Chinese Medicine and Vegetarianism
One question that I frequently get asked is, “does Chinese medicine support a vegetarian diet?”
Some related questions include:
- What is the effect of eating meat on the body?
- Is eating meat really necessary?
- What are other sources of protein besides meat
Western nutrition and Chinese nutrition do agree on:
- eating plenty of fresh vegetables
- fresh fruits
- avoiding processed foods
- eating regular and balanced meals
- avoiding eating late
- breakfast is the most important meal of the day
These qualities may be incorporated into any diet, be it vegetarian or not. However, the issue of eating meat is frequently debated.
When looking at a person’s diet, Chinese medicine will take several factors into consideration, including:
- Current state of their digestive Qi
- Environment including climate and season
- What they are eating overall in their whole diet
- How much physical activity they are getting
- Their body type
According to Chinese medicine, the effect of eating meat on the body is to:
- Nourish the blood and yin of the body
- Strengthen the bones and sinews of the body
When someone is “blood deficient,” a pattern of disharmony according to Chinese medicine, as often happens with vegetarians, they may experience:
- Pale skin
- Lack of concentration
- Dry hair, nails, and skin
- Muscle cramps
- Menstrual Irregularities
- And many other symptoms
Here in the US, most people consume too much meat on a regular basis, possibly even as much as three times the required amount. Additionally, most people tend not to combine meat with any fresh, cooked vegetables or side dishes that promote healthy digestive Qi. For example, if you look at a typical fast food hamburger, it comes on a processed bun, with a piece of lettuce, a tomato, some onions, and a pickle or two. That is combined with fries and a soda. None of that encourages strong digestive Qi or sufficient nutrition that can be absorbed and help you to feel energetic and vibrant.
It is also worth mentioning that cultures where red meat is consumed on a regular basis, have increased incidences of cancer, stroke, heart conditions, and other diseases.
As a general rule, most people only need to consume red meat about once per week. It is important to also consider other sources of protein such as:
- Nuts, Almonds, Walnuts, Sunflower Seeds (may want to eat these in small amounts as they can sometimes cause gas and bloating)
Dairy is also a source of protein, especially cheese. The dilemma with consuming large amounts of dairy is that it can be hard on your spleen (digestive) Qi and create a condition known as dampness. For example, after drinking a glass of milk, notice how you may need to clear your throat, your sinuses may feel clogged, or you may feel full and distended in your abdomen. Overall, dairy may be a good source of protein, but the long term effects on your digestive Qi may be detrimental. It is recommended to use dairy sparingly for most people.
Chinese medicine considers meat to be an important source to help build the body’s energetic blood and yin, as well as help keep all of the tissues strong. However, it is not necessary to eat red meat more than once per week, generally speaking. It is also important to eat lots of fresh, cooked vegetables (preferably steamed), fresh fruit (which can also be cooked), and to eat regular, balanced meals. Additionally, eating meat in smaller amounts over the course of regular meals is easier for your body to digest and better for your Qi. It is also recommended that drinking plenty of water when eating a diet containing meat. Water helps flush uric acid and other toxins out of the body.
Overall, eating meat is encouraged, but in moderation. A healthy, balanced diet is just that, balanced with variety. Meat can help maintain a vibrant and energetic body, but there are other sources of protein out there that can help contribute to a balanced diet.
If you are struggling with your diet or other health conditions and would like nutritional guidance and treatment, contact Healthy Life Acupuncture Clinic a call today and begin your path to wellness!
Healthy Life Acupuncture Clinic serves Centennial, Aurora, Parker, Highlands Ranch, Greenwood Village, Cherry Hills Village, Denver, Lone Tree, the Denver Tech Center, the Meridian Business Park, and is proud to offer acupuncture, nutritional counseling, herbal therapy, cupping, gua sha, and massage services.