So I thought I’d do a slightly different style of post today since I have the time. Now, I know I moan and groan about school and tests and all that jazz, but the truth is I honestly LOVE what I’m studying. I’ve talked a bit about it on this blog before, but just to clarify I’m going to grad school to become an Acupuncturist and practitioner of Oriental Medicine. So that means I’m learning how to manipulate the body’s “energy” via the insertion of thin needles at specific points and supplement that with herbal prescriptions. It involves a lot of study because not only do we have to know the traditional Chinese theories, we also have to be familiar with the modern, “western” diagnoses, meds, and anatomy.
A part of the traditional Chinese way of thinking is that “food is medicine”. There are literally hundreds of herbs that are used in formulas, just like Western pharmaceuticals (although they usually don’t have all of the side affects and other bad stuff). But, aside from all the herbs, every food is considered to have certain qualities, both benefits and detriments, that contribute to our overall well being. So basically every food is considered an “herb”.
Everything is given certain properties called temperatures and tastes. The temperatures (cold, cool, warm, hot, neutral) don’t have anything to do with the actual physical feeling of the food (although it can correlate), rather it refers to the foods’ affect on the body. For example, most meat and grains are considered warm and easy to digest and therefore good for people who tend to run cold. For “hot” people, though, this can be trouble. Raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products are cold and take a bit more work for the body to use. Great for people with warm constitutions, but not so great with cold people. (This is also why TCM doesn’t normally condone complete vegetarianism - it can be hard on the digestion and create cold problems)
The tastes of foods (sour, sweet, bitter, salty, spicy, bland) also play an important role in determining what that food can do.
Here are a couple of websites if any of you are interested learning more:
Because of the many properties that each food has, there are really now “good” or “bad” foods. Yes, certain health conditions require more of one kind and less of another and people’s constitutions determine what is “best” for them, but really everything can be enjoyed in moderation. In fact, a “perfect” meal for the Chinese includes a little bit of every taste and temperature.
Personally, I enjoy learning about all of this, but of course I don’t follow it to a tee. I would die if I couldn’t eat my daily yogurt (TCM doesn’t really like dairy products - too cold!) and sometimes I want piles and piles of hot ginger and cinnamon on my oatmeal. However, one thing I’ve found is that I feel a lot better when I cook vegetables rather than eat them raw. And I eat lots of soup and oatmeal because I end to run cold. I also love how this approach is not focused at all on calories or fat or carbs or any of that. They didn’t think of food as necessarily causing weight gain; it simply nourishes our the bodies. Basically, just eat everything in moderation, leaning more toward what your constitution thrives on. And it’s not a one size-fits-all plan either - everyone is different and needs different amounts of everything.
So this post was super long, but I hope it was interesting! If you have any questions or thoughts I’d love to hear them.
I hope you all are having a wonderful week!