Mason Jar Salad for healthier eating based on TCM Diagnostic Pattern
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Eating for your Traditional Chinese Medicine Diagnostic Pattern

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Easy, Healthy Lunch the Traditional Chinese Medicine Way

The practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on determining the TCM Diagnostic Pattern for each individual at the first visit, and adjusting it with every subsequent visit. Your unique TCM Pattern guides the recommendations and treatments you receive from your Licensed Acupuncturist.

You can also use your TCM Pattern between visits, to help you pick delicious meal options for every season. In this article we give you a recipe for a quick lunch salad to go, along with an introduction to how you can make healthier food choices using TCM principles.

Mason Jar Salads with a TCM Twist

Many people think of salads as a healthy lunch alternative. However, not every salad is healthy for you. That chicken tender salad with iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch dressing and cheese might taste delicious, but it has less nutritional value and more calories than you think. According to TCM principles, almost every ingredient generates “dampness,” is “cold,” and harms the digestion. TCM uses terms like “damp,” “cold,” and “heat” to refer to physical states that may be out of balance or where energy is blocked, as well as to different properties of foods. In addition, foods and herbal medicines are characterized by properties such as “sweet,” “sour,” and “acrid.”

Mason jar salads are a great way to have control over what goes into your salad. Choose the highest quality produce, organic if possible, and items that are low in sodium.

Recipe for Mason Jar Salad

We’re starting with the salad dressing, because it should go into the bottom of the container before the other ingredients. Then add root vegetables, cucumber and so on. Add the lettuce last, to prevent it from becoming soggy. When you are ready to eat your salad, just shake and go! (Make sure the lid is on tight!!)

Salad Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 tbs. Apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Mustard
  • Black pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients

  • Organic baby lettuce
  • Pickled organic beets (no sugar added)
  • Sliced radish
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Cucumber

Ingredients to Consider Adding

  • Avocados
  • Anchovies
Mason Jar Salad
Mason Jar Salad

The Healing Powers of Food, According to TCM

Your Licensed Acupuncturist, trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (sometimes referred to as Oriental Medicine), will likely ask you about your diet and offer advice on certain foods or herbal remedies as part of your overall treatment plan. In TCM, food is medicine.

According to TCM theory, every food has specific properties. Your acupuncturist will advise you to add or avoid foods based on your TCM Pattern.

According to TCM, fruits and vegetables are naturally “cold,” which can hinder digestion. There are, however, different levels of cold. An item out of the freezer is colder than the item out of the refrigerator, which is colder than the piece of fruit you eat at room temperature. Depending on your TCM pattern, you may be advised to avoid “cold” foods altogether. Adding foods that are warmer in nature is a great way to counteract the “cold” properties of fruits and vegetables.

There are also seasonal reasons to eat different kinds of foods. For example, “cold” foods are recommended more in the Summer.

TCM Properties of Mason Jar Salad Ingredients

Apple cider vinegar
  • Warm and “sour” in nature
  • Benefits the Liver meridians
  • Many healing properties in different healing traditions
Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • “Sweet” in nature.
  • Enters the Liver and Spleen meridians.
  • Warm” and “acrid” in nature
  • Strengthens digestion when there is loose watery stools with chills or other cold symptoms.
  • Helps to transform clear or white phlegm from the lungs and stop cough.
Black pepper
  • Acrid” and “hot”
  • Enters the Large Intestine and Stomach channels
  • Eliminates pathogenic cold in the stomach and intestines
  • Excessive amounts are contraindicated in pregnancy
  • Warms the middle and disperses cold from the stomach to help with vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
  • “Sweet,” “bitter” and “cool” in nature.
  • Circulates qi, clears heat, clears damp, resolves water accumulations
  • Acts as a diuretic and can dry damp presentations related to edema
  • Contains the sedative lactucarium, which relaxes the nerves without impairing digestion
  • Used to help increase the production of mother’s milk, treat hemorrhoids, and treat scanty urination
  • The leaf contains more nutrients than the head.
  • Source of chlorophyll, iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin C
  • “Sweet” in nature
  • Circulates qi and disperse cold
  • Known for tonifying the blood
  • High in sugar; if you are having difficulty regulating your blood sugar be cautious of eating to many
  • Strengthens the heart and calm the spirit (shen)
  • Improves circulation
  • Purifies the blood
  • Benefits the liver
  • Moistens the intestines
  • Promotes menstruation
  • Silicon – rich root vegetable
  • The greens contain an abundance of oxalic acid, an excess of which can inhibit calcium metabolism
  • “Pungent,” “sweet” and “neutral” properties
  • Eliminates food retention
  • Moves down qi and resolve phlegm
  • Moistens the lungs, but at the same times cuts through mucus
  • Benefits digestion by removing food stagnation
  • Detoxifying
  • Regular consumption might help to prevent viral infections such as the cold or influenza
Pumpkin Seeds
  • “Sweet,” “bitter” and “neutral” properties
  • Often used to alleviate pain and expel parasites
  • Recommended for women with endometriosis
  • Has an influence on the colon, spleen and pancreas
  • Diuretic
  • Vermifuge (expels worms – especially round and tapeworms)
  • Commonly used for motion sickness, nausea, impotency, swollen prostate with signs of difficult urination
  • High in zinc and omega-3 fatty acids
  • “Cold” and “sweet”
  • Clears heat and eliminates toxins
  • A great summer food
  • Considered to be a diuretic
  • Counteracts toxins (like summer heat)
  • Influences the Heart, Spleen, Pancreas, Stomach and Large Intestine
  • Add to water during the hottest days of summer to help avoid heat stroke
  • Juice can be applied topically to help relieve all burns
  • Drink the juice to alleviate kidney and bladder infections
  • Contain erepsis, a digestive enzyme that breaks down protein and cleanses the intestines. Also allows it to expel worms (especially tapeworms)
  • Not recommended if you have watery mucus or diarrhea
  • The skin is rich in silicon and chlorophyll
  • “Sweet” and “cooling”
  • Nourishes yin and blood
  • Harmonizes the liver
  • Lubricates the lungs and intestines
  • Source of lecithin, a brain food
  • Contains healthy fat
  • Individuals with cravings for oils, but who digest fatty foods poorly, can usually tolerate avocado oil
  • Rich in copper, which aids in red blood cell formation
  • Benefits nursing mothers
  • Nutritious source of protein
  • Can help with ulcers
  • “Sweet,” “salty” and “warm”
  • Nourishes the Qi and yang
  • Helps to expel cold, resolve dampness, and regulate water
  • Contains Omega-3, is a good protein source, and contains selenium


General information: Acupuncture Today, Herbs & Botannicals, alphabetical listing. See, for example: Cardamom Seeds

Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. 3rd Edition, 2004. Eastland Press, Seattle.

Chinese Nutrition Therapy: Dietetics in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Translated from the German, 2nd edition, 2003. Thieme New York.

About the author

Teri Calandra

Teri Calandra Dipl.Acu, MSTOM, L.Ac., LMT, RMT

Teri began her studies in energy medicine as part of her own personal development journey, and continues to to learn and integrate that knowledge into her practice. Teri is the founding practitioner of Calandra Center for Health & Wellness in Schaumburg, Illinois. She is licensed by the State of Illinois in acupuncture (L.Ac.), and board certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

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