Chinese nutrition selects foods according to their energetic qualities in which balance is the key.
Warm coldness, cool heat, dry dampness, moisten dryness. Everything in the universe consists of two opposing yet complimentary aspects. Yin and yang exist relative to one another and are in a state of constant change.
Yang is energetic and warm, expanding outward and upward. It's energy manifests in the morning, and in spring. Yin is still and cool, contracting inward and downward. It's energy manifests in the evening and autumn.
In Chinese medicine, eight categories of universal energy are organized in a binary system of symbolic logic . The logic of these interacting forces applies to the human body, to each part of the human body, to each food, to the seasons and cycles of time, to climate and environment. It provides a structure for interrelating information.
The ten organs are divided into yin and yang and correspond to the five elements. These are not the anatomical organs but functional organs based on the properties of yin and yang.
The five elements theory is better thought of as five energy transformations. It is an extensive system of correspondences that link flavors, internal organs, and specific actions of food and medicine.
Flavors may be simple or complex. A hot (spicy) flavor is yang, energetically moves upward and outward, warms, energizes, and induces sweat. A sour flavor is yin, energetically moves inward and downward, astringes, retains fluid, and takes medicine in. Complex flavors may be difficult to determine, but over many centuries of experience, flavors have been determined on the basis of their organic effects and specific actions. The five flavors are:
Hot (spicy) foods can induce perspiration and promote energy circulation.
Sweet foods can slow down acute symptoms and neutralize toxic effects of other foods.
Sour foods can obstruct movements, and therefore check diarrhea and excessive perspiration.
Bitter foods can reduce body heat, drain body fluids.
Salty foods (seaweed) can soften hardness, lymph nodes and hardening of muscles or glands.
There are three basic steps to understanding Chinese nutrition and herbal medicine.
1. Theory and philosophy
2. Energetic properties and therapeutic actions
3. Recipes and remedies
Chinese internal medicine depends on digestion and assimilation to get medicine where it's needed, therefore improving and maintaining digestive function is paramount in administration of herbs and dietary advice.