, softening and can be astringent and has a strong affinity with the Kidney and Bladder meridians
Sour, Bitter and Salty are Yin; Spicy and Sweet are Yang.

Most foods are a mixture of all these qualities at varying degree; for example the description of basic foodstuffs according to Chinese concepts would be as follow;
Rice: slightly warm, sweet, floating, affect stomach and spleen, Yang, Earth element, strengthens and harmonises Qi.
Some foods fall in more than one category, especially if their taste is said to be for example both sweet and pungent, or salty and bitter; or if their area of action include two or three meridians affecting several parts of the Chinese Body System


Categorisation of foods:
Predominantly Yin foods: Seaweed, oats, barley. duck, rabbit, crab, pork, aubergine, beet, pumpkin, cucumber, water cress, spinach, rhubarb, tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, oats, wheat, tofu, beans sprout, banana, lemon,, grapefruit, watermelon.
Predominantly Yang: Garlic, asparagus, celery, chives, shallot, fennel, fenugreek, parsley, leek, sorghum. basil, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, soya, pepper, chicken, lamb, mutton, mussels, shrimps, apricot, cherry, chestnut, jujube, litchis, orange skin, peach.

Foods which are predominantly sour, astringent and affect the liver: cheese, butter, Yam, tomatoes, Apricots, lemon, quince, litchi, mandarin, orange, sorrel, grapefruit, peach, pear.

Foods which are predominantly salty, cold, and affect the kidneys: Seaweed, oats, barley. Duck, crab, pigeon, pork, oyster, dry mussels.

Foods which are predominantly sweet, and affect spleen, stomach: Beef eggs, chicken, honey, carrot, celery, cabbage, pumpkin, beet, rice barley, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, melon, litchies papaya, watermelons, date, figs, liquorice,

Foods which are predominantly bitter, and affect the fire element, and heart: asparagus, hops, lettuce, soya, sheep, goat

Foods which are predominantly hot(spicy): Garlic, spring onions, chives, shallot, fennel, leeks, radish, basil, cloves, coriander, cumin, cinnamon ginger,, oregano, chilli, pistachio, pepper,

Categorisation according to basic constitutions in Traditional Chinese Medicine:
Excess Yang: this type of person is corpulent, with a red face, feels hot, perspire a lot tends to be hyperactive, drinks and eats too much .
Food to avoid: butter, cream, all animals products hard boiled eggs, dried meats, offal, fatty cheese, buckwheat, pasta, cakes garlic, onions, chives ginger, celery, black pepper, curry, almonds, nuts, pistachios, Seeds, dried fruits, hazelnuts,
Food to eat: white fish, duck, rabbit, wheat, couscous, barley, millet, green beans, peas, Soya, tofu. all raw salads lettuce, spinach, beets, courgettes. lemons, pears, apples, mandarins, watermelon, grape.


Excess Yin: this type of person is often obese, short of breath, with cold extremities, moves slowly, tends to retain fluids, sleeps heavily.
Food to avoid: raw salads, cucumber tomatoes, watercress, aubergines, seaweed rhubarb. butter, cow milk, cheese, pork, rabbit, duck, wheat, barley, oats, peanuts, sunflower seeds and oil. lemons, oranges, grapefruits, watermelon, melons, pears, mangoes..
Food to eat: chives, onions, shallots, garlic, ginger, cloves, carrots, celery, fennel sheep, beef, chicken, buckwheat, millet, chestnut, nuts, cherries litchi, pistachios, figs.

Deficient Yang: a thin person, often tired and cold with a low soft voice, pale and a tendency to mild chronic illnesses especially in winter;
Food to avoid: all raw salads, raw carrots, cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, cold cow milk, egg white beans, peas, beans, oranges, pineapple, grapefruit, watermelons,
Food to eat: garlic, chives, cloves cinnamon, coriander, shallot, cooked aubergines, carrots, celery, cabbage, pumpkin, spinach, leeks, potatoes. oats, peanut, wheat, corn, rice, Soya, millet, hot milk, goose, chicken, honey, shellfish, Chestnut, nuts, cherries grape, litchis, figs,

Deficient Yin: a thin person, with a dark complexion, dry skin, warm body, with sometimes low grade fever.
Food to avoid: cloves, cinnamon, pepper, carrots, leeks, buckwheat, sorghum, apricots, chestnut, grape, fried eggs, turkey, pheasant, sheep. grape, nuts, hazelnuts, coffee, wine, alcohol, vinegar.
Food to eat: aubergines, beet, cucumber, spinach, all salads, mushrooms, cow milk, eggs, river fish, crabs, prawns, quail, duck, lemon, figs, mandarins, papaya, apples, pears, mangoes, melon, grapefruits.
In a diet based on Chinese principles, it is important to have a strong feeling of balance between yin and Yang, hot and cold etc; there must be as well a variety of colour and taste, and a general sense of harmony.



Acupuncture at Cure By Nature: clinics at 95 Repligham Road london SW18 5LU and 211-213 kensington High Street London W8 6BD
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PJ Cousin M.B.Ac.C
Mobile: 07720773890
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Acupuncture at Cure By Nature
95 Replingham Road
London SW18 5LU

tel: 020 88751101

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Acupuncture London

Acupuncture at Kensington Therapy Centre
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Tel: 020 7376 1199

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Appointment available Thursdays only

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Pierre jean cousin is the owner and manager of Cure By nature, a well established London acupuncture and complementary practice in Replingham road, Southfields he also works as an acupuncturist and herbalist at the London Kensington Therapy Centre.




London Acupuncture at Cure By Nature: clinics of acupuncture and complementary medicine at 95 Repligham Road london SW18 5LU and 211-213 kensington High Street London W8 6BD