Chinese food therapy is very old, it dates back to 2000 BC. and has been documented since 500 BC. The Niejing was written around 300 BC and documents Chinese food therapy. This document classifies food into four food groups. The groups are and by the five tastes and also be their natures and characteristics of the foods.
The Four Pillars of Health
There are four pillars of health according to the Chinese people. The four pillars are lifestyle, food, exercise and mind. The food is the most important pillar because it is believed that food is the major cause of disease as well as the source of good health and long life.
Food is a central part of Chinese life and a lifelong profession for most Chinese women. You might say that eating properly is almost a national obsession in China. Mealtime is the most important daily activity for the Chinese people. In China food has been studied to understand its effect on people. This knowledge is the basis for the food therapy used today. Herbal medicine and food therapy goes hand in hand when treating disease. Herbs are used in cooking, and preparing teas.
Herbal medicines come from plants, animals and mineral sources such as roots, bark, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds, insects, marine products and game, crushed stones, bones and shells. Herbal remedies are used to bring diseases under control and then food therapy is used to continue the healing process.
Herbs and food are often combined to make dishes that are used to treat those who are ill. Superior foods and food herbs are used to help the body heal itself.
To be effective medicinal food needs to be taken on a regular basis.
There are four food groups in the Chinese diet, which include grains, fruits, meats & vegetables. Dairy products are not included in the food groups because they are not considered as healthy for humans.
Niejing explained that grains were used for sustaining, vegetables for filling, fruits for supporting and meats for enhancing the body. Chinese believe that grains and vegetables are the basic foods needed to sustain life and that they should make up the bulk of the diet. Meats and fruits are seen as supporting foods and should be eaten in moderation.
To be a balanced healthy diet, you should consume foods in the following percentages:
- o Grains – 40%
o Vegetables – 40%
o Meats, fruits and nuts – 20%
The five food tastes are bitter, pungent, salty, and sour and sweet. The Chinese believe that each taste acts upon a different vital organ. Sweet tastes act upon the stomach and spleen, sour tastes act upon the liver and gall bladder, bitter tastes act upon the heart and small intestine and salty tastes act upon the kidney and bladder with the last taste pungent acting upon the lungs and the large intestine.
Each of the five organ systems support each other with the five tastes having a direct influence on the organs it is wise to adhere to proper diet in the percentages recommended in order to promote internal balance and harmony between the body’s organs.