Diet is just as important as acupuncture and herbs when it comes to treating the body from a traditional Chinese medical perspective. Making appropriate food choices is key in maintaing good balance. Individual foods, like Chinese herbs, have specific healing properties and this is the basis of Eastern nutritional theory. For example, certain foods have warming properties and should therefore be eaten more frequently during the winter months. These foods include cinnamon, clove, ginger and lamb. Likewise, there are foods that have more cooling properties such as cucumber, watermelon, lettuce and cabbage.
As a general rule, the digestive system requires warmth to maintain proper digestion–no matter what time of year. This means avoiding an excess of raw food and avoiding cold foods and beverages. We often tell our patients to limit the amount of these types of food or drinking hot beverages with raw foods. (Think hot tea with sushi!) Dairy products should be limited, especially depending on each person’s constitutional makeup. Here’s why: excessive dairy consumption can lead to dampness. Dampness inside the body is similar to a damp day outside. It can make the person feel foggy headed, physically tired and produce more mucus–like nasal congestion or post nasal drip. Therefore if someone is more prone to mucus production, avoidance of dairy is highly recommended. Frequent misconceptions about dairy is that it is the best source of calcium. The truth, however, is that we can get plenty of calcium from green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, and kale and kelp.
Balance is important too! Think of the healthy 4 food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains and protein. Classical Chinese medical theory suports the consumption of meat from animals and is very nourishing to the body. In today’s environment that has plenty of toxins and antibiotics, it is important to choose organic, free-range, antibiotic-free meat sources. Of course, there are plenty of vegetarian options that provide good sources of protein such as beans, nuts, seeds and quinoa.