The elemental diet
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The elemental diet

'Hora R Haan' at TCDC Commons explores how people can achieve balance through food

The elemental diet
Japanese soba noodles. (Photos: Somchai Poomlard)

Traditional Thai medicine categorises people into four elements based on their date of birth -- earth, water, air and fire.

Earth element individuals belong to the zodiac signs Taurus (April 20 to May 19), Virgo (Aug 20 to Sept 19) and Capricorn (Dec 20 to Jan 19); water element people to Cancer (June 10 to July 19), Scorpio (Oct 20 to Nov 19) and Pisces (Feb 20 to Mar 19); air element people to Gemini (May 20 to June 19), Libra (Sept 20 to Oct 19) and Aquarius (Jan 20 to Feb 19); and fire element people to Aries (March 20 to 19 April), Leo (July 20 to 19 Aug), and Sagittarius (Nov 20 to 19 Dec).

The exhibition "Hora R Haan (Astrology And Food)", organised by TCDC Commons, Kasetsart University's FoodInnopolis, the Faculty of Agro-Industry and the Faculty of Agriculture, explores how people of different elements can achieve balance through diet.

The inspiration for the exhibition came from a food and beauty class taught by Asst Prof Aussama Soontrunnarudrungsri, lecturer at the Faculty of Agro-Industry, Department of Product Development, Kasetsart University.

"My guest speaker was Nawan Phuangmai, a Thai traditional pharmacist," explained Asst Prof Aussama. "During the class, she discussed the four elements and how specific foods can help people balance elements within their bodies. The students were particularly engaged because it directly applied to their own lives."

Asst Prof Kittipong Rattana­porn, left, and Asst Prof Aussama Soon­trunnarudrungsri.

Asst Prof Kittipong Rattanaporn, vice-dean for FoodInnopolis at Kasetsart University, elaborated on the concept of elemental weaknesses.

"Each element has its own vulnerabilities," said Asst Prof Kittipong. "For example, water element people tend to have weaknesses related to bodily fluids like blood, lymph, urine or phlegm. According to Thai traditional medicine, consuming fruits rich in citric acid such as lemons and oranges can help reduce mucus production. Following a diet appropriate to your specific body element can improve bodily fluid circulation and promote overall health."

At the exhibition entrance, artificial foods are arranged to resemble an altar offering to make viewers realise the significance of food. Next to these mockups, information about the "navel of the capital city", or Giant Swing, is displayed. The Giant Swing was historically significant for hosting important and sacred ceremonies in Bangkok and it was a crucial area that served as the power centre of an ancient kingdom.

Asst Prof Aussama explained that the exhibition team added information about the "navel of the capital city" because "Hora R Haan" was initially part of Bangkok Design Week 2024, with content related to the city. Therefore, the team included information that compares city features to body parts.

The section Hora Sakon (international astrology) displays various foods from different countries to explain that cultures and beliefs shape both eating habits and perspectives on food. Food can serve as a symbol of good fortune and be considered sacred.

"We want to point out that other countries also have beliefs related to food like Thailand. They are not superstitious beliefs as each can be explained with science. In Japan, there is toshikoshi soba which is a traditional Japanese dish of buckwheat noodles eaten on New Year's Eve," said Asst Prof Aussama.

Dates are said to be a gift from God.

The Hora Sakon international astrology display.

"The long length of soba noodles symbolises longevity and good fortune. Cutting the noodles represents letting go of the bad things from the past year. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, a grain rich in protein, fibre and essential minerals. Buckwheat offers various health benefits, including supporting heart health, promoting digestive health and aiding in overall body recovery.

"Dates, a fruit commonly consumed by Muslims during Ramadan, are believed to be a gift from God. Their high sugar content allows the body to quickly absorb and receive energy."

The exhibition helps viewers understand their health in relation to their element. One section explores the characteristics, habits and potential health concerns associated with people of different elements. There are recommended dishes that align with each element's dietary needs.

People of the fire element are prone to hormonal disorders, diabetes and thyroid disorders. They should consume cold food with sour and sweet, bland and bitter flavours. Sample dishes at the exhibition include krathong tong (crispy golden pastry cups), gotu kola juice and watermelon.

People of the air element are prone to heart problems, stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, abdominal bloating and gas. They should consume food that are spicy, bitter and astringent in taste. Sample dishes include miang kham (a snack wrapped in fresh betel leaf), lemongrass juice and bua loy nam king (sticky rice-flour dumplings stuffed with sweetened black sesame floating in ginger syrup).

People of the water element are prone to respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, digestive diseases, urinary tract diseases and obesity. They should consume food with sour, bitter, sweet, salty and maobuea flavours. Maobuea refers to the taste of alcoholic drinks, fermented food and some mushrooms. Sample dishes include tom yum, yum pakkad dong (spicy fermented cabbage) and honey-lemon juice.

People of the earth element are prone to heart disease, digestive system issues, urinary system problems and blood pressure abnormalities. They should consume foods that are astringent, sweet, oily and salty. Sample dishes include yum pla duk foo (crispy catfish with green mango, onions, nuts and sour sauce), nam prik kapi plathu (shrimp paste chilli dip and mackerel) and sugarcane juice.

A food altar at the exhibition entrance.

In addition to "Hora R Haan", Kasetsart University's FoodInnopolis has worked with SMEs to advise them on developing products and services related to diets based on the four elements.

"We hope to display local sample products and services if we organise the next series of the exhibition. There are SMEs that have adapted the idea of the four elements into their products. For example, an ice cream brand introduced products with flavours specifically targeting different elements. Restaurants and hotels can also create special dishes for each element as well," said Asst Prof Kittipong.

"At Kasetsart University's Kamphaeng Saen Campus, agricultural experts can develop plant varieties. In the future, these experts will grow specific plants for each element to be used as cooking ingredients," he added.

Asst Prof Kittipong hopes that the exhibition will bridge the gap between people who believe in science and those who still have traditional beliefs.

"We hope this exhibition will connect those who believe in science and astrology," he said. "Despite the absence of advanced technology, ancient people developed the concept of the four elements. We hope that 'Hora R Haan' will help people understand that belief in the four elements may have some basis in science and is not just superstition."

"Hora R Haan" runs at TCDC Commons, Seacon Square Srinagarindra, until May 5. Admission is free. For more information, visit

Food for fire people.

Food for air people.

Food for water people.

Food for earth people.

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