The Energetics of Foods for Health and Healing

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In the Nei Jing Classic of Internal Medicine, compiled over 2000 years ago, may be the first known Chinese writings of the dynamic relationship between health and the energies of foods, or Chinese dietary therapy. The traditional medicines of the human world are intricately connected with and are fundamentally part of nature.

The care with which we nourish our own health is reflected in that which we give to our environment, to others, our earth and planet — an expanding spiral.

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As we explore the relationships between food and health, let’s acknowledge the nourishment that we have already manifested and presently experience in our lives. Let’s remember, too, that the appreciation and joy with which we eat and nourish Post Natal Qi, the the energy we create in and for our present condition and health/ that which is in our control which is attributed to the Spleen and Stomach and our ability to transform food into energy/life force and balanced digestion, are major factors in determining the quality of digestion and transformation of our food into Blood, empowerment and Qi. Pre Natal Qi is considered our constitution, which we are born with.

We are studying traditional theories of Chinese Medicine and Macrobiotics, brought to light and expanded upon from personal and clinical experiences and intuitive practice. There will be special exploration of medicinal plant and food remedies for tonifying or strengthening the energy-Qi directed through the body to nourish the Heart, Lung and Spleen Qi and more.

We are looking at the dynamic relationship between food energetics and Classical Chinese Medicine and Macrobiotic thought, that Jing- which is in Asian Medicine our core Essence, considered stored in the Kidney’s and which when strong gives potential to longevity, Qi- Energy, the circulation of energy in body-mind giving rise to our life energy and vitality, and Shen-Spirit, which is attributed to the synergy of emotional health in our body and mind and is often called Heart/Mind, are integrated and operate together dynamically as a whole.

Yin and Yang

In Chinese and Asian Medicine and philosophy yin and yang are the two complementary/antagonistic forces or principles that make up all aspects and phenomena of life. Yin is earth, female, dark, wet, cool, passive power and absorbing; Yang is heaven, male, bright, active power, dry, heat, and penetrating; Together they express the interdependence of opposites. In relation to diet fruits and vegetables are more yin compared to meats and dairy foods which are more yang. The interactions and balance of these forces in the body, people and nature influence their behavior and health status. The balance of yin and yang in one’s body and environment are essential to one’s health.

Through our personal and working experiences we see that we are rarely dealing with pure textbook patterns of imbalance that fit into one neat package. Therefore our filters need to be grounded, yet broad enough in scope to be applied effectively for ourselves and others.

Individual Needs

When selecting and preparing our foods there are individual needs to be considered: Our base constitution; our present physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health/issues; the current season and the upcoming season; the Qi energy we need for our daily work and activities; our present dietary practice; our social environment; personal desires; what we wish to accomplish from changing or transitioning our eating habits and lifestyle. Important too is being practical with making changes that we can actually apply realistically in our day-to-day lives.

Location and Season

Chinese-Asian and Macrobiotic dietary philosophies suggest that we embrace, as much as is possible, native foods that are organic and locally grown and those in season or those foods that are produced in areas with climates similar to our own. When we over consume food imported from very different climates or regions, we may begin to lose adaptability to the immediate surroundings. This is especially true in cases where tropical or semitropical foods are over consumed in temperate or cold climates.

The appearance, development and changes in the pattern of many illnesses may show up seasonally, such as Wind invasions in spring, which can manifest in stiff neck, headaches, colds and flu, Sun Heat and Heat stroke in summer, Damp- and Phlegm-related symptoms in late summer, which can manifest as colds, mucus in the chest, sinus problems, Dryness related symptoms in autumn causing dry skin, coughing, difficulty eliminating from the colon and Cold syndromes in winter which may manifest as stiffness in the back and lower back, constipation, difficulty in keeping warm with the weather.

As the seasons change and transform, the balance of Yin and Yang will be strengthened by the following fundamental principles. In spring and summer, nourish Yang along with cool Yin. In autumn and winter, nourish Yin along with Yang warmth and protection.

This all depends on the season and foods eaten. For example Yang Qi tends to flow outwards to the body’s surface in spring and summer while internal Yang Qi may become depleted, thus requiring replenishment in the warm weather.

In the colder and dryer climates of fall and winter it is important to keep warmer and prevent Dryness as we strengthen the interior-Yin. We can use the powers of food-energetics for nourishing Yang and warmth, building Yin, nourishing Dryness, dispelling mucus and Phlegm, and enhancing building the circulation of Qi energy, Blood and Bodily Fluids as in water and lymph for the present and coming seasons.

Also, health imbalances can result from the over-consumption of heavy animal food by those in a warmer or temperate climate, since this quality of food is more suited to the colder regions.

In colder seasons we would apply longer cooking times and more salt; in warmer weather, we would use lighter cooking methods and less salt. We would cook food lightly and serve it warm to make digestion easier. Steaming, poaching and blanching-boiling help alter the nature of the food for more Yin-cooling; deep frying, stir frying and roasting help alter the nature of the food for more Yang-heating and body insulation.

Until modern times, unrefined, naturally produced whole cereal grains; locally grown seasonal vegetables and some animal foods comprised humanity’s primary diet throughout the world.

We should try to base our diet on such foods as grains, beans, sea and land vegetables and other staples which are naturally available and storable.

Taste and Variety

Mastering food selection in today’s fast-paced world is a challenge. We need therefore to keep balance in mind. This is achieved by eating in moderation and being aware of taste and variety. Taste is very important because the primary taste sends nutrition via the acupuncture-acupressure meridians-specific pathways of Qi in the body related to corresponding organs. If one’s Qi energy is out of balance, which can occur from such factors as negative; life style practices, eating, emotional and other influences.

When the term stagnant Qi is used it relates to the Qi which nourishes a specific organ, muscle, body part, or meridian being blocked and not flowing smoothly.

If we eat a balanced meal with many tastes, we can feel satisfied and Page 4 use this energy for health, productivity and enjoying our lives. Here is a look at tastes and some nourishing foods and cooking styles:

– Sweet nourishes Spleen and Stomach—grains, millet, squashes, onions, sweet fruits, bananas, blueberries, oranges, figs, dates, honey, molasses, barley malt, etc. Preparation: steaming, boiling, nishimi, {A Japanese/macrobiotic style of cooking done over a low heat for a length of time}.

Nishimi Waterless Stew/Recipe

-Kombu or Hiziki Sea Vegetable. -1 Burdock, 2-3 Carrots, ½ Winter Squash, 1-2 Onions, ½ head Broccoli, veggies are cut large, Miso or Soy Sauce .

Boil aprox 1” of water, layer the ingredients as listed above and cook for 30-45 min. Do not stir. Add a bit of miso or soy sauce near the end for flavor and dig. enzymes. Tofu or Snow (dried/frozen) tofu or Tempeh can be added half way through the cooking if an added protein is desired. When Nishimi is finished there should be almost no water in the pot.

This is a warming dish–strengthens the Spleen, Stomach, Intestines, Nishimi is known to help with Fatigue, low vitality and strengthening digestion.

-Sour nourishes Liver and Gallbladder—tomatoes, barley, vinegar, chicken, turkey, green apples, lemons, grapefruit, etc. Preparation: pickling, steaming, pressed salads.

Pungent nourishes Lung and Large Intestines—onions, garlic, ginger, daikon, peppers, cayenne etc. Cooking methods include kinpira [A type of Japanese preparation, where you cut root vegetables into thin matchstick strips first, sauté, and then add water to further cook) – similar to braising.], pressure cooking.

Kinpira Recipe

1 burdock root, 1 Tbs oil, 1 Tbs mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine) optional or 1TBS Barley Malt 1/2 Tbs organic miso 3 Tbs water 3 Tbs ground toasted sesame seeds 2 scallions or 1/3 bunch of watercress Soak the matchsticks in water until you’re ready to use them.
Heat the oil in a pot until hot. Sautee the Vegetables for a few minutes. Add the mirin or Barley Malt and stir. Add the miso and water stirring until the miso is dissolved. Cover and turn down the heat and simmer for a few more minutes. if you want it soft, cook it for 5-10 minutes. When it’s cooked, add the ground toasted sesame seeds, scallions or watercress and stir before serving.

To toast sesame seeds, add them to a pan and low heat the pan stirring the seeds with a wooden spoon, moving them at all times. They will smell like sesame when it’s done. To grind use a spice grinder, a pepper mill, a food processor, or you can do it the traditional way by using a mortar and pestle.

-Bitter nourishes Heart and Small Intestine—kale, lettuce, dandelion, broccoli, arugula, endive, collard greens, etc. Preparation: raw, pressed, stir fry, blanch.

-Salty nourishes the Kidneys and Bladder—tofu, fish, miso, eggs, burdock root, sea vegetables (wakame, arame, hiziki, kombu, kelp) etc. Preparation: stewing, frying, nabe [ceramic pot cooking, prepared at the table].

Color and Signature

The Color of a food plays a role in food energies, as does the doctrine of signatures, the synergy between the appearance of a plant and the part of the body or an organ which it is considered to nourish ( as in a carrot when sliced looks like aneye and is considerec strengthening for the eyes; a fresh lotus root appears to resemble the lungs and in traditional Asian Medicine is considered to strengthen the Lung which will be discussed at my seminar. For example-a bitter green like kale will nourish the Heart because of its bitter taste; will nourish the Liver because of its green color, and the Kidney, especially the bones, because of its rich minerals.

-Red foods like apples and red peppers nourish the Heart and Small Intestine. The apple also nourishes the Spleen because of its sweet taste and the Kidneys when it is baked and lightly salted.

-White foods like white onions, tofu and radishes nourish the Lungs and Large Intestine, while the radish nourishes the Liver because of its sharp taste. It can assist in moving stagnant Qi of the Liver.

As we continue our journey of study, exploration and application of food healing may we go forward with health, vitality and wonderful eating.


About Author: Susan Krieger, L.Ac., MS, is a Diplomate of the NCCAOM in Acupuncture, and Shiatsu-Asian Bodywork Therapy. In addition to her thriving oriental medicine practice in New York City, she is an internationally acclaimed teacher and counselor specializing in Chinese Medicine, the Energetics of
Foods, Medicinal Remedies, Contemporary-Integrative Macrobiotics, Whole Health Nutrition, Women’s Health, Qi-Gong-Yoga, Ki-Shiatsu-Acupressure, and Meridian-Self Shiatsu. For her classes, lectures and her Ki-Shiatsu Instructional DVD she draws on more than 30 years of clinical experience.
You can reach Susan by phone: 212-242-4217 or through her website: www.susankriegerhealth.com


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