In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory, according to the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) doctrine, the natural flavors (sour, bitter, sweet, acrid, salty), five colors of food (green, red, yellow, white, black) are linked with many properties of things. This shows the relationship between humans and nature. Examples of black foods are black buckwheat, sesame seeds, wood ear mushrooms, sea cucumbers, and black rice.
1. Black buckwheat
Black buckwheat is a type of buckwheat grain that has several nutrients, including protein, oleic and linoleic acids (unsaturated omega-9 and omega-6 fatty acids), a wide range of B vitamins, in addition to dietary minerals such as magnesium, iron, and calcium. It also has the highest content of copper of any grain. Black buckwheat has many health benefits, and is used in the treatment of anemia and inflammation. It can improve your skin tone and even help prevent undue perspiration. Traditional Chinese doctors often use black buckwheat to help treat hypertension, control diabetes, and prevent myopia, cataracts, and retinitis.
2. Wood ear mushrooms
Wood ear mushrooms are featured in Chinese cuisine, and are valued for their crunchy texture and important health benefits. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), wood ear mushrooms benefit the body’s qi, nourish the blood, moisten the lungs, detoxify the digestive system, and strengthen the hair. The nutrients in wood ear mushrooms, such as protein, carbohydrates, iron, calcium, phosphorus, carotene, and vitamins, help prevent atherosclerosis, hypertension, coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, and cerebral thrombosis. Wood ear mushrooms are easy to buy in Chinese grocery stores in the U.S. They are usually sold in dried form and vacuum packed. The most common Chinese dish with wood ear is hot and sour soup.
3. Black sesame seeds
Black sesame seeds contain oleic and linoleic acids, lecithin, vitamin E, protein, calcium, and iron. Regularly eating black sesame seeds can help improve liver and kidney function, maintain a sharp mind, prevent anemia, and strengthen bones. They can even give hair a healthy glow. Compared with other plants, black sesame seeds have the highest content of vitamin E — a natural anti-oxidant that prevents aging and promotes longevity. Moreover, black sesame seeds help reduce the risk of blood clots, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.
4. Sea cucumbers
Sea cucumbers are used in food therapy to treat atherosclerosis, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. They are rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, iodine, and vitamins, but have little fat and almost no cholesterol. According to TCM, foods are categorized into four groups — hot, warm, cool, and cold. Sea cucumbers are a “warm” food that can help prevent anemia and improve sexual function.
5. Black rice
Black rice is also called “longevity rice” by Chinese people. In addition to protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins, black rice is very rich in minerals, and has up to three times the amount of zinc, manganese, and copper compared with white rice. In TCM, black rice stimulates the appetite, warms the liver, improves vision, nourishes the spleen, and helps blood circulation. Eating black rice strengthens blood vessels, regulates blood pressure, suppresses cancer cell growth, and nourishes heart muscles.
Black colored foods can lose their dietary benefits if an inappropriate cooking method is used. Here are some common black food recipes that are good for you:
Black rice congee with lotus roots
- 200 g peeled and diced fresh lotus root
- 100 g black rice
- 400 g water
- Brown sugar to taste
- Immerse black rice in water for half an hour.
- Place the ingredients into a crock bowl and heat until the congee becomes glutinous.
The congee is used to prevent anemia. It is especially good for seniors and women after childbirth.
Black bean congee with oysters
- 20 shucked oysters
- 1 chopped green onion
- 100 g black beans
- 100 g white rice
- 500 g water
- Sesame oil to taste
- Salt to taste
- Soak the black beans in a pot or bowl with water overnight.
- Soak the white rice in water for a half an hour before cooking.
- Place the black beans, white rice, and water in a crock bowl and heat until the congee becomes glutinous.
- Add oysters and salt, and continue to heat until the oysters are cooked, but tender.
- Sprinkle with green onion and drizzle with sesame oil before serving.
Oysters are low in saturated fat and high in protein, a good combination for people who are dieting. Black beans are also beneficial for people on a diet with the added benefits of treating anemia and promoting a healthy complexion.
Hot and sour soup
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 1 green onion (chopped)
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
- 15 g shiitake mushrooms
- 15 g wood ear mushrooms
- 15 g kelp
- 10 g sliced ham
- 300 g tofu
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Fully dissolve the corn starch in water.
- Slice the shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, sliced ham, and kelp into small pieces.
- Cut the tofu into small cubes.
- Boil a pot of water and put in all of the sliced shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, kelp, ham, and tofu.
- Wait until the water boils again. Now add the egg and stir the soup a bit.
- Wait until the soup boils. Then add the chopped green onion, salt, vinegar, and lemon pepper.
- Add the dissolved corn starch to the soup and stir as you add.
- Turn off the heat and serve.