Food is medicine. Prior to our modern day studies of micro and macronutrients, food was known in terms of physics (hot, cold, moist, and dry) and flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent). In health, we eat a combination of foods and flavors, despite what cravings we may have for one in particular.
My favorite way to eat these days is to combine vegetables, roasted, raw, and steamed with a vibrant dressing. A delicious topping for a hot bowl of rice or grains, with or without grilled meat, fish or beans for added protein, you can create a whole and nourishing meal to meet everyone's tastes.
An important insight from Chinese medicine is the benefit of eating both raw and cooked foods. Too much raw food can overburden your system and weaken digestion. Many people feel best when they focus on plenty of cooked foods garnished with something raw, delicious and crisp. Eating this way can improve absorption and sustains metabolic fire, especially if you tend to have cold hands and feet, and digestive symptoms such as gas or bloating or difficulty losing weight.
Five Flavors + Recipes
Here are examples of each of the five flavors according to Chinese medicine and recipes that combine flavors in delicious and creative ways. These savory dressings stay fresh for 2-3 days. Drizzle dressing over vegetables, fish, grilled meats or seafoods, or dress grains, roasted or green vegetable salads. To prepare, combine all ingredients except oil in a jar with a lid and shake; or you can whisk in a bowl. Slowly add the oil and whisk or shake to combine. *Inspired by Bon Apetit Magazine
Miso (salty) is fermented soy bean paste, a source of probiotics and protein. Medical studies in Japan show that miso improves kidney detoxification and clearing of radiation from the body. Choose organic when possible, as conventional soybeans are heavily sprayed with pesticides.
Turmeric (bitter) is a root native in Indian cooking which gives curries their rich golden color. Turmeric, also known as cucurmin, has been shown to reduce inflammation in the published medical literature. Foods with a bitter flavor tend to clear excess heat in the body.
Tahini (sweet) is ground paste of sesame seeds, rich in protein and calcium and magnesium; try it as a substitute for tree-nut butters.
Rice Vinegar, Citrus (sour) Sour foods support the liver and gall bladder systems responsible for digesting fats.
Ginger (pungent) is a root that gently warms and enhances circulation. A steaming cup of ginger tea after being chilled can help expel the cold. Adding grated ginger to salad dressings and smoothies is an easy way to support digestion.
Miso Tumeric Dressing
1/4 c. unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 c. mirin
1/4 c. light vegetable oil
2 TB finely grated carrot
1 TB grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground turmeric or 1TB grated fresh tumeric root
1 tsp sesame oil
Sesame Ginger Dressing
3 TB lemon or lime juice
2 TB soy sauce or tamari
2 TB tahini
1 1/2 tsp sugar, honey or maple syrup
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 tsp fresh garlic
1/2 c. veg oil - peanut oil is delicious
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil.
Coconut Lime Sauce
6 TB coconut milk
3 TB lime juice
5 teaspoons fish sauce
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar; original recipe calls for 1 TB
1 TB minced shallot; can use onion or scallion
1/4 c. vegetable oil