Food: 6 Healthy Eating Tips from the Perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Dec 16, 2018 · 5 min read

by Elaine on

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a holistic perspective of mind, body, and soul. Their belief is that healthy eating is not just about what you eat and where it comes from. Traditional Chinese Medicine is about the whole experience of dining and even your state of mind when you’re putting this food into your mouth.

This means whatever we think and feel affects the energy flowing through our body, which might also manifest in the digestive system. If you’re suffering from digestive disorders, traditional Chinese doctors look first at the stomach and the spleen.

TMC doctors believe the stomach and the spleen are mainly responsible for digestion, absorption of nutrients and transformation of food into “Qi” (energy) and blood. If there are any imbalances or if the energy isn’t flowing through correctly, symptoms like fatigue, fullness, pain, vomiting, and lack of energy can be observed.

Here are some basic tips from TCM practitioners on healthy eating.

1. Avoid Stress And Anxiety

There’s a saying in TCM that goes, “Anxiety damages the blood.” Therefore, digestive issues are normally the first signs of stress. This can be explained by the fact that when the body is under stress, it releases adrenalin. Adrenaline eventually inhibits the proper functioning of the digestive system.

Reducing stress and anxiety relieves symptoms like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Moreover, your emotional state of mind is also a big factor. Thus, ensure good digestion by focusing on relaxing and enjoying your meal. This is a belief that is shared by Western medicine practitioners and proven by scientific studies as well.

2. Less Is More

One of the most striking things Westerners will notice the first time they dine in China (or in most of Asia) is how much smaller the portions are. The truth is, the standard western portion is much more than what a normal person’s stomach can handle. According to TCM, the first step to healthy food consumption is to limit food intake. In fact, the Chinese say “Eat until you’re two-thirds full”.

Scientific studies arrive at the same conclusion. Eating less is proven to be successful in extending your lifespan and avoiding diseases like cancer and heart disease.

In TMC, when the digestive system is full, it becomes sluggish. Thus it can’t detox and eliminate all this food. At best, you should stop before you consume too much.

3. Look for Quality

When you eat less, you can concentrate on eating better-quality foods. Exchange modified and processed foods for more natural and organic ingredients.

Beyond that, TCM practitioners suggest you should focus on the taste. Consuming flavorful foods make you more satisfied and result in better digestion. You’ll be inclined to eat less when you slow down to appreciate the wonderful taste.

4. Watch Out for Timing

Traditional Chinese Medicine believes the body follows a specific timeline as to when the energy is higher. Mornings are the best for digestion, while evenings are when it is weakest. This is why breakfast is considered the most important meal.

Many studies have also supported this. Breakfast-eaters are better able to regulate their weight, avoid diabetes and manage energy levels throughout the day.

Another vital factor is the timing and amount of dinner. Eating light supper at an earlier time also supports weight management.

5. Protect Your “Digestive Fire”

According to TCM, digestion is a natural process of the body that’s dependent on the balance (“Yang”) of the spleen and kidneys. Digestion is a warm process and cold negatively affects it. This is why cold food and drinks are not recommended by Chinese doctors.

Chinese doctors believe fats solidify and food becomes a sludge that slows and stagnates digestion. They recommend steaming vegetables lightly or stir-fry them to keep the important nutrients but warm them up for better digestion.

6. A Balanced Diet

A balanced diet doesn’t only refer to just eating a variety of food, but to the balance of the five flavors. Traditional Chinese Medicine believes each of these five flavors contributes to proper digestion. Omitting one of them will lead to negative consequences.

For example, sour foods help in digesting fat and encourages the good movement of the liver’s Qi. Without it, the liver becomes slow and can’t regulate the stomach’s appetite.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Plant-Based Diets

Traditional Chinese Medicine encourages you to enjoy your food more. Enjoyment from food has a huge influence on the health and effectiveness your digestive system.

Enjoying your food also means opting for quality ingredients and a variety flavors. And of course, choose a balanced, broad diet of whole grains, legumes, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds.

Sit down for meals without worries and you’ll ensure your body will process food properly. Chew your delicious meal slowly. Savor the taste so you’ll also end up eating less.

Lastly: don’t forget to also have fun while preparing food.

These are the basic principles of healthy eating according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Looking for more basic healthy eating principles? Read this: Healthy eating in traditional Chinese medicine

About the Author

Working at Freedom Chinese Medicine, a professional pregnancy acupuncture centre in Melbourne, Elaine has helped numerous patients with their ailments. She is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and she completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science.


Written by

A very spontaneous business nomad & food lover

More From Medium

More from TechFoodLife

More from TechFoodLife

TECH: WTF is the Blockchain?


Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade