A balanced, holistic diet

This is a diet that uses foods energetically according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It incorporates more foods with a Neutral to Cool and Neutral to Warm energy, a little less food with Warm or Cool energies; and sparing use of Hot and Cold energy foods.

When eating according to the energy of foods, a balanced diet includes grains, pulses, mostly cooked vegetables, white meat, and small amounts of fruit and red meat. Most people in the developed countries eat in an imbalanced way, eating large amounts of red and white meats, few vegetables and fruits; and little or no grains or pulses. Or what I call the “White and brown diet”.


The majority of people eat a diet that consists of potatoes, white rice and pasta with some meat cremated to within an inch of its life.

I’m not knocking carbs either. Diets need simple and complex carbohydrates; just smart choices in moderation. Mix it up a bit, try wholegrain or wild rice…bake a sweet potato…cook fresh pasta. Expand your food choices and your body will thank you for it.



And now onto the green things some will hide or push around the plate – vegetables! Many people see vegetables as a punishment. Normally, we’ll boil them to mush and they taste nasty – think back to childhood meals. Boiled white cabbage, bullet peas, soggy carrots…Though if Mum and Dad are not fans of our leafy delicacies; neither will their children be.

I love my veggies, as someone who eats pre-dominantly vegetarian foods my diet would be sparse without them. I also eat eggs, some dairy products and occasional sustainably sourced fish. I’ve lived on a vegan diet for many years and then switched to a piscatarian diet. It is not a diet for everyone; yet it suits my constitution. Other diets suit other people and their constitutions; we do become what we eat.


Another way of looking at the Warm-Cool energy of food is in terms of acid-alkaline. In general, foods that are Cool or Cold e.g. vegetables, tend to make the body more alkaline. Foods that are Hot or Warm e.g. meats, tend to make the body acidic.

The taste of foods is indicative of its energy. Foods that are bitter, e.g. endive, spinach, tend to be cooling and eliminate toxins. Sour foods are refreshing and cool e.g. lemon, sauerkraut, and small amounts aid digestion. Spicy foods are stimulating and heating. Salty foods, like barley, duck and seafood, are cool and softening because they hold fluid in the body.

Full sweet foods, e.g. complex carbohydrates, are NeutralWarm in energy. They help nourish bones, muscles and blood; and should always be a part of a diet. All that we need to adjust is the quantity we consume. Our bodies need complex carbohydrates; which is why we find them in many staple foods e.g. rice, other grains, potatoes, yams, vegetables and fruits.

The second important concept of foods is their Empty-Full quality. Empty and Full refer to the effect foods have upon the body and not their nutritional content. Similar to the Warm-Cool energy, Empty-Full is on a continuum, food is not absolutely Empty or Full, yet is slightly Empty or strongly Full. It is important to grasp this concept. It gives a broader and deeper understanding of how foods affect the body.

The energetic concepts of Yin-Yang, Warm-Cool and Empty-Full are taken directly from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, which has been applied empirically for over 2500 years. Historically, the first published Herbal literature is recorded between 350-270 BCE.


Relative to each other, fruit and juices are empty, vegetables are Neutral to Empty, meat and dairy are Full; and grains and legumes are Neutral. Using this basis, protein-rich foods are Full and more water-containing foods are Empty. Prolonged eating of mostly empty foods creates elimination in the body. This can affect the energy of the body (Qi pronounced chee) and the working capacity of vital organs; ultimately it results in deficiency and weakness. People who eat predominantly empty foods often feel tired, unfocussed and depleted.

Fruit and their juices are Empty foods, although they range from Warm to Cold in energy. They generally lower body temperature and metabolism by creating elimination. Small amounts of fruit eliminate toxins and moisten dryness. Yet, if eaten too frequently or predominantly, they can create poor digestion, gas, bloating, loose stools, possible lower back pain, lowered immunity and feelings of being unfocussed or ungrounded.


Conversely, prolonged eating of mostly Full foods creates excess in the body and leads to weight gain. This can lead to congestion of vital organs and stuck Qi. It ultimately results in the development of excess conditions such as heat, dampness or both. People who predominantly eat Full foods such as red meat and dairy, often feel congested, constipated, emotionally stuck , irritated, hypertensive and develop toxicity in their vital organs (e.g. cancer). However, when grains, vegetables and some fruit is included the diet becomes more balanced.

Combining the concepts of Empty-Full with Warm-Cool energies encourages us to consider food in a different way. Some foods may be Warm in energy, yet also empty; cayenne pepper is Hot though it doesn’t strengthen the constitution. Instead it is stimulating and dispersing, inducing perspiration; though in excess can cause elimination (consider the day after a spicy meal…) On the other hand, foods can be Cool in energy, yet also Full e.g. barley. It expands the intestines, preventing or stopping diarrhoea; strengthening the digestive function.

Overall, it is always a question of balance, along with the energy of food; it is important to look at the Empty-Full effects. It is best to eat a diet comprised predominantly of foods with Neutral-Warm and Neutral-Cool energy and Neutral, Neutral-Empty; and some Full foods. Eating large amounts of extreme foods (sugars, alcohol, tobacco, salt, vinegar, caffeinated drinks), those that are Hot, Cold, Full or Empty creates nutritional and energetic imbalance; which leads to dis-ease.

balance diet

The issue of whether to eat meat and fish, or not; is a personal one. There are many ethical and medical pros and cons; which only the individual can decide for themselves. However, it is well documented that excessive and prolonged consumption of red meat without a balanced diet can lead to toxicity within the body. Leading to hypertension, heart attacks, cancers, arthritis, strokes, constipation, aggressiveness, irritability and rheumatism.

Those who want to eat meat and fish need an abundance of Empty foods. It is essential to balance the Full quality of meats and eliminate potential toxins; these naturally occur as meats and fish putrefy. If anyone has a slow metabolism or digestive system, putrefication will be occurring in the large intestine. Meat and fish should be preferably organic and cooked and eaten with aromatic herbs and carminative spices such as raw ginger root, pepper or mustard. All aid in the digestion of meat in the body.


Generally, vegetarians need to eat a more varied diet, without meat most other foods are relatively cooling. A balanced vegetarian diet should consist mainly of grains, beans and pulses, cooked vegetables, some dairy and a little seasonal fruit. Then a dietary balance can be maintained. Ideally this does allow many Empty foods to be included in the diet e.g. fruits, salads, juices and other raw uncooked foods. Including warming and building herbs e.g. Codonopsis root and Astragalus root can help provide warmth and better immunity to infections.

For nutritional profiling and Herbal medicine consultations contact John at Herbal Spirit on 07751 485204 or email herbalspirit@hotmail.com

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