According to Chinese Medicine meals should include the five flavors of sweet, salty, pungent, sour, and bitter with each flavor connecting energetically to a different organ. If you are having a particular craving, it may be just that...or it may signify something more.
In Chinese Medicine, sweet is the flavor connected to the Spleen and Stomach organs and relates to digestion. Foods such as grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fruit actually all have a sweet flavor. Healthy foods and herbs with a sweet taste are considered tonifying to the body.
Lots of cravings for sweets can mean your Spleen energy is weak. You may not be properly absorbing the nutrients from your food and are seeking an easy energy boost. Complex foods that are sweet are beneficial to digestion and can calm agitation. Sorry, this does not include all the simple sugar treats we may be going after!
Other signs your Spleen may need a boost: fatigue, foggy headed, hard to wake in the morning, digestive issues (bloating, gas, indigestion), overthinking, varicose veins.
Salty snacks your go to?
The flavor of salt is energetically connected to, and strengthens the kidneys in Chinese Medicine. This should make sense in terms of western functions, as the kidneys regulate sodium levels.
So why might you be craving salt? Adrenal fatigue is among the reasons for salt cravings which can be seen with feelings of extreme fatigue and stress. An overload of stress can tax your adrenal glands which are responsible for our "fight or flight" as well as our salt regulating hormones.
The Kidney organ system is tied to our energy reserves and bone health. Some other signs your Kidneys may need support are low back and knee aches, lack of energy, sleep disturbances, fear and anxiety, hair loss or premature greying, and frequent urination.
What about other food flavors?
Pass the hot sauce...
Organ connection: Foods that are spicy or pungent are connected to the Lung organ system which includes immune function.
Therapeutic functions: helps increase digestive activity, promotes blood circulation, clears out mucus, promotes sweating (mint, garlic, cayenne) and are useful to treat colds (cinnamon, ginger).
Caution: Many of these foods help immunity, but careful too much can cause symptoms of heat and dryness (skin dryness and rashes, increased hot flashes, irritability, constipation).
Organ connection: Sour (pickled, fermented) foods are connected to the Liver organ system. Therapeutic functions: helps break down fatty, greasy foods, act as astringents holding in fluids (excess sweating, diarrhea, incontinence), and relaxes tendons. Sour foods can help curb a sweet tooth! Emotional connection: The liver system is thought to help keep everything flowing freely in your body. A craving for sour can show things may be "stuck" with emotional signs such as anger, stress, irritability, suppressed emotions.
Dark chocolate is best!
Organ system: Bitter foods are connected to the heart system. Think circulatory and nervous system.
Therapeutic functions: They can help with digestion, relieve constipation, reduce infection (lowering fevers), reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and are good for yeast overgrowth.
Keep the bitter flavor choices of cocoa, coffee, or an IPA in moderation. Bitter greens, turmeric, green tea, celery, or quinoa are some healthy alternatives.