Cool as cucumber

Published: 30/01/2010 05:00



Modern nutrition is based on knowing the chemical composition of cookings, and advice regarding a healthy diet is given based on the protein, carbohydrates, fat and other content in different foods.

However, the nutritional balance from a traditional medicine perspective is different. Here the focus is on the qualities of the food, whether it is hot or cold, or warm or cool. And then there are the yin and yang properties of food that a traditional medicine practitioner bases her or his prescription on.

The food pyramid that we see in any nutritionist’s office arranges grains, pasta, bread and potatoes in a carbohydrate group. Sprouted grains and rye have energetic properties different from flour. But in traditional medicine, bread and pasta are cooling and damp so they are not recommended for someone overweight or suffering from sinus congestion. They can be helpful for people with yin conditions.

In traditional medicine, food is categorized by four properties - warmness, coolness, hotness and coldness and five tastes - salty, sweet, peppery-hot, bitter and sour. So a diet will be based on a diagnosis of what our body lacks or has too much of, and how a balance can be struck.

Food is also divided into three categories - yin food, yang food and neutral food. Yin foods are cool and moisten the body. Yang foods are warm and have a drying effect. With good awareness of these properties and characteristics, we can eat our way to good health.

Yin foods, which are cold or cool, are low in energy. They remove our body heat and eliminate toxins. Yang foods are higher in calories. They can be used to treat colds and improve blood circulation. Neutral foods have a harmonizing effect and can bring our bodies to a more balanced state.

With proper knowledge of the properties of different herbs and foods, we can extract, dry or decoct them to treat our diseases. However, wrongful use can be harmful, although herbal medicines are naturally safe and do not have the same side effects as modern medicine.

For example, liquorice, which has a sweet flavor, is used to harmonize with other herbs to cure spasmodic cough, asthma, fever and sinusitis. However, if liquorice is used in combination with ginseng, it can cause hypertension that, in turn, can cause heart failure.

Wrong combination of two different characteristics, for example, the hot meat of goat or the warm meat of dog with the cool meat of duck or muscovy (or barbary duck) can affect the spleen.

The hotness or coldness of vegetables and fruits are recognized through the color of their skin and flesh. For example, vegetables and fruits such as the pear, banana and the radish are cold or cool because of their light, yellow color. Persimmon, black beans, red beans, chili, and pepper are warm or hot due to their dark green, black and red colors.

In general, when your body is strong, eating and drinking (or feasting) without being very careful is okay. However, when your body is weak, you have to consider the properties of the food you consume.

Hai Thuong Lan Ong Le Huu Trac, a well-known herbalist of the 18th century, used to say that treating your body with medicine cannot compare to eating suitable food. Therefore, if one’s diet is based on the body constitution, it is better than medicine used for treating diseases.

Food qualities

Cold/cool or yin foods: almond, apple, asparagus, bamboo, banana, barley, bean curd, bean sprouts, beer, broccoli, cabbage, celery, clam, corn, corn flour, crab, cucumber, duck, eel, fish, grapes, honey, ice cream, lemon, mushroom, mussel, orange, oyster, peppermint tea, pineapple, salt, shrimp, soya bean, spinach, strawberry, tomato, water, and white sugar.

Hot/warm or yang foods: beef, black pepper, brown sugar, butter, cheese, chicken liver and fat, chili, chocolate, coffee, egg, garlic, goose, green pepper, ham, kidney bean, lamb, leek, onion, peanut butter, potato, rabbit, roasted peanut, smoked fish, turkey, walnut, whisky and wine

Neutral foods: bread, brown rice, carrot, cauliflower, cherry, date, lean chicken meat, milk, pea, peach, pigeon, plum, raisin, and steamed white rice.

By Herbalist Kieu Ba Long

Provide by Vietnam Travel

Cool as cucumber - Health - News |  vietnam travel company

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