Every food, liquid, spice and condiment has properties that the East recognizes, including temperature of food, taste (sour, sweet, bitter, astringent, pungent), acidity, channels affects and the effect of the food. This shows us that food is more than just food; food is actually the simplest form of medicine. What we eat really does make up what our body has to fuel itself on.
Rules to Eating:
- Eat slowly and only when you are hungry.
- Be in a calm environment, don’t eat when you are upset or angry.
- Stop eating when you are about 75% full. A piece of helpful advice from a previous teacher of mine: the moment you stop tasting what you’re eating and/or the moment you could ‘take it or leave it’ you should stop.
- Be aware of how you feel before you eat and after you eat. Your body is really smart and will tell you if it doesn’t like something, although it may be difficult to pick up on these clues initially. Sensitivities may be in the form of abdominal upset and bowel movements, or things such as skin rashes or headaches.
- Warm foods: either cooked, steamed, baked, etc. Warm foods are easier for your spleen and stomach to digest.
- Easily digestible foods such as soups and congee. These foods are easy on your spleen and stomach, and can actually help them work better, leading to better digestion and health.
- For the season, in the summer it is okay to eat cooler foods, such as watermelon, to cool your body. However, if you are in the air conditioning all day long, you will want to take that into account. In the winter, it is better to eat hot and warm foods to nourish and warm your body.
- Include protein and healthy fats in your breakfast to properly fuel your body and to reduce the amount of cravings later in the day.
- Fried food, sugar, alcohol. These foods have properties that cause stagnation. When stagnation occurs, it can eventually turn to heat. Stagnation, heat and cold can damage your stomach’s ability to “rotten and ripen” the food and inpair the function of the spleen to “transform and transport” the nutrients.
- Cold, raw foods are hard on your stomach and spleen and may cause bloating, gas and loose stools. In The Tao of Healthy Eating, Flaws explains how our body is able to absorb more of the nutrients in cooked foods opposed to raw foods.
- Processed food. The ultimate goal should be to be eating whole, real foods. Our body doesn’t know what to do with processed food, even taking into account the artificial sweeteners. In that case, it’s better to have real sugar; at least our body knows what to do with it.
- Speaking of sugar, we can’t stress enough how important it is to reduce our sugar consumption altogether. Sugar causes stagnation and phlegm, and therefore may cause pain, along with many other symptoms.
- Dairy… yes dairy. It can also cause phlegm and stagnation. A little dairy is ok, if your body tells you it is ok. But be aware of how it makes you feel.
- Eating close to bedtime. If you eat too close to when you go to sleep, your body will be trying to digest the food when it should be focusing on other body systems. Eating close to bedtime may result in poor sleep. Refrain from eating two hours before bed.
The Tao of Healthy Eating by Bob Flaws: Summarizes the theory behind Traditional Chinese Medicine and digestion and how the body works.
Helping Ourselves: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics by David Leggett: “a beginners guide to nutrition according to the principles of Chinese medicine.”