You asked! How Do We Determine Our Food Categories?
Body Landscape Nutrition
The Ancient Taoist Wisdom of
Five Element Sasang Constitutional Medicine MyBodyLandscape.com
The Evolution of Our Food Categories List
Many of you have asked how our Food Categories are determined. This question comes up usually when some of you have seen different lists of foods online that often contradict each other, as well as some that contradict our list.
Sometimes these differences occur because they come from different traditions, such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), or Sasang Constitutional Medicine.
But I have also seen different food lists put out by various practitioners of the same system, such as TCM, that also contradict each other. So this can lead to considerable confusion for the consumer who is trying to figure out which foods are best for them.
Regardless of the tradition of medicine, there is only one accurate category for each food. A food does not change its energetic character because it is used in a different system. Any given food will respond with the same energetic quality when ingested into the human body.
Our Food Categories list began with the original Sasang Constitutional Medicine list. This food list was created by Lee Jae-Ma, the Korean acupuncturist/herbalist who originally developed the Sasang system.
When Hyunoong Sunim and I were first teaching together and following our body constitution diets, we began to notice that our bodies didn’t always respond to certain foods in a way that matched the original Sasang categories.
Hyunoong Sunim and I were also doing a Taoist breathing practice called Sun-do. This practice creates deep healing and internal transformation, opening energy blocks and establishing physical and emotional balance.
When this kind of internal balance is established, the body becomes significantly more sensitive to anything that creates imbalance, such as certain foods or medicines.
I recall in the very early days of our zen center in California, Hyunoong Sunim said to me one day, “I’m not eating any more bananas. I never feel good when I eat them.” (On the Sasang list, bananas had originally been classified as cooling, so in theory should be good for him.) I remarked that I had the same experience with bananas. We then asked another zen center resident (who benefitted from warming foods) to try bananas, and he reported feeling very good when he ate them. This was the final evidence we needed to support our experience of bananas. We then changed the category of bananas to “warming”.
Also, for any of you who follow their body constitution diet over several months, and your internal energies become more balanced, you will find that your body becomes much more sensitive to how foods affect it.
So anyone following their body constitution diet who is able to tune inwardly into how their body is feeling, can usually determine when they eat a food whether it has a warming or cooling character. With experience and an understanding of Five Element principles, some can also even tell which internal organ the energy of that food enters.
(Note: One person’s experience of a food is not sufficient proof of a food’s energetic character. Some people have their own unique sensitivities to certain foods unrelated to their energetic character. We always survey a number of different peoples’ experience with a specific food before determining or changing its category.)
This is a system of empirical evidence, where personal experience of the effects of foods on the body provides greater proof than any theory or historical list.
As Hyunoong Sunim and I have followed our body constitution diets for several decades, we have been able to categorize foods this way. We also get feedback from long-term clients and residents of our zen center.
For example, a client who is Lesser Yin (cold, damp internal energy) called me to ask if black rice is warming or cooling. Black rice is relatively new on the market so I had only tested it myself last year, and found it to be cooling. This client told me that she ate black rice last night for dinner and now “feels horrible”. So her body told her very quickly “this is cold energy and not right for me”. This was further confirmation of its cooling character.
Finally, with over 30 years of experience of using this system, working with clients, and seeing how our clients experience obvious and often dramatic improvements in their health symptoms when they eat according to our Food Categories, this is the final proof of the accuracy of our Food Categories.
As a spiritual practitioner I approach my Sasang constitutional diet as part of my personal cultivation, and I encourage you to do the same. Our body is the vehicle through which our spirit – the fundamental essence of who we are – functions and manifests. The more balanced and healthy we can be physically and emotionally, the fewer roadblocks we will struggle with in our spiritual practice. Then the more deeply we can go into our practice.
So I encourage you to see your dietary discipline in this way. Listen to your body, give it what nourishes and heals, and refrain from what hurts it. The more we can be in a state of physical and emotional harmony, the less of an obstacle our body and emotions become in our spiritual practice, and in our life goals. In the end, this allows us to be less attached to our body, with fewer ailments and struggles to distract us, and more focused on our spiritual practice.
Scroll down to see our Featured Client’s Journey to Wellness below.
Questions? If you are interested in having your Five Element Sasang Nutritional Consultation but have a few questions first, schedule a complimentary 15 minute informational call with Jaguang. There is no obligation with this call.
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Back in 2007 when I received my initial diagnosis from Jaguang, I was in bad shape. A few months after retiring from my teaching job, I suddenly lost five pints of blood due to internal bleeding. It left me weak and unable to perform the tasks of my physically active new life as a homesteader in the San Juan Islands.
After taking the herbs and strictly following the diet, I slowly began to recover my strength and vitality. Learning that I had a Lesser Yang constitution (hot and dry), I soon discovered that eliminating such warming foods as onions, garlic, and chicken in my diet and replacing them with cooling foods began to rebalance my whole system.
Not only did I recover from my blood loss, but I was happy to observe some specific improvements in my overall health:
Heart Rate: Whereas previously my pulse at rest was normally 70 beats per minute, my rate now dropped to 63 beats per minute. And it didn’t take my heart as long to return to normal after strenuous exercise
Better Skin: Whereas previously I suffered from cracked skin on my hands and occasional split finger syndrome, over time all that went away. Heat tolerance: prior to removing warming foods from my diet, I would start getting uncomfortably warm at 83°. Now I tolerate temperatures up to 90° before starting to get uncomfortable.
Improved digestion: no more frequent upset stomachs and occasional bouts of nausea and vomiting.
More energy: fewer bouts of listlessness. Now at the age of 76, I can still put in a good day’s work weeding, planting, shoveling, pushing a wheelbarrow and chopping wood. After my first year on the diet, Jaguang recommended a Taoist -style Qi Gong exercise called Sun-do, which turned out to be very refreshing. I believe the breathing part of the exercise oxygenated my blood: I notice I don’t get out of breath so easily when climbing stairs or hiking. And performing the postures definitely has made me more limber as well as feeling calmer and more peaceful inside.
Thanks to the diet and exercise, I am truly enjoying the golden years of retirement with my wife on our 10 acre homestead. Apparently, Korean Sasang Constitutional Medicine has addressed the underlying causes of my health problems as opposed to merely focusing on eliminating symptoms.
Anyone hesitating about trying this non- Western healing system might do well to remember the old Chinese proverb: if you don’t get off the road you’re on, don’t be surprised if you end up where you’re headed.
WA state, USA
Lesser Yang Recipes
For those who are permitted Liver Strengthening FoodsGrape-Olive Spread1 bunch seedless red grapes
1 jar pit-less kalamata olives
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs olive oil1 Tbs fresh thyme
Mix in a dish, cook for 1 hour at 350 F (177 C) degrees, turning it every 20 minutes.
yum Guacamole Dip
1 medium avocado
1 small tomato, sliced
1⁄4 cup celery, chopped
8 medium black olives, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 to 2 tbsp red wine or other permitted vinegar. Adjust amount to taste.
1⁄4 tsp salt
Pinch of dried oregano or fresh chopped basil
Put all ingredients in a food processor or manual chopper and blend until thoroughly mixed. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Dip with celery sticks, slices of cucumber, thin rice crackers or corn chips.
This should be eaten immediately as the avocado begins to turn color after an hour or so.
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