The five flavours of food include pungent (acrid), sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. The Chinese think flavour is very important because it helps to send nutrition via the meridians to the corresponding organs. If we eat a balanced meal with many tastes, we feel satisfied and don’t binge.
Different flavours have their respective important effects upon the internal organs:
Pungent – Lung and Large intestine, promote distributions and circulations, and stimulate appetite.
Examples of food: fresh ginger, onion, leeks, green onion, Sichuan peppercorn, garlic, celery, coriander, Chinese chives, fennel, spearmint, Chinese radish, radish leaf, chilli pepper, sweet peppers, turnips, taro, leaf mustard, Shanghai cabbage, cinnamon, tangerine peel, kumquat, mustard seed and wine.
Sweet – Stomach and Spleen slow down acute reactions and neutralise the toxic effects of other foods, and also lubricate and nourish the body.
Examples of food: honey, dates, shiitake mushroom, taro, sweet potato, potato, pumpkin, carrot, glutinous rice, peas, soybean, rice, wheat, corn, sugar cane, peanut, milk, apple, pears, cherry, chestnut, grapes, lotus seed, longan aril, carps and abalone.
Sour – Liver and Gall bladder
The astringent character helps to arrest abnormal discharge of fluids and other substances from the body, such as diarrhoea emission and heavy sweating.
Examples of food: lemon, tomatoes, pineapple, apple, strawberry, papaya, pears, loquat fruit, oranges, tangerines, peaches, hawthorn fruit, olives, pomegranate, plums, pomelo, mango, grapes, vinegar and royal jelly.
Bitter – Heart and Small intestine, clear heat, dry dampness, stimulate appetite, and promote lowering effects like urination and bowel movements.
Examples of food: bitter gourd, Indian lettuce, wine, vinegar, lotus leaf, tea leaf, turnips, apricot seed, lily bulb, gingko, plum kernel, peach kernel, seaweed, bergamot, arrowhead, asparagus, wild cucumber and coffee.
Salty – Kidney and Bladder, dissipate accumulations, soften hardness, nourish blood, and lubricate intestines to induce bowel movements.
Examples of food: amaranths, millet, barley, laver, seaweed, kelp.
Some foods may possess two different flavours or a bland flavour which means it has little or not taste. For example, cucumbers have both sweet and bland flavors. Foods with a bland flavor usually promote urination and may be used as diuretic, coix seed and wax gourd are outstanding examples of this kind. In addition, foods with a strong scent are categorized as “aromatic”, such as basil, fennel, coriander, peppermint and citrus fruits. These foods can be eaten to enliven the spleen, stimulate appetite, promote qi(vital energy) circulation, resolve dampness and turbidity, refresh the mind, open up the orifices, and detoxify.