The story appears on

Page A12

December 12, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Health and Environment

TCM's waste not, want not theory

TRADITIONAL Chinese medicine experts say too much food is wasted when cooking at home. This wasted food - usually the least tasty parts like vegetable stems, skins, roots and seeds - sometimes has the most nutrition.

TCM experts thus recommend eating foods as complete as possible.

Using so-called "waste" parts of foods can help adjust imbalances in the body.

TCM's mantra that balance is the key to health means many Chinese people deliberately eat foods of different characteristics -- either yin (cold) or yang (warm) -- to adjust their internal energy balance.

But experts say maintaining balance will be much easier if people fully used every part of each food, as believed by Chen Yunbin, a health writer who recently published the best-selling book "The Wisdom of Eating at Home."

"Nature is a magic creator that provides both yin and yang energy in every food," Chen says. "It is the eating habit of getting rid of some part of the foods that makes foods sharply yin or yang."

Yin and yang are always born in pairs, according to the author who says the thing neutralizing a herb often exists within it.

For example, though ginger is widely known as a "hot" food that promotes sweating, ginger peel is "cool" and helps stop sweating. Litchi is "hot" and easily causes pathogenic heat problems, yet the tea made from its "cool" peel can help relieve this problem.

Eating both parts together can help prevent sharp energy changes in the body, while separate use is recommended for tackling certain diseases.

In some cases different parts of a food belong to different categories of yin and yang, but they can still work synergistically.

Both rice and its bran help the digestive system, but in different ways; yin rice helps nourish the stomach and spleen while yang bran helps dispel the retention of foods.

Meanwhile, yin egg white helps reinforce energy and refresh the mind while yang egg yolk helps nourish blood and sooth nerves. "Do not hastily throw away any part of a food," Chen says. "In some cases, the parts people throw away are the most beneficial for health."

Here are some parts of food that should not be thrown out and also how they can help you.

White gourd seeds

White gourd seed is a "cold" food that is good for the kidneys while it also dispels phlegm and pus. In TCM, phlegm refers to the gathered waste water in the body. Phlegm is a major cause of sub-health problems among people who lead sedentary lifestyles.

White gourd seed soup


1. Cook a handful of white gourd seeds in water for about 20 minutes

2. Add rock sugar

3. Drink the water but not the seeds

Bitter cucumber seeds

Though green bitter cucumber is well known for its "cold" characteristics that help dispel pathogenic heat, its red seeds are sweet and can serve as an effective yang reinforcing food. Reinforcing yang energy in the heart is the top benefit of bitter cucumber seeds.

It can also help reinforce yang energy in the kidneys, relieving problems in the reproductive and urinary system. It is especially recommended to seniors who urinate frequently, children with bed-wetting problems, and the middle-aged who feel cold easily.

Prescription: Just eat the red peel of the seeds directly, not the seeds.

Towel gourd sponge

Towel gourd sponge is traditionally used for washing. But it is also a herb in TCM. It is "cool" and helps clear up mailuo (the branches of energy channels) and ensure fluent energy flow. Stagnation in energy channels often causes acute problems while stagnation in the branches is often related to chronic diseases.

Towel gourd sponge is more effective in dispelling stagnation caused by pathogenic wind or dampness, which makes it a widely prescribed herb for gout.

Towel gourd sponge soup


1. Wash an old towel gourd from this year

2. Cook it in water for about 1 hour

3. Drink the soup as tea, but don't eat the gourd

Celery root

"Cold" celery root can help urination and dispel pathogenic heat. It is good at dispelling toxins in the kidneys, especially when the symptoms are acne on the jaw and inflammation of the prostate gland.

It is widely known that celery helps relieve high blood pressure. But celery root is more effective than the leaves and stem.

Cold dish with celery root


1. Add some flour in clean water and use the mixture to wash the celery roots

2. Salt the roots for a while

3. Dress it with sauce made of soy, vinegar and sugar

Eggplant calyx

"Cool" eggplant calyx is a strong herb that helps dispel toxins caused by pathogenic dampness. It also helps heal wounds. It is especially recommended for preventing and relieving ulcers and toothache. It can be pan-fried, steamed or boiled.

Pan-fried calyx of eggplant


1. Get rid of the hard stem of about six eggplant calyx

2. Chop the calyx and a pepper into pieces

3. Pan-fry the calyx and pepper separately

4. Mix them together and pan-fry again with salt


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend