Consume Food and Ratio Tastes Sensibly

Consume Food and Ratio Tastes Sensibly

TCM suggests that we should consume food and ratio tastes sensibly. When we ratio tastes, we season food with the following five tastes: sour, sweet, bitter, acrid and saltiness. These “five flavours” are also referred to as “five tastes” of food.

The “five tastes” or “five flavours” of food are said to transform “Qi and blood” from food. The book Nei Jing 内经 emphasize repeatedly that one must have a “regulated diet” and “arrange the five tastes in food carefully”. It pointed out that careful mixture of the five tastes will strengthen the bones, make the tendons flexible, smooth the circulation of Qi and blood, make the skin and muscles solid and strong; and thus enhance bone support. Following this principle, one will achieve longevity.

 Consume Food Sensibly

There was an old saying that our dietary style should be being “70 to 80% full.

Two ways to tell whether one has reached  “70 to 80% full” after a meal are that: one still feels a little hungry and want to eat when leaving the dining table; the other is that one have the sense of hunger when it is not the time to have the next meal yet.

According to Nei Jing 内经, grains, fruits, meat and vegetables contain nutrition essential to our body need. Therefore, our diet should contain a balance of these foods.

In the book Nei Jing 内经, it also said that the grains are used to nourish, the fruits to assist, the animals to fortify, the vegetables to fulfill.  Combining the energetic properties of these in one’s diet can fortify the essence and qi. When combined with the principles of eating according to the seasons, and the five elements, patho-physiology of the five zang organs, one can utilize the methods of dietetics as a tool to nourish, recover, and treat.”

 Adjust Intake Amount According to Day Of Time

The book Nei Jing 内经 says, Yang Qi becomes active in the morning, it reaches its peak at noon and in the afternoon, it begins to decline.

While the energy of the Stomach and Large Intestine peak between 7 and 9am, it is the best time to eat the largest meals as yang Qi is most abundance. As the Yang Qi during the day starting to decline after noon, it is advisable to consume less after noon and even less in the evening.

Nei Jing 内经 also says over-eating injure the Stomach and Large intestine.  If one overeats, the muscles and blood vessels of the stomach and intestines over-expand and one can suffer from food retention (indigestion). Overeating can lead to dysentery and hemorrhoids. Hence, to prevent food retention, dysentery and hemorrhoid disease, one should refrain from consuming copious amount of food and consume less food after 12pm.

Avoid Over Indulgence in flavouring

In the Chapter, Dysfunction of the five Viscera, it further points out that over indulgence in flavors over a long period of time can harm the body.


  • Overindulgence in salty foods will coagulate the blood circulation and will change the color of the blood.
  • Overindulgence in bitter food will cause the skin to become shriveled and dry and the body hair to fall out.
  • Overindulgence in pungent food can cause spasms, tremors, and poor nails.
  • Overly excessive consumption of sour foods can make the skin rough, thick, and wrinkled, and cause the lips to become shriveled.
  • Overindulgence in sweets will cause pain in the bones and hair loss. All these symptoms and conditions are a result of overindulgence of the five flavors.

It is said that the heart is benefited by the bitter taste, the lung by the pungent taste, the spleen by the sweet taste, the liver by the sour taste, and the kidneys by the salty taste. However, this never implies that one may overindulge.

Modern medicine has proved that regular excessive intake of food overburdens the stomach and intestines, causes relative inadequate supply of digestive juice and induce  indigestion issue.

Besides, large amount of blood flow to the stomach and intestines leads to a relative short supply of blood to the brain and cause lassitude and mental exhaustion.

People with coronary disease may have experience with angina pain after consuming a large amount of food or a very rich meal.

Excess calories intake from food triggers fat conversion and storage. Over time, it leads to obesity, hypertension, coronary disease, diabetes, infertility, Cholelithiasis and so on.

Many health experts maintain that constant over-loading the stomach with excess intake of food may cause early deterioration of health and shortens one’s life span, and should be avoided, especially in the case of old people whose physiological and digestive function are declining.

Adjust the Five Flavours Sensibly

“阴之所生,本在五味,阴之五宫,伤在五味。是故味过于酸,肝气以津,脾气乃绝。味过于咸,大骨气劳,短肌,心气抑。味过于甘,心气喘满,色黑,肾气不衡。味过于苦,脾气不濡,胃气乃厚。味过于辛,筋脉沮弛,精神乃央。是故谨和五味,骨正筋柔,气血以流,腠理以密,如是,则骨气以精,谨道如法,长有天命。”– 内经

According to Nei Jing 内经, the source and preservation of the yin come from the five flavors of food in the diet, however, improper use of the five flavors may also injure the five zang (viscera) organs.  It stated that

  • too much salt in a diet can weaken the bones and cause contracture and atrophy of the muscles, and lead to Heart Qi stagnation;
  • too much sweet taste can disturb the heart qi, causing it to become restless and congested, as well as cause imbalance of Kidney energy, which turns the face black.
  • Too much bitter taste disrupts the spleen’s ability to transform and transport food, and causes the stomach to digest ineffectively and become distended. The muscles and tendons may become thin and non-dense.
  • too much sour taste may cause liver to be overactive and the spleen being under-active;

“Therefore, one should be mindful of what one consumes to assure proper growth, reproduction, and development of bones, tendons, ligaments, channels, and collaterals. This will help generate the smooth flow of Qi and Blood, enabling one to live to a ripe old age.”

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