What is a Taoist Diet ?
🍎 What is the Taoist diet ? Facilitating spiritual connection by alleviating the body, while working on longevity.
The Taoists were said to be the first "bio-hackers", always trying to optimize their body functions and increase their spiritual capacities, whether it is through herbal blends, the diet I'm talking about today, life practices, body awareness, mindfulness, conscious movement and meditation.
⚠️ Be careful, it may not be adapted to your health condition.
Consult a health professional if you have a particular condition or if you are unsure. For example, some people who are weak by nature should not fast until they have toned their constitution.
Principles of a Taoist Diet
1) Eat Little or no Grains and Starches
A basic principle they called "Bi Gu", which can be translated as "avoid grains" (cereals). The word Bi meaning to avoid, and the word Gu meaning grain or cereal. So this is where the diet comes close to the keto and paleo diets. The "Bi Gu" also has another translation which I will explain below.
Concerning the removal of cereals, first of all, it is important to know that the Chinese dietetics of the masses (not necessarily people in search of spiritual development) advocate on the contrary to eat cereals, which are in this case at the center of the diet.
Why is this ? Because it is a form of Yin that calms and slows down in general.
If you've ever tried eating grain-free meals, you may have noticed that there was a certain lightness associated after the meal. Not the same feeling of being filled to satiety, but a good toning of the stomach while feeling nourished. Unless there are imbalances in the diet, for example with a lot of non-organic animal products, too few green vegetables and good fats.
Another thing I'd like to mention (since eating paleo or ketogenic is very trendy) is that it's best to avoid processed foods. Keto can sometimes mean several sweetening products that produce, according to Chinese medicine, a similar effect on the body even if not exactly the same.
I am also thinking of bone broth powders, which will not have the same vital energy as from fresh, homemade food.
2) Intermittent Fasting
The second meaning of the term "Bi Gu" can be understood as "Intermittent Fasting". Bi=Avoidance, Gu=Grain. Since the grains were as I just mentioned in the center of the meal, it was meant to avoid the meal.
To skip meals, why ? Because according to the Taoists, food is a element that comes from the earth, and it makes us heavy, brings us closer to the earth. The Taoists sought to get closer to "Heaven", through their connection with the vibratory aspect of life, the more energetic aspect, inspiration, compassion and connection with the spirit.
Fasting allowed them to get closer to Heaven by feeding themselves with more energetic "food" such as breathing, sensations of the 5 senses, emotional inspiration...
3) "Intuitive" Eating
Develop your sensitivity in relation to what you eat (or don't eat). First listen to your body, explore from there. When talking about fasting in the previous point, we do not try to create restrictions and guilt, which always creates a toxic "rebound" of food compulsions.
Rather, we seek to gently explore the benefits of fasting on mindfulness and to gently tame our impulses like taming a lion. It takes a lot of gentleness and a lot of strength, but not violence.
4) Eating Fresh Food
🍊 The vitality of a food drops very quickly from the moment it is picked. The flavors are at their best without any aroma. Yes, it's not easy to go to the grocery store, the market, or to keep a garden...
But it helps us develop a slowness in our pace of life that is really healthy. And it helps us develop a better relationship with the sacredness of food. How precious and ephemeral their life is, not taking for granted.
Organizing your lifestyle around that forces you to enter more deeply into the rhythm of nature.
5) Eat a Smaller Meal in the Evening
To have more energy in the evening and sleep better... the evening is often a more spiritual moment where, if we have enough energy, we can take stock of the day and learn about ourselves, understand how to rectify our imbalances... to realign the next day.
But with a big meal in the belly, we are often too heavy to be lucid and take quality time.
6) Avoid Snacking Between Meals
Eat a snack only when necessary, because the digestive system needs rest to properly cleanse itself between meals and avoid dysbiosis.
7) Regarding Meat
It depends on the Taoist lineages, but as a general principle, a vegetarian diet was prescribed at first to learn to calm the passions (meat stimulates the Yang) and facilitate work on meditation and self-control.
Then, eventually, meat was reintroduced to learn how to use the impulses that were activated in this way. Similar traditions can be found in esoteric India, with a vegetarian diet for mainstream followers and meat integrated later often in secret.
8) Eating with the Season
🌼 In spring: As in nature, animals are thin, we avoid hunting them and eat more vegetarian. We also fast, because spring is the season of detox, and it is more natural for the body to do so.
We eat a lot of leafy vegetables, young shoots and sprouts. We eat legumes, a little fish, a little meat if necessary. Always according to the constitution. We also eat some lacto-fermentations and tubers from the past autumn to vary our diet. Spring is also the season of crabs and lobsters.
So we eat more of them. We drink more white tea and green tea which detoxify. We can start our day with a butter tea (grass fed) or a "bulletproof" coffee or its more Taoist version: green tea with just butter (or coconut fat).
☀️ In summer: We eat a lot of fish, because it is abundant in summer and can be caught well. We can also eat some meat, grilled on the fire/bbq if we feel like it.
We eat more fruits and salads, but not exclusively ! We always want to have cooked food, almost at every meal, because it is more digestible. We drink a lot of water. Aromatic waters.
Cold brewed tea to be more hydrating (tea is normally dehydrating by nature), more refreshing and more aromatic. We are careful not to eat too much raw food during the summer, but we can easily eat 50% of our diet in raw food depending on the weather and our constitution.
Too much raw food will weaken the digestive fire, which will weigh down and slow down the thermoregulation function (less digestive qi = less defensive qi produced).
🍂 In autumn: We can eat a little grain in the form of congee (slightly detoxifying, warming, nourishes the digestive system), seasonal vegetables, more meat. Broths, long simmers. Lacto-fermentations, fruit vegetables, nuts and seeds.
❄️ In winter: We eat a lot of meat and long simmered or oven-roasted dishes. Slow cooker dishes for the modern Taoist ! Sprouts, endive, and a few winter vegetable salads to cool off the sometimes toxic winter heat.
9) Eat Local
Kind of the same principle as eating fresh, but with the added bonus that foods from the land (wild plants), but also those grown here have adapted to the energies of the earth (Feng Shui) and can feed us with what we need most. Even if it is "cool" to eat tropical fruits in winter, our body needs more berries: dried, frozen, in compotes... 🍓
10) Eat Food with Good "Jing"
Good fats, essential grains, pollen, greens, organic rich meat, marrow and bones (in broth), young shoots. Jing is the reserve of vital energy, sexual energy and genetic energy.
It is a very dense and condensed reservoir of energy. But it is also a zone of latency, that is to say a place where the body can deposit toxins while waiting to evacuate them when it is overloaded. And these toxins are passed on from generation to generation.
The bad fats, among others, are bad Jing, that is to say a reservoir of energy taxed by bad energies contained inside. In short, we want to feed ourselves with a condensed vital energy, yes, but we have to choose well.
My simple trick is: from happy living organisms = good fat. For example, butter from factory-farmed cows is known to be a bad fat, creating harmful cholesterol. But when it comes from "grass-fed" (read: that have been free-range !) designation cows, it becomes, instead, a good fat !
11) Eating Organic
Today's Taoists recognize the importance of avoiding the chemicals in conventional food to optimize their energy quality. And then often, we feel that the taste is not the same. So if it tastes the same, imagine the biochemistry !
12) Drink a Lot of Water
💧 We are often more dehydrated than we think, which hinders the circulation of energy, and contributes to the accumulation of toxins. This makes us feel less spiritually inspired.
13) Feeding on Other Forms of Energy as Well
This is a whole other subject, but we are talking about the art of feeding on air through breathing (facilitated by fasting). And the art of feeding on impressions through the 5 senses. (Also facilitated by fasting)
In short, an interesting world to explore ! Connecting with nature through food, it feels good ! Even if avocados are nice and fatty, there is a greater harmony in eating a roast carrot with duck fat, for example, for our climate, even more so in winter.
Nature is well made, and she shows us precious things by trying to better harmonize with it. Just the detox feeling of spring that feeds the vital impulse and gives us even more life to fully enjoy the purity of this season. Or the cocooning feeling of root vegetables and good fats in autumn, which help us to go inside...
🙏🏻 In conclusion, what we eat can help or hinder our spiritual connection, and we are our own best laboratory ! Explore, listen to feedback, let yourself be guided.
A Sample Spring Menu
Breakfast #1 : Fresh juice + homemade bone broth soup + broccoli + cauliflower
Breakfast #2 : Green tea with butter (fasting)
Lunch: Non-frozen and local white fish + carrot salad, seaweed, toasted sesame and ground milk thistle
Supper : Zucchini noodles with pesto and mung dhal
Snack : Mung bean balls, dates and coconut
Drink # 1: Hot lemon water
Drink # 2: Maple water, fresh or canned
A Sample Summer Menu
Breakfast: Eggs with custard vegetables
Lunch # 1: Burger in a lettuce leaf with avocado, tomato, mustard and oregano leaves
Lunch # 2 : Warm Thai salad with chicken and mango, or local version with chicken and strawberries
Dinner : Asian soup + mung bean sprouts
Snack # 1 : Kanten (kind of fruit jello with agar-agar) + chia
Dessert # 2: Coconut dessert soup + seaweed
Drink # 1 : Home made aromatic water
Beverage # 2: Cold brewed green tea
Sample Fall Menu
Breakfast: Congee + eggs, toasted sesame oil, shallots, ginger
Lunch: Roasted duck with carrots, parsnips, daikon, baked leek
Dinner: Baked squash with homemade meat spaguetti sauce
Snack : Soaked and roasted nuts + soaked dried fruits
Drink # 1 : Dandelion root decoction
Drink # 2 : Hot water
Example of a Winter Menu
Breakfast: Congee with chicken broth
Lunch: Ginger beef stir fry with broccoli, soy sauce and roasted turnip
Dinner: Asian soup meal: mushrooms, seaweed, lamb, noodles
Snack : Sprout salad : alfalfa, radish, broccoli with roasted sunflower seeds
Beverage # 1 : Pu-Erh tea
Drink # 2 : Ginger tea
Read next: Continue your quest in the Taoist philosophy and reach the pantheon by reading the following article ! The Eight Immortals of Taoism