Chinese Diet - food
Chinese dietary therapy is not concerned with the same things that Western nutrition is. Instead of looking at food as a conglomeration of smaller building blocks such as vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, etc, the Chinese look at food as a complete entity. Furthermore, the Chinese have constructed a framework to talk about the nature of foods. Some foods are warm in nature, while others are cold in nature. Some are dry, while some are damp. Additionally, foods may have one or more of the five flavors: sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, and sour. There is also a sixth "flavor" called bland, which is actually the absence of flavor.
In Chinese medicine, the two main organs of digestion are the Spleen and the Stomach. (Although, Spleen may be a mistranslation. Many scholars believe that the Chinese term should be translated as Pancreas.) The Stomach is responsible for receiving food and separating it into a clear component and a murky component. The clear component is used to nourish the body and is sent to the Spleen to be transported to where it is needed. The murky component is sent to the Small and Large Intestines, where it is further separated to glean every last iota of clear material, before the murky components are transported out of the body. When the organs of digestion are functioning properly, the Spleen and the Stomach automatically develop a specific climate. The Stomach is slightly dry and warm and the Spleen is slightly moist and warm. When these organs are not functioning properly, then illness results.
Chinese dietary therapy hopes to increase the efficiency of the digestive organs by making it easy for them to do their jobs. If the Stomach and Spleen receive food that is physically cold or very cold in nature, then they must work harder to warm that food up to the proper temperature to be circulating in the body. If too much cold food is consumed, then the organs of digestion are overwhelmed and become diseased.
To avoid disease, the Chinese try to maintain a diet that is slightly warm in nature. They also try to balance the five flavors, as each flavor has a resonance with a particular organ. Overconsumption of one flavor can damage the associated organ. Sweet resonates with the Spleen, Spicy with the Lungs, Salty with the Kidneys, Bitter with the Heart and Sour with the Liver. Most vegetables are cold in nature according to Chinese thought. Conversely, most meat is warm in nature. Seafood tends to be cold in nature, but there are some exceptions. Nuts are hot in nature. Fruits are cold in nature and grains tend to be neutral or slightly cool in temperature, but also damp in nature.
Keeping all of this in mind, the ideal Chinese diet is about 60% cooked vegetables, 30% cooked meat and 10% grains, nuts, and fruits. By cooking the vegetables, we are able to change the temperature of their nature from cool or cold to slightly warm. Meat is cooked primarily to make it safe to consume. Nuts are limited because they are very hot in nature, which is almost as bad as being too cold. Fruits are limited because they are very sweet in flavor and will injure the Spleen with overconsumption. Grains are limited because they are damp in nature and too much dampness will overwhelm the Spleen.