We all love eating flavorful food that tastes delicious. But, flavor does much more than just make food taste good; it creates a specific reaction inside the body.
Here’s an interesting example. I recently met a woman at a party, and when she discovered that I am an expert in using food as medicine, she said, “I drink lemon water every morning. Is that good for me?”
I said, “Yes, it can be good for you depending on what you are trying to achieve. But, if you are drinking lemon water every morning for many years, it may start having a negative effect on your system. Lemon and other acid fruits, if eaten in excess, can irritate the gums and intestines, and erode tooth enamel.”
Too much of any one flavor can damage and/or weaken the body.
In modern society, the two most prominently used and abused flavors are salty and sweet. Extra salt and sugar are added to almost every processed food on the market. This has had a negative impact on our overall health, and can be witnessed in our high rates of both heart disease and obesity.
We need a variety of flavors to achieve balance and health. Each of the flavors has an effect on our cells and viscera:
- Sweet: has a retarding effect. Too much sweet causes aches in the bones and weight gain.
- Sour: has a gathering and astringent effect. Too much sour toughens/tightens the flesh.
- Salty: has a softening effect. Too much salt hardens the pulse.
- Bitter: has a strengthening effect. Too much bitter withers the skin.
- Spicy/pungent: has a dispersing effect. Too much pungent knots the muscles.
More recently, the Umami/savory flavor has been added into the mix. The umami flavor satisfies the appetite and adds a layer of deliciousness to your food, but it doesn’t necessarily have a physical effect on the cells and viscera.
It’s a good idea to include a wide variety of flavor into your food. If you don’t, or if you lean more toward flavor profile than another (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent,), it can set the body up for imbalance and cravings.
Incorporating flavors into your diet is easier than you think. Many foods naturally contain the flavors we need to nourish ourselves.
Below are some examples of the flavors and where you can find them in food and herbs:
- Sweet: berries, onions, carrots, squash, ginseng
- Sour: lemons, vinegar, oats, wheat, schisandra berries
- Salty: celery, oysters, sea vegetables, marshmallow root
- Bitter: parsley, lettuce, kale, gentian root
- Pungent: black pepper, garlic, radishes, ginger root
- Umami: mushrooms, bone stock, cooked tomatoes and potatoes
If you satisfy your palate with a variety of flavors on a daily basis, physical cravings for food (beyond your main meals) will naturally reduce. Cravings usually signify that a specific flavor and it’s reaction in your body may be missing.
 The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine, by Ilza Veith, University of California Press, pg. 23