The Tao of Nutrition

Third Edition, by Maoshing Ni, Ph.D., O.M.D. and Cathy McNease, B.S., Dipl. C.H., Foreword by Hua-Ching Ni

Peter Fritz Walter
Jan 26, 2016 · 25 min read

Page Contents

Sample Chapter: Introduction to Chinese Nutrition
—Energetic Properties
—Yin and Yang
—Your Body is the Greatest Healer
—Traditional Chinese View of the Body
—Organs of the Body
—Five Elements
—The Five Tastes
—The Eight Differentiations
—Causes of Disease
—Prevention of Disease
—Guidelines for a Balanced Diet


This is definitely one of the best books on nutrition I have found, and it is one of four bestselling books by Dr. Mao I have found within the last year or so, and that I am all going to review here. It is very methodically made up and structured in six sections, which are:

Dr. Maoshing Ni

Introduction to Chinese Nutrition

Energetic Properties

Chinese nutrition applies the traditional healing properties of foods to correct disharmonies within the body. Over the course of several millennia, countless experiences were gathered using food for prevention and healing of disease. This treasure was passed along as an important healing art, within the body of information known as Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Healthy Foods, Herbs, and Spices

Yin and Yang

It is a universal law that everything is constantly changing, except for the fundamental governing laws of life. This principle applies to the universe surrounding us as well as the inner universe of our bodies. The ancient Chinese developed ways of looking at these changes to better understand them. One such theory is that everything in the universe consists of two opposite yet complementary aspects. This is called the Theory of Yin and Yang. Ying and Yang exist relative to one another and are also in a state of change at any given time; they are not static conditions. Day and night is a good example of this. When Yin and Yang are out of balance, diseases or disharmonies occur.

Your Body is The Greatest Healer

Many people are overfed and undernourished. We are constantly bombarded by information on nutrition from food companies, current faddists, and diet cultists, yet the picture is very incomplete. According to the Chinese point of view, the body is looked as a whole, working together in harmony. Just as every screw and bolt on a machine has an important purpose, if one part is broken the whole suffers. Our body is a very intricate machine that works together as a whole.

Traditional Chinese View of the Body

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the human as an intricate whole is made up of the following essential components: Chi, or vital energy, blood, body fluids; Jing, or the essence of life; and Shen, or spirit. If any one of these components is missing, you cannot have life.

Organs of the Body

TCM views the body organs as couples consisting of a Yin organ and a Yang organ. Each pair also has energetic correlations that we may not necessarily associate with the physical organ. For example, the Kidneys in Chinese medicine would also include functions of the reproductive organs. Each pair of organs is associated with one of the five energies called the Five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The quality of the element is reflected in its organ pair.

The Five Elements and their Dynamics

Five Elements

A basic theory in the Chinese view of the universe is the Five Elements Theory, or the Five Energy Transformations. This view gives us a helpful framework for understanding the ever-changing world, the inner relationships of change, and the interconnectedness of all things. The five elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, connect in that sequence for what is called the creation cycle. This cycle occurs in nature as well as within our bodies. In nature, rub two pieces of wood together and create fire; fire buns to ash and becomes earth; from earth we dig up metal; melt the metal to liquid and make water; put a seed into the water and it germinates a tree and creates wood. The cycle is circular.

Blueberries are a powerful antioxidant and one of the prime foods that heal gout. In addition, their taste is delicious.

The Five Tastes

The physical sensation of taste has its significance in Chinese medicine. Taste is classified into five flavors, although in the text below you will actually find severn. These five tastes are: sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, and salty. The other two are bland, which falls under the sweet category, and astringent, which falls under the sour category.

  • Sour taste has absorbing, consolidating, and astringent functions. It functions in stopping abnormal discharge of body fluids and substances as in the condition of excessive perspiration, diarrhea, seminal emission, spermatorrhea, and enuresis. Examples of sour foods are Chinese sour plum, lemon and vinegar.
  • Astringent faste falls under teh sour taste category and its actions are very similar to that of the sour taste.
  • Bitter substances have the action of drying dampness and dispersing obstructions. Often bitter also clears heat, so bitter aids conditions like dampness and edema. Its function of dispersing obstruction can be utilized for a cough due to Chi stagnation and so forth. Examples of bitter tasting foods are rhubarb, apricot kernels, and kale.
  • Salty taste has the function of softening and dissolving hardenings. It also moistens and lubricates the intestines. Body symptoms such as lumps, nodes, masses, and cysts can be softened and dissolved by salty substances. An example can be seen in goiter, which is treated by seaweed, a representative of salty food. Also, in cases of constipation, one can drink salt water to lubricate the intestines and promote evacuation.
  • Sweet taste has the action of tonifying, harmonizing and decelerating. In cases of fatigue or deficiency, sweet substances have a reinforcing and strengthening action. Deficiencies may occur in different aspects of the body, such as insufficiency of Chi, blood, Yin or Yang. Specific organs may suffer from weakness as well. This is why one is drawn to sweets when he or she is experiencing low energy. Sweet taste is also used to decelerate, which means to relax. It is used in conditions of acute pain to help relax and hence, ease the pain. Sweet foods and herbs can harmonize as an antidote or counterbalance undesirable effects from some herbs. Examples of sweet-tasting foods are yams, corn and rice.
  • Bland taste falls under the sweet taste category. It tends to be diuretic, promotes urination and relieves edema. An example of a bland-tasting food is pearl barley.
No need to throw bread out as an acid-producing ‘bad’ food as nutrition fanaticists ordain. It all depends on the quality of the bread and its containing lots of grains (or being just bland), and to eat it with moderation. For the Yin type of body, carbohydrates are certainly important for balancing their condition, while for the Yang type of body, restriction should be placed on their ingestion. It is generally typically ‘Western’ and even more so typically ‘American’ to fall into extremes and ‘ban’ certain foods now in the New Age of Live Foods. All the authors I have reviewed on this blog previous to this book are guilty of extremism in one form or another, to a point to even ban tofu, vinegar, bread, or mushrooms as toxic.

The Eight Differentiations

In order to more clearly understand the energy of the patient and the nature and location of the disease, the Chinese have developed the Eight Differentiations system of diagnosis. Internal and external serves to locate the area of the disease. Deficiency and excess determine the relative strength of the patient or the disease. Cold and hot give indications of the nature of the individual and/or the pathogens. Yin and Yang give the overall picture of the condition. Together these eight differentiations can provide an accurate picture of both the individual being treated and the disease at hand. A mixture of symptoms can be confusing. The Eight Differentiations provide a basis for understanding seeming contradictions in the symptoms. A practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine would make an evaluation based on the tongue and pulse readings and the presenting signs and symptoms.

Causes of Disease

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the cause of disease is said to be of an external or internal source. Just below the surface of teh skin lies a layer of energy that acts as a protective shield. In a healthy person this shield is strong and without gaps as a barrier of protection should be. It is impervious to external factors. It, however, there are weak spots in this shield and external factors can penetrate into the body, we have disease. This shield is part of the immune system. If one’s immune system is strong, one does not catch the pathogen. For example, some people have the AIDS virus and show no symptoms of it; others catch it and soon die. That is the difference between strong Chi and weak Chi.

Prevention of Disease

As we increase our awareness of health, we can maintain a state of balance within the body, and become more responsible for our health. Too often we suffer from our inappropriate actions and thoughts. Chinese nutrition stresses prevention of disease. Written 2,000–3,000 years ago, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine says, ‘A doctor who treats a disease after it has happened is a mediocre doctor. But a doctor who treats a disease before it happens is a superior doctor.’ Doctors were considered to be teachers who taught their patients how to be healthy and spiritually upright. Success was measured by vibrant health. We as individuals choose to be one kind of doctor or the other.

Guidelines for a Balanced Diet

As every body is unique, there will always be variations according to individual needs. A few basic guidelines, however, are appropriate as we seek a way of eating that creates balance and harmony. Frame of mind is of utmost importance at mealtime; relax and slowly chew your food for optimal digestion and assimilation. The dinner table is not the place to discuss the day’s problems. Chewing is a major part of digestion. Remember, your stomach does not have teeth. Digestion, particularly of the starches, begins in the mouth. Foods that are difficult to thoroughly chew, such as sesame seeds, should be ground before eating. Fruits digest quickly while meats and other proteins take more time to digest.

Lifelong Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Genesis 1:29. Nutrition and the Mind. Nutrition and the Body. Nutrition and World Peace. Live-Foods vs. Flesh-Foods. Animal Welfare. Longevity. Healing Lifestyle Diseases. Rabbi Dr. Gabriel Cousens. Dr. Robert Young. Dr. George Watson. Dr. Norman Walker. Dr. Alberto Villoldo.

Peter Fritz Walter

Written by

Human Potential Media Producer, Philosopher, Political Analyst | | Twitter @pierrefwalter

Lifelong Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Genesis 1:29. Nutrition and the Mind. Nutrition and the Body. Nutrition and World Peace. Live-Foods vs. Flesh-Foods. Animal Welfare. Longevity. Healing Lifestyle Diseases. Rabbi Dr. Gabriel Cousens. Dr. Robert Young. Dr. George Watson. Dr. Norman Walker. Dr. Alberto Villoldo.

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