La diététique chinoise - MYCELAB

Chinese dietetics

Chinese dietetics is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) (see article on the art of preserving your health in autumn). It is therefore built on the same principles as TCM, that is to say that it encompasses the body in its entirety, including energetic, emotional and spiritual dimensions of the individual. Its goal ? Contribute to health, by readjusting the energy balance specific to each human being. Chinese dietetics is a common-sense dietetics, it depends on the seasons, but also on each individual's constitution and health.


First of all, you should know that Chinese dietetics does not consider foods according to their nutritional value, that is to say according to the macro and micronutrients they provide (lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, etc.). They are defined according to 5 natures : cold, hot, fresh, lukewarm, neutral; and 5 flavors : sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, salty, each having an action on the body. Nature will have an impact on metabolism: a cold food will cool and therefore slow down the body and its functions, while a hot food will warm and stimulate the body. Flavors, for their part, each correspond to an organ on which they act: acid influences the liver and the gallbladder, bitter acts on the heart, sweet foods impact the spleen and the pancreas, spicy corresponds to lungs, and finally salty foods influence the kidneys. Be careful, however, because when consumed in excess, the flavors cause problems and dysfunctions.

According to Chinese medicine, a good dietary distribution corresponds to this: 70% fruits and vegetables, 10% oilseeds and first cold-pressed vegetable oils, 10% cereals (buckwheat, millet, rice, etc.), and 10% % of eggs, fatty and lean fish, shellfish and crustaceans (as a priority), meat and dairy products (occasionally).

Certain foods should be banned from Chinese diets because their humidity, called “tan”, acts like glue in the body, thus preventing the proper circulation of blood, liquids and Qi energy, and resulting in accumulation hydrolipidic and weight gain. Among these foods, we find: alcohol and alcoholic beverages, all flour-based products (bread, pasta, semolina, etc.), dairy products, sugar and sweet products, meat.

The cooking method is also very important because it influences the energy value of foods, and varies according to the seasons. In winter, prefer slow cooking with, for example, simmered dishes. This cooking method facilitates digestion while reducing energy. Spring will prefer steam cooking, which helps maintain crunch and vitality. During the summer, favor raw vegetables for their freshness, and avoid frying and grilling which causes dryness. Finally, autumn is similar to winter and favors slow and prolonged cooking.

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Different principles

Chinese dietetics therefore aims, through food, to nourish the body while toning the vital energy Qi. The latter is specific to each person, which is why this practice must be adapted to each energy profile, so we do not all have the same needs. In addition, the meal can be a daily health gesture, used to prevent certain pathologies, or used in treatment to restore energy balance. It is common in China to come out of your doctor's office with a menu as a prescription.

Here are some rules to follow in order to stay healthy:

  • Eat hot, cooked, and at regular times.
  • Eat calmly, seated, relaxed and with pleasure. Rest for a while after the meal.
  • Chew food well.
  • Eliminate all snacking outside of meals.
  • Hot drinks during meals. Warm, not cold, water outside of meals but in a limited way, otherwise it tires the bladder.
  • Organize your meal around cereals and legumes, complementing them with seasonal vegetables.
  • Avoid as much as possible, or even eliminate, dairy products whose humidity and cold considerably weaken the spleen. By weakening the spleen, dairy products cause problems such as edema, phlegm, cellulite, joint problems, frequent awakenings as well as sometimes problems with memory and rumination of thoughts.
  • Prefer fish to meat.
  • Limit raw vegetables, especially if you have digestive problems.
  • Avoid as much as possible the intake of saturated fatty acids (cold meats, bad oils, margarine, cooked butter).
  • Alternatively consume oils rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 (olive, sunflower, rapeseed or walnut oil) which have a beneficial effect on the nervous system and the small intestine.
  • Consume fruits outside of meals to avoid flatulence. At the end of the meal, prefer compote, pies or dried fruits.
  • Vary flavors, colors, shapes of foods.
  • Replace white sugar with unrefined sugar (e.g. cane sugar).
  • Animal proteins are consumed at lunchtime and must be eliminated in the evening to be replaced by vegetable proteins. Indeed, by requiring a lot of energy to be digested, animal proteins prevent sleep and greatly fatigue the kidney which is responsible for eliminating the acids produced by their consumption.
  • Abandon any use of microwaves which destroy food.
  • Finish the meal with a hot drink to help digestion (coffee or tea).

Moreover, a Chinese saying goes: “Eat like a king in the morning, like a prince at noon, and like a beggar in the evening” . This saying reminds us that our body has less energy to carry out digestion as the day goes by. Therefore, it is recommended to space dinner and bedtime by at least 2 hours. In addition, the stomach should never be full , but filled to a maximum of ¾ in order to better be able to carry out its work: 50% solid food, 25% liquid and 25% empty. Finally, it is essential to eat at set times and not to snack. Snacking leads to self-stimulation of the appetite and therefore a permanent feeling of hunger, as well as reduced assimilation of nutrients.

In short, Chinese dietetics has nothing to do with Western dietetics. It is a true therapeutic tool, capable of maintaining and restoring the energy balance specific to each person. Foods are perceived according to their flavors and their nature. It is important to note that it is okay to make deviations as long as you are moving towards balance.

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