Chinese food therapy (simplified Chinese: 食疗; traditional Chinese: 食療; pinyin: Shí Liáo) is a practice of healing using natural foods instead of medications.
Chinese food therapy is a modality of traditional Chinese medicine, also known as Chinese Nutrition therapy. It is particularly popular among Cantonese people who enjoy slow-cooked soups. One of the most commonly known is a rice soup that goes by many names including congee and jook. This is a traditional breakfast of Asian people all over the world. Congee recipes vary infinitely, depending upon the desired health benefits as well as taste.
Chinese food therapy dates back as early as 2000 BC. However, proper documentation was only found around 500 BC. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine also known as the Niejing, which was written around 300 BC, was most important in forming the basis of Chinese food therapy. It classified food by four food groups, five tastes and by their natures and characteristics.
The ideas of yin and yang are used in the sphere of food and cooking. Yang foods are believed to increase the body’s heat (eg. raise the metabolism), while Yin foods are believed to decrease the body’s heat (eg. lower the metabolism). As a generalization, Yang foods tend to be dense in food energy, especially energy from fat, while Yin foods tend to have high water content. The Chinese ideal is to eat both types of food to keep the body in balance. A person eating too much Yang food might suffer from acne and bad breath while a person eating too much Yin food might be lethargic or anemic.
Cantonese people pay much attention to the body’s reaction to food. Food items are classified accordingly, and diet is adjusted based on the body’s conditions. In effect, many Cantonese people practice food therapy in day to day situations. The following is a list of common food classifications:
The yin yang type of each individual determines how susceptible the person is to these effects of food. A neutral person is generally healthy and will have strong reactions to these effects only after overconsumption of certain kind of food. A yang type person usually can eat all yin type food with no ill effect, but may easily get a nose bleed with small amount of yang type food. A yin type person is usually very unhealthy and is reactive to either yin or yang food. Boosting or nourishing type of food is needed to bring a yin person back to health.
Oral secretion of swiftlets, collected from the binding material of their nests.
Root of a plant that has the Yang properties.
Root of a plant similar to Korean ginseng, but it has the Yin properties.
Dried duck gizzards, watercress, almond kernels (南北杏陳腎西洋菜湯):
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