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Healthy Eating Principles of TCM

Our Spleen is the main digestive organ in Chinese medicine.  It separates the pure from the impure from food and extracts Qi, or vital energy, to be used for proper functioning of our body and mind.  The Spleen can become weakened by dietary irregularities such as overeating, skipping meals, eating too much “damp” foods (alcohol, refined sugar, refined flour, dairy, greasy/fried foods) or too many “cold” foods (cold temperature foods like ice water, cold beverages, ice cream as well as cold natured foods like raw veggies).


The vast majority of vegetables should be eaten cooked. Lightly steamed, stir-fried, stewed or baked foods retain the most benefits of the foods and protect the “digestive fire.”  Giving food to the Spleen in an already partly digested manner helps the body assimilate it easily without expending extra energy to warm it up first and “cook” it in the gut.

Portions and Timing

  • Eat a larger meal in the morning, less for lunch, even less for dinner.  Eating the same amount of calories earlier in the day rather than later in the day stimulates the metabolism and protects against weight gain.  Food should not be thought of merely as calories.
  • Eat mindfully and chew slowly so that you can tell when you are feeling satiated.  Stop when 70% full. Research has corroborated that when we eat fast we don’t absorb as many nutrients from the food.
  • Eat regular meals – don’t skip meals. Stop eating at least 2 hours before bed.  This will keep blood sugars and energy levels more stable, not burn out your reserve Kidney energy and allow for your GI tract to rest.

Your Ideal Meal       

Practice listening to your body so that you can identify the foods and meals that make you feel good and satiated for several hours after eating.  Not every diet is right for everyone. There is a lot of scientific information about what is healthy but your body also has wisdom to offer.  Understand what makes you unique. If you understand your tendencies to imbalance then you can understand what foods to choose to keep yourself in balance.  For instance, people who tend to stagnation and damp disorders may do better with more vegetables and a more cleansing diet.  People who are deficient, children, women attempting to conceive, and the elderly may benefit from more nutrient dense foods that strengthen Qi and blood such as animal products. Also your food needs may change according to your life stages, the seasons,  your activity level and whether you are ill.

Moderation is key! It’s about balance, not perfection!

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