Five elements of nutrition as the basis for good health

Cooking according to the five elements is the practical implementation of Chinese dietetics for Western cuisine. More and more people are discovering the wisdom of this teaching and using it to strengthen the mind and body. In a balanced diet, according to the teaching, all elements within a menu should complement each other harmoniously.

Five elements of nutrition


Chinese nutrition is well over 3000 years old and an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Then the person comes into the world with fixed energy (Qi) that he received from his parents. There are two ways to gain additional energy. One option is through breathing (including breathing and relaxation exercises), the other through a harmonious and balanced diet.
Soulfood – the cookbook for mindful enjoyment: A cookbook based on the 5-element theory (TCM)

The 5 elements correspond to the 5 flavors, which have different effects on the organism. A balanced diet should contain all 5 flavors. None of which should be overemphasized or left out for a long time, as this can lead to an imbalanced


softens, heads down


preserves the juices, astringent


dries up, directs down


Builds up Qi, nourishes, relaxes, harmonizes


Dissolves stagnation, dispels Qi

The “five-element nutritional theory” sees its function primarily in strengthening the organism through a balanced. And wholesome diet so that disease cannot spread in the first place. She is based on the knowledge that all phenomena of the cosmos. Including food, is based on the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Western TCM doctors, therapists, and nutrition experts have adapted this age-old knowledge to the living conditions in the industrialized countries. And thus made it possible to implement this holistic nutrition theory with local products.

Goal: harmony of yin and yang

Everything has its two sides, these two principles also characterize Yin and Yang. People also have both sides; it is important to find out which side is predominant in each case.

For example, people who freeze very quickly, have a great need for warmth, and soak in the sun in summer belong to the yin equivalent. On the other hand, Yang-stressed people look for a cool spot in the shade in summer, use every opportunity for a cool refreshment, and even in winter are rather hot and can be found in T-shirts.

To have a healthy yin means to have the sap and substance of life. On a physical level, it ensures the ability to relax, restful sleep and good nerves; On the psychological level, the Yin is responsible for calmness, patience and restraint. Strong bones and teeth, shiny eyes and hair, rosy cheeks and lips are signs of a strong yin root.

Healthy yang means having life force and energy. On the physical level, it is responsible for the performance, dynamism, powerful digestion, and strong defenses. In connection with the psyche, a strong Yang stands for concentration, vigor, and willpower, A powerful voice, strong charisma, as well as joie de vivre, and the courage to accept life’s challenges. The two factors Qi (life energy) and warmth belong to Yang. These ensure that all active processes that keep our organism alive can take place. Whether we are healthy, happy, and success depends on the quality of our yin and yang roots.


There is also a yin or yang equivalent for all foods assigned to the five elements. There are both warming, neutral and cooling foods. According to Chinese nutritional science, there is also the right food for all unbalanced conditions. The basis for achieving a harmonious state of health for people is the classification of foods according to their thermal effect on the body.

While we place great value on vitamins, minerals and trace elements, for traditional cooks in China it is mainly the thermal effects of the various foods that count. When preparing food, you should therefore always pay attention to how the individual ingredients in your menu affect the human body: “hot” (a lot of yang), “warm” (yang), “neutral”, “refreshing” (yin) or “ cold ”(a lot of yin).

With regard to a healthy diet. This means that people with a Yang deficiency (too little heat, too much cold) should primarily consume hot and warm as well as neutral foods. People with a yin deficiency (too much heat, too little cold), on the other hand. Should eat foods with the thermal effect that are refreshing and cold as well as neutral.

As a rough guideline, one can say: All foods that grow in warm conditions have a cooling effect and vice versa. “Neutral foods” are carrots, legumes, all kinds of cabbage, potatoes, nuts, veal and beef, eggs, butter, milk, grapes – they build up Qi (life energy) and have a balancing effect on all organs.

With the help of different cooking techniques and ingredients, the thermal effect of food can of course be changed or adapted to the respective requirements:

A dish becomes (even) warmer by searing, grilling, roasting, baking, or cooking with the addition of alcohol, as well as the use of hot spices, by blanching and using refreshing ingredients such as fruit, fruit juices, mushrooms, seaweed, and sprouts, food becomes cooler.

Seasons & Five elements of nutrition

On the wrong track: since mid-February we have been in the cycle of the five elements in the time of wood. We humans should recognize the signs of nature during this time and follow it: Experience a new spring and blossom!

The dynamics of spring can be felt, nature awakens to new life, everything sprouts and turns green – the power of the element “wood” is everywhere. In the five elements doctrine, “wood” is assigned to spring, a new beginning, and childhood and is characterized by liveliness and rapid growth. When three-year-olds squeal with joy the whole day, it is not only enviable but also the flexibility of the wood energy that is in the young body.

As an organ, the liver is responsible for this suppleness. It ensures a harmonious flow of energy, the so-called “free flow of Qi” in the body. The liver also stores blood, supplies the tendons and joints, and thus keeps the body supple and elastic. With increasing age and decreasing wood energy, we become brittle and immobile. That is why spring is a good time to go back into the fresh air and move “rusty” limbs.
TCM for every day. Relaxed and healthy through the week: nutrition and healing teas, acupressure and meditation – simple Tai-Chi and Qi-Gong exercises – easy-to-implement daily programs

The louse and the liver

The less beautiful side in the wooden element can be explained well with the saying “I got a louse over my liver”. Anger and anger are closely related to the liver/gallbladder and in Chinese, these emotions generate heat in the body. If we lack the lightning rod, the flow of energy is blocked and problems with digestion (constipation), drawing pains in the bile area (under the right costal arch) are the result.

So If you eat into your anger and frustration, your body will take revenge with stomach pain, gastritis, or heartburn. If this internal heat remains for many years, the blood pressure rises or sleep disorders occur. Before it gets that far, traditional Chinese medicine applies: Avoid heat, encourage coolness!

For nutrition, this means herbal tea / green tea instead of coffee, fish instead of meat, steamed vegetables. And salads instead of deep-fried and fried foods. Bitter substances are particularly suitable for cooling liquids. For example, milk thistle tea, artichoke extract, yarrow tea, or a mixture of wormwood and peppermint tea.

Changes in the way of life, such as reducing pressure and stress, simple relaxation exercises. Qi-Gong, dancing, singing, but also simple walking, painting, laughing help to stabilize the flow of Qi again.

Spring cleaning for the apartment There is also a risk of congestion at home. Everything that has been hoarded in boxes and cupboards for years creates accumulated energy. Just like dusty shelves, uncleaned windows, or clogged drains. The wood element gives us the power of the young shoots and has an energetic effect on the body with growth and youth. Now the drive is there to set something in motion beyond the old ballast (spring cleaning!).To make changes and to face challenges with full commitment. Wood “stands for creativity and the ability to have visions. Ideally, the consequences are wonderful: we do it like nature and blossom.

Get your winter fat!

Those who are really motivated now and perhaps have put on the so-called winter fat over the long winter time due to lack of exercise and increased food and spring fatigue is on the way. A grain or rice cure can help. The body is relieved for a few days and you feel much better right away.

Here are the most important points to consider:

  • Duration of the treatment: at least 3, maximum 12 days
  • Decide on a type of rice or grain (barley, basmati, millet, buckwheat …)
  • Eat this cooked grain of rice (approx. 150 g dry weight) 3-4 times a day with steamed vegetables (as much as you want) or fruit (max. ½ kg)
  • Tip: You can pre-cook cereals for 2-3 days, vegetables or fruit always freshly prepared !!
  • Vegetables: seasonal vegetables, root vegetables, green vegetables containing chlorophyll.Bitter vegetables such as artichokes and chicory, radicchio, fennel, broccoli, fresh dandelion, nettle leaves, radish and radish sprouts, cress, parsley, wild garlic
  • Fruit: local fruit steamed briefly, e.g. apple compote, applesauce, pear compote, possibly briefly steamed grapefruit
  • Always add a few drops of cold-pressed oil (linseed oil, olive oil, sesame oil, pumpkin seed oil …), 1 x daily also 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds
  • If you feel hungry: include beans, lentils, or tofu in your menu.
  • For sweetening: cook dried fruits, barley malt, honey, maple syrup
  • Seasoning with fresh herbs and spices, cress, sprouts
  • DO NOT STARVE or FAST !!!!
  • Suitable drinks are warm/hot water, tea made from fresh nettle leaves, horsetail tea. Yarrow tea, lemon balm tea, a mixture of raspberry and blackberry leaves; if you tend to feel cold: caraway, anise, and fennel tea
  • For extensive relief of the body during this time, you should avoid the following foods if possible. Sugar, dairy products, alcohol, coffee, animal protein, raw vegetables, bread and pastries, potatoes

In the first few days, emotions or headaches can occur, but these will quickly disappear if you eat your fill and drink enough!

Here you will find valuable nutritional tips according to TCM (in the sense of the five elements kitchen) for the cold season

The joyful implementation of these relief days is of great importance for success – prepare tasty, colorful, aromatic dishes and enjoy them!

A good alternative is programs that combine what is known as intermittent fasting with a healthy diet and appropriate nutrition plans. This creates a holistic approach that can also be used permanently in everyday life. One example is

Tip for women between 40 and 65:

There is a special program for intermittent fasting during menopause!
Intermittent fasting is combined with nutrition plans so that the female body goes back to fat-burning mode despite the “menopause hormone change”.

Leave a Comment