The five flavours of balance
Beyond the energy properties of yin and yang, TCM categorises foods by their flavour rather than nutritional content.
“Each flavour corresponds to a different internal organ, and by adding that taste to your meal it directs qi to that organ as a way to keep it functioning optimally,” explains Dr Cass. “Similarly, emotions and thoughts also directly impact the organs, so based on what’s happening emotionally this can indicate disharmony in the related organ.
“This awareness can be used to treat dietary deficiencies like cravings, but also recognise emotional imbalances. For example, sweet cravings indicate that there’s an imbalance in the digestive system and outbursts of anger, premenstrual symptoms or breast tenderness communicate that the liver is not happy. So, accordingly, if there’s excess or deficiency, the organ and emotion can be treated with the equivalent flavour,” she says.
“Therefore, eating a balance of all five flavours can help maintain homeostasis in the body, but you can also focus briefly on a particular flavour to have an effect on a certain disease or symptom,” adds Kim.
This flavour connects to the kidney and bladder, and relates to fear. Best foods: Himalayan salt, seaweed, olives, soy, salty ham.
This connects to the spleen and stomach and relates to worry.
Best foods: Most fruits, rice, barley, honey, some meat, legumes, some starchy vegetables.
This flavour connects to the lungs and large intestine and relates to grief and sadness.
Best foods: Garlic, onion, ginger, basil, turmeric, fennel, nutmeg, mustard greens, radish, peppermint, cloves, white and black pepper.
This connects to the liver and relates to anger.
Best Foods: Lemon, sour greens, spinach, parsley, mint, vinegar, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, tomato, fermented foods.
This connects to the small intestine and heart, and relates to joy.
Best foods: Alfalfa, paprika, teas, kale, lemon peel, coffee, grapefruit, bitter greens.
‘EACH FLAVOUR CORRESPONDS TO
A DIFFERENT INTERNAL ORGAN AND BY ADDING THAT TASTE TO YOUR MEAL IT DIRECTS QI TO THAT ORGAN’
‘This awareness can be used to treat dietary deficiencies’