About Lynn

lynn jaffeeLynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health, a clear and concise explanation of Chinese medicine for the lay person. She is co-author of the book, The BodyWise Woman, a personal health manual for physically active women and girls. Read more about Lynn...

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Eat According to the Five Elements

My patients ask me frequently about the healthiest way to eat.  My simplest answer is to eat a lot of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and small amounts of lean protein, including legumes and nuts. 

There is, however, another way to make sure you’re eating well, and that is to eat according to the Five Elements.  In Chinese culture, the Five Elements are energetic forces that are found not only in the universe, but also in your body.  They are the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.

Each element has an associated color, and by eating foods according to the color of the elements, you will be assured of eating a healthy, complete diet.  The following are the elements, their associated colors, and foods that are good for nourishing that element:

The color associated with wood is green.  Foods that nourish that element include leafy green vegetables, and lettuce, green peppers, broccoli, green beans, bean sprouts, zucchini squash, lentils, limes, and pistachio nuts.

As expected, the color for the fire element is red.  Red foods include apples, tomatoes, cherries, red peppers, red raspberries, red lentils and kidney beans, and small amounts of red meat.

The earth color is yellow, and the yellow foods that are nourishing to the earth element include yellow foods that come directly from the earth like yams, sweet potatoes, and carrots.  Also good is squash, corn, split peas, quinoa, and cashews.

White is the color of metal.  Nourishing white foods include mushrooms, potatoes, rice, oats, whole grain wheat, radishes, almonds, and fish or white meats, such as chicken, turkey, or pork

The water element is associated with darkly colored and black foods.  Foods that are especially good for this element include black beans, sea vegetables, such as nori (used in sushi), wild rice, and darkly colored berries.  In addition, foods that come from the water element—sea foods—are also very nourishing to this element.

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