We are all taught at a very early age that different countries with diverse cultures exist around the world. Whether the country has only existed for a few decades or thousands of years, each one has differing views and traditions that they cherish in their own ways.
This implies that each culture views nutrition differently, which is reflected in their eating and drinking habits.
We are going to look at local eating habits from around the world, in the attempt to find a greater understanding of nutrition around the world.
Chinese Philosophy of Daoism
China is an old country that has contributed much to society at large in the ways of agriculture, communication, philosophy, medicine, and much more. Their largest contribution to the world of philosophy, Daoism, is a large driving force in much of their culture.
The main philosophy of Daoism is that each natural element has its opposing forces and signature energies that exist in the natural world order.
Yang is often depicted in illustration as the white side of the symbol with a black dot, and Yin would be depicted with a black part of the symbol with a white dot. The energies are meant to be complimentary, there is a part of yin to every yang and a part of yang to every yin.
A direct example of this philosophy would be that yin is female and yang is male. Both need to exist in the natural world order.
A subtle example would be that an eggshell would be considered yang, while the yolk inside is considered yin.
Both elements are considered important in the philosophy of Daoism and both are necessary for a person to maintain and gain personal balance.
How Daoism applies to Chinese Nutrition
This philosophy of balance naturally carried itself to Chinese nutrition. They see nutrition and food as something that carries small medicinal properties and can help with various diseases or problem areas. Their diet, in general, is mostly vegetables and grains with the occasional fish and red meat. They are lactose intolerant and view dairy as something for infants.
They apply the concept of flavors to reflect the 5 world elements: Wood=Sour, Fire= Bitter, Earth=Sweet, Metal=Spicy, Water= Salty. These elements often have their own medicinal applications in Chinese cuisine. For example, if you have diarrhea, sour foods, such as lemon or pickles can help. If you need mood elevators, then sweets like fruit and honey help.
They also apply the properties of yin and yang to the properties of the food.
Foods that heat up the body and foods are dry are considered yang in traditional Chinese nutrition. Too many yang foods could lead to health problems such as skin rashes, pimples, nosebleeds, indigestion, and gas. Examples of these foods are chili pepper, garlic, onion, curry, cabbage, eggplant, pineapple, mango, cherry, peanuts, beef, turkey, and shrimp.
The properties of food that are considered Yin in Chinese nutrition are foods that cool down the body, that is moist/wet and contain carbohydrates. Too much of these will cause diarrhea, stomach aches, dizziness, and weakness. Examples of Yin food are: bitter melon, winter melon, Chinese green, mustard green, water crest, Napa cabbage, bean sprout, soybean, mung bean, tulip, water chestnut, cilantro, oranges, and watermelon.
Chinese Dietary Rules of Thumb
- Drink Green Tea, or warm liquids with every meal. Cold liquids like soda or iced tea don’t help with digestion and are often part of American dining. It also doesn’t hurt to add more soups into your daily diet.
- As far as calories are concerned, counting them does nothing but cause misery. Focus on nutritional aspects instead. For example, a cookie could have fewer calories than a banana, but you know which one has more nutritional value.
- Limit your red meats and your diary. While American’s aren’t lactose intolerant, too much dairy can cause digestion problem, and too much meat can do the same. Limit yourself to 2 oz of red meat twice a week.
- Fill your plate with a ratio of 2/3rds vegetables and 1/3 meat for every meal with a carbohydrate on the side like white rice.
- Don’t skip meals. Instead, eat slowly and with intent, and finish the minute you feel full.
Authentic Chinese Recipes
Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
It has all the necessary combinations of both yin and yang ingredients, and it is warm enough to boost your digestive system. Click on the photo for the recipe.
Vegetable Stir fry with Cashews
This mostly vegetable dish is balanced with carbs and sauces, with plenty of nutrition to boot. Click on the photo for the recipe.
Golden Fish with Pineapple Plum Sauce
The lightly fried fish, the sweet sauce, served with a salad will make you a well-balanced meal. Click on the photo for the recipe.