Say Chis

Sarah Knight, PhD, RM, EuBP

Everything is energy. We feel it in ourselves, in other people, in our pets, in the earth. ¬¬There are systems of integrated medicine and healing practices dedicated to working with the energy of plants, animals and even minerals. Homeopathy, phytobiophysics and Bach flower remedies, and various shamanic practices are just a few of these. But there is energy medicine right at our fingertips that we can tap in to every time we prepare and consume a meal.

Good quality, unrefined foods feed our chi (or qi – our life force). In addition, the foods that we eat all have their own energies, some of them in harmony with our systems and our individual needs (which may change throughout the day, year or with different phases in our lives) and some in dissonance. For optimum health and well-being, a balanced intake of food energy should be considered alongside a balanced intake of calories and nutrients.

In traditional Chinese Medicine the energy of food is often discussed in terms of “Yin” and “Yang”, where these terms represent two opposing, but ideally balanced, extremes. Most meat protein is classified as strongly “Yang”, whereas sugar, processed carbohydrates, and many fruits, have strong “Yin” properties. Vegetables and whole grains typically fall somewhere in the middle.

But for me, it’s as simple as seeking foods that make me feel good! Most vegetables make my energy field feel expansive. After eating a big plate of lightly steamed greens I feel as if my whole energy body has taken in a breath and let out one big sigh. I feel lighter. I feel happier. I feel more in my flow. I feel more ME. Conversely, processed nuts and excess oils often make my energy immediately contract. I feel less joyful, more burdened. Animal products usually also have a similar effect on me, so I choose chi over cheese every day! I have come to learn that I am very sensitive to food energy and am easily thrown off by strongly Yin or Yang foods. But for my teenage son, his predominantly Yin nature is balanced by the concentrated Yang energy of animal flesh, which settles his energy. He seems more at ease in himself after eating good quality meat. I believe that it grounds him, in a way that his energy system needs right now.

The environment that plants are grown in, and that farm animals are raised in, will also affect the energy that they impart, as does how they are nourished, harvested or slaughtered, prepared, cooked and served. If you are interested in this level of information, there are many fantastic resource books available*, but if you are just starting your exploration of your energetic relationship with different foods then don’t jump in at the deep end! Simply begin with noticing how you feel before a meal, and how you feel after. See if you can then start to notice some connections. If you do, fantastic, do some research or speak to one of KIHC’s naturopathic doctors to ensure that any changes you make to your diet continue to support your requirements for nutrients and calories.

Tuning in to the nutritive aspects of the energy of our foods doesn’t have to be a chore. Play with it. Have some fun. There is a whole new set of tastebuds in your body just waiting to be discovered!

* Paul Pitchford’s “Healing with Whole Foods” is an amazingly comprehensive guide to both the energy and nutritive properties of different foods, and is an excellent resource for any kitchen.