Chinese Medicine offers a unique way at not only perceiving the human body in terms of health but of food as well. Most books give you a set plan with a regimen and schedule to overcome your food goals. Whether you want to lose weight, eat healthier, or even acquire more energy, there are millions of diet texts explaining just that. However, in this blog, we talk about food from nature’s perspective.
Eastern Nutrition is not a diet, but a way of life.
By understanding the simple principles found in nature, we can start to incorporate them into our daily meals. Remember, our bodies are tiny microcosms that reflect the macrocosm of the vast Universe. In this blog, we will uncover the mystery of food to maximize abundant health and harmony. You don’t need to be a good cook, or even know anything about food. I say, “The less you know about food, the better!” First, let’s talk about the groundwork of eastern nutrition.
Five Flavors of Food (Well, Actually Six)
Eastern nutrition offers a very simple way of explaining the basic principles of food. For instance, the ancients understood that one should harmonize the five flavors into their daily diet. The flavors are; bitter, sour, spicy, salty, and sweet. When food does not contain any of the five tastes as mentioned above, it is considered to be bland (known as the sixth flavor). By understanding the five flavors, we understand that many Americans eat an unbalanced diet. For instance, almost all of us ingest a disproportionate amount of sweet, salty (MSG), and spicy foods, while, forgetting about bitter and sour tastes. But honestly, who wants to eat bitter and sour foods?
There is a method to the madness when it comes to using the five flavors for health purposes. Why should you incorporate different tastes in your diet? Well, as we mentioned, each organ system in the body incorporates their own acquired Chinese function. With that being said, each function resonates with a particular taste and temperature. Not only that, each unique food impacts a specific organ(s) system. By default, most foods will influence the Spleen and Stomach. Underneath, I added a list of the five main organs and there paired taste.
Heart – Bitter
Spleen – Sweet
Lung – Spicy
Kidney – Salt
Liver – Sour
Here is where understanding the five flavors begin to get confusing. Okay, so we now know that each food has a function, distinct taste/temperature, and a specific organ connection. Now, let’s talk Qi (energy). Each food we ingest has a unique energetic quality. These movements of food include; upward, downward, inward, and outward. For example, some foods move up and out, causing diaphoresis (sweating) such as spicy food. While others, move down which helps relieve symptoms such as, indigestion, abdominal fullness, and constipation (attributed to bitter foods). Lastly, inward-moving foods are often attributed to sour and salty.
In TCM, there is a subtle quality to food that we search for. For instance, grab a pinch of cinnamon from your spice cabinet and put some on the tip of your tongue. You will soon learn that not only is the taste sweet, but you may start to feel a warming quality. Underneath, I added some recommendations!
- Winter: incorporate warmer foods; soups, teas, heavy (yin) foods. Add little salty and bitter food in Winter.
- Spring: Foods should still be warm, add foods with a sour taste.
- Summer: Lightly cook/steam your foods for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Add bitter foods in the diet.
- Autumn: Eat foods such as squash and corn since they are harvested during the fall season. Add spicy food into your diet during this season.
To learn more about Chinese Dietary Therapy, come to our one-hour presentation on “Eat Right For The Winter Season” Wednesday December 12th, 2018. Our address is SOPHIA Natural Health Center 31 Old Rte 7, Brookfield CT. The cost is free and there will be food tastings and recipes provided for all guests.
Chris Maslowski, L.Ac.
SOPHIA Natural Health Center