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Food energetic's ~ Food Therapy

Food therapy - Traditional Healing Arts of Acupuncture, TCM & Massage in Ottawa, ON

Chinese medicine classifies food according to its energetic effects rather than according to its component parts. Certain foods are viewed as warming and nourishing while others are seen as cooling and eliminating; some foods are useful for building qi while others have blood, yang or yin building proprieties. Thus while a breakfast consisting of a banana and yoghurt will always have the same nutritional value in western medicine no matter who is eating it, in traditional Chinese medicine it may be seen as beneficial for those with yin deficiency conditions but detrimental to those with yang deficiency or dampness.


Food in this context either assists or hinders our daily efforts to maintain health or recover from illness, depending on our constitution. It is not just a matter of eating nourishing healthy food but of eating nourishing healthy food that is right for individual body types.

Renee Osborne offers Acupuncture in Ottawa, ON

The Five Flavours

All foods in traditional Chinese medicine are assigned properties according to the five flavours: sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty; and the four natures: cool, cold warm and hot.


The flavour of food (sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty) can be used to predict its effects on the body. The nature of food (cool, cold, warm and hot) also has a direct effect on the body. The way food is prepared can make it more suitable to an individual’s constitution:


Bitter foods such as rhubarb and dandelion leaf tend to descend qi, drain heat and dry dampness. Some bitter foods have a purgative effect as they induce bowel movements. Energetically, the flavor bitter goes to the Heart and the spirit (shen); excess injures the bones.


Sour foods such as grapefruit and olives are astringent, generating yin fluids and are cooling. In small amounts they aid digestion. Energetically, the flavor sour goes to the Liver and spirit soul (hun); excess injures the nerves.


Pungent or spicy foods such as onion and cayenne pepper have a warming action, promoting energy to move upwards and outwards to the body’s surface, moving qi and circulating the blood. They also are useful to disperse mucus from the lungs. Energetically, the flavor spicy goes to the Lungs and animal soul (po); excess injures the qi.


Salty foods such as kelp and soya sauce are cooling and hold fluids in the body. They have a downward flowing action, soften hardness and act as a purgative. Energetically, the flavor salty goes to the Kidney and will (zhi); excess injures the blood.


Sweet foods can be divided into two groups: sweet foods that are neutral and nourishing or warm and nourishing, these include meat, legumes, nuts, dairy products and starchy vegetables; sweet foods that are cooling, these include fruits, sugar, honey and other sweeteners, as well as potatoes, rice and apples. Energetically, the flavor sweet is tonifying and goes to the Spleen and mind (yi); excess injures the muscles.


Yin deficiency

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Yin represents the energy that is responsible for moistening and cooling bodily functions. When this energy is depleted your body begins to show signs of “heating up”. This is not a true heat but rather a lack of the moistening and cooling functions that are necessary to maintain a healthy balance. Foods to tonify Yin include:

·       Grains: barley, millet

·       Vegetables: alfalfa sprout, artichoke, asparagus, kelp, mung bean sprout, pea, potato,seaweed,string bean, sweet potato, tomato, water chestnut, yam, zucchini

·       Fruit: apple, apricot, avocado, banana, lemon, lime, mango, mulberry, pear, persimmon, pineapple, pomegranate, watermelon

·       Beans: adzuki, black beans, black soya, kidney, lima, mung

·       Bean Products: tofu

·       Nuts and seeds: coconut milk, sesame seed, black sesame seed, walnut

·       Fish: fish in general but especially clam, fresh water clam, crab, cuttlefish, oyster, octopus, sardine

·       Meat: beef, duck, goose, pork, pork kidney, rabbit

·       Dairy: cheese, chicken egg, cow’s milk, duck egg

·       Herbs and spices: marjoram, nettle

·       Oils and condiments: honey, malt,

Common supplements: American ginseng, royal jelly


Examples of every day western foods that can be used to build yin, include:

·       Fruit smoothies with honey and banana or a fruit salad

·       Fish dishes with coconut milk

·       Omelettes with cheese

·       Asparagus and egg salads with sesame seeds

·       Tacos made with Kidney beans and topped with a small amount of cheese

·       Baked Potato stuffed with tofu with soya sauce and sesame seeds.

·       Pork and apple dishes

·       Miso soup with tofu and seaweed


Foods to avoid:

·       Stimulating foods such as the following will only further deplete yin: caffeine, alcohol, sugar and strongly heating, pungent spices.


Note: Like yin tonifying herbs, yin building foods have a tendency to congest the spleen and promote stagnation if large amounts are consumed. It is therefore important to consume small quantities frequently rather than large helpings irregularly.

Yang deficiency

Food therapy - Traditional Healing Arts of Acupuncture, TCM & Massage in Ottawa, ON

Yang represents the energy that is responsible for warming and activating bodily functions. When this energy is depleted your body begins to slow down, displaying signs of under activity and sensations of coldness. Foods to tonify yang include:

·       Grains: quinoa, sweet (glutinous) rice, wheat germ

·       Vegetables: leek, mustard greens, onion, radish, scallion, squash, sweet potato, turnip, watercress

·       Fruit: cherry, litchi, logan, peach, raspberry, strawberry

·       Nuts and seeds: chestnuts, pinenuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts

·       Fish: anchovy, lobster, mussel, prawn, shrimp, trout

·       Meat: chicken, lamb, venison, kidneys (both beef and lamb)

·       Herbs and spices: basil, black pepper, caper, cayenne, chive seed, cinnamon bark, clove, dill seed, fennel seed, fennugreek seed, garlic, ginger, horseradish, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary, sage, savory, spearmint, star anise, tumeric, thyme, white pepper

·       Beverages: chai tea, jasmine tea

Common supplements: algae, brown sugar, Korean ginseng, malt sugar, vinegar


Examples of every day western foods that can be used to build yang include:

·       Roast chicken with sage and thyme

·       Roasted vegetables with and rosemary

·       Rice porridge with cinnamon, nutmeg and a little brown sugar

·       Leek and potato soup with black pepper

Or by adding any of the many spices as listed above to dishes when cooking.


Foods to avoid:

·       Cold food and cold liquids will further drain the body’s yang energy. Here ‘cold foods’ refers not only to those directly taken from the fridge but also to raw foods, as these require extra energy for digestion compared to pre-cooked foods. This may mean choosing steamed vegetables over a green salad or switching from granola to oatmeal for breakfast.

·       Using a warming method of cooking will also enhance the body’s energy by preserving yang, therefore soups, stews and slow roasted foods become the dishes of choice for those with a predominate yang deficiency. Do not use hot seasoning to excess, which will induce sweating and actually have a cooling, drying effect on the body


Damp Phlegm Accumulation

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Dampness represents a condition existing within the body that is a reflection of dampness as it occurs in nature, like humidity. Dampness arises from the inability of the digestive system to transport and transport fluids, or from the body being overwhelmed by external damp from the environment, (damp weather or living conditions, damp-producing foods). It can also arise from response to an illness, or from the overuse of medication that promotes dampness, such as certain antibiotics. Phlegm is seen as a condensed form of dampness. With a diagnosis of Damp Phlegm Accumulation it is important to nourish the Spleen by eliminating raw, cold, processed, sugary, fatty, fried foods. Foods to resolve dampness include:

·       Grains: corn, barley, basmati rice, rye

·       Vegetables: alfalfa sprout, button mushroom, caper, corn, pumpkin, radish, turnip, parsley, daikon, white fungus, kohlrabi, onion, mustard leaf, pumpkin, scallion

·       Fruit: papaya, lemon, umeboshi plum

·       Beans: aduki, lentils, kidney

·       Fish: eel, tuna, mackerel, anchovy

·       Herbs, spices: aniseed, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, nettle, parsley, white pepper

·       Beverages: green tea, raspberry leaf tea, jasmine tea


Foods that are useful to resolve damp combining with heat:

·       Vegetables: asparagus, celery, Chinese cabbage

·       Fruit: blueberry, cranberry, umeboshi plum

·       Beans: kidney

·       Herbs, spices: tamarind


Foods that are useful to resolve phlegm:

·       Vegetables: button mushroom, olive, shiitake mushroom, watercress, daikon, mustard leaf, onion, plantain, radish

·       Nuts, Seeds: almonds, walnuts

·       Fish: lobster, clam, shrimp

·       Herbs, spices: caraway, cardamon, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, mustard seed, thyme, white or black pepper,

·       Beverages: black tea, soya milk


Common supplements: horseradish and garlic


Foods that are useful to resolve phlegm with heat:

·       Vegetables: seaweed, radish, water chestnut

·       Fruit: apple peel, grape fruit, lemon peel, pear, persimmon, tangerine peel

·       Herbs and spices: licorice

·       Beverages: elderflower tea, grapefruit juice, peppermint tea, grapefruit or pear juice


·       Foods that are useful to resolve phlegm with cold.

·       Vegetables: mustard leaf, onion, scallion

·       Herbs and spices: basil, black pepper, cinnamon bark, fennel seeds, fresh ginger, juniper, onion,rosemary, savory

·       Beverages: jasmine tea, ginger tea (freshly grated)


Blood deficiency

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The concept of blood in traditional Chinese medicine shares a close relationship with the western concept in that it has both a nourishing and moistening function. However, with the concept of blood deficiency, emphasis is placed on your body’s qi. Blood is seen as a condensed form of qi, with qi playing a vital role in helping the blood to circulate to where it is needed. Attention is also focused on the strength of your digestive system’s ability to successfully obtain the nutrients from your food necessary for the production of blood. Food to build blood includes:

·       Grains: barley, corn, oats, rice, sweet rice, wheat, bran

·       Vegetables: alfalfa sprout, artichoke, beetroot, button mushroom, cabbage, celery, dandelion leaf, dark leafy greens, kelp, shiitake mushroom, spinach, watercress, wheatgrass

·       Fruit: apple, apricot, avocado, date, fig, grape, longan, mulberry

·       Beans: aduki, black soya, kidney

·       Nuts and seeds: almonds, black sesame

·       Fish: mussel, octopus, oyster, sardine, tuna

·       Meat: all red meat especially bone marrow and liver (beef, pork, sheep)

·       Dairy: chicken egg,

·       Herbs, spices: nettle, parsley

·       Oils, condiments: amasake, molasses

·       Beverages: soy milk

Common supplements: algae, dongui, pollen


Examples of every day western foods that can be used to build Blood include:

·       Rice porridges with soy milk, apricots and almonds

·       Dark leafy green salads with avocado and grated beetroot

·       Scrambled eggs with parsley

·       Mussel chowder with calamari

·       Snacks of dried apricots and almonds

·       Kidney bean and mushroom lasagna with a spinach salad


Qi Deficiency

Food therapy - Traditional Healing Arts of Acupuncture, TCM & Massage in Ottawa, ON

Foods especially useful to tonify Spleen Qi Deficiency:

·       Grains: oats, rice, sweet rice

·       Vegetables: potato, squash, sweet potato, yam

·       Fruit cherries, dates, figs, grapes, longan

·       Bean product: tofu

·       Meat: beef, chicken, goose, ham, lamb

·       Herbs spices: licorice

·       Oils/condiments: molasses

Supplements: algae, pollen, American ginseng, Chinese ginseng, royal jelly


Examples of every day western foods that can be used to build qi, include:

·       Oat porridge with dates and honey

·       Roasted sweet potatoes with pumpkin and yams

·       Chicken stir fry with shiitake mushrooms and rice

·       Shepherd’s pie with beef or lamb mince, mushrooms, carrots and mashed potato as a topping

·       Tuna fish pie made with hard-boiled eggs and served with mashed potatoes peas and corn.

·       Stir fired Tofu, eggplant and mushrooms with black sesame seeds on rice

·       Home made oat/muesli with honey and dates


People with Qi deficiency tend to seek out sweet foods. In Traditional Chinese dietary therapy there are two categories for sweet foods;

·       The first is termed empty sweet which in small amounts is considered cooling and eliminating. It contains simple sugars such as fruits, juices, honey and raw sugar.

·       The second category is termed full sweet, is considered warming and nourishing. It includes complex carbohydrates, protein and food such as rice, potatoes, meat and red dates.

Renee Osborne offers Acupuncture in Ottawa, ON








Food therapy - Traditional Healing Arts of Acupuncture, TCM & Massage in Ottawa, ON