Chinese food therapy (also called nutrition therapy and dietary therapy) is a mode of dieting rooted in Chinese beliefs concerning the effects of food on the human organism, and centered on concepts such as eating in moderation. Its basic precepts are a mixture of folk views and concepts drawn from traditional Chinese medicine. The Tao of Healthy Eating () and The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen () .
A number of ancient Chinese cookbooks and treatises on food (now lost) The literature on “nourishing life”. Such books, however, are only precursors of “dietary therapy”, because they did not systematically describe the effect of individual food items. In the volume on “Fermentations and Food Science” of Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilization in China, HT Huang considers the Recipes for Fifty-Two Ailments (about 200 BCE) and the “Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon” as precursors of the ” dietary therapy “tradition, the form because it recommends food products as remedies for various illnesses, the latter because it discusses the impact of food on health. The materia medica literature, exemplified by the Shennong Bencao Jing (1st century CE), also discussed food products, but without specializing on them. The earliest extant Chinese dietary text is a chapter of Sun Simiao’s Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold (), which was completed in the 650s during the Tang dynasty. Sun’s work contains the word “food (or dietary) therapy” (shiliao). Sun stated that it would be more important to know about food than that. His chapter contains 154 entries divided into four sections – on fruits, vegetables, cereals, and meat – in which Sun explains the properties of individual foodstuffs with concepts borrowed from the ” Yellow Emperor’s Canon Inner: qi ”, the viscera, and vital essence (), more matches between the Five Phases, the “five flavors” (sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salty), and the five grains. He also has a large number of “dietary prohibitions” (), some of them based on calendrical notions (no water in the 7th month), others on purported interactions between foods (no clear wine with horse meat) or between different flavors. Sun Simiao’s disciple Meng Shen (621-713) compiled the first work entirely devoted to the therapeutic value of food: the Materia Dietetica (). This work has not survived, but it was quoted in later texts – like the 10th-century Japanese text Ishinpō – and a fragment of it has been found among the Dunhuang manuscripts. Surviving excerpts show that Meng gives less importance to dietary prohibitions than Sun, and that it provides information on how to prepare foodstuffs rather than just describe their properties. The works of Sun Simiao and Meng Shen established the genre of materia dietetica and shaped its development in the following centuries.
An abundant literature developed in China by the medicinal uses of food. A mid-ninth-century work called Candid Views of a Nutritionist-Physician (Shi Yi Xin Jian 食 医 心 心 食 食 心 心 心 心 心 心 心 now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now now 9 9) -1279) explained how to feed the elderly to extend their life. In the early 14th century, Hu Sihui, who served as Grand Dietician (Yinshan Taiyi 太医 膳 太医 / 飲 膳 太醫) at the Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368), compiled a treatise called “Proper and Essential Things” Yinshan Zhengyao for 膳 正要, Emper Emper Emper Emper Emper Emper,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,. Influenced by the culinary and medical traditions of the Turko-Islamic world and integrating Mongol food stuffs like mutton into its recipes, Hu’s treatise interpreting the effects of food according to the scheme of correspondences between the five Phases that had been systematized by northern Chinese medical writers of the Jin (1115-1234) and Yuan eras. Before that period, food materials have been comprehensively assigned to one of five flavors systematically correlated with specific internal organs and therapeutic effects. Chinese understandings of the therapeutic effects of food were influential in East Asia. Cited in Japanese works as early as the 10th century, Chinese dietary works shaped Korean literature on food in the Joseon period (1392-1897). In the late 17th and early 18th centuries,
Although the precepts of Chinese food therapy are not identical, some basic concepts can be isolated. One central tenet is that “medicine and food share a common origin”, and that food materials can therefore be used to prevent or treat medical disorders. Like medicinal drugs, food items are classified as “heating” () or “cooling” (). In popular understanding, “heating” or “hot” food is typically “high-calorie, hot or cold,” or “hot-in-the-dark”, and includes red meat, innards, baked and deep-fried goods, and alcohol. They are to be avoided in the summer and may be used to treat “cold” illnesses like excessive pallor, watery feces, fatigue, chills, and low body temperature caused by a number of possible causes, including anemia. Green vegetables are the most typical “cooling” or “cold” food, which is “low-calorie, watery, soothing or sour in taste, or ‘cool’ in color (whitish, green)”. They are recommended for “hot” conditions: rashes, heartburns, and other “symptoms similar to those of a burn”, but also sore throat, swollen gums, and constipation. In addition, there are two flavors: sour, sweet, bitter, pungent (or “acrid”), and salty. In addition to describing the taste of food, each of these “flavors” has a specific viscera effect. The sour flavor, for instance, has “constriction and emollient effects”
There are few studies in English on the scientific validity of these beliefs and practices. A few studies conducted in China suggest that a diet is based on the precepts of Chinese medicine (Yin deficiency, instead of hypertension), and it is chiefly qualitative and conceptual evidence rather than a modern randomized controlled trial. Consequently, the claims of efficacy are weaker in scientific evidence than those based on mixed nutritious foods and demonstrated to be of great health by extensive clinical research, such as the DASH diet or Mediterranean diet.