The differences between the Western and Chinese diet

There are two basic differences between Chinese and Western diets.

The first major difference

First of all, Western diet focuses almost exclusively on diet for weight loss.

Chinese diet is designed not only to help you lose weight but also to treat many other ailments, including hypertension, diabetes, common cold, gastritis, diarrhea, constipation, cough, hepatitis, psoriasis, common acne, eczema and so on.

In Chinese diet, for example, it is considered bad for someone with constipation to drink tea; it is good for someone with a cough to eat apple with honey.

When I have a headache, I want to know which foods I should eat to cure my headache and which I should avoid to prevent my headache from becoming worse.

When I have diarrhea or am suffering from diabetes, I want to know which foods I should eat to treat my symptoms and which to avoid to prevent my problems from becoming worse.

When I am overweight, I want to know which foods I should eat to reduce my weight and which not to eat to avoid gaining more weight.

To lose weight, no doubt, is part of Chinese diet, but there are many other considerations as important as weight loss in the minds of Chinese dietitians. Recently, I read a diet book written by a well-known Western physician and to my great amazement, I found no information on dietary treatment of such symptoms as sore throat, hemorrhoids, hiccupping, vomiting, fever, toothache, psoriasis, stomachache and other ailments - all important treatments when using the Chinese diet.

The second major difference

The second difference between Western and Chinese diets:

In Western diet, foods are considered for their protein, calorie, carbohydrate, vitamin and other nutrient content, but in Chinese diet, foods are considered for their flavors, energies, movements and common and organic actions.

It works like this: If I feel cold in my body and limbs, naturally I like to eat something that will warm me; if I feel hot, something to cool me. If I have a weak stomach, naturally I like to eat something that will make my stomach stronger; if I feel my kidneys are weakening, something that will make my kidneys stronger.

Ginger will warm me, because it has a warm energy; mung beans will cool me, because they have a cool energy; sugar can make my stomach stronger, because it tastes sweet and acts on the stomach; yam will make my kidneys stronger, because it acts on the kidneys in a special way.

To be sure, we can find nutritional information on foods in Western diet. For example, we know that red pepper contains vitamins A and C, but it does not tell us that it can warm us; we know mung beans contain some protein and carbohydrates, but not that mung beans can cool us; we know that black pepper contains some protein, but not that it can make our stomachs stronger; we know that yam contains protein, carbohydrate, calcium and many vitamins, but not that it can make our kidneys stronger.

Thus, it is easy to see how Chinese diet differs from Western diet.

The essential aspects of Chinese diet in regard to foods are:

  • the five flavors of foods,
  • the five energies of foods,
  • the movements of foods and
  • the common and organic actions of foods.

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