FOOD QUIZ!!! FINDING THE BEST DIET FOR YOUR SPECIFIC CONSTITUTION
Food markets in the US (and most of Europe) are full of every type of available food from every climate regardless of season. In New York we are particularly obsessed with always having variety! Yet I think as a culture we are starting to understand that food is part taste — but also part medicine, and that food choices require an individualized, seasonal, and perhaps localized approach.
Finding the right diet is as important as having an accurate prescription at the drug store — it must be targeted for your specific constitution. The best part is that it should taste fantastic but also help with your mood, energy, skin, sleep quality, and even slow aging. All of this without the side effects that are often experienced with many drugs.
Within the scope of Traditional Chinese Medicine, every patient is unique; there is no singular treatment or diet plan for everyone. Each food is understood to have certain qualities and effects. For instance, spinach is considered a cooling food that moistens and can also clean toxins from the blood. It would work well steamed or boiled for a patient with a dry constitution, but not so much for a person who has a stagnation of fluids. We call this stagnation ‘internal dampness’. Often these types of patients will have loose stools. Raw spinach would not be the perfect choice for a patient with a damp constitution.
So what should you be eating?
During an initial assessment I ask a variety of questions covering many areas. Common questions regard energy level, bowel and menstruation quality and frequency, aspects of your personality, and cravings. All of these areas help to paint a picture of what your individual constitution is and help me with deciding where to place the needles, what herbs to prescribe and what diet to recommend.
Let’s play a quiz! I’ll pepper you with questions regarding your constitution, and follow with a suggested diet. Please keep in mind that no quiz can replace the accurate diagnosis that I or another seasoned practitioner of Chinese Medicine could give you in a personal visit. I generally spend 90-minutes with my full attention on a new patient, and still a proper diagnosis can be complicated. This is a broad stroke attempt to help you move toward a healthy and effective diet plan.
Please mark down all that apply and record the answers you pick. At the end you will count them up. Beware of questions on sex, stool, and menstruation (ladies!). If we are gonna help you we have to get into the nuts and bolts. 😒 Good luck!
1.My skin is most like:
A. Dry and scaly.
B. Cystic, hard and swollen, or just greasy.
C. Cracked and red.
D. Edema like, generally swollen and puffy.
E. Varicose veins or acne stained skin.
F. Very red spots, quickly arising, or gets blisters.
I. Have perfect skin, thank you.
2. My cravings can best be described as:
A. Cravings for sweets and sugar.
B. Spicy, hot and wild!
C. Always need a bottle of water.
D. Salty food cravings. Get yer hot pretzel here!
E. I only crave after working out.
F. Cold drinks with ice please.
I. Don’t know.
3. My favorite kind of day:
A. Sleeping in please.
B. Beer and grill.
C. Get stuff done. Push it.
D. Hot sun at the beach.
E. Olympic competition
F. Cleansing Russian baths
I. Don’t know.
My stool is best described as:
(This is where we get serious 😂)
A. Pale and soft.
B. Loose or sticky.
C. Dry and hard.
D. Food particles in stool.
E. Small pebbles. Incomplete.
F. Foul and smelly.
I. Never look.
5. My menstruation is or was best described as:
A. Light blood or no blood.
B. Mucosa in blood.
C. Short cycles, <25 days.
D. Long cycles, >30 days.
E. Clots in the blood, cramping
F. Bright red blood.
I. I am a man.
7. Sleepy time….
A. I can’t wait. I’m so tired.
B. Snoreville. Ask my partner.
C. Dream time, thrashing in bed, night sweats.
D. 15 hours.
E. Better exercise first so I can relax.
F. Night sweats.
I. I just sleep man. I don’t know.
8. Sex department! 💏
A. Only if I’ve gotten enough sleep.
B. Yes, but I may be bloated!
C. Let’s burn the midnight oil…
D. Tomorrow honey, I promise.
E. Hot and cold….moody 😾😸🙀
I. Am celibate.
9. LEAST favorite situation to be in.
A. 15 hour work day ahead of me.
B. And I have to run to the bus.
C. No liquids available.
D. Air conditioner blowing full blast.
E. Stuck in a long line.
F. Air conditioning is broke.
10. Competition does for me.
A. I’ll watch, Thanks. Too tired.
B. Let me get in shape first.
C. I am driven to win at all costs.
D. Competition is for the imbalanced.
E. The rules must be fair or this is bull.
F. I just want to make fun of everyone.
I. I don’t know man.
10. My tongue looks like (get a mirror or use your phone!):
A. Puffy and swollen
B. Has a big coat on top, white or yellow.
C. Is dry or cracked.
D. Is pale and swollen.
E. Is very red at the sides or tip.
F. Is extremely red with spots on it.
I. I scrape my tongue and won’t look.
Now add up your answers. The top and second most common answer reflects your current constitution. There may be some overlap. The letter answer with the least amount of marks is the diet that would be least helpful.
These are people who are low in what we call ‘qi’. The energy reserves are low and the body needs proper fuel to strengthen the system. Best foods would be easy to digest and cooked. These foods would include: Squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, dates, carrots (cooked), leeks, yams, dried fruit in moderation, steamed greens, garbanzo beans, baked beans, turkey, chicken, and ginger. Avoid raw, overly sweetened, skipping meals, and eating while working.
Damp and phlegm tendency, this individual is predisposed for fluid accumulation. The fluids are not properly extracted from the digestive process and are pathologically retained. This is most often the result of consuming too much dairy, greasy food or drinking too much alcohol. It can also result from long term qi deficiency or yang deficiency (see Type D below). Avoid cold and raw foods, dairy, greasy meats, alcohol, and especially be sure to avoid sugary sweets. Isn’t that easy? Although this diet is mostly what to avoid, helpful foods are rye, scallions, watercress, cooked celery, quinoa, turnips, and asparagus. Cardiovascular exercises to move the fluids will help and make sure your home does not have any mold.
Yin deficiency, the patient who is losing more fluids then they put in. It’s similar to a car being on high idle, and the oil is burning off. These patients tend to be strivers, always burning off the candle. This is the perfect stew patient, soups, broths, and foods that moisten and lubricate. Foods include oats, rice, tofu, tempeh, potatoes, most beans, eggs, yogurt, salmon, chicken, nuts, and seeds are also good. Drink warm water with lemon all day long and avoid spicy food and wine (at least without an equal amount of water). For every diuretic consumed (see coffee), 3 cups of water should be taken. And no Bikram (hot) yoga!!! Sex in balanced moderation, especially during winter.
Yang deficiency, the flame is running too low. Like cooking a soup on a single flame, the body can’t heat up the foods and break it down and therefore fails to get the proper energy. For this patient, especially avoid salads and raw food. Avoid fruits, especially at breakfast and in cooler seasons and climates. Most foods should be cooked. Also avoid cold drinks, like orange juice from the fridge. Best foods would be cinnamon, ginger, egg yolk, brown sugar, leeks, cayenne, lamb (and most organic meats), warm shrimp, walnuts, red wine in moderation. Avoid air conditioning and wear scarves!
Qi or blood stagnation type, when the energy and blood have stopped properly circulating. It’s the hot chest, cold hands patient who tends to feel better after exercise and worse when waking in the morning or especially prior to menstrual flow. Avoid eating while feeling emotional. Better to eat small meals frequently, and to eat earlier in the day. Spiced foods are helpful, but don’t over do it with hot stuff or you will get cranky. Especially avoid preservatives and chemically altered food. Eat basil, mint, black pepper, carrots, fennel, garlic, grapefruit, radish, chives, onions, vinegar, and turmeric, and butter, red wine in moderation, eggplant, peaches, and sweet rice. Exercise, creativity, or a healthy sexual outlet can all be very helpful.
This is the toxic heat patient; the body has heated up to unbalanced state. There may be acne, hot tempered mood swings, or restlessness and can also occur post fever. In the summer you can eat raw foods, in colder times you can shorten cooling times. Avoid all spicy foods and hot natured foods like peppers. Alcohol and coffee is a big mistake here. Avoid deep fried, greasy, or overeating. Best foods are cucumber, sour apples, barley, dark green leafy vegetables, all fruits, watercress, bamboo, water chestnuts, seaweed, and plenty of lemon and lime with water.
You have to get to know yourself better!
Remember, you can and most likely will have overlapping categories! Find the best current match but know that priority can change with the seasons or fluctuations in health. Enjoy!