Nutrition has a central role in traditional Chinese medicine, and apparently dietitians were considered the most important health care practitioners in ancient China. “Recipes for food were often those for medicines” writes Kastner, author of Chinese Nutrition Therapy. Crucially, nutrition in ancient China followed an entirely different set of rules than those established by modern science. According to Taoist philosophy, the life energy “qi” is composed of yin and yang. These two opposites have to be in balance—if not, illness ensues. “Qi” is absorbed from food—therefore, it probably seemed obvious to the physicians of ancient China that food somehow has to reflect that balance.
Ernst E. Chinese Nutrition Therapy: Dietetics in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). JAMA. 2009;302(20):2260-2264. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1735