“For Who?” “When?”
These questions are the key according to Chinese Medicine Nutrition Therapy. No one diet fits an entire population. The one way of eating is individual to a person, living in a specific climate, at a certain age, during a given season.
In popular media, gurus will tout one diet over another – eat more of this, eat less of this, drink more water, eat less sugar, more fat, less fat, etc.
Ok, some of the things we hear are useful. Sugar, in its refined form, and added to pretty much everything, is not a natural way to healthy eating. Too much sugar is pretty much one thing I think everyone can agree is a recipe for health problems.
But maybe you’ve heard of keto, paleo, vegan, raw, juicing, etc. In my experience, and backed by the wisdom of the ages, Chinese Medicine has evolved and spanned and refined what works and what doesn’t on the individual level. What one eats depends on one’s constitution and health status.
Five Tips for Health Eating According to Chinese Medicine
Here are my 5 tips as a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, for a healthy way of eating:
- Eat According to Season
- Eat According to your Chinese Medicine Pattern
- Don’t eat until full. Eat until 3/4 full.
- Don’t eat close to bedtime
- Eat in a relaxed manner, don’t rush or multi-task during mealtimes.
Eating According to Season
One of the foundational concepts in Chinese Medicine is that people are a part of nature. The environmental climate directly impacts us, and if we’re eating in a way that is out of sync, then we’ll be affected. For example, in summer, someone who overheats easily would be encouraged to eat watermelon to help cool. Yet the same food in winter would not be appropriate. Light fresh salads are best in spring and summer because spring in the time when new plants sprout and grow, and in summer greenery flourishes. This aids our upward and outward Liver-Wood energy that is active in the spring and feeds the Fire element of summer. Yet in winter, salads should be consumed more sparingly if at all, because winter is a time of storage.
Eat According to your Chinese Medicine Pattern
This one is really important, and the best example is someone who is full of mucus and congestion is encouraged to stay away from mucus-producing foods such as all dairy, refined sugar, and wheat or doughy foods. Also, someone who is dry overall would be encouraged to eat juice moistening foods such as sweet potatoes, fats, and eggs.
Eat until 75-80% Full
Overeating taxes the digestive system which is often weak in many people. Leaving room is a key to longevity according to many studies.
Don’t Eat Right Before Bed
If we go to bed right after eating a full meal, our energy must go to digesting that food instead of going dormant into our healing state as it should for sleep. This can create excessive dreaming, groggy feeling in the morning, and overall sluggishness and lack of concentration the next day. I tell my patients to allow 3 hours between the last meal and bedtime. I also recommend fasting for around 12 hours every night to allow the digestive system time to repair and rest.
Relax during meals
It’s important although admittedly not easy, to just focus on eating during mealtimes. It’s so tempting to read something on our phones, watch TV, be cooking or cleaning while eating. But your Gastro-Intestinal system will thank you if you just sit, and chew, and perhaps talk lightly with friends or family. Mindful eating is becoming a lost art, and I encourage you to try it if you tend to multi-task at mealtime!