Chinese Medicine Dietary Recommendations

To use this section it is helpful to know what your Chinese medical diagnosis is. For example, if you:

  • have a lack of yin (yin deficiency), then choose foods to tonify yin. Tonify means to build or nourish.
  • have a pathogen, such as dampness, then choose foods that eliminate dampness.
  • have too much heat, choose foods that are cold avoid foods that are hot.
  • have stagnation of qi / blood, choose foods to promote movement qi / blood.

Foods that Tonify / Build / Nourish:

  1. Qi
  2. Yin
  3. Blood
  4. Yang
  5. Essence (jing)

Foods Based On:

Foods That Eliminate:

Foods that Promote the movement of:


These are foods and herbs that rebuild the foundational components of the body, i.e. Qi (energy). For example, if your Chinese Medicine diagnosis is that your yin is relatively less than your yang in your body (yin deficiency) you will want to emphasize foods that tonify (or build) yin.

Qi tonics:

Chia seed, congee, oats, quinoa, rice, beef, chicken, herring, lamb, mussel, shrimp, milk, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, watercress, winter squash.

  • For Spleen Qi Deficiency
    • Seek Out: Anchovy (long-tailed), Barley, Beef, Brown sugar, Buckwheat, Carp, Carrot, Catfish, Cauliflower, Celery, Cherry, Chestnut, Chicken, Corn, Fig, Finless Eel (Monoptrerus albus), Fox nut, Garlic, Goose, Guava, Hazelnut, Hedgehog mushroom, Hyacinth bean (dry-fried or baked), Job’s tears barley, Lamb, Licorice root, Loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus), Longan, Lotus seed, Mango, Meadow mushroom (Agaricus campestris), Molasses, Oats, Orange, Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus), Parsnip, Peanut, Pineapple, Pork tripe, Potato, Pumpkin, Quail, Quail eggs, Rabbit, Red date (jujube), Rice, Rice (glutinous), Russian olive, Shark, Shiitake mushroom, Silver Carp, Sorghum, Spelt, Sunflower seed, Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas), Taro, Tofu, Whitefish (fresh water), Yam (family Dioscoreaceae).
    • Avoid: Agar, Aloe leaf (dried juice concentrate), Arame, Banana, Bitter melon, Clam, Crab, Dulse, Gracilaria verrucosa (Algae), Grapefruit, Hijiki, Kiwi fruit, Kombu, Mung bean, Nori, Octopus, Salmon, Wakame, Water chestnut, Watermelon

Blood tonics :

Microalgae, sprouts, leafy greens, chlorophyll-rich foods, seaweed, spirulina, mochi with mugwort, royal jelly, gelatin, carp soup, muscles, oysters, the liver of beef, lamb, or chicken, chicken gizzard.

Foods that tonify yin:

Grains and legumes: millet, barley, wheat germ, wheat, rice, quinoa, amaranth, seaweeds, micro-algae (especially chlorella and spirulina), tofu, black beans, kidney beans, mung beans (and there sprouts).

Animal: Cow’s or goat’s milk, yogurt, cheese, etc., chicken, egg, clam, abalone, oyster, sardines, duck, beef, pork.

Fruits: persimmon, grapes, blackberry, raspberry, mulberry, banana, watermelon

Vegetables: beets, string beans, kuzu,

— one should cook daily soups, stews, congees (some sort of watery medium).

Foods that tonify yang:

Animal: anchovy, mussel, trout, chicken, beef, lamb,

Fruit: cherry, citrus peal, date,

Grains, seeds, and spices: oats, spelt, quinoa, sunflower seed, sesame seed, walnut, pine nut, chestnut, fennel, dill, anise, caraway, carob pod, cumin, Sweet brown rice (and its products, i.e. moshi)

Vegetables: parsnip, parsley, mustard greens, winter squash, cabbage, kale, onion, leek, chive, garlic, scallion, cooked beans with ginger (e.g. black beans, lentils, aduki beans), hot peppers are warming only in small pitches, otherwise they have a strong cooling effect. This is also true of concentrated sweeteners.

Essence (jing) Tonics:

Mussel, lentil, lamb kidney, chicken, microalgae (chlorella, spirulina, wild blue-green), fish, liver, kidney, brain, bone marrow, human placenta, and cereal grasses, milk, ghee, nettles, royal jelly, beef, millet, wheat, black sesame seed, black soybeans, chestnuts, mulberries, raspberries, strawberries, and walnuts.

Foods that promote movement

When things get blocked up in the body Chinese Medicine diagnoses, stagnation. Although sometimes there is a deficiency that needs to be strengthened to eliminate the stagnation (above category), most of the time, things just need to be moved, invigorated, or opened up. The below foods promote movement and accomplish this goal. Remember any type of pain in the body is caused from stagnation (or blockage).

Qi movers

Spearmint, rosemary, scallions, garlic and all onion family members, cinnamon bark and branch, cloves, fresh and dried ginger root, black pepper, all hot peppers, cayenne, fennel, anise, dill, mustard greens, horseradish, basil, nutmeg, peppermint, marjoram, elder flowers, white pepper, radish and its leaves, taro, turnip.

Blood movers

Tumeric, scallions, nutmeg, spearmint, chives, garlic, vinegar, basil, peach seed, weak, ginger, chestnuts, rosemary, cayenne, eggplant, white pepper, aduki beans, sweet rice, butter.

Foods that eliminate wind

These foods are best when you are getting a cold or flu. One should, although, pay attention to the thermal nature (hot and cold) of the condition and the foods chosen. If you are getting a cold (but feel hot and have other heat signs from a Chinese medical perspective) then one should emphasize cooler release the exterior foods.

Wind-Cold: oats, pine nuts, shrimp, ginger, fennel, basil, anise

Wind-Heat: celery, kuzu, mulberry, strawberry, peppermint

Neutral: black soybeans, black sesame seed, fresh flax oil

Internal Wind: celery, basil, sage, fennel, dried or fresh ginger, anise, oats, black soybeans, black sesame seed, kuzu, pine nut, coconut, fresh cold-pressed flax oil, shrimp.

Foods that eliminate damp

lettuce, celery, turnip, rye, amaranth, aduki beans, wild blue-green micro-algae, asparagus, white pepper, alfalfa, pumpkin, vinegar, papaya.

Foods that eliminate dryness

soy (tofu, tempeh, soy milk, miso), spinach, asparagus, millet, barley, salt, seaweed, white fungus, apple, tangerine, pine nut, persimmon, peanuts, pear, honey, barley malt, sugar cane, whole sugar, oyster, clam, mussel, pork, and pork kidney.

Foods that eliminate summer heat

lemons, apple, watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya, pineapple, musk-melon, mung beans (in soup), summer squash, zucchini, cucumber, radish juice, bitter melon soup, watermelon juice.

Foods categorized by temperature

Every condition can be divided into a thermal temperature of hot or cold. One should emphasize foods that are the opposite of the thermal nature you are diagnosed with. For example, if you have too much heat in the body you should emphasize cooler foods. It is possible to have a mixed pattern of hot and cold, and these situations are best sorted out by your Chinese medical practitioner.

Cooling Foods which reduce heat signs:

Apple, banana, pear, persimmon, cantaloupe, watermelon, tomato, all citrus, lettuce, radish, cucumber, celery, button mushrooms, asparagus, Swiss chard, eggplant, spinach, summer squash, Chinese cabbage, bock choy, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, zucchini, soy milk, soy sprouts, tofu, tempeh, mung beans and their sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, millet, barley, wheat and its products, amaranth, kelp and all seaweed, spirulina, wild blue-green, oyster-shell calcium, wheat and barley grass, kudzu, yogurt, crab, clam.

Warming foods which warm cold signs:

Ginger root, black beans, aduki beans, lentils, cinnamon bark and twig, cloves, basil, rosemary, oats, spelt, quinoa, sunflower seed, sesame seed, walnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, fennel, dill, anise, carraway, carob pod, cumin, sweet brown rice, parsnip, parsley, mustard greens, winter squash, cabbage, kale, onion, leek, chives, garlic, scallions, cherry, citrus deal, date, hot peppers, butter, and anchovy, mussel, trout, chicken, beef, lamb.

Foods categorized by flavors

Warming acrid: spearmint, rosemary, scallion, garlic, all onion members, cinnamon bark and branch, cloves, fresh and dried ginger root, black pepper, hot peppers, cayenne, fennel, anise, dill, mustard greens, horseradish, basil, nutmeg

Cooling acrid: peppermint, marjoram, elderflower’s, white pepper, radish and its leave

Neutral acrid: taro, turnip, kohlrabi.

Salty: salt, seaweed, soy sauce, miso, pickles, umeboshi; barley and millet (although primarily sweet).

Sour: Hawthorne berry, lemon, lime, pickles, rose hip, sauerkraut, sour apple (crab apple), sour plum

Sour-bitter: vinegar

Sour-acrid: leek

Sour-sweet: aduki bean, apple, blackberry, cheese, grape, huckleberry, mango, olive, raspberry, sourdough bread, tangerine, tomato, yogurt.

Bitter: Alfalfa, bitter melon, romaine lettuce, rye

Bitter-acrid: citrus peel, radish leaf, scallion, turnip, white pepper.

Bitter-sweet: amaranth, asparagus, celery, lettuce, papaya, quinoa

Bitter-sour: vinegar

Sweet: Apple, apricot, cherry, date, fig, grape, grapefruit, olive, papaya, peach, pear, strawberry, tomato, beet, button mushrooms, cabbage, carrot, celery, chard, cucumber, eggplant, kuzu, lettuce, potato, shitake mushroom, spearmint, squash, sweet potato, yam, almond, chestnut, coconut, sesame see and oil, sunflower seed, walnut, amasake, barley malt, honey, molasses, rice syrup, whole sugar.

Adapted from Healing with Whole Foods, by Paul Pitchford.


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