Sure, flavor delights the senses. But in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the flavor of a food also heals, says Daniel Finney, LAc, coauthor of A Handbook of TCM Patterns and Their Treatments (Blue Poppy Press, 2004). By balancing the following five tastes in your daily diet, you can improve health, enhance immune function, and more.

Pungent. Generally warming, pungent foods encourage energy to expand and move outward; they promote circulation, stimulate digestion, rid the body of excess mucus, boost liver function, and tonify the cardiovascular system. Try: Ginger, garlic, hot pepper, onions, asparagus, broccoli, mustard greens, turnips, radishes, and cayenne.

Salty. Salty foods invite energy to move toward the body's core. Moistening and softening, these foods treat stiff muscles, cataracts, sore throat, and constipation. Try: Buckwheat, black beans, kale, mushrooms, water chestnuts, seaweed, and unrefined table salt.

Sour. Sour foods are astringent, causing cooling and contraction. They treat excess perspiration, hemorrhage, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, and hemorrhoids. Try: Rye, lentils, green peppers, zucchini, lemons, limes, pickles, and vinegar.

Bitter. Bitter foods prompt energy to contract and descend. They are used to treat inflammation, infection, constipation, candida, parasites, excess mucus, swelling, skin eruptions, tumors, and cysts. Try: Alfalfa, romaine lettuce, red lentils, sunflower seeds, dandelion greens, and orange peel.

Sweet. Generally nourishing and tonifying, sweet foods energize yet relax. They benefit dry coughs, calm aggressiveness and impatience, and slow an overactive heart and mind. Try: Apples, apricots, cherries, dates, figs, beets, carrots, sweet potato, squash, coconut, sesame seeds, and honey.