The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) View

Concerned about weight gain or weight loss? Having a hard time choosing foods to eat or what healthy items to buy at the grocery store?  Perhaps, now you feel overwhelmed sorting through all the suggestions coming from personal fitness trainers, friends, family, nutritionists and/or Medical doctors. With all the different information and conflicting views provided on food and diets, who do you believe? And is an all raw diet really the best?

However, In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there are no “good” foods or “bad” foods; only appropriate energetic foods and inappropriate energetic foods for every individual constitutional needs. This is also true for appropriate herbs for each individual depending on what their health needs are. For example, TCM has concepts of qi, blood, jing, yin and yang. Yang tonic herbs are warming in nature and would be quite beneficial for an individual who is cold and fatigued; however, the same warming tonic herbs may cause irritation and headaches in someone who is thirsty and experiencing night sweats as seen with Yin Deficiency. It is important to know that like herbs, foods have different energetic qualities. For example, certain foods can be warming or cooling. Not implementing this understanding will cause a loss of balance health. Therefore in TCM, food therapy is simply part of the larger system of its medicine and treatment of care. (TCM also includes herbs and other modalities such as acupuncture, cupping, moxabustion, tuina, etc.)


I thought raw salad and raw juice smoothies were good for me all the time and anytime! 
During the 80’s and 90’s well-intentioned health food proponents touted the benefits of raw foods and the importance of enzymes from raw food for digestion. According to Eastern Nutrition in TCM, there are three fallacies in this logic: 

  1. Every individual has been born into the world with unique constitutions. Therefore, no one dietary guideline is going to be perfectly applicable for all other individual constitutions. Some bodies may be more yang and other bodies more yin in nature.
  2. Raw foods tend to be “cold” and an overconsumption of them will damage the Spleen energetic organ system. In Chinese medicine the Spleen is paired with the Stomach and is central in the proper digestion and absorption of food. Therefore, a diet with an overabundance of raw vegetables, juiced vegetables, raw fruits and fruit juices is going to have the opposite effect on your health than argued. Unless warm energetics are used, an intake of too much cold energetics will cause excess pathogenic cold internally and future deficiencies to the digestive system.
  3. The signal that the digestive system is purging more efficiently due to enzymes is typically noted through more abundant loose bowel movements; this is actually a symptom of Spleen damage in TCM. The stomach and spleen energetic organs function optimally when strong and warm.


My friend just ate nothing but a raw diet and lost so much weight. I am doing the same exact thing, but why is it that I am not?? 
The other individual’s constitution may have been more heat and required more cool. Your constitution may be the opposite. You may now be experiencing slower bowel movements and stool formations less uniform or in multiple pieces, perhaps even diarrhea. This is indicative of a weakness or pre-existing internal cold to the digestive system. Again, raw fruits and vegies are typically cold energetics and only adding more to a constitution who is already weakened due to excess cold will not create any weight loss, nor health benefits. Eat warm energetics foods, not cold.

I thought drinking cold water with lots of ice will help me lose weight!

A really great way to see extreme disapproval from a TCM practitioner’s face would be to announce that you are drinking large amounts of iced water because you read that it would crank up your metabolism and help you lose weight. This is never suggested. In fact, this misguided logic combines the ability to damage the Spleen AND compromise the Kidney energetic systems according to Chinese medicine. The unfortunate result would actually be the weight gain and more serious health imbalances that could take years to repair.

The following are several healing foods categorized to their energetic properties:


Yang Warming Tonic Foods
GingerGarlicBlack pepper
Basil RosemaryCinnamon
ClovesChili PeppersFennel
Winter SquashKaleMustard Leaf
MolassesWalnutsSesame Seeds
LentilsBlack BeansAduki Beans
Cooked GuavaCooked PeachCooked Coconut Meat


Yin Cooling Tonic Foods
Watermelon Alfalfa Sprouts Oyster
Peas ArtichokePears
Coconut Water TofuString Beans
Eggs TomatoCrab
Clam Purple YamZucchini
Kelp LemonChlorella
Chicken EggsWhite FishRabbit


A completely raw diet IS NOT the best for health. This is most especially true if it is all cold energetics alone. So, if you are going to consume a raw salad or raw juice smoothie, make sure you also add BOTH warm and cold energetics to it. For example, eating or drinking these at room temperature and adding ginger with other yang warming tonic foods is the better approach.

Balance is the key in order to acquire health and maintain health. This also serves true for WHEN to eat, HOW MUCH to eat, WHAT to eat and the WHY of eating certain energetic foods. If too much heat, have more cold. If too much cold, have more heat. According to TCM, weight loss is not about eating into constant/restrictive diets as a paleo, vegetarian, vegan, etc.., It is not eating raw, raw, raw which translate to cold, cold, cold. Rather, it is about knowing your constitution and eating according to it.

(To find out more about your own individual constitution and what energetic foods to consume accordingly for health, schedule an appointment with a TCM practitioner.)