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Healthy Eating in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Updated: Sunday, Sep 13,2009, 12:23:43 PM
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Five flavors of theory elements
Traditionally, there are five flavors, each associated with one of the five traditional elements

Foods are grouped with an essentially based on the taste. They are also classified as either Yin or Yang depending on whether a food is "cooling" or "warming" and the style of cuisine.

Sour is associated with wood
Bitter is associated with fire
Sweet is associated with the Earth
Spicy / (think of the "tang" of a good chicken broth) is associated with Metal
Salt is associated with water
A healthy diet consists of a balance of these flavors. An imbalance, too much or too little, causing a disease. For example, water is the element of fire control, if too much salt to weaken the association of a person with fire, causing disease in organs and tissues with fire. In western medicine this is that: too much sodium can lead to heart attack (the heart is associated with fire.)

Yin and Yang Foods

Food can also be considered hot or cold based on the immediate effect they have on the body. Spicy foods are almost always considered Yang in Chinese food, which should not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever had a too-hot bowl of chili.

While this is not an absolute rule, in general food with lots of calories or fat, are considered "warming" foods or Yang, while foods with low calorie or low fat are considered as "cooling" foods or Yin. Western thought could explain that calories and fat are two forms of energy and energy = heat. 

Most forms of alcohol are also considered "warming," the "burning" sensation of a strong drink is well known and long-referenced!

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