The 5 Flavors of Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the 5 basic flavors we taste in our foods (sweet, sour, spicy, salty, bitter) indicate the intrinsic properties of each food item and the effects they have on our system. Each flavor is associated with a color, elemental property and system in the body. By incorporating the 5 flavor profiles in our meals it not only insures our taste buds are satisfied but also that our nutrition needs have been met.

Sweet is a tonic for digestion. A small amount helps, though too much will damage it. The sweets we are referring to are not cookies and candy but whole foods that are more complex. Yellow foods such as corn, sweet potato, taro, pumpkin, butternut squash can help with digestion. Neutral grains also support digestion and have the added function of clearing water weight.

Spicy flavor helps to open the lungs. A soup with onions helps in the early stage of colds and can push them out. White foods such as daikon, onion, garlic, Asian pear, banana and almond support the lung. Spices such as rosemary and ginger help with lethargy and clearing mucus in the lungs.

Salty is the flavor tied to the kidneys. If you are feeling low in energy you can try adding a little extra salt to your diet. If you notice your energy improve this can indicate a lower kidney energy. The kidneys are the storehouse/bank account for our energy. A little salt as well as foods dark in color such as black beans, eggplant, blueberries, black sesame and seaweed can nourish the kidneys.

Sour such as lime or vinegar guide and soothe the liver. We would fry herbs in vinegar to give them additional support in reaching the liver. The liver energy is alive with growth, and when it is not functioning properly it can impede digestion or show up with a depressed mood. Any of the green vegetables would suit addressing the liver.

Bitter is has a cooling effect and is used to treat the heart. Bitter foods include: dandelion, bitter melon, parsley leaves, mustard greens, collard greens and sesame seeds, Foods red in color also support the heart such as carrots, tomato, sweet potato, strawberry, red beans, red pepper, goji berry, apple and anything else that has a red shade.