The original sweet, before the cane sugars were introduced, was not that far different in the west from in the east. All the fruits are naturally very sweet, as everyone knows. Anyone who counts glycemic (sugar) content, which I also understand but find less than useful, also knows that beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams and potatoes are also considered sweet, from all points of view. The Chinese approach is also to consider anyone who we would think of as overweight, and curtail the sweet foods too. Such body types are referred to as having conditions of sluggishness and dampness. Different approach, same advice…

All of these are wonderful foods, especially the vegetables, for their soothing actions on the nervous system. In Chinese medicine, the sweet flavors help the transitions between seasons.

According to Chinese principles of healing arts, too much sweet food damages the kidneys and spleen-pancreas. Sweet overconsumption is linked in this tradition to edema, tumors of any kind, weakened bones and hair loss. Sweet foods build the yin of the body, the tissues and fluids, and strengthen weakness, deficiency and benefit the dry person as well.

There are many foods in the sweet flavor group that are healthy for everyone, as one might expect, since the root vegetables, grains and legumes are in this category. Rice, oats, and other grains are staples; nuts and seeds like walnut, pine nut and sunflower seed are warming and good for the cool or deficient constitution.

As you can imagine, one of the first things to establish is an idea of your own constitution, that then allows you to select foods that are most healthy and will bring you back to balance. Some of the characteristics are quite easy to identify, and so you can begin to eat for your own constitution – all of which will make you feel much more energetic and healthy.

If there were a magic wand to be waved, it would be the introduction of the bitter flavors into the western diet and the curtailing of the sweet flavors. Many of our troubles stem from excessive consumption of the sweet and altered tastes we have come to associate with western food: the omnipresent muffins, bagels, cookies. Yikes, I had better not enumerate them, since many of us associate them with images of being loved, something from the oven as the Pillsbury ad goes, that replaces all notions of healthy food …

Bless your food, at a minimum, I say…