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Posted May 03 2011 3:29pm


This NY Times  article - entitled “Adding Food and Subtracting Calories” inspired this post, supporting a logical theory that correlates with Chinese medicine’s composition in flavors- as chinese doctors strive to bring harmony in one’s health.

In Chinese Medicine, there are five flavors associated with healing:

  • sour
  • bitter-astringent
  • sweet
  • spicy-pungent
  • salty

Depending on the circumstance of one’s health, for example, for an overweight, diabetic patient, the doctor’s prescription will have the combination of sour, bitter-astringent, and spicy herbs/food. Together, they circulate, clear toxins and regulate blood sugar. On the other hand, a patient with weight-loss, stomachache and chronic diarrhea, the doctor’s prescription will mix in the combination of sweet and salty diet/herbs, nurturing and calming the body system.

What are the healing properties of the five flavors?


  • holds and contains moisture
  • aids digestion, especially in a carnivore diet; in a way helping in regulating blood sugar and curbing hunger
  • food examples: lemon, vinegars, lime

Bitter- Astringent

  • dispense heat, clears toxins- curbing hunger and regulating blood sugar
  • calms the nervous system, aiding the heart, and treats anxiety
  • food examples: olives, grapefruit, pomegranate, bitter melon, unripe fruits like green banana, pears and apples


  • soothes the digestive system
  • slows down bowel movement, aiding chronic diarrhea
  • helping with weight gain
  • food examples: dates, malt syrup, sweet rice


  • aids circulation, in turn moves and dispense toxins and unneeded lipids
  • opens pores, recirculating and releasing moisture
  • food examples: herbs, chilis, garlic, peppers, onions


  • nurturing and savoring
  • the mediator for moisturizing, distributing, balancing and grounding the body system
  • food examples: sea salt, kelp, seaweed

What are the guidelines in incorporating this knowledge into everyday eating?

  1. Everything in moderate amount, a bit of all flavors in a day’s meal. An excess of only one or two flavors will encourage the body to lean towards imbalance. For example: eating only a bitter-astringent based meals will eventually lead a body to be cold and weak; while a spicy-pungent based meals in the long run will cause depletion of moisture, hot flashes and an uncomfortable tension and heat build-up.
  2. Understanding your own constitution to determine the proportion of flavors in your meals. A overweight person with a history of heart problems, and living a carnivore-based diet will be recommended to cut sweet flavors and lean towards a ratio of 3:1:1- astringent-bitter, sour, spicy-pungent.
  3. Constantly switch up food within the categories to prevent body’s desensitization. For example: mixing different kind of chilis, varieties of herbs when cooking to pertain alertness in the digestive system.
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