Eating Your Way to Health With Traditional Chinese Medicine

Foods that claim “scientifically-proven” medicinal benefits have had a rough week in the American press. Dannon’s line of Activia got the FTC smackdown after the brand’s assertion that its yogurt offered health benefits from promoting regularity to preventing cold and flu. Children’s vitamins that allege to improve brain function thanks to Omega-3 fatty acid’s got hit with a double whammy – not only did the vitamins have no proof to back up their outlandish declarations, their vitamins didn’t contain the amount of Omega-3s stated on the packaging. These unsubstantiated claims have drawn criticism and finally government regulation that demands health benefits derived from additives in foods must be supported by (gasp!) evidence.

While American food culture is moving increasingly toward using additives to fulfill daily nutrition needs, the Chinese culinary world is still firmly rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine that promotes the use of whole foods to create a healthy and balanced diet. But what constitutes a balanced diet in China has no relation to the food pyramid or nutritional guidelines we follow in the West.

Remember in 1992 when yin yang beat out dolphins for most fashionable accessories for tweens? Well, those handy black and white earrings you have hoarded away in your adolescent jewelry box are the Chinese dining guide. Instead of a one-size-fits-all diet that can be applied to an entire country’s population, Traditional Chinese Medicine promotes a preventative diet based on your own constitution.

If you’re a yin person (you often feel cold and are more withdrawn), you should eat foods in yang properties (meats, nuts, eggs). But if your body is full of yang (you feel warm and are very talkative), then leafy greens will help balance you out. The best part? No food is off limits – all you have to do is eat a healthy balance! You don’t even need to make special foods – every dish you need  for health can be found at Chinese restaurants around Shanghai. Here’s a handy guide to help distinguish between yin and yang foods:

  • If it grows in the air and sunshine, it is probably yang;
  • If it grows in the earth or darkness, it is probably yin;
  • If it is soft, wet and cool, it is more yin;
  • If it is hard, dry and spicy, or needs heating up (such as meat), it is more yang.

If you want to learn more about what foods work best for you, UnTour Shanghai’s culinary and food tours have a wealth of information. Try UnTour’s Chinese Cooking Class to learn how to whip up authentic Chinese dishes right for yin-yang disposition or hit the streets with our Flavors of China culinary tour. We design the restaurant hopping culinary tour around your tastes, so you can find out what yin-yang dishes are your favorites while exploring China’s rich culinary history.

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