Chinese has a culture of Qi foods. There are a lot of old sayings about foods and Qi in Chinese, for example 人以食为天. Word by word translation is: food is considered as big as the sky. It means that food is the most important aspect in human life.
In traditional Chinese culture, people believe that the best practice for maintaining health is by eating. Chinese believe that eating food is a way to supplement with Qi, the life energy. While maintaining good health by eating is debatable, eating food can support life is not.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice, especially during seasonal transition, Chinese medicine doctors will usually prescribe special foods. Those foods have specific healing effect to treat for example, spleen Qi deficiency, liver Qi stagnation, kidney Qi weakness, etc. We call those Qi foods.
Nowadays, largely influenced by western culture, many people care so much about nutrition label, organic label, vegan label, etc. Yet many of them still face multiple health challenges. They think by eating healthy foods, they would be distant from diseases. But why is it not the case?
Because even though people are so cautious about what foods they take in, they seldom aware of the way they eat. The latter is more critical for health.
The most important principle for healthy eating is, eat only when your body needs. Most people eat compulsively. They eat because they want to, not because they need to. Even if you throw in only nutritious foods to your system, it would only do harm not benefit if you eat them compulsively.
Another big myth is: we think eating three meals a day is necessary and a healthy way. Well it’s not true for most adults, even though we are physically healthy.
Eating three meals a day is mostly the psychological need, not the physical body need. Our mind is tuned to feel hungry habitually when the meal time comes. But if we could hold the urge to eat for a bit longer, we will find that urge can ease off. If you can practice this more often, you will find that your compulsiveness towards food can be largely fixed. Your body becomes fit and healthy, and your mind becomes sharp.
Another good way is to eat with mindfulness. To eat mindfully is not only to stop the scattered mind and focus on food, but to open self up so that food can merge (Hun Hua) with your life well. That way any food will become your qi food, and make sure eating will support your life energy.
Today is 立夏 Lìxià Solar Terms according to Chinese lunisolar calendars. It signifies the beginning of summer. This is the period of spring and summer transition. During this period, human liver Qi will ease up a bit, heart Qi is gradually lifting. Therefore, eating foods that are sour and less bitter will help to fortify liver and kidney Qi.
Qi foods which are optimal for health in this period would be: tomato, orange, mandarin, olive, lemon, lime, apple, papaya, and berries. People who usually feel cold in limbs or tend to have stomach illness more often, should avoid bitter foods like bitter melon, Kuding tea, kale (芥蘭 Gai-lan, Kai-lan), and Chinese celery. Other people should avoid eating too much of such bitter food during this period.