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Nutrition in Chinese Medicine

Energetics Nutrition and Chinese medicine

Nutrition is an essential branch of the Chinese medicine. It is split into two main parts, as follows:

  • The SHI YANG : To eat correctly and adequately with the natural aliments to maintain healthy.​

  • The SHI YANG : To cure the diseases with the aliments (used also in the philosophy of Hippocrate).


Disease appears when the energy of the body doesn’t function or doesn’t flow properly. In order to overcome this, it is necessary to maintain a high quality of the body energies by ensuring a good nutrition and an emotional harmony.

Two things need to be understood to be able to use the nutrition according to the principles Chinese medicine, as follows:

  • The functioning of the body as it is it that needs to be fed. This refers to the following theories:

    • Theory of YIN & YANG,

    • Theory of the 5 elements

    • Theory of the QI, of the blood and the organic liquids, of the organs​ and entrails, of the meridians and the collaterals

  • The nutritive value of the aliments according to the Chinese. They don’t speak about calories, proteins, or lipids. According to them, each aliment has a combination of nutritive features on its own that is expressed in terms of:

    • Reheating and refreshing effect,

    • Savor,

    • Meridian recipient

    • Direction of aliment within the organism​​


Detailed Theories

For example,  a child that is very YANG because he is in the middle of its growing process should be fed differently from an elderly person for whom the physiological functions and the tissues fade progressively.

Each food, depending on its flavor, shape, growing moment contains more YIN or more YANG.

Organs and Viscera in Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we don’t refer to the organs and viscera anatomically or physically but more as functional entities, meaning entities of energy (ref energetics medicine).

Those entities are responsible for the biggest part of the human body’s physiological activity at all levels, from the physical one to the mental one.

​La théorie des 5 éléments 

In parallel and in combination with the theory of YIN-YANG, the Chinese have developed a system of 5 elements, also named system of 5 movements or 5 phases.

This system compares each object and each phenomenon with 5 fundamental entities existing in nature, namely WOOD, EARTH, METAL, WATER, and FIRE. Under this principle, each savor is associated with one of the 5 elements, as detailed in the below table:

ELEMENT       SAVOR           CIRCULATION          MAIN FEATURE       SEASON         YIN-YANG                                                                                                                                                                  


     Wood                 Sour                     Within and                        Preserve the                    Spring              Passage from

                                                              downward                       organic liquids                                            yin to yang

      Fire                   Bitter                    Downward                        Instrument of                Summer          Maximum yang



     Earth                 Sweet             Spread the energy               Feed and hydrate           Inter-season


     Métal                 Spicy             Spread the energy           Encourage the movement        Fall                Passage from

                                                  upward and downward       and fight the stagnancy                                  yin to yang


     Water                 Salty               Flow in deepth                 Strengthen bones and          Winter             Maximum yin

                                                                                                   fight against stagnancy

The energetics constitution of food

Food energetics constitution

According to TCM, there are 5 food energy constitutions: Cold, Fresh, Neutral, Warm, Hot.​

In general, the Food classified COLD and FRESH:

  • Disperses warmth within the body

  • Cleanses the intestines and calms the fire (ex: inflammations)

  • Refreshes the blood

  • Eliminates the toxins

The "Fresh" food stimulate blood production and organic liquids.

Ex : fruits, most vegetables, some kinds of lettuce, all green vegetables…


​"COLD" food protects from warmth. They stop the organism from overheating.

Ex : exotic fruits, chamomile tea , mint tea, cucumber, tomatoes, salt, seaweed, yogurt… ​


In general, WARM and HOT foods:

  • Disperse coldness within the body

  • Support the YANG energy

  • Activate the blood flow

  • Fight against the internal cold feeling

  • Clear the meridians and the collaterals

"HOT" foods protect from cold, even gets rid of it.

Ex: lamb, garlic, nutmeg, hot pepper, warm wine…​

​"WARM" foods stimulate the activity, invigorate the YANG energy.

Ex: soup of vegetables, ginger, coriander, meat broth, leek…

"NEUTRAL" foods make organs more balanced and bring energy.

Ex: Cereals, beef, eggs, dry fruits…​


According to some TCM teachers, healthy nutrition consists of 70% cereals or grains, 15% cooked veggies, 5% raw vegetables, 5% animal protein (meat/fish), and 5% of winter products.


Some key points of the nutrition in the TCM

  • Understanding of the human organism with its energy functionalities.

  • Understanding of the energy nutritive effects of each food and drink on the physical, and psychological body.

  • Use of the food to treat sickness and prevent sickness.

  • Consumption of the food that we need in accordance with the season.

  • Consumption of the food coming from our soil (local food).

  • The Chinese cook the vegetables, half-cooked, which significantly eases their digestion and enables to keep most of the nutriments the vegetables have to offer.

  • The consumption of raw vegetables is to be reduced in case of digestion difficulties.

  • Watch out for overcooking vegetables, as overcooking causes them to lose a lot of their nutritive value and doesn’t provide enough YANG except if we add some spices and/or fresh condiments (ex: soya Tamari sauce).

  • Chew the food well. The digestion process starts from the mastication stage.

  • The cereals: millet, wheat, oats, spelt, corn… In their origin, meaning without suffering from any addition of chemical products and any biological transformation, they are well-balanced and have a slight flavor of sweetness. They strengthen both the YIN and the YANG energy but not always in equal proportion. They produce a very harmonious QI (an internal energy) that is distributed within all the organs. They produce also a prolonged effect of fullness and satisfy numerous needs of the body. Furthermore, they relax the mind.

Essential points

Life expectancy in some rural regions of Asia and South America can exceed the one in the urban areas of the same countries. In those areas, the daily diet followed is healthier than the one usually followed in cities. It includes food coming from their own soil, with a lot of cereals and grains, some vegetables, some white meat and barely any red meat or fruits as these are too costly. Cultivation is done without the use of any chemical products as these are also too costly and not part of the lifestyle of the people, which is in general a philosophy that has a closer understanding of nature and a higher sense of respect toward the people and Mother Nature.​​

Interview in French with Marion Kaplan - "Quoi manger et comment ?"

Interview "Quoi manger et comment"
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