Mastering food selection in today’s fast-paced world is a challenge. We therefore need to keep balance in mind. We can achieve this by eating in moderation and being aware of the taste and variety in our food.
Taste is very important because taste sends nutrition via the meridians (energetic pathways) to all parts of our body.
When we eat a meal with balanced tastes, we feel satisfied, and the energy from it enhances our health, productivity, and enjoyment of life.
Here is a look at how different tastes and cooking methods balance the body.
Sweet foods nourish the spleen and stomach. They include grains, millet, squashes, onions, honey, molasses, barley malt, and sweet fruits such as bananas, blueberries, oranges, figs, and dates
Steaming, boiling, and nishimi—a Japanese macrobiotic style of cooking done over a low heat for an hour—are good ways to cook sweet foods when one desires to have the sweet taste predominate in addition to nourishing the spleen and stomach.
Sour foods nourish the liver and gallbladder. These foods include tomatoes, barley, vinegar, chicken, turkey, green apples, lemons, and grapefruit.
A good method of preparing sour foods is pickling, as pickles are beneficial for the digestion. Steaming and lightly sautéing are other good ways to prepare sour foods.
Pungent foods nourish the lungs and large intestines. Onions, garlic, ginger, daikon, peppers, and cayenne are pungent foods.
Cooking methods for pungent foods include pressure-cooking and kinpira—a Japanese preparation similar to braising, where you cut root vegetables into thin matchsticks, sauté, and then add water to finish cooking them.
Cooking methods that allow pungent foods to retain their spicy flavor include lightly steaming, sautéing, and lightly boiling for a few minutes.
Bitter foods nourish the heart and small intestine. Foods like kale, lettuce, dandelion, broccoli, arugula, endive, and collard greens are bitter foods.
Good preparation methods for bitter foods include eating them raw, pressing, stir-frying, and blanching.
Salty foods nourish the kidneys and bladder. Salty foods include fish, miso, eggs, burdock root, and sea vegetables like wakame, arame, hiziki, kombu, and kelp.
Since salty foods are often considered to be healthier when eaten in moderation, it is recommended to use small amounts of salt, miso, and soy sauce when cooking. Salt alkalizes the food it is cooked with, which is another benefit of cooking and eating lightly salted foods.
Color and Signature
The color and signature of foods indicate their energetic properties.
Signature is the synergy between the appearance of a plant and the part of the body or organ it nourishes. For example, a carrot when sliced, looks like an eye and is considered to be strengthening for the eyes. A fresh lotus root appears to resemble a lung and is considered to be strengthening for the lungs.
A bitter green like kale will nourish the heart because of its bitter taste, nourish the liver because of its green color, and nourish the kidney, especially the bones, because of its rich minerals.
Red foods like apples and red peppers nourish the heart and small intestine. Apples also nourish the spleen because of their sweet taste, and nourish the kidneys when baked and lightly salted.
White foods like white onions, tofu, and radishes nourish the lungs and large intestine, and radishes also nourish the liver because of their sharp taste.
This dish is noted for its nourishing qualities. It builds Qi and blood and strengthens the digestion.
• 1 burdock root, cut into thin 3-inch strips (also called matchsticks)
• 1 tablespoon oil
• 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine), optional, or 1 tablespoon barley malt
• 1/2 tablespoon organic miso
• 3 tablespoons water
• 3 tablespoons ground toasted sesame seeds
• 2 scallions or 1/3 bunch of watercress
1. Chop the burdock root and then put it in water to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
2. Heat the oil in a pot until hot. Add the burdock and sauté for a few minutes.
3. Add the mirin or barley malt and stir.
4. Add the miso and water and stir until the miso is dissolved.
5. Cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for a few more minutes. If you want it soft, cook it for 5–10 minutes.
6. When the burdock is cooked, add the ground toasted sesame seeds, scallions or watercress, and stir before serving.
To toast sesame seeds, pour them into to a dry pan over low heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon. They turn darker brown and will smell like sesame when they’re toasted. To grind them, use a spice grinder, pepper mill, food processor, or a traditional mortar and pestle.
Susan Krieger, L.Ac., M.S., is board certified in acupuncture and acupressure with over 30 years experience. She teaches internationally and has a clinic in New York City’s Upper East Side, where she specializes in holistic nutrition, women’s health, acupuncture for acute and chronic pain and for facial rejuvenation. www.SusanKriegerHealth.com