Traditional Chinese Medicine classifies food according to its effects on yin and yang balance. Yang energy is responsible for warming and activating bodily functions. Symptoms of a yang deficiency can include cold hands and lower back pain. Yin energy is responsible for cooling and moistening. Symptoms of a yin deficiency include night sweats and heat flashes.
Good nutrition should help balance the body’s yin–yang through the Five Flavors. For example, if you have a yin deficiency, you should eat foods that increase yinin your body, such as beef and pork, which are sweet and warm. The right diet will vary from person to person, and from season to season, since the weather can affect the yin–yang balance in the body. TCM wisdom also teaches us to follow the seasons when selecting foods. This means regularly including foods in the diet that support the organ system at its peak during each season.
Food is something you eat every day—for most people, three times a day. If you stop and think about it, why not eat in a way that truly supports your health and well-being? This is precisely the approach TCM takes when it comes to food. TCM has understood the healing properties of food for millennia, and it knows the value of accumulating healing benefits from everyday actions, like eating, one day at a time.
When TCM speaks about the value of food it is referring to qualities beyond physical characteristics such as calories, minerals, and nutritional content like carbohydrates and protein. TCM realizes that each and every food has a special essence—a healing essence—that works in the body at the energy level. Using the Five Element theory, which maps the interrelationships of all things, TCM practitioners prescribe foods that have an essence that heals particular organs that may be out of balance or in need of healing support. This is the essence of TCM’s eating-for-healing approach.