What foods do you crave most? Sweet, spicy, salty, sour, or bitter? Food cravings are a revealing window into your health and psyche. Learn 5 secrets from Chinese medicine to break the so-called “genetic cycle” of poor health and weight gain. These simple self-revelations offer a balanced approach to self-healing you’ll enjoy your entire life.
Chinese medicine identifies Five Flavors. Balance them to cultivate optimum health!
- Sweet – Energy bars, cookies, cake, bread, carbs, sugar, sweet fruits
- Spicy (Pungent) – Ginger, hot chili, garlic, onion
- Salty – Soy Sauce, liquid aminos, salt, chips, salted nuts, popcorn
- Sour – Lemon, lime, vinegar, fermented foods
- Bitter – Coffee, chocolate, dark leafy greens
Most people have some kind of food craving or emotional addiction, even if it’s slight. Do you crave salty foods? Or sweets? Food cravings are a clear indicator that something’s out of balance in your body – or your life. However, if you watch your cravings carefully, they will reveal to you the story of your life, your emotions, and your health challenges.
For example, say you just had an argument with your best friend and you feel a sudden craving. What do you go for? Ice Cream? A Chocolate Bar? Hot Chili Nachos? or Salty Cheetos? Our most common response is emotional eating. However if you stop and observe yourself in that moment, you can turn it around to your advantage. You can actually use your cravings to learn about yourself, to heal yourself and your life. We’ve all got something to work on, or we wouldn’t be here. It’s our job to find what it is and balance it.
Which one of the 5 flavors describes you best?
1. Do you crave sweets?
In your weak moments, do you go for Carrot Cake? Strawberry Yogurt, or Chocolate Mousse? A desire for sugars, grains, and sweet fruits often goes along with a tendency to worry. Sweet flavors are associated with the element of Earth. A little bit of sweet can be beneficial – it can nourish your energy, enrich the blood, and banish worry. But if you overdo it, too much sweet can lead to a cycle of slow metabolism, worry, and damage to the pancreas or spleen. Examples of sugar-related imbalances caused by too many sweets are: diabetes, obesity, poor memory, no concentration, lethargy, moodiness, overeating, anorexia, and accelerated aging.
To heal sweet cravings and eliminate worry, consider limiting sweets, reducing or cutting out grains from your diet. Use exercise to speed up the metabolism, and make sure to enjoy foods of the other four flavors at each meal. Find a good five-element acupuncturist. Consider a regular qigong practice, which balances all the elements within the energetic body. If you’re on the Paleo or Low-Carb Diet and eat no sweets at all, it’s understandable that you might be craving them. That can create stress and worry. Make sure you get a bit of sweetness at each meal, and it doesn’t have to be a high-carb sugar. Check out my book Paleo Desserts. The whole point of the book is to help people enjoy healthy sweets without negative health consequences.
2. Do You Crave Spicy, or Pungent foods?
Say you’re upset because you just got rejected for a job you really wanted, and you caught a cold. What do you go for? Spicy Black Bean Chips? Southwest Pepper Sausage? Or Hot Chicken McBites? Spicy cravings are associated with the element of Metal. If you desire spicy foods like hot chili peppers, ginger, garlic, or onion, Chinese medicine says your primary emotion could be hidden grief or depression. A small amount of spicy food at each meal can be beneficial – it can clear blood stagnation, support the lungs, and dissolve sadness. But if you eat too much spicy food, it may damage lungs and large intestine. Signs of an imbalance in spicy foods are: a common cold, respiratory allergies, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, skin problems, constipation, shallow breathing, colitis, chronic or unexplained sadness.
Too much spicy food can lead to respiratory issues and elimination problems.
You can heal spicy cravings and build happiness. Limit spicy foods, and focus more on the other four flavors. Try an activity that opens the lungs and intestines, such as walking in nature. Find a good five-element acupuncturist. Consider a regular Qigong practice, which balances all the elements within the energetic body.
3. Do You Crave Salty foods?
Your motorcycle won’t start, it’s raining, and your doctor just diagnosed you with a bladder infection. What do you grab first? Barbara’s Cheese Puffs? Chinese Crispy Chicken Wings? or Newman’s Organic Salted Pretzels? Salty flavors are associated with the element of Water. If you crave salty foods like soy sauce, salty chips, and seaweed snacks, Chinese medicine says your primary emotion may be fear. A small amount of salt can be good for you – it can clear body heat, resolve toxins, and reduce inflammation and fear. However too much salt can lead to hypertension, kidney problems, cardiovascular disease, and a cycle of fear-motivated actions. Signs of an imbalance in salty foods are kidney and bladder issues, bone and teeth problems, loss of hearing, dark rings under the eyes, and fears or phobias.
Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, kidney problems, and cardiovascular disease.
You can heal craving for salty foods and eliminate fear. Limit salty foods in favor of the other flavors. When you feel fear, imagine yourself turning to face it directly and deal with it – eventually it will dissolve before your eyes. It also helps to reassure yourself that everything is in perfect order and you are safe. Learn about EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, a powerful self-healing tool you can use anytime. Check your water quality and daily intake to make sure it’s optimal, not too much or too little. Find a good five-element acupuncturist. Consider a regular qigong practice. Qigong cultivates energy reserves in the kidneys, which are considered the source of our life stamina, and the genetic raw material we have to work with.
4. Do You Crave Sour Foods?
When you’re feeling down, do you feel like having Chinese hot and sour soup? a lemon wedge straight-up? Or do you eat a jar of kosher dill pickles? Sour flavors are associated with the element of Wood. If you crave sour foods, such as vinegar, lemon, lime, or fermented foods, Chinese wisdom says your primary emotion may be anger. Anger isn’t necessarily overt or violent – it can turn inward and lie dormant on the inside, creating stress and disease. A little sour food can strengthen the liver and promote healthy digestion. But too much sour food can damage the liver, the digestion, and weaken muscle tone. Signs of imbalance in sour foods are stiff, tight muscles and joints, visual problems, dry eyes, eyestrain, vertex headaches and migraines, especially from excessive computer work.
Too much sour food can damage the liver, eyes, joints, and weaken muscle tone.
You can heal sour cravings and unresolved anger at the same time. Eat less sour foods and enjoy the four other flavors at each meal. Make sure you’re eating healthy fats, such as olive oil and coconut oil, not hydrogenated or processed fats, or extracted seed oils like safflower, canola, or sunflower oils. Consider a gentle yoga practice that loosens the bones and joints. Try a detox cleanse to give your liver a break. Take frequent exercise breaks away from the computer. Find a good five-element acupuncturist. Practice “Healing Sounds” Qigong, which can transform anger into kindness. Be kind to yourself, and the world will reciprocate.
5. Do You Crave Bitter Foods?
When the chips are down and you’re feeling blue, what’s your first desire? Do you crave black coffee? How about leafy greens? Green pepper? Or a cold beer? If you crave bitter foods such as unsweetened coffee, bitter chocolate, citrus peel, leafy greens and beer, your hidden emotion might be sadness, or even its opposite, excess joy. The bitter flavor is associated with the Fire element, the experience of love and all affairs of the heart. A little bitter flavor can clear excess fire and improve blood circulation. However too much bitter food can impair sexual performance and disturb the heart. Possible examples of fire imbalances are: inappropriate laughter, speech difficulty, sleep problems, heart disease, sexual impotence, or jet lag after travel.
Easy on the coffee! Too much bitter food can impair the heart and sexual performance.
You can heal a bitter craving and any emotional imbalance.
Make sure you’re eating the other four flavors at each meal. Go easy on the black coffee. Take deep relaxation breaks and vacations to find balance, and bring that into your daily life. Look for opportunities to heal the fire element by turning it into joy. Find a good five-element acupuncturist. Consider a regular qigong practice, which balances all the elements within the energetic body.
6. Do your cravings change from one flavor to another?
Today you crave sweets. Tomorrow you want salty chips. In this case, your system is almost in equilibrium. True balance is dynamic and constantly changing. Follow the recommendations for the particular craving you’re feeling in the moment. Refine your health even more with regular acupuncture and a qigong practice.
How does it feel to live in balance?
When you’re in balance with the five elements and the five flavors, you feel more alive. Your body can listen to the signals around you and inside you, to build deep and secure health. Your level of sensitivity is higher, as well as your emotional balance, your strength and adaptability. The moodiness and crazy desire around food disappears. When when you feel like eating a sweet, you enjoy the flavor more, without addiction or craving. When your body wants salty foods, you get to savor that! Just like Yin and Yang turn endlessly, the 5 elements are constantly balancing each other round and round, inside our bodies, and in the environment. A cycle in balance leads to wisdom and true relationship to your self. I am saying that refining your relationship to food can bring you closer to enlightenment. Those are big words. Let me know your thoughts!
Yin and Yang turn endlessly. The 5 elements and 5 flavors are constantly balancing each other round and round, like changing colors inside our bodies, in the Earth, and our environment. Refining your relationship to food is an important part of living as a true human being.