The five flavours

The “5 flavours” system teaches us how to balance our bodies through food choices.

Let me introduce the 5 main flavors:

  1. Sweet
  2. Salty
  3. Sour
  4. Bitter
  5. Pungent

All foods can be categorized within these five flavours. For example:

  1. Sweet: Apple, apricot, cherry, date, fig, grapes, grapefruit, papaya, peach, pear, strawberry, tomato, beets, button mushrooms, cabbage, carrot, chard, eggplant, potato, squash, sweet potatoes, yams, wheat, artificial sweeteners.images-2
  2. Salty: Salt, seaweed, barley, millet, soy sauce, miso, salted pickles.images
  3. Sour: Lemon, lime, pickles, rose hip, sauerkraut, crab apples, sour plums.images-1
  4. Bitter: Alfalfa, bitter melon, romaine lettuce, dark leafy greens, rye.imgres-2
  5. Pungent: Chili, spearmint, rosemary, scallion, garlic, onions, ginger root, black pepper, fennel, dill, anise, horseradish, basil, nutmeg.


Foods can also fit into two or more categories. For example,

  • Vinegar is both sour and pungent
  • Mangos are sour and sweet
  • Amaranth is bitter and sweet
  • Turnips are bitter and pungent.

It’s also beneficial to understand how these flavours are related to different organs and emotions:

Each of these flavours affects different organs:

  1. Sweet: Spleen & Stomach
  2. Salty: Kidneys and Bladder
  3. Sour: Liver and gallbladder
  4. Bitter: Heart and Small intestine
  5. Pungent: Lung and Large intestine

Each of these flavours affects different emotions

  1. Sweet: Worry, overthinking, thoughtfulness
  2. Salty: Fear,
  3. Sour: Anger, irritability
  4. Bitter: Joy (or lack thereof), excitability
  5. Pungent: Sadness, grief

The emotions we experience can affect its associated organ, for example, grief and sadness start to drain the energy of the lung and large intestine, causing signs such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, quiet voice, or trouble regulating bowel movements. The pungent flavor can therefore be used to strengthen and balance these organs. For example, chilies are extremely pungent, and stimulate the lung’s energy, causing our heart rate to increase, which enhances our breathing. You might also notice that you have to rush to the bathroom after an extremely spicy meal because the pungent flavour excites the large intestine and causes bowel contractions. Either way, choosing pungent foods when you are  can be a good way to balance your body when you are having lung or large intestine trouble.

So when choosing what to eat, notice what state you are in. If you are feeling angry or irritable, you might add vinegar to your meal. The sour taste will soothe your liver and gallbladder, and balance your emotions so that you become less angry or irritable. If you want to see this in action, just give a teaspoon of diluted apple cider vinegar to a fussy child. Their bad mood will usually dissipate soon after!

This understanding of flavours can also give us insight into why we crave the foods we do. Notice how a lot of the foods we crave when we are worried, overthinking, or studying, generally include sweet flavours : cakes, cookies, candy, to name a few. Even chips, although they are mostly salty, still contain the sweet flavour by virtue of the potato, which is starchy and therefore considered sweet.

This week, try experimenting with the flavours according to how you’re feeling! Let me know if you discover something new.



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