East Asian Medical Diet Tips

Spring is a time of renewal in all ways, making it a great time to renew your commitment to a healthy diet. Here are some general guidelines for a healthy diet that apply to everyone.

Eat lots of warm food. Avoid ice, dairy, fatty/greasy foods, raw foods, and sugar.

The Spleen is the main organ of digestion in Chinese medicine. It is involved with the transformation of food into energy and the ensuing transportation of that energy through the body. To keep your Spleen happy, avoid the above foods, which can encumber it. Drink liquids at room temperature or warmer. Remove fruit and salads from the fridge 1-2 hours before eating so they can warm up a bit. If you don’t have time or forgot, one quick tip for eating cold fruit is to soak it in warm water.

Avoid fast food. It is full of salt, sugar and grease. Many mass marketed foods, especially snack foods, are just as bad and are in fact formulated to appeal to your animal brain which instinctively seeks out high fat, high sugar, high calorie foods. When we were hunter/gatherers, these types of foods were important to our survival. Now that we hunt at the grocery store, we don’t need every calorie to pack such a huge punch. Eat fresh foods that are made of simple ingredients. Organic produce is a plus as it is exposed to less pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers. Eat lots of dark leafy greens and a wide variety of colorful foods in order to take in a large range of vitamins and nutrients. Taking a multivitamin does not operate in the same way as getting nutrients directly from food and is not a substitute for a healthy diet.

Red meat in small doses is healthy, especially for those of us with blood deficiency. This includes women in general, especially women with heavy periods and pregnant and nursing women, as well as athletes and those recovering from surgery or other blood loss. Eat red meat 3-5 times a week if you have normal cholesterol levels. Portion size need only be the size of the palm of your hand. A note on cholesterol: recent research is showing actual cholesterol levels to be perhaps less important than we had previously thought, so take it with a grain of salt. Unless you have high blood pressure, then skip the salt–that association seems to be holding up for now. If your blood pressure is normal, eat salt to taste.

Drink to thirst. When you exercise or sweat excessively, make sure to take in some electrolytes. This can be as easy as a bit of citrus and a bit of salt. Add a lemon or lime wedge to your water, make homemade lemonade with a pinch of salt, eat citrus fruits and/or salt your food to taste.

East Asian Medicine ascribes different flavors to the 5 major yin organs: sweet is Spleen, salty is Kidney, spicy is Lung, bitter is Heart, and sour is Liver. It is possible that you have an imbalance in one of these organs if you have intense cravings for the corresponding flavor. You can help supplement a known deficiency or imbalance by choosing to eat more of the flavor associated with the right organ.