Chinese Nutritional Principles


acupuncture theory says food is medicine

Winter Squash is perfect for fall and winter balancing

An acupuncturist’s way of viewing food and nutrition is very different than in the west.  Since Chinese medicine was derived before the days of advanced technology, (which can tell us the exact nutritional make up of a food) the Chinese had to come up with some other way of prescribing foods as medicine.  And what they came up with was phenomenal in its simplicity yet effectiveness.  Instead of breaking a food down into its basic components, for instance, proteins, sugars, fats, etc, or vitamins and minerals, they looked at the food as a whole and examined what overall effect it had on the body.  Since everything in Chinese Medicine is about “balance”, they discovered how the balance of the body would be either maintained or disrupted by eating certain foods.  For instance, they noted that people who suffer from too much heat in the body, such as a woman going through menopause, would become even more hot if eating things like peppers, onions, etc.  Conversely, someone who is cold all the time needs to add just these foods in.  While these are just basic examples, an actual study of the principles reveals how comprehensive they are in providing thorough, effective, yet very easy to follow guidelines for choosing foods.


Each food is also looked at as a whole for which organ or organs it will have an effect on.  If a person has weakness in their digestive system, for example, they would need to add in foods that have shown to have a strengthening effect on those organs.  Some examples would be sweet potatoes, winter squash, and many of the root vegetables.  Foods also need to be eliminated based on these theories.  For example, cold foods are very damaging for the digestion, so a person with weakness there needs to stay away from iced drinks and chilled fruit.

You can see that unlike Western nutrition, where there is a standard protocol which it is believed everyone should follow, in Chinese nutrition, each person is seen as an individual, and there is never any one specific way that everyone needs to eat.  Furthermore, what one person may need during one stage of their life, while they are leading tours up the volcanoes in Hawaii for a summer job, for example, is going to be very different from what they need just a few months later when they’re sitting down all day studying for exams in the middle of a winter snow.  As the balance in the weather shifts outside, so does the balance point in our body, and we need to change our foods accordingly.

Lentil Squash stew is full of Qi!

Once you have had your consultation and I have diagnosed your condition, I can then discuss with you some changes that you can make in your diet that can dramatically improve your state of health, and help you to recover from symptoms.  What I especially like about this system is that it seems to be a much easier and fun method of choosing healthier foods for patients.  Since the way we look at the body is so different, often times I am able to give my patients guidelines which they have never heard of, and choices that are much easier to make.  For instance, most women don’t know that the simple act of drinking their water room temperature instead of iced, can help them to lose weight by increasing their digestive function…which in the long run means you get more of the energy from the food you’re eating, while getting rid of what you don’t need more effectively as well, through the stool.  When we do our nutrition consultation, I will send you home with a list of foods which you can put on your fridge to remind yourself of your current diagnosis and the foods that will benefit you right now.  Usually patients are shocked when they see that a lot of the foods on the list are foods they enjoy anyway…but just didn’t know that they would actually be “medicine” for them.  Once they know this, they have fun choosing more and more of those foods on a more regular basis!