When I work with clients I usually am told, “I have a healthy diet; I eat pretty well most of the time.”  I of course want to know what a “healthy diet” means to that person.  And, I want to know what constitutes the “the other time”.

Our tongue has taste receptors for sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.  Which of these tastes are you inclined towards?  Do you reach for a chocolate croissante i.e., ‘sweet’ on the taste scale  or chips, i.e., ‘salty’ on the taste scale?  It takes our brain about 15 minutes to register that we are getting full.  If we are hungry when we start eating, chances are we will eat more.  If we eat 3 meals a day and 2 healthy snacks we will probably make better food choices and eat less.  Reach for an apple for a snack to satisfy that sweet craving.  Several years ago I heard economist, Paul Zane Pilzer speak at a fitness conference I attended.  He is the author of the book, The Wellness Revolution.  I was struck by his comments on the food industry driving our nutrition through both television adds and fast food restaurants.  What impressed me was his message that natural food, such as an apple or a banana is balanced with sugar and fiber.  If we eat a banana we may reach for a second, but probably never a third.  Our brain signals, “Enough”.  However, he pointed out that fast food is designed in the opposite manner.  The combination of high fat and high salt content signals our brain to want more and/or bigger.

According to the ancient Ayurvedic system as described by the  Eat~ Taste~Heal website, there are 6 tastes:  sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.  This system further classifies each taste as having a primary function.  See chart below:

Sweet
Builds tissues, calms nerves
Fruit, grains, natural sugars, milk
Sour
Cleanses tissues, increases absorption of minerals
Sour fruits, yogurt, fermented foods
Salty
Improves taste to food, lubricates tissues, stimulates digestion
Natural salts, sea vegetables
Bitter
Detoxifies and lightens tissues
Dark leafy greens, herbs and spices
Pungent
Stimulates digestion and metabolism
Chili peppers, garlic, herbs and spices
Astringent
Absorbs water, tightens tissues, dries fats
Legumes, raw fruits and vegetables, herbs

A well rounded diet supplies these flavors in ever changing combinations.  Eating the same foods, flavors, over and over can be limiting.

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter..and Umani?

Our sense of taste was the topic on a recent NPR program, “Krulwich Wonders”,  Sweet Sour Salty Bitter…and Umani.  “A  chemist named Kikunae Ikeda was at the very same time enjoying a bowl of dashi, a classic Japanese soup made from seaweed…But what was it? Being a chemist, Ikeda could find out. He knew what he was tasting was, as he wrote, “common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat but… not one of the four well-known tastes.” Ikeda went into his lab and found the secret ingredient. He wrote in a journal for the Chemical Society of Tokyo that it was glutamic acid, but he decided to rename it. He called it “umami,” which means “delicious” or “yummy” in Japanese.”

Of course it gets back to…How Much, How Often and of what Quality.

For the person I described in Blog # 3 ‘Let’s talk food’, the “Too Busy to Cook” person who travels and eats out most of the time, I mentioned the  book, “Eat This Not That”.

Another interesting site for understanding the nutrition of our food choices is NuVal.  This site gives food a rating, 1-100, 100 being the best value.  It has a quiz,

Nutrition By The Numbers

Test your knowledge, gives you items from which to choose and then shows you the values according to their rating system.   Kind of like a Dr. Oz show quiz.

An expert tip on the site reads:  “The best way to use the  NuVal® System is to “trade up” from what you’re currently eating to a higher scoring product. Even the smallest jump in scores can have an impact on your health.”  I find the site a bit tedious to use, however it offers sound advice.

It is Spring time, why not try a new flavor.  Are there any categories from the Ayurvedic chart that are lacking in your current diet?  If you are not inclined towards bitter or sour, for instance, there must be one food in this category that you can bring into your diet.

Whispers of the Breath Diva:

In this moment I can fully taste all of the nuances of this flavor.  I can inhale and fully enjoy all of the nuances of my Life, in this moment!

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