According to Chinese thinking, good food is considered good medicine and traditional Chinese doctors have always utilized the power of food to cure or relieve illness. Only if a disease is very resistant will herbs and other healing methods be considered.
Chinese philosophy breaks down food into Yin and Yang, combining the two for best effect. Yin foods tend to have a calming and cooling effect on the body while Yang foods warm and stimulate. Rotten, left-over, tired and processed foods are considered toxic or not beneficial in gaining nutrients.
If your energy is low and you are feeling tired, depressed or sluggish it makes sense to try these theories and increase Yang foods. If you are stressed, anxious, over-excited or angry, try the soothing Yin foods. If life is in balance and you feel pretty good then it may be best to adapt your diet by observing the external environment. If you are in a cold, damp or wet place then the predominantly Yang diet would be best. If it is hot and dry then the Yin diet would be more suitable.
Macrobiotics, the practice of understanding the effect that food and lifestyle has on health, takes into consideration your individual health condition and physiology in relation to your geographical location and seasonal changes in climate.
Japanese teacher George Ohsawa cured himself of so-called “incurable” diseases at the age of 18 by eating a simple diet of brown rice, miso soup and sea vegetables. These foods are in the middle of the Yin and Yang spectrum. He then devoted his life to the study, which he named macrobiotics.
The macrobiotic way of life encourages you to eat foods that are locally grown in season, and to avoid foods that are considered to be extremely Yin or extremely Yang. Ohsawa claimed that the modern diet of excess salt, refined sugar, dairy foods, processed food and meat upsets the body’s Yin/Yang balance, which in turn leads to disease. The body is always seeking balance so if you eat an extreme Yang food such as meat or salty crisps your body will crave an extreme Yin food such as sugar or tropical fruits (see chart). The extremes affect not only physical health but also mental health and behavior.
Foods are also classified into five tastes i.e. sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty. A balanced meal is one where each of the tastes are met, yet in moderate measures. Sour can be found in pickles or lemon, bitter in parsley or sesame seeds, sweet in brown rice syrup or apple sauce, pungent in watercress or garlic and salty in miso. The right combination of each should leave the eater feeling satisfied.
In the case of illness, certain foods and tastes may be emphasized and others left out to regain harmony.