The Five Phases Of Chinese Nutritional Therapy

The Five Phases of Chinese Nutritional Therapy (FPNT) depends on a couple of basic frameworks of the Five Phases, Yin/Yang, and Chinese Medicine in Jacksonville. Most of the information in this article is derived from various sources including Chinese medicine school text books.

This article should not be seen as a way to lose weight and does not pertain to any specific type of diet. Instead, it is a holistic approach to nutrition that promotes the eating of foods that develops the vital energy of the body by providing a wide variety of food selections based on the general state of being of a person.

Based on the principle of Chinese medicine, the two fundamental forces that keep the body in a state of homeostasis are Yin and Yang. It would be beyond the scope of this article and would take an entire volume to understand what these two forces are; however, it is essential to give a brief introduction to these two principles in this article.

Yin/yang is an important philosophical concept that applies to all aspects of Asian thought including medicine, martial arts, painting, calligraphy, and art. It supposes that all living and non-living things are an extension of two opposing and complimentary sides. For instance cold/hot, evil/good, down/up, black/white, female/male.

Since virtually anything can be further classified into yin-yang forces, the list can go ad infinitum. This yin/yang concept also applies to humans. Females are yin and males are yang. In addition, each individual, regardless of gender, is also comprised of these opposing compliments. The yin is the front of the body, the yang is the back.

The feet are yin relative to the head which is yang. The body’s right side is yin while its left side is yang. The organs are yin relative to the yang which is the skin. The qualities of yin/yang can be applied to visible parts of the body. This theory is also applicable to literally all living cells in every organism including hormones, chemicals in the brain, and fluids of the body.

Mucus and other thick body fluids are usually deemed as yin while tears and other viscous and thin fluids are yang. Estrogen and other female hormones are yin relative to male hormones such as testosterone which is yang. Chemicals such as serotonin are classified as yin while dopamine can be grouped as yang.

When talking about dietary matters, which are the main topic of this article, the metabolism of the body is also seen through the principles of yin/yang. In Chinese medicine theory, a person with a hyper-metabolic body is a yang or hot individual while a person who is hypo-metabolic has a cold or yin body. The normalization of these last two cold/hot or yin/yang forces is where Five Phase Chinese Nutritional Therapy plays an essential role.

When classifying nutrients as either yin or yang, we are venturing into a never ending field of food combinations and selections. Five Phase Chinese nutritional therapy (FPCNT) classifies yin/yang foods into five groups that are intimately connected to the Chinese medicine Five Phases table of correspondences. These correspondences have been translated as the Five Elements in the West.

The term “elements,” however is a poor translation because it provides an unchanging connotation to “xing,” which is the original Chinese word. A better translation is “phases” is because it implies a continuous state of flux or ‘change’.

A person with a naturally “Hot-type” body is someone who often feels hot, is prone to skin infections or rashes, always desires cold drinks, sometimes has a red tongue or face, perspires easily, and has too much energy in his body. According to the Five Element Nutrition, a yang or “hot-type” person requires more relatively cooling or yin foods.

In a yang or hot type person, signs and symptoms include an outgoing or aggressive personality, insomnia, easily irritated or angered, constipation, strong appetite, dry mouth thirst, and a loud voice. Yang type females may suffer from menstrual disorders. Naturally cold or cool foods can neutralize the effect of heat in the body, meaning, they can generate a cooling reaction from the body.

Foods that balance/lower metabolism are deemed to be “yin” in nature in Five Element Nutrition. Thomas Edison years ago said, “In the future, physicians will prescribe no medicine, but will provide their patients in the care of the human frame, in the prevention and cause of disease, and in diet.”


These are considered cool/cold foods in the Five Phases Nutrition:


Alfalfa, Lotus Root, Button Mushrooms (Slightly Cooling), Beet, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Gobo Burdock Root, Potato, Green And Red Cabbage, Winter Squash And Pumpkin, Carrot, Radish, Cauliflower, Celery, Soybean Sprout, Napa Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Spinach, Chinese Wax Gourd, Zucchini, Summer Squash, Cilantro, Yam or Sweet Potato, Corn, Cucumber, Turnip, White Carrot, Daikon Radish, Watercress, Dandelion, Eggplant, Winter Melon, Eggplant, Seed of Winter Melon, and Bamboo Shoots


Bitter Gourd, White Mushroom, Seaweed, and Snow Pea


Shitake or Chinese Black Mushroom, Taro Root, and Lotus Seed



Apple, Apricot (toxic at high levels), Black Jujube (very cooling), Peach (very cooling), Chinese date (very cooling), Chinese Prune, Fig, Persimmon, Hawthorn Berry, Tangerine, Lemon, Strawberry, and Tomato (Slightly cooling)


Mulberry (Slightly cold), Muskmelon, Cantaloupe, Pear, Grapefruit, Starfruit, Watermelon, Banana,


Papaya, Loquat, Mango

Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and Grains

Mung bean (Very Cooling), Soybean, Persimmon, Pearl Barley, Wheat, Hops, and Wheat Bran


Almond, Pea, Azuki, Red Bean, Sunflower Seed, Peanut, Brown Rice, and Buckwheat

Miscellaneous Animal Products: Poultry, Fish, and Meat


Chicken Egg, Marjoram, Peppermint, Tofu, Sesame Oil


Clams, Pork, Crab, Salt, Sugar Cane


Milk & Milk Products, Unheated Honey, Olives

A person who often feels cold, is susceptible to edema and dizziness, usually prefers warm drinks, has low energy, and has a whitish or pale complexion, is a “Cold-type” person. This person, in Five Phases Nutrition, would require relatively warming or yang foods.

The symptoms and signs of a yin or cold type person could include excessive sleep, introverted personality, loose stools, lack of appetite, drinking of little fluids, and a weak or feeble voice. Naturally hot and warm foods can have a neutralizing effect on a cold body, i.e., generate a warming reaction from the body.

According to Five Phases Nutrition, the following foods are deemed naturally warm or hot foods that can balance and/or improve metabolism.

Hot Foods

Garlic, Scallion, Pineapple, Soybean Oil


Leek, Mustard Green, Coconut, Beef, Liver, Chicken, Mussels, Eel, Mutton, Ham, Sheep’s Milk, Kidney, Shrimp, Coffee, Coriander, Spearmint, Dillseed, Wine


Bell Pepper (Slightly Warming), Green Bean, Chinese Chive, Parsley (Slightly Warming), Kale, Vegetables Cherry, Kumquat, Litchi Fruit, Grape, Hawthorne Fruit, Raspberry (Slightly Warming), Black & Red Date, Guava, Fruit Oats, Plum (Slightly Warming), Sweet Rice, Anise, Fennel