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Four Natures and Five Flavors

Ancient Chinese people believed that foods, like herbs, could also be classified into "four natures" and "five flavors."

Four Natures

The four natures, also called si qi,including "cold," "hot," "warm," and "cool."

The foods of "cold" or "cool" property can be used to treat hot-natured diseases.

The following are foods that are cold or cool in nature: barley, millet, buckwheat, green bean, celery, spinach, lettuce, green cabbage stems, turnips (white), bamboo shoot, lily bulb, lotus root, eggplant, tomato, watermelon, white gourd, sponge gourd, cucumber, bitter melon, apple, pear, orange, banana, rabbit's meat, frog's meat, duck's meat, duck's egg, crab, sea couch (grass), freshwater snail, kelp, laver, green tea, soy sauce, table salt, and rock candy.

The "hot" or "warm" foods are used in treating the cold-natured diseases. The foods that are hot or warm in nature include: glutinous rice, Chinese sorghum (kind of cereal grass), pumpkin, hot pepper, ginger, scallion, onion, leek, mutton, dog's meat, and so on.

Besides the four natures, there are other foods that are neutral in nature, like rice, wheat, corn, bean, and so on.

Five Flavors

In terms of the theory of Five Elements, it is held in TCM that the bitter flavor is connected to the heart, sour to the liver, sweet to the spleen, pungent to the lungs, and salty to the kidneys.

Foods with a pungent flavor: ginger, scallion, garlic, hot pepper, pepper, cayenne pepper, onion, leek, and spirit.

Foods with a sweet flavor: potato, lotus root, wheat, polished rice, pea, milk, pork, chestnut, date, and honey.

Foods with a sour flavor: tomato, tangerine, plum, lemon, grape, papaya, haw, cherry apple, pomegranate, and vinegar.

Foods with a bitter flavor: bitter melon, almond, lily bulb, orange peel, tea, coffee, bitter green, arrowroot, and pig liver.

Foods with a salty flavor: barley, millet, dried purple seaweed, kelp, jellyfish, pork, beef, crab, and table salt.

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