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5 flavours

Eat 5 flavours to enhance health

When we think of a well balanced meal, we think about a balance between vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates and a serving or two of greens. In TICM however, there is one key factor we look for when we are trying to make a balanced meal and that is taste.

In all ancient systems of medicine, the flavour of foods and herbs are used with a purpose. Flavoirs are so important in TICM because each taste nourishes a specific organ system. Each taste is correlated with a colour, elemental property, season, a type of Yin/cold or Yang/warm energy, and a specific organ. The five tastes are bitter, salty, sweet, sour, and pungent.

Sour flavour can calm the body, bitter can clear heat, sweet can tonify the body, spicy can expel wind and cold and salty can help the body dissolve stagnation. By incorporating the 5 flavour profiles in our meals it not only insures our taste buds are satisfied but also that our nutritional and even emotional needs have been met. Just as everything is about balance in TICM, so is taste. It is said that a little of a particular taste can strengthen an organ system, whereas excess can weaken it.

Bitter: clears heat from the body, especially the heart and small intestine heightened during early and mid-summer seasons and stimulate the function. Heat can manifest into a red face, emotional, Heart palpitations, anxiety, insomnia and ulcers in the mouth. Foods like kale, dandelion greens, parsley, endive, mustard greens, collard greens, burdock root, sesame seeds are all bitter and help.

Sweet: correlates to the Spleen, Stomach and Pancreas, the organs that absorb and distribute sugar and digest food. Sweet flavours like corn, pumpkin, sweet potato help and not refined sugars. This flavor is at peak during late summer and is symbolic to the Earth element.

Pungent: also known as spicy, this flavours helps the lungs, which are our first defense of the body, expelling pathogens like wind and cold. This includes ginger, garlic, onions, daikon, garlic, black pepper. The season to use this flavour for the moist healing power is Autumn.

Salty: just as the Kidneys regulate mineral and fluid balance in our bodies, so does salt. This flavour correlates to the Winter season and the color black. Foods like black beans, seaweed and black sesame seeds are great for Kidney function as well as miso, shellfish, eggplants, walnuts and chestnuts.

Sour: goes along with the Liver and is highlighted in the Spring. Foods like sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, green apples, lemon, lime, fermented foods fit the flavour profile. The Liver is all about detoxification and the flow of vital energy/Qi and Blood and these foods help to ignite the harmony of the Liver.

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