Diet is an important part of a Taoist’s spiritual practice. We are what we eat, and for this reason, Taoists look at diet as an integral part of general health and a fundamental part of their lifestyle. According to ancient Taoist philosophy, as we age, we gradually evolve to require learning to less and to avoid problematic foods.
The Chinese word “bigu” translates to “avoiding grains”, but it is far more complex than this. From the Zhuangzi:
“On Mount Kuyeh there dwells a spirit man whose skin is like congealed snow and who is gentle as a virgin. He does not eat any of the five grains, but inhales the wind and drinks the dew.”
Bigu, the aim of the highest and most ancient form of the Taoist diet, generally requires one to eat seasonally and locally, eliminating the consumption of grains, processed, artificial, toxic, and genetically modified and/or inhumanely sourced foods. Considering the number of diseases, food intolerances and allergies on the rise from consuming processed and genetically modified foods, there is valuable wisdom within the Bigu diet.
A Taoist uses food to balance their yin and yang balance and promote an overall state of well being. We find throughout history cultures and lineages that have eaten with their seasons, applying yin and yang to their eating principles. Human populations are diverse and expansive; thus, our dietary needs differ depending on your ancestry, environment, and daily activities. A Taoist diet being locally sourced makes it easy to adapt for people in different cultures and with different needs.
Yang foods are usually warm or hot, higher in density and calories. They are often used for extra energy, grounding, nourishment and for stimulating blood circulation.
Yin foods being lighter, are used to assist us in calming anxiety, detoxification, eliminating excessive energy, and cooling heat.
Regardless of the type of diet to which one adheres to, generally speaking, eating seasonally is really best for everyone — including Gaia. We ourselves tend to flow energetically with the seasons, so seasonal foods best help us nourish ourselves from within.
The Four Seasons
Yang energy is rising in the spring, when we, like Gaia, are blooming. In Spring we often crave more sunlight, and we begin to introduce more foods rich in balancing yin energy. Spring is also an especially good time to consume foods that assist in us detoxifying the liver and kidneys.
Summer is the season of yang energy. Yin food helps us to balance heat, while the hotter weather of summer gets our circulation flowing. Summer is a good time to seek out foods that strengthen the cardiovascular system heart and blood circulation.
Cold yin chi is rising in autumn as the hot yang energy of summer slips away. For immune support when transitioning from yang to yin, seek out local foods that cleanse, strengthen, and clear the lungs by reducing excess mucus production.
In Winter, we slow down to prepare for restoration and hibernation. This season has us look to yin foods that nourish the blood, bones, and kidneys. We benefit at this time of year from maintaining our strength and immunity by spending time in nature each day, and also from mind/body exercise, such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi, or yoga. Because our digestive system can be a bit sluggish during wintertime, a little exercise, such as gentle walking before eating will help stoke the digestive fires. Mushrooms and adaptogens at this time of year are especially good for cleansing the intestines and boosting the immune system.
Other Taoist Diet Considerations
Taoists will avoid consuming any meat or dairy products that have been raised with unsustainable and inhumane practices, they hold the utmost respect towards our food’s life cycle. A Taoist diet gives food and nature the same respect given towards our own bodies.
Part of a Taoist diet includes knowing where your food comes from and being aware of the entire process by which food is sourced. Our dietary needs are far more individual than many realize, so a Taoist diet also considers:
Detoxification from toxins and allergens.
Nutrient balance and the balance of probiotic foods that support the many different types of beneficial microbes and provide us with resistance to disease.
The importance of full spectrum natural sunlight, unpolluted water, and exposure to nature.
Changing the constitution of diet relative to how we age.
The preparation and timing of the foods we consume.
From a Taoist perspective, because our wellness needs change and evolve with each season and life cycle, we need to be willing to change and adapt our diets and lifestyles accordingly as we evolve. For most, there will not be a one size fit all diet year round, and our diets will continue to shift and change relative to us.
Once we understand this, it opens us up to live more in the present and fluidly, as we use diet as an additional powerful tool in shaping oneself, and defining who we are on a myriad of levels.
Joy Jackson is a professional psychic, medium and intuitive guide in the Pacific Northwest.